By Binyomin Silver
This past summer, I was a staff member in a mainstream Chabad overnight camp. Excited about my shlichus, I was charged with campers aged 12 years old, who will become bar mitzvah in this coming year. (Don’t worry, this isn’t about tips.)
Much of the ruchnius of the summer revolved around their bar mitzvah. The learning class curriculum was gemara (menachos) about tefillin, many kids got bar mitzvah lessons, and multiple bunks celebrated their friends’ hanochas tefillin.
But there were two days this summer which made me wonder – what should our priorities be when our children are coming of age.
Those two days were 17 Tammuz, and Tisha be’av. The sun set, and suddenly, there were tens of kids that needed to fast. Why? “Because I have to do the three fasts before my bar mitzvah.”
Obviously we allowed them to fast, the worst thing that can affect their chinuch is to put down their family’s “minhagim,” but there’s something beyond a simple request of a parent telling their child to fast before his bar mitzvah.
Firstly, and specifically related to this topic: there is no real Halachic source for this practice. Only the Yom Kippur fast before the bar mitzvah has a source in Shulchan Aruch.
My second, and main point is, on a boy’s bar mitzvah the traditional Chabad nussach we bless the bar mitzvah with, is that he should grow up to be a chossid, yerei shamayim, and lamdan.
The Rebbe wrote (Igros Kodesh 20 page 118 lamenting the practice of laining for the bar mitzvah): “In our generation they have made the essential secondary, and the reverse… they diminish learning fundamentals, halacha for day to day life, and replace it with non-foundational topics.”
The question is, what are parents making the essential and what are they turning secondary.
One would think that in the year leading up to the bar mitzvah, we would be guiding the 13 year old Lubavitcher boy, and showing him what those three things mean.
Chossid: behaving (and dressing) like a Chabad chossid, caring about what the Rebbe cares about, and doing more than what’s expected from a regular Jew.
Yerei shamayim: learning how to perform all mitzvos carefully, taking responsibility to keep every halacha, and being mindful of things which may be a hindrance or distraction to our observance of yiddishkeit.
Lamdan: We should strive to give our children an appreciation for Torah learning. After all, we are planning on putting them in an 8 year system which is almost completely that.
Fine, I get it. You, your parents, and grandparents did three fasts, so you also want your kid to do it. No problem at all, go ahead. But the focus of becoming bar mitzvah should not be an attitude of, in our specific example: “being bar mitzvah is the worst, because now I’m being tortured and I can’t eat,” (a complaint heard from a few kids over the years).
I have seen the effects of this attitude in my hometown where my parents serve as Shluchim. Many parents in our community who send their kids to our Hebrew school are sometimes anxious at first, because their Hebrew school experience was one of: “you are becoming bar mitzvah so you have to learn your Torah portion in x amount of weeks.”
Bar mitzvahs shouldn’t be putting unnecessary pressure on the child and make them think that Judaism is a burden like the way these non frum children were brought up. It’s an opportunity for you to give meaning and positive energy into this future bochur’s yiddishkeit.
If you’re worried that if you don’t feel that yourself, how will you be able to give that to your son? Here is something my friends and I learned in camp: when your mission is to encourage kids to do more mitzvos and keep certain hiddurim, that will naturally get you to start improving yourself, because no one wants to be a hypocrite, and we all want to do the right thing.
It’s more like a thing by the kids the 3 fasts not family’s teaching about. And if your Problem is the chinuch mix the 3 fasts out of it (and Stam even if the chinuch isn’t the best having strong minhagim and keeping to them is very important for kids)
I don’t know what you’re trying to say
During the CCP virus, instead of focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle (diet/exercise) and strengthening immune systems, some were hyper-focused on wearing masks
why not both?
Isn’t it time to move on? The only people who still care about COVID are the liberals on one end and the COVID-deniers on the other end.
during a massive heatwave, some people are so careful about their traditions that they still wear multiple layers of clothing, a kapata, wool tzitzis, and hat! crazy right?
Don’t mock others when you probably do the same in your own life for different reasons
If this is your takeaway from camp, if this is your complaint, thenall I can say is Kol Hakavod!!
Dear bachur, thank you for presenting your point in a clear respectful way. The boys in your bunk were lucky to have you . You write valid points .
Unnecessary and wasteful Israel trips and vacations (there are many letters from the Rebbe about this).
Overdoing the materialism at the actual party, from the unnecessary to the unbecoming, double decker desserts to DJs etc
And yes, as the OP writes: this all stems from a general lack of focus and missing the point of the celebration.
My wife was reading in the N’shei Chabad that the rebbe wrote about DJ’s they being an avir of pritzus. Even if one does not have money ( these days it’s more than live music)the rebbe was against using a DJ .
I don’t think there is an inherent issue with going full on out with Bar Mitzvah parties. It all depends on what the reasoning behind the event is. Is it for you to flaunt all your Gelt that you have, is it for your social standings, or is it for you to make your son have an enjoyable time, or if you’re on Shlichus, to show not Frum people what a real event imbued with Simcha is, and to inspire them?
Djs fine, I relent about that, but double decker desserts? Don’t think there’s a problem. Besides, I’m hungry.
