Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Jewish Traditions

Recently, my daughter, (and by extension, my husband & I), were invited to a Bat Mitzvah here in town. It was a deeply moving experience, almost 3 hours long (my memories of marthon-like High Mass at The Grotto are similar), and was familiar, yet VERY different. It was held at the Beth Israel Temple on NW Flanders here in Portland. I knew it was special when we walked in, and I was right. It was built in the 1920's and condsidered one of the best examples of a Byzantine style Synagogue in the world. It is on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. It was followed by a traditional reception across the street at the beautiful Schnitzer Family Center, where a Hamotizi prayer over Challah (the Sabbath bread) and Kiddush (the Wine Blessing) take place.

A Bat Mitzvah (for a girl-Bar Mitzvah for a boy), is a Jewish tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. It means a "Daughter of the Commandment". It signifies the coming of age and requires a commitment to accept responsibilites in the Jewish faith and community. The young lady celebrates this commitment by conducting the Shabbat service with the help of several Rabbis (there was a woman Rabbi present too). There was alot of Hebrew, which we didn't understand, and many other traditions with which we were unfamiliar, like the Bar'chu (the Call to Worship), the Shema (acclaiming the belief in one God), the Aleynu (Adoration) and the Kaddish (a prayer for those who have died). The last one, the Kaddish, meant the most to my husband and I, and we so appreciated being able to share in this service (although there was alot going on we really didn't understand!) with new and old friends.

Upon the advice of a Jewish friend of my husband, we gave the celebrant a small gift with $18 enclosed. Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is assigned a numerical value, and when the Hebrew letters for the word for LIFE are added up, it comes to 18; so money in multiples of 18 are given.

Please note I've used the Bat Mitzvah program as a source for most of the information given.


Relatively Exact said...

Thank goodness for Freedom of Religion, which allows such ceremonies to take place in peace in all their glory. I've always appreciated the fact that people are able to commune with the Almighty through the window of their own culture.

But now, after reading those linked articles sent around by Don Snabbie, I have to say how sad for the rise of militant Dominionist fundamentalism, which is so eager to take those freedoms away.

Catfish Johnny Redbeard said...

Just reading that takes me back to mine ... before the redbeard, when I was a wee fishy.