Messianic Overtones
in Judaism

A Study of Rites and Rituals in Types and Shadows

Bat Mitzvah/Bar Mitzvah

(daughter or son of the commandments)

The bar mitzvah is not of Biblical origin, but considered a custom and ritual of Jews worldwide. It is not a commandment or an obligation, but more like a passage from observer to participant of religious practice. When a boy or girl becomes 13, (actually 12 for girls), they are considered mature enough to participate in religious services and uphold the feast and fast days imposed by the Law. They become part of the adult synagogue, can pray with other men, read the Torah in service, and assume religious responsibilities. However, from a secular perspective, they are not regarded as mature enough to provide for a family, marry, vote, etc.

At different levels, the bar/bas mitzvah is celebrated from a simple ceremony consisting of recognition from the Rabbi, and a short reading recited by the celebrant, followed by a declaration of his/her commitment to Judaism. The service could also be a formal presentation of a portion of Torah, a speech of commitment, comments from the family, and usually a party following. It is an important day in the life of a young boy or girl to realize that this is the beginning of assuming responsibility for their walk before G-d. They should have a full understanding of what that responsibility consists of, and what G-d will demand of them.

Since there are no scriptural references to draw from, or Biblical patterns for parallel, I can only share with you from personal experience. The latter part of my 12th year was spent going to a conservative synagogue 3 times a week after school. This was a time of preparation for Bat Mitzvah, to study about the Jewish rites, customs, rituals, history and Hebrew, so we could read our assigned scripture text in the original tongue. At that time, Israel was not a nation, and Hebrew was not spoken as a native tongue.

What we did not learn was Who G-d is; His nature; His purpose; His plan and direction for our lives, or how to have a personal intimate relationship with the One we were turning our lives over to and committing our loyalties to! We learned values of ethnic life style, commitment to community and man, but without any instruction for eternal values. We learned how to pronounce the Hebrew words by phonics, and the Hebrew alphabet, but no idea of the importance of those words, or the impact they could have in our lives. They were just difficult words to pronounce of what was considered, for hundreds of years, a dead language. There wasn't any teaching on hope of life after death; although there was an occasional reference to "when Messiah comes". There was no teaching of the many scriptures of prophecies concerning His birth, appearance, ministry, acts of miracles and healing, His death or resurrection...all of which would have enabled us to recognize Messiah, the Answer to world peace so longed for..and personal peace, so desperately sought after. Not until later in life would I realize the Messiah was the central theme and Hope of the Bible.

My fellow classmates and I went through the rituals, too young to question. I wonder, at that tender age, how many seriously questioned the responsibility they took upon their shoulders that day as they stood at the Bema, and said, " today, I am a man". It haunted me, until it became my quest.

During the 6 months of preparation, we focused on just the small portion of scripture assigned for us to read, and never was taught anything concerning the faithfulness of G-d in fulfilling His word, and no training in Godly living. Our understanding was darkened by lack of knowledge, and many of my classmates and Jewish friends, through the years, have turned to other avenues to find answers outside of Judaism. Some are in cults, new age movements, and various other "isms", looking for personal peace and satisfaction that could be found within the Old Testament had we not been in darkness and lacked the knowledge. " The word is a lamp unto my feet", and without light, one gropes in darkness. Without instruction, one walks in blindness to the spiritual truths of G-d, but there is hope yet! G-d inspired His prophet Isaiah to write thousands of years ago, Isaiah 42:16:
" And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will bring them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."

This was a prophecy for the nation of Israel, blinded by ignorance for hundreds of years. He promised them He would never forsake them, and through wars and adversities, He has stood by them. He calls them "blind", but even after their rejection of the Messiah, He will yet show them the Way they knew not. Israel is still in spiritual darkness today, in spite of their cultural progress, and their national fervor and pride that has made them a productive and prosperous nation. They have become " a cup of trembling" to all nations because of the mid-east crises, and that, too, was another prophecy which has come to fruition. Romans 11:25;
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in."

This "fullness of the Gentiles" is a period of time, soon to come, as is the coming of the Lord. At that time, G-d will, once again, turn His face to the Jewish nation, and they will be coming of age...ready to become the "sons and daughter of the commandments". G-d will teach them His precepts; unfold and reveal His plan, and heal their spiritual blindness. Another prophet of the Old Testament speaks of the time when the Jewish nation will realize Who the Messiah was, Zechariah 12:10
"....and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
Israel will learn by some difficult lessons as the climatic day approaches, and the course will get tougher, for the Scripture predicts there was never such a time of trouble as this..bloody wars, famines, violence, and G-d's ear is open to their cries, especially to the cry of repentance. To "come of age" is not only to become a son or daughter of the laws of G-d, but as well, become a child of the Law Giver! By being born again, of the Spirit and the water, we can enter into a Spiritual Bar Mitzvah.