Friday, April 3, 2009

Reflections of a Presbyterian on her son's bar mitzvah

The day was wonderful. There’s an indescribable feeling to having friends and family gather for an important family event. Each person’s presence is inestimably important.

I think that it’s good to have events like these because they can be (if we let them) a glimpse of what heaven might be like. Or is it a wonderful day just because I find I can’t believe people are willing to give up an entire Saturday morning to witness a worship service half in a language they don’t understand?

The difference between the bar mitzvah worship service and a Presbyterian confirmation are, of course, many. Judaism says, “We do, and [therefore] we believe.” Christianity says, “We believe, and so, we do.”

Start with the fact that there is actually no worship service or ceremony required to “become bar mitzvah” (or bat mitzvah). The bar mitzvah service is really the first time that the person is called for an aliyah to the Torah. No declaration of belief is required. However, long years of study in Hebrew, in learning the system of chanting the prayers, the Torah portion, the Haftarah are required.

Contrast that with the confirmation class at my church. There is a class that meets once a week for about half the year. There is (thankfully) no foreign language to be learned! The participants in the class learn theology, write their own statement of faith, and get to know each other. The culmination is their answering questions about their faith in front of the congregation. Answering the questions, that is, making a public declaration of faith, is required.

So for the bar mitzvah child, the learning and action come first, with belief to follow. For the Presbyterian kids, defining one’s beliefs comes first, with more learning and action to follow.

1 comment:

Maria Sondule said...

Well, of course, they were all looking forward to the party...
I would like to add that you can't really compare a confirmation class to a bar mitzvah. You can compare a confirmation class to a Jewish confirmation.