Grandpa's Bar Mitzvah
Many years ago, my grandfather turned 83 and decided to have a second Bar Mitzvah. This was held in conjunction with our oldest son's Bar Mitzvah. My grandfather said that when you turn 83, it is like 13, since Torah gives a man's life span as 70 years.
My question is, was my gramps putting one over on us, or was he correct?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Firstly, your grandfather's interest in reaffirming his commitment to Judaism at the age of 83 is quite commendable.
Although we commonly use the phrase "I am going to have my Bar Mitzvah," or "I had my Bar Mitzvah when I was 13," this is really incorrect. Because Bar Mitzvah is really a state of being. I'll explain:
At the age of 13 (or 12 for girls) one becomes Bar Mitzvah and remains Bar Mitzvah, no matter the actual level of observance. That is because the real meaning of the words "Bar Mitzvah" is "one who is obligated to do mitzvahs," since at 13 one is mature enough to follow the Torah.
So although technically it is impossible to have a "second Bar Mitzvah" (since when one becomes Bar Mitzvah they remain that way forever), this term really refers simply to an aliyah to the Torah, and a celebration.
Of course, there is no limit to the number of aliyahs a person can have to the Torah. And as for celebrations – it's always good to celebrate one's Judaism and belief in God.
Having said all that... The concept of having a second Bar Mitzvah at age 83 is not a bad idea. King David lived to age 70, and in the ancient book of Jewish wisdom, "Ethics of Our Fathers" (5:25), Rabbi Yehuda Ben Tema states that the age of 70 is considered a "ripe old age."
Similarly, the composer of Psalms 90, Moses, poetically spoke of a person's life as being on average 70 years.
I suppose your grandfather was onto something. In fact, when the actor Kirk Douglas turned 83, he celebrated with – you guess it – a second Bar Mitzvah.
May we all merit to live that long!