Ninth Grade Fitz English
The Power Of Tradition
The Jewish Tradition
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
— Gustav Mahler
My father has always had a strong, positive influence in my life, despite the fact that I lost him as a daily presence when I was just three years old. A decade after he died, when I became a teenager, I decided to become a bar mitzvah in his honor because he felt very strongly about his Jewish heritage and having me follow his example was very important to him. Judaism had not been a prominent part of my life since my father died (my mom is not Jewish), but when we celebrated Hanukkah we always lit menorah candles for him and read stories from journals he wrote to us when we were little. He was always there in spirit, and I knew that when I became a bar mitzvah, I wanted him to be recognized along with me.
A bar mitzvah is a rite of passage in the Jewish tradition in which a Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13 is initiated as an adult in the eyes of Judaism, responsible for his own religious participation and worship. To prepare for the ceremony, I spent a year learning to read Hebrew, understand Jewish history and culture, and study portions of the Torah with my rabbi. With my grandfather’s help, I learned about my father’s bar mitzvah, planned my own ceremony, and wrote a speech about why doing this was so important to me.
In planning for the celebration, I chose to have it baseball-themed because one of the last things I did with my father before he died was going to a Red Sox game. When the big day arrived, my mother, sisters, grandfather and father’s identical twin all played important roles in the service, and in my speech I talked about how becoming a bar mitzvah was connecting me to the past and my father. After my mother spoke, she gave me the journal that my father had written to me when I was a baby and she used to read to me on special occasions after he died. Having his words, written just to me, was the most special gift I could ever ask for. Later, during the celebration, all of my cousins and friends from Fenn lifted me up and down in a chair when they played the Hora dance.
What I did not anticipate when I decided I wanted to become a bar mitzvah was how emotional it would be for me to have so many family and friends — all the people in my life who were most important to me — all in one place literally lifting me up and celebrating my life. It gave me a an understanding of how important family and the passing on of traditions from one generation to the next are in life. I know that when I become a father, I will encourage my children to have a bar or bat mitzvah and continue this meaningful tradition.