srmnrh58akedah.htmlTEXTNISI3]>]># The Akedah and Bar Mitzvah

A Rosh haShannah (Akedah) Bar Mitzvah

For Micha Ben-Aderet



The day dawned, dark and damp. The wind whipped the tree tops against the sky. Beside the overhang they called home Am, Gil, their parents and the rest of their group huddled together holding each other close. Nearby the wild dogs, frightened by the noise, added even more as they howled. They had heard rumblings in the distance, but suddenly, as if two mountains slapped against each other right in front of them, came the most tremendous noise they'd ever heard. With the noise, a fire came out of the sky turning everything a purplish gray for the briefest moment before old oak tree in the clearing burst into flame changing the colors around them to brilliant reds oranges and yellows. The dogs all yelped and scattered and the group hugged closer to each other and the wall of the mountain.


The children always thought of the oak as a friendly tree. It had been there before the oldest of the group could remember. Not only did they often swing from its branches and play hide and seek behind its trunk, but it often gave them cool shelter from the hot summer sun. The squirrels and a variety of birds each had their nests there.


Am and Gil were too young to have experienced this before. The last time the heavenly fire had struck nearby trees was during the early youth of the elders. These had vague recollections of the stories of entire hillsides glowing red for days in the distance with smoke and ash hanging in the air, changing the color of the sky during day and night. They remembered stories of the expeditions into the burnt forests after the fire when the adults found the charred carcasses of the animals that had gotten caught.


But for Am and Gil all this was new and exciting. They ran out to their tree and picked up one of the branches that had fallen, the bright colors still jumping from one end of it. As they returned to the group by the overhang everyone retreated from them. They found that if they held the branch too close to the colors they hurt their hand, yet, at a safer distance the dancing colors warmed their faces. Before long, the yellow and orange turned to blue as the dancing slowed and sputtered out. In the end, only the red end of the branch glowed in the darkness as night fell.




Thousands of years passed.




Am and Gil learned how to safely keep the flame. They formed baskets of damp leaves and mud with green twigs bent around the outside. They constantly gathered dryer twigs that they added. They could let it burn without hurting them or spreading and without its going out. The strength of its warmth and light made them and their favorites the center of the community. They kept the knowledge of how to maintain the flame among themselves. As their family's children grew to maturity, they taught them how to protect the fire.


It was easy to let the fire go out, thrusting the group into the dark, unprotected cold. It was just as easy to let the fire get out of hand so that it could spread and destroy all in its path. Only those in the family who grew to know the power of life within themselves were allowed to master the mysteries of the flame. The fire and its central home came to represent the continued life of the group.


Over the ages, so many little ones died. Often in childbirth, and sadly with their mothers; and others of the pox. Children suffered from innumerable diseases. Those who overcame these tests and neared the time when their own bodies could give life were brought close to the skill of the fire. Those who had mastered life and coaxed new life into the world passed the torch to the following generation that would guard the skills and knowledge that enabled the community to live.



Father and son went off to the high wilderness place together. Ultimately they had to continue on alone to experience the heights and depths of each other in that holy ground, to test their mettle and explore and experience the essence of life as it passes from one generation to the next.


Our sources only tell us that the father took with him fire, additional fuel and a knife. The intentions of the father in this wilderness adventure seem strange to us, and we can only guess at the responses of the son. Was the area wooded, was there thick chaparral, or did they move through the almost barren rocky hillside as the mountain appears today? Did they travel at the end of the summer, or had autumn begun with a recent rain the days cool and refreshing... so different from their life at the edge of the desert. Did they bring anything to eat, or did they gather from among the wild plants of the mountains? What time of day: did the dew of the morning still cling to their cloaks, did the clear noontime dryness open them to the vistas, or did the evening's purples and oranges cool them as they approached their task?


"Father, am I ready to learn about the fire?"




"What am I to do? You must experience the full power of the intensity that grows within you. Can I teach this to you only as we stand at the precipice? Can you hear my blood as it streams through me? It is the same blood that pours through you and will flow for ages to come. You cannot yet know its strength. And this physical blood is but a metaphor for the force that rushes all around and through us. I only pray that from here you can gain a glimpse of God's presence.


"As a child, when I neared adulthood, I almost caused my father's destruction. Only when I saw the collapse of all he had built did I understand what he had accomplished. There, when I stood at the abyss, knowing that I had the ability to shape a new world from the strength within me did I begin to be able to appreciate the creative gifts he had taught were within me. I know that within you, also, you have the ability to bring me to naught and much more.


"To truly learn about the fires that burn within, you must come very close to their essence. I want you to know the fire's sharpness and its heat. It is a power, a gift of God that we cannot deal with lightly. You have young life glowing strong inside you.


"I know you strain against the bonds that keep you here. You want to break away, expand, explore, but I keep you near. Why? Are you not ready? Do I not trust your strength and your vision?


"Do you feel the sting of my pain as I bear it before you? What am I, but a man grown old, unable to see his own dreams reach their full fruition? Through the years I have seen your eyes set on different sights. I cannot expect you to live my visions. But, I must do all I can to make sure that you understand what I have tried to do with my life and show you what you are capable of accomplishing.


"Now, I want you to tell me what you have seen."



Thus do the generations flow.



As our young people become responsible for the potential life that springs within them, we teach them to use the tools that give meaning and purpose to our existence. For without that meaning our life as a community will come to an end. They (Am and Gil) now become sons and daughters of responsibility. We ask them to learn the ancient wisdom of our people. We do all we can to guarantee that they can read the texts and begin to derive some meaning from them. We have them lead us as we focus our attention on our relationship with the Source, the Ground-of-Our-Being. We ask them to stand on our shoulders, look beyond our horizons and share with us their vision of the world that is yet to come.


So that when the sun shines again, we can see its sparkle shimmer in their eyes.



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©Mark Hurvitz
last updated October 5, 1997