Bar Mitzvah Lessons
Wed, 03/13/2013

The article “B’nai Mitzvah Growing Pains” (March 6) was troubling and stirred several responses as I plan for my own son’s bar mitzvah, which is just a few weeks away.

I was disturbed by the comment that for many children “learning to chant Torah is not so different from learning to milk cows: a challenging ancient skill that seems irrelevant to modern life. Not to mention the fact that it is something most kids rarely, if ever, see their parents do.”

That comment may be accurate, but therein lies the problem. If studying and chanting Torah, the life force of Judaism, seems irrelevant then the fault is with us, the adults, for not teaching our children its timeless messages.

Why invent new rituals when the ones that have kept us alive for centuries remain relevant today, if only taught properly? Wouldn’t it simply be better to study Torah, learn the purpose of the trope [cantillation], which is designed to better convey the meanings of the words, than come up with something allegedly “new and improved?” Instead, we choose to be blissfully ignorant about our Judaism and spend thousands of dollars on throwing a party and calling that the bar or bat mitzvah, while relegating the ceremony to a mere annoyance.

I am my son’s tutor, and yes he has seen his mother chant from the Torah many times. We have spent the past several months grappling with the text, discussing its relevance to today, going over the trope countless times, grateful for a ritual that remains timeless.

We will continue to study together long after his bar mitzvah. The ritual is working fine for us and for many families we know. But it requires effort.


 

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