and growing so much its catching me by surprise. Suddenly a new person has
settled into our home. He resembles the boy child who used to live here. They
share a similar appearance and for the most part have the same taste in
music and food.
This new teen on the
block questions everything. A statement is not a definitive remark but a
point of discussion. Questions are always met with questions. Opinions are
really ideas open for debate. And a rule is not something to be challenged
or circumvented, but a thought that offers creative ways for improvement
when it must finally be put into practice.
The interesting thing about this new
person is that he knows everything about our family. He shares in all the
jokes, occupies the same room, responds to the same name, and knows how which
buttons to push to send his sisters and brother into a frenzy, make them
wild or, of course, to tears.
So who is this person, and why months
before his Bar Mitzvah is he morphing into a new person. Yes, I know he is
growing up and maturing. And truthfully, even the challenges are interesting.
I certainly am enjoying this growing up version of a son. He is responsible,
interesting and full of surprises. He is very aware of the small and greater
world around him. And like all of us, trying to make some sense of todays
version of humanity.
Once again, I am drawn to the question,
why Bar Mitzvah at 13? What makes this an optimal time to take on the responsibility
of mitzvoth [commandments] and become accountable for oneself? And
why as well is this a public moment. Why is it important to be publicly
accepted into clal yisrael? And why is a public coming of age important?
The Talmud mentions that a person
takes on the responsibility of the commandments at the age of thirteen.
The Shulchan Aruch explains that when a person reaches puberty they
are ready to take on adult responsibilities.
And so it seems to be true. Beyond
needing to buy new clothing and shoes before they are worn out, the growth
Without looking beyond our home I see
how Benjamin is preparing to become a responsible member of the community
in his own right. Daily (almost) he reviews his Torah portion. Whereas
in earlier days, getting him to practice was a verbal reminder that required
more than counting to ten and taking a deep breath before reminding him
once again; now I often walk by his room a listen to him practicing. In
other words, he understands the importance of practice, and therefore
takes the responsibility upon himself.
In our home, Benjamin makes sure that
the laundry is ironed and folded so that he will look presentable; he no
longer expects the starched shirts to be ready for Shabbat.
Are these two small examples indicative
of a person who is getting ready to put himself on stage, or a person who
is growing into responsibility? I suppose that in fact, it is a combination
of the two.
A public forum for coming of age such
as a Bar Mitzvah is important because it is a significant time and positive
public recognition and affirmation feel good. It also serves to reinforce
the importance of belonging to a community, and being a contributing member
to the said community.
The question today falls upon how to
personalize the moment, when the person who is being honored is changing
so much in such a short period of time. The challenge not to make something
immature for a person who is newly mature, but not quite an adult.
So now that the Jewish holidays are
over, no procrastination allowed, I must move on and plan everything surrounding
the Bar Mitzvah. While Benjamin and his dad continue to learn the Torah
portion and he paces himself to practice, I too must stop procrastinating
and get on with the plans.