March 2, 2009

Man-Making from Jerusalem

Our brother in mission, Ami Steinberger, is currently living in Jerusalem. As a supporter of the Man-Making blog, he sent along these thoughts about an age-old rite of passage from the Jewish tradition.

The marker of the rite of passage in Jewish society is the Bar Mitzvah. In less observant circles it has become an excuse for a big party, but the authentic meaning of the event is that a Jewish boy becomes a Jewish man by taking upon himself the laws and traditions of the Torah - basically, responsibility to self, others and G-d. We commemorate this transition by calling him up to read from the Torah among the men of his community.

In the photo above, you can see a young Ethiopian Jewish immigrant at his Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the Wailing Wall. One piece of the Bar Mitzvah package is an imperative for every male from 13 and up to attend prayer services with a group of nine or more other Jewish men (a man is defined as a male 13 and up), three times daily. Together we come together to praise G-d, plead to Him, sing to Him, cry to Him, or just stand there bored...which is often the case for many. But the point is that the boys/men come together to do something - sometimes without exchanging words, but by bonding through a common activity and a common goal.

Some shuls (synagogues) have more of a sense of male community than others do. I've recently been attending one in the mornings at the break of dawn. In this particular place, I feel held and supported by the potent male energy - lots of elder energy, whose passion always comes with a grain of salt. I'm there with a few other guys in their twenties, but most of the men are older. Sometimes there's a teen straggler - but they usually sleep in and go to the later "meetings."

The boys growing up in the community where I live and others like it have a great advantage - they're held and supported in their growing manhood not only by their fathers and brothers, but also by the wider community of men. The anticipation of a mandatory draft to the army adds a sense of urgency as well, which promotes bonding.

That's my correspondence for the evening.

I love what you're doing Earl. Keep it up!



  1. Anonymous9:32 PM

    The Western Wall was commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall in old texts. It is now commonly called the Western Wall.

  2. Steve2:43 PM

    Reading today’s blog I wondered how many powerful traditions (rights of passage) have been sullied by rote observance. As a Christian I have seen how in many congregations Confirmation, too, has little to do with the spiritual formation and right of passage into responsible adulthood as today’s blog witnessed. Instead, I think it has a lot to do with an expectation, or obligation, on the part of the parents. The ram-the-kid-through type of program that has more to do with movies and popcorn than history, scripture, prayer and the values they will take into the future as adults.

    And I’ve noticed the age keeps getting moved up. Now it is ten or eleven year olds instead of those cranky fourteen year olds who are much more capable of understanding and making, or not, faith decisions. Sadly it is compliant children and not emerging adults who are being “confirmed” into the faith.


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