Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Teenagers, Synagogues and Sex
The Talmud defines the real moment of (male) adulthood as the appearance of two pubic hairs, and then says since we don't like to check individually, we name 13 years plus one day as the time.
But this earthy origin of bar/bat mitzvah is forgotten today -- perhaps I should say "repressed." I think it would be a mistake to igmore this powerful time of bodily change, and a mistake to leave it repressed.
What would it mean to do before and after b'mitzvah serious Jewish body events -- vision quests, eco-Jewish hikes, etc -- for teens? What would it mean for parents to require a "Jewish drivers license" and for shuls to set up courses in the ethics, not just the mechanics, of driving? What would it mean to have serious sex education in synagogues -- NOT based on "don't have sex till you're married" but on serious knowledge of men's and women's bodies, serious discussion of sexual ethics, and serious induction into the years of sexual exploration?
I do not know of a single pulpit rabbi who has given a real-life sermon on sex to the confirmation class of 16-year-olds and to their parents. Since Down-to-earth Judaaism was published, with its section on Sex, I have been asked to say these things at synagogues -- safer for the rabbi to bring on an outsider to speak honestly and then bounce off what I say, afterward -- than to say the truth her/himself -- but is that healthy for Judaism?? For Reconstructionist Judaism? These are important questions for our leaders and our communities.
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director, The Shalom Center.