On Friday’s the area around the ‘Western (Wailing)Wall’ is filled with families celebrating Bar Mitzvah’s, the religious coming of age initiation of Jewish boys. I followed one family and in this small serie shows some aspects and the intensity of Bar Mitsvah.
Bar Mitsvah is about the most important religious happening in a Jewish boy’s life. It’s the official coming of age for his religion at the age of thirteen. There is also a Bat Mitsvah for girls which is however less important due to the different religious position of women in the Jewish tradition.
Usually the boys initiation into his religion takes place inside the synagogue. Every Friday, however, there are public Bar Mitsvah’s at the Western Wall (The Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is the last part left after the second destroying of the Temple and is therefore the most important place for Jews, who pray here regularly. Bar Mitsvah is an important family ceremony , but because women are not allowed within this part of the wall (they have their own section next to the men’s) the mother, sisters, aunts and grandmother are watching from behind the wall. This is sometimes difficult because of the many Bar Mitsvah’s taking place on these Friday morning’s.
When the ceremony starts the boy walks into an office belonging to the wall and collects a Torah roll in a box or cloth. Back at the table the roll is opened and the boy touches the text with his praying sash. After that he receives a silver Yat (Hebrew for hand) from his father. The Yat is used because the boy is not allowed to touch the text, which is holy: Any Jewish text with the name of God written in it is holy. Synagogues have rooms where old books with the name of God are kept. At some Jewish cemeteries there are special graves where these books are buried. It is forbidden to throw them away.
With the Yat the boy loudly reads part of the script to show that he can read and speak Hebrew. Thereafter he receives congratulations from the family and the Rabbi who has to be present. The Torah roll is replaced in the box or rolled in the cloth and carried back tot the office. On my picture the boy shows how proud he is to be a full member of the Jewish religion. Now he can also be part of the Minjan, the minimal number of ten men necessary to start a religious service in the synagogue.
After the ceremony they all go home to have a party where the boy receives presents. That is probably also the reason why girls like to have their Bat Mitsvah.