Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LXIX. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Bar Mitzvah (1 of 5)

In a strict sense, Bar Mitzvah means the “Son of the Commandments.” In practical terms, it refers to a stage in the life of a young Jewish male. On the Sabbath following his thirteenth birthday, or thereafter, a boy goes through a ceremony (both with religious and festive aspects) that will place additional (religious) duties on his shoulders. After the Bar Mitzvah, this same boy assume the religious responsibilities of an adult Jew. From that point on, he can be a member of a Minyan (ten adults male who constitute a valid quorum for public prayer).

What is involved in a Bar Mitzvah will become clearer (at least in a religious sense; the festive part can range from a simple meal shared by the immediate family to an elaborate affair costing thousand of dollars) to the reader as I describe my own Bar Mitzvah.

Before I move on to my Bar Mitzvah, two points should be made.

Judaism, taking into consideration the onerous duties of women, exempted them from most religious duties. For example, they don’t need to pray, but, of course, they can if they wish. It follows that girls did not undergo an equivalent ceremony to the male Bar Mitzvah. This, however, is no longer true. Today, a parallel ritual often takes place; it’s called a Bat (or Bas) Mitzvah which means “Daughter of the Commandments.” While it’s optional, it is nonetheless observed by most Jewish families. After all, it places the young Jewish females on the same footing as the males. And it is also fairer to families who have been blessed with daughters only.

The second point is that there is no time limit on the Bar Mitzvah. There have been occasions when the ceremony took place on or before a wedding. My understanding is that you cannot get married without having your Bar Mitzvah first.

Age is not a factor either. I remember back in Egypt being in schul (synagogue) on a Saturday morning when the rabbi announced that a Bar Mitzvah was going to take place. People looked at each other, a Bar Mitzvah was not on the program for this Sabbath. Eventually, it became clear who the Bar Mitzvah “boy” was when an old man wended his way to the Ekhal (the elevated place where the rabbi, and the readers of the Torah stand). Before the man (we’ll call him Schmuel) started reading the Torah, the rabbi clarified the situation.

“Schmuel, at 70, asked me if it was not too late to be Bar Mitzvah.  No, it’s never too late,” I replied. “Therefore, we are all gathered here to share with Schmuel, on this fine Sabbath morning, this very special privilege.”

Next, Schmuel had a brief statement to make: “No, I am not getting married. I am a confirmed bachelor. I just decided to go back to my Jewish roots.”

Schmuel reading was impeccable. He also delivered a short darrouche (sermon). When he was finished, the congregation started applauding, but the rabbi quickly quelled this spontaneous reaction. You cannot do that in the House of God.

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