Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Rites of Passage in Judaism 
For detailed information about rites of passage in Judaism visit the Judaism 101 Web site  and read:

Birth Rituals

It should be obvious from the information on the Web page that all three phrases of the rite of transition are present in Jewish birth rituals.  The incorporation of the child into the community takes place with the naming of the child  Naming for girls takes place in synagogue service.  Naming for boys takes place during the Covenant of Circumcision (brit milah) eight days after birth. This eight day period of time corresponds to the transitional or liminal phase. During time the child is  no longer connected to his mother, but he is not yet connected to the sacred community. That connection or incorporation into the community takes place when the child is named. Circumcision (cutting away of the foreskin of the penis) is common in many cultures and, is often associated with "initiation ceremonies" in many cultures. In Judaism, it is an "outward physical sign of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people."  It is thus a sign of being a part of (incorporated into) the larger community and a participant in the covenant between God and his people.  


Rites of Initiation: Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

In Judaism, a child is not required to  observe the commandments until the age of 12 (for girls) and 13 (for boys). In preparation for their new status, Jewish children attend special religious education at the synagogue where they study Hebrew and learn the meaning of the commandments. Upon reaching the "age of accountability" the child is obligated to observe the commandments of the Torah (Law) and is considered a Son of the commandment (bar mitzvah) or daughter of the commandment (bat mitzvah). In recognition of this new status, the young person is invited to recite a blessing during the synagogue service. Over time the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony has become more elaborate. The child not only participates in the reading of the Torah, he or she also is expected to read (in Hebrew!) a lesson from the prophets, participate in the service and make a speech. In many traditions today, a joyful and elaborate reception follows the service.

The incorporation phase is most prominent in the bar or bat mitzvah.  The young person is incorporated fully into the community of those obligated to keep the Law. Notice that the Judaism 101 Web site compares the reception following the bar mitzvah to the reception following a wedding.  One might conclude that in the bar mitzvah, the community is celebrating the young persons "marriage" to the Torah (Law) and to the community of those who are expected to keep the Torah. 


Rituals of Mourning
Death represents the greatest and most difficult transition that people in any society must face. On the one hand, the status and responsibilities of the loved ones of the deceased  have changed.  This change in status is emphasized by the mourners' separation from the community.  Indeed, the separation phase is most prominent in the rites of mourning in Judaism. Separation is especially intense immediately after the death. The family is  left alone for two days during which time their only obligation is to make the necessary arrangements for the burial. There follows periods of time lasting seven days, thirty days and a full year, each with a lesser degree of separation from the community. During these times the bereaved are not  expected to fulfill the normal obligations and responsibilities required of members of the community of faith. During the time of mourning,  the loved ones are not only honoring the memory of the deceased, they are  also assuming new roles required by separation from the loved one.
The periods of mourning also correspond to the notion that the soul of the deceased must spend some time purifying itself before it can enter the next world. In a sense then the deceased is going through a similar rite of passage: death is the separation from the community and loved ones; the transitional phase is the time required for purification of the soul: and the incorporation occurs when the purification is complete and the soul  of the departed enters the world to come.  It should be noted that within Judaism, there are varying interpretations of the concept of the "world to come."
.