The Rites Of Passage Within Judaism

4200 words - 17 pages

The Rites of Passage Within Judaism

(a) Examine the rituals and teachings which are associated with
circumcision and Bar Mitzvah

(20 marks)

Two very important rites of passage within Judaism are circumcision
and Bar Mitzvah, both of which are only for boys and happen during
childhood. Circumcision, also known as Brit Millah, symbolizes the
covenant between God and the Jewish people, which was agreed with
Abraham. In return for Jewish people physically showing their Jewish
faith through being circumcised, God agreed to protect them, as they
were the chosen race, and lead them to the Holy Land where they could
create a great nation. This is instructed in Genesis 17:9-12, "And G-d
spoke to Abraham saying: ...This is my covenant which you shall keep
between Me and you and thy seed after you -every male child among you
shall be circumcised." Unless there are medical implications, the
child is circumcision is performed when the boy is 8 days old and only
in daylight hours. This includes all days, however, if the baby was
born by caesarean section, it may not take place on the Sabbath or a
Jewish holiday and usually takes place in a synagogue or the home. The
circumcision is performed by a mohel who has been specially trained.
The baby is carried into the room by the kvatter and kvatterin, who
are the Jewish equivalent of godparents, and upon entering the room
the guests say, ‘Blessed is he who comes.’ Women are not permitted to
be present in the room during the ceremony. Once the mohel has been
passed the child, he momentarily places it on an empty chair whilst
the mohel says a prayer to ask God to watch over the child during the
procedure. This chair is that which has been reserved for the prophet
Elijah, the ‘Angel of the Covenant’ to remind them that the prophet is
said to be present in spirit at all circumcisions, so that he can
testify to God the commitment of the Jewish people. The baby is placed
on a cushion on the sandek’s lap whilst the mohel performs the
circumcision, because the sandek’s lap is considered equivalent to the
altar of the Temple itself and a Cabbalistic tradition says that the
sandek is spiritually linked to the child. Prayers are recited
throughout the ceremony, and a special blessing is said over wine
afterwards, and the baby is given his Hebrew name, to keep in
tradition with God changing Abraham’s name from Avram during his
circumcision. A party and special meal are often held afterwards in
celebration that the baby is now recognisable as Jewish. It is felt
that women do not have to have any physical signs of ‘Jewishness’
because they are naturally more spiritual and closer to God.

When a Jewish boy is then 13 he has a Bar Mitzvah, meaning ‘son of the
commandment’, the male Jewish coming of age ceremony. Under Jewish
Law, children are not required...

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