Saturday, June 30, 2012

Religious Celebrations Outside Your Own Faith

I have a wonderful and diverse set of friends and family that have introduced me to several different religions and celebrations within their religion. I will join in the celebration with my cousin, who is Jewish through their mother's family, to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah.

A Bat Mitzvah is the religious acceptance of a girl (at or close to age 13) into the faith. The Jewish faith recognizes their ability at this age to fully accept the religion as their own. After this ceremony, the church views the girl or boy as a man or woman of the temple. This celebration and religious ceremony is very comparable to the Christian confirmation ceremony.

I have only been to a Jewish temple once before, and that was also for a Bar Mitzvah (this is the masculine term when it is a boy). There were many aspects of the service that were really amazing to me in a great way. Of course, I was nervous about the unknown-standing at the wrong time, not looking in the right place, or any of 100 other things that would make my presence obvious.

I was relieved that there was nothing that made me stand out like a sore thumb, and luckily since my side of the  family was not Jewish, there were many guests invited that were in the same boat as I was!

I have always been curious about the world and about other people's beliefs and religions and have been fortunate enough to have very open friends and family who will answer my questions without me feeling uncomfortable, or making them uncomfortable.

In preparation of attending a Jewish ceremony, I asked questions about the yamaka the men wear in the temple. Some of the questions I had about it included at what age do men start wearing it within the temple (my step-son was 12 at the time and I wasn't sure if that was a close age to determining anything), do outside non-Jewish visitors wear them (is it disrespectful to wear it or not to wear it).

Just like Christianity, depending what church or temple you attend, there are many levels of how strictly the rules are followed. In my case, the temple the ceremony was in would allow any one who wanted to wear one to wear one, but opting not to wear one was equally acceptable even for those of the faith. One thing I learned that I hadn't seen in movies or read in books is that some women, including the female Rabi, will wear a yamaka too.

I asked the meaning of the yamaka, and I was given an answer that I absolutely love and think about often. The meaning of the yamaka, as told to me, was a story passed down through my aunt's family, so I don't know if  all Jewish people have heard this exact same story: The yamaka is symbolic of being a reminder that no one is above God. With the yamaka at the top of your head, you are reminded that God is above you and you are beneath him. There might well be other symbolic and religious meanings to this, but even as a Christian, I think this story's message is applicable!

Even though my path of religion has brought me fulfillment and satisfaction in being Christian, I remember that the difference between Christianity and Judaism is the belief in Jesus being the Messiah (or not). There would be no Christianity without Judaism, so I find it completely silly to hear Christians be so intolerant of the Jewish religion! After all, if you believe in Jesus, you know he was Jewish!!! We are much more alike than many realize.

I hope people take the time to experience another religion's religious ceremonies or services without prejudice. I found so much love, peace, and tradition within the Bar Mitzvah I attended last year that it was impossible not to feel moved.

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