MembersComing of Age and Sticky Questions in the Bible

When a Bar Mitzvah becomes a rite of passage for father and son

By David Shishkoff | | Topics: Weekly Torah Portion, Bar Mitzvah
Illustration. Photo: Yahav Gamliel/Flash90

Recently, I accompanied my youngest son in preparations to recite the weekly portion from the Torah scroll as the central act of his Bar Mitzvah coming-of-age ceremony.

In our tradition a boy of thirteen becomes “Bar Mitzvah,” literally a “son of the commandment,” meaning that he is now directly accountable to God for his actions. The buildup to the event begins at an early age in Israel, and one of the highlights is having boys and girls go through a family-tree school project called “shorashim.” The family’s “roots” and history are researched and celebrated, helping the pre-teen understand his or her identity within the family, society and Jewish Israeli culture.

This is our youngest son, and we gifted him my prayer shawl – the one with blue stripes that I wore at my own Bar Mitzvah almost four decades ago. In the months leading up to the ceremony we planned several meaningful parent-child experiences for him, including father-son trips to eat McD hamburgers and chat. I started driving him to his weekly basketball practice. We took a...

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