Hebrew Highlights 95 Bar-Mitzvah
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
My son Joseph recently celebrated his Bar-Mitzvah in our fellowship hall here in Jerusalem. It was a wonderful experience, and I was extremely proud of him. Growing up in the Lutheran church, I went through a similar ceremony, known as confirmation. This is just one of the many examples of Christian traditions based in Jewish roots.
Bar-Mitzvah literally means “son of the commandment”. It signifies the time when, at age thirteen, a young man becomes responsible for his actions before God. He also confirms his agreement with God’s word, and his membership in the family of the Heavenly Father. Ishmael was thirteen when Abraham circumcised him, and the rest of his household. After that initial command from God, Abraham was told to circumcise new born baby boys on the eighth day after their birth.
As fathers, we are responsible for our sons’ understanding of the word of God, as we see in DEU 6:4-7, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
This passage, along with some following verses is known as the “Shma”, which I’ve mentioned before in Hebrew Highlights. The words “teach them diligently” come from one interesting Hebrew word, “shinantam”. The root word here is “shin”, which very simply means “tooth”. It can also mean to whet, or sharpen. The point is that the word of God should roll so often past our tongue as we teach our children, that it sharpens both our teeth, and our knowledge.
Actually, we see in this passage, God’s understanding of fathering, when we read, “and (you) shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up”. As I prepared Joseph for his Bar-Mitzvah over the past year, I quickly learned that a 13-year-old boy does not always want to sit down and learn. However, gleaning ideas from God’s wisdom, I began to teach him as we drove in the car, or played basketball, or walked somewhere, or in other informal and natural settings.
The truth is that we are teaching our children all the time. They learn from our daily actions, mistakes, sins, and repentances. If we do not diligently point out the ways of God, they may only pick up on the places we fail.
As an example, Joseph and I were driving in the far left lane of a three-lane road recently when a driver on the far right suddenly cut across the road in front of us without using a blinker. My son shook his fist in the air and shouted, “what an idiot!” As you might have already guessed, he learned that from me. Since that occasion, I have tried to make a concerted effort to both preach, and practice patience.
This reminds me of another verse in DEU 4:9, "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
As we teach, we also remind ourselves to keep God’s commands. In addition, when we read, “lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen”, we become aware of another shortcoming of most of us fathers.
Many of us have witnessed wonderful miracles, deeds of God, and day-to-day help from the Lord. Yet, when it comes to our children, we sort of assume they know everything we know. Have we shared our experiences with them? Have we let them in on the spiritual side of our existence?
Lately, as my wife and I have taught a youth worship group our children are in, we have enthusiastically shared some or other amazing experience we had as young believers. Afterwards, our 15-year old daughter has exclaimed, “how come you never told us that before?”
Often, we get mad when our kids do something which we again “assumed” they should have known was wrong. EPH 6:4 says, “fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
In the end of course, our sons and daughters will have to stand in their own relationship with God, and experience their own miracles. In the mean time, we can ease the way by sharing the lessons we have already learned.
I thank God that my children know Him and love Him, and already serve Him. I am blessed to the nth degree.
Happy Bar-Mitzvah Joseph.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem.