Have we forgotten what Bar Mitzvahs are all about?


[UPDATE] The Bar Mitzvah, re-examined


The egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful video that is circulating ‘celebrating’ a Bar Mitzvah contains so much that is offensive that it requires restraint to hold oneself to three ways in which this display slaughters the spirit. Still, in the face of excess what could be more appropriate than abstinence? So here are only three of the worst things about this travesty:

1. To turn a ceremony of spiritual maturation into a Vegas showgirl parade teaches a child sexualization of spirit. Apparently nothing in our society militates against the narcissistic display of short skirted dancers ushering an adolescent into unearned stardom. If it is fetching, it is worthy. A beat justifies all else, and the rapt attention of an (dare I hope incredulous?) audience, is its own justification. Here is a spectacle on the order of throwing Christians to lions — that is, toss belief into the arena of appetite. Everything is fair game if the show is good enough. The usual phrase set above the ark in a synagogue is “know before whom you stand.” Perhaps it is time to change it to “Flesh Vincit Omnia.” Rockette Ruach.

2. I am leery of being too maudlin but really, our ancestors struggled and suffered and fasted and prayed so Sammy could cavort? There is an historical outrage here. The Bar Mitzvah (which is a stage a child reaches, not the name of a ceremony) is important because one becomes responsible for the mitzvot, not because one poorly approximates a pubescent Justin Timberlake. Bar Mitzvah means something and however beautiful his religious ceremony may have been, and however sincere the Judaism of his family (I don’t know and cannot judge) it is drowned out by the cymbal crash of hip grinding libertinism. I think of some of the teachers of my youth who taught that the tradition they bore was sacred and demanded reverence. When one of us did our jobs in worship the way he instructed us, Mr. Weiss would slip us a Ludens cough drop. We coveted those cough drops because they were the sign of a sacred duty done well, acknowledged by someone of genuine authority coupled with kindness. I shudder to think of what Mr. Weiss would make of Sammy, who was doubtless slipped a BMW, or perhaps (in a concession to age) a diamond studded Magen David necklace in tribute to his accomplishment.

3. Poor Sammy. I say this with no irony. What remains to him of the small triumphs of life? When he struggles with math and earns a ‘B’ when before he could never do better than a ‘C’ will they purchase an island to mark the occasion? Will he take Air Force One to his prom? This young boy been so extravagantly recompensed at 13 as to make all future victories hollow. Alexander the Great, it is said, grew depressed when he realized he had no more worlds to conquer. And since Sammy’s extravaganza would probably have been too grandiose for Alexander to entertain for the mere conquest of the Persian empire, what of Sammy’s next achievement? His marriage had best take place on Mars or it will make no impression.

Achh. I know I sound like an old curmudgeon. Watching this I thought the adjective ‘godless’ has rarely been more apt. I cannot help recalling the wise words of AJ Heschel — self-respect grows each time we are able to say ‘no’ to ourselves. This video is a “YES” to a child from all the people in his life who should be teaching him “no.” And that kind of education has consequences far beyond Sam Horowitz and his dancing Bar Mitzvah girls.

This piece originally appeared on washingtonpost.com.

Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and author, most recently, of “Why Faith Matters.”

Video of American gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents goes viral


[UPDATE: Aly Raisman leads U.S. to gymnastics team gold]

A clip from NBC showing Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents’ reaction to her uneven bar routine has garnered more than 25,000 hits on YouTube.

The clip shows Raisman’s mother and father commenting on Raisman’s routine from the stands. Her mother, Lynn, says, “Let’s go, let’s go,” and “Come on, come on” while shifting in her seat, and her father, Rick, remains silent until yelling “Stick it, please, stick it!” at the end of Raisman’s routine.

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., is Jewish and has been honored by the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Her performance in the qualifying round in the London Games earned her a spot in the all-around finals on Tuesday.

Videos asserting Israel’s right to attack Iran go viral [VIDEOS]


More than 2.5 million people have viewed two installments of a video advocating Israel’s legal and moral authority to attack Iran.

The videos, developed and narrated by Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel, American-born media personalities and co-founders of The Land of Israel.com pro-Israel activist group, warn that waiting for the international community to take action against Iran would be a dangerous mistake.

The first video, “Israel vs. Iran – Back to the Future,” has been viewed nearly 1 million times since it was posted two weeks ago. It says that “The Jewish people can never entrust our fate in the hands of others, and we want to wake the world up to the reality that the Iranian threat is very real and echoes the threat of Hitler in 1939.”

The second video, “Iran vs. Israel – No Fear,” has been viewed nearly 1.7 million times since it was posted nearly four days ago. “We must learn from our history and allow it to guide our actions during these challenging times,” it says. Within three days of its launch, the film had been seen by more than 1.6 million people.

A third video is set to be posted soon, according to the organization.

The Land of Israel.com operates a pro-Israel Facebook group with more than 250,000 friends. 

 

Yom HaAtzmaut special: California on Hebrew [VIDEO]


California on Purim [VIDEO]


Israel to participate in pilot YouTube project


Israel will take part in a pilot program to encourage Israeli advertising agencies to allocate more resources to advertising on YouTube.

During the yearlong program, the Israeli agencies will receive reduced fees for advertising on YouTube and instruction in YouTube’s measurement and planning tools, the Israeli business daily Globes reported Wednesday. They also will benefit from joint research analyzing Internet user behavior as well as advice and support on marketing.

Google Israel is working to convince local advertising agencies to join the international program. YouTube is part of the Google company.