Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Can Gentiles have a bar mitzvah for their kids?

READER QUESTION:

Dear Sirs

Would you be so kind and answer a question? We are a group of Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles who worship together. Now some of the Jewish members have expressed the wish of having a bar mitzvah for their kids.

The Gentiles on the other hand would also like to have a bar mitzvah for their kids. Do you think it is appropriate for the non Jewish kids to have a bar mitzvah or should one use another name for this? We have found several names on the internet such as “bar Avraham” or “simcha mitzvah”. What is your view on this subject? Your help is greatly appreciated!

OUR RESPONSE:

Absolutely YES, a non-Jewish boy can have a bar mitzvah and a non-Jewish girl a bat mitzvah! Traditional and Orthodox Jews will scoff at the idea because a Jewish child has spent years preparing for his bar mitzvah and may argue it is "only for Jews" but there is no Biblical prohibition of a non-Jewish child and non-Jewish family celebrating this transition to adulthood in the same manner as traditional Judaism. (Numbers 15:14-16; Romans 11:17).

The difficulty lies in developing in the child and the family the importance of the ceremony to the child, the parents, and to the community. It is NOT just "something to do"! It is a demonstration of knowledge and understanding by the child and the acceptance of the child into the community as an adult (with the attendant adult responsibilities.) The bar mitzvah is a "big deal", a major milestone and accomplishment on the road to adulthood, and the child must understand and demonstrate their part in the commitment.

The bar mitzvah is not just a "party for turning 13". So our advice is that you study, study, study the meaning and purpose of the bar mitzvah and when it is held, conduct it with all the honor and dignity the tradition has come to mean in Judaism. This means the child needs to actually study (actually study!), learn, demonstrate understanding and proudly do his part when the ceremony is held. Perhaps one or more of your Jewish parents who themselves experienced the bar mitzvah in their lives can help develop the program in your group. If not, study, study, study what is needed. Here is one potential source: http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/barmitzvah.html.

And in all your bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, be open and announce that you are aware that holding the honored ceremony for a gentile is looked down upon by traditional Judaism but that it is not your purpose or desire to offend the Jewish community. Rather, just as in Judaism, the family and your community has tried to instill the love of YHWH in the child, and the love of being obedient to Him and expressing that obedience through the Torah. Every child of YHWH, Jew or gentile deserves the right to be recognized in their transition to adulthood for we are all one in Messiah (Galatians 3:38, Ephesians 2:10-13).

By the way, once someone has accepted YHWH as their ELOHIM, they are no longer a "gentile"; they are "Hebrew" (which, in Hebrew, means "to cross over" - which is what Abraham the pagan Chaldean did, both spiritually and physically when he went into the Land YHWH commanded him to go to).

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