Of all the moving events in the life of a Jewish family, the barmitzvah of a son or the batmitzvah of a daughter are perhaps the most meaningful and the ones most enjoyed. The parents enjoy a sense of fulfillment as the child takes his or her place as an adult in the community while the child with a growing sense of self enjoys his or her new status and a position at the center of the celebrations.
There is no place in the world more fitting to celebrate this time than Jerusalem, the city in which Nehemiah in the 5th century B.C.E. read from the Torah in the presence of all the people, thereby carrying out the first barmitzvah ceremony in Jewish history.
Judaism recognizes three rites of passage: the first when the male child is 8 days old and he undergoes circumcision (brit mila), the second when he is three years old and has his hair cut for the first time and the passage from childhood to manhood or womanhood in the barmitzah /batmitzvah celebration, marking the acceptance of responsibilities and full absorption into the Jewish world. In the first two celebrations, the child is not aware of what is happening around him and will remember nothing. But the barmitzva/batmitzvah is different. This is a time to be remembered always both by the child and by all the members of the family. This is a true landmark.
A barmitzvah/batmitzvah celebration in Jerusalem links the child with his /her past. We find the first mention of a barmitzvah ceremony in the Talmud (2nd – 5th centuries A.D) The Mishna tells us, "At 5 years old, one should study the Bible, at 10, the Mishna, at 13, the commandments (Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 1)
As I write this, Jewish parents all over the world are wondering how to make the barmitzvah/batmitzvah of their child into a meaningful experience. Bring them to Jerusalem. Let us work out an itinerary together. Let us create a happening that will stay as a special memory throughout the lifetime of all who participate in it.