Friday, May 28, 2010

The Emanuel Family's Bar Mitzvah - Not your father's "Today I am a fountain pen"

From the website of the Western Wall Foundation: Celebrate at the Wall 
How much does it cost to make a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall?
 The Western Wall belongs to the entire Jewish people and the entrance is free. There are independent people who come to the Wall and offer to assist families in organizing their event for a price. 

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation provides volunteers who will help you with all aspects of your Bar Mitzvah at the Wall.
The Emanuel family from Chicago is here in Israel to mark the occasion of their son Zach's Bar Mitzvah. Dozens of boys and their families do this every week and it really shouldn't cause so much of a stir, but some people didn't like that idea and heckled the group as they visited the Western Wall yesterday. (see here) I really don't think that they acted appropriately or that their action was particularly effective. Instead of focusing on the real issues this just calls attention to the protesters.

But still, what's wrong with this picture? Why does this situation make me feel so uncomfortable?
The Western Wall isn't an impressive building. It's what's left of the supporting foundation of the impressive temple which was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago.  The Jewish people spent all those years in the diaspora mourning the destruction, of course, but also emphasizing the centrality of that temple and the land of Israel and never giving up hope of returning and rebuilding Jerusalem. It's right there in our prayers. Three times a day. Every day. In 1967 the Jews who returned to the land regained control of the area and so for the first time since the destruction of the temple 'entrance is free'. By taking advantage of this freedom though, I would say that you have to acknowledge that this a step closer to returning and rebuilding.
Forty-three years and we are already taking it for granted that Rahm Emanuel and his 13 year old son can come 'make a bar mitzvah' at the Western Wall. Actually you don't 'make' a bar mitzvah. You become a 'bar mitzva'. It's a status, at 13 (12 for girls) you become religiously responsible for you actions and are obligated in all the commandments. That's pretty serious stuff.
Did Rahm Emanuel actually shed a tear at the Kotel? It's hard to tell from the pictures. Maybe my discomfort with this whole brouhaha is the feeling that sometimes the Western Wall seems like Disneyland, more magical make-believe than spiritual commitment. 


Batya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Batya said...

Risa, maybe it's because I'm not from a religious family and today my typical Jewish-American family, cousins and all, isn't all that Jewish. I just hope and pray for the next generation of Emanuels. G-d willing they'll do teshuva. I disagree with just about everything I've heard Rahm Emanuel say.

But I wish my cousins and their kids would bring their children to Israel for "a Bar/Bat Mitzvah." My own nephew didn't have one at all.

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