Finally, someone busted the 3 fasts myth. What’s next? Toiveling 9 times?
תשע פעמים – ראיתי מי שציין לס׳ הליקוטים צ״צ אות נו״ן ערך נט״י ע׳ קיז, והוא באוה״ת קדושים ע׳ קיח, שהביא מהרמ״ז לזח״א וירא קב, ב. וטה״ד הוא וצ״ל ב׳ טבילות. ותוקן בהוצאות אחרות. אבל כ״ה מפי השמועה מהריל”ג ששמע מהרבי כהוראה לרבים, ראה לדוגמא מעשה מלך ח״א פרק כג הערה 5. ועוד. וכן נמסר מפי השמועה שנאמר כן להרימ״מ ע״ה טננבוים באלול תשי״א בתור בעל תוקע – קובץ העו״ב י״א ניסן תשס״ב ע׳ 99
To dip 9 times is a misconception. The actual minhag is to טובל 3 times while standing, then spread out, then three standing again
In the book Hamazkir on Rabbi Leibel Groner it says that the rebbe told him to do 9 (and i think it says like what you said )
as the bocher says its not a myth but a minhag.
according to ahron burkis, the rebbe toiveld 9 times. (there are also accounts of 54 tvilos, but 9 isnt a myth just becuase of that)
So many times I have heard this, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Instead of stressing the importance of the three fast (which is all well and good) we should be putting the stress on the more important stuff in life. Like you, every kid I ask why he does it he replies, “so I will get used to fasting”. This is misinformation and we need to get the truth out there, that this will not help you, you aren’t being cool you are being dumb. Hopefully parents, teachers and kids will realize and put the chayus… Read more »
This one is the most non issue
Kids need to channel their passion and drive somewhere
Thank G-d they’re interested in this
Sometimes choosing to fix what you might call a non-issue is the easiest and smartest way to go about tackling a bigger problem.
If it’s a non-issue and parents make this small change- not by simply eliminating this practice, but by giving a love for keeping the Mitzvos along with the physical excitement of becoming Bar Mitzvah- it will bring bigger changes to the world and will only do good.
In this dark time after Gimmel Tammuz, our children are not to blame.
ya it’s not, it’s the educators, duh!
I asked Rabbi Broin and he told me the 3 fasts is a myth.
We should be focused on better things as you mentioned
You serious I heard from countless rabanim that’s it has strong roots in Halacha, just because you’re rov doesn’t agree with it, it doesn’t mean it’s not true
You write that children should be taught to dress like a chossid but “dressing like a chossid” has no basis in Halacha whatsoever. It’s all minhag. So why is that minhag more important than any other minhag? It’s your own personal preference.
It’s Minhog vs myth
There’s reason to believe EVERY minhog is myth. Most of the things we do because of minhog have no basis in Halacha. Everything relating to chassidus or being a chossid is pure minhog. Not to say minhog isn’t important, but there’s no difference between minhog and myth.
the difference between minhag and myth is simple, one has a source in a sefer or instruction of the rebbeim. the other is just because my friend did it, going viral is not a source
The Jews in Egypt didn’t change their way of dressing, halacha tells us we have to separate ourselves from the ways of the goyim, etc. There are many reasons why it’s important to dress like a chossid (you could call it dressing like a Yid also), and it has a long history. The three fasts was invented relatively recently and has no reason or backing whatsoever.
Jews didn’t always wear 50s style hats and suit jackets. Especially the Jews who left Egypt. Through your history Jews looked pretty similar to the people around them.
For some reason lubavitch decided the 1950s style dress was what they wanted to stick with. Maybe because that’s how it was when the rebbe took nesius.
There’s nobody in lubavitch today who looks anything like the chassidim of 100 years ago.
So then why don’t we dress like the Jews in Egypt?
The 3 fasts we’re made up and there’s no reason that a kid should fast for them, they say there practicing there’s no such thing as practicing for a fast because every fast is different.
besides Yom Kipppur which a 12 yr old must fast according to the alter rebbe
Thing I dreaded the most about my bar mitzvah was chazering the maamer. Would the OP say we get rid of this “minhag”? For my own kids I encouraged them to fast as practice runs. I told them if you see its becoming too hard, by all means, break your fast there are another two practice runs before it becomes halachik. I also checked in with most (besides the ones who were in camp at the time and I couldn’t) throughout the fast day to see how they were doing. Would you believe every one of my children fasted through… Read more »
Maamer was hardest for me too, even though I did it in Hebrew and when push came to shove, I only did first section and a half by heart.
I dont think this was a minhag from the family. It’s a newborn minhag stemming from nowhere.
The 3 fasts are a minhag shtus!!
It might be that you’re not a parent yourself or it might be that I have girls but my experience with kids and fasting is that….they kind of WANT to do it. And by “kind of” I mean, they’re chomping at the bit to do the thing to the point where you’re telling your begging 5 year old that they’re allowed to “fast until bedtime” or “fast until breakfast.” (To clarify for the author of this article, who doesn’t appear to know about this whole schematic, “fasting until bedtime” etc is the same as every other day where they’re not… Read more »
“Chossid: behaving (and dressing) like a Chabad chossid, caring about what the Rebbe cares about, and doing more than what’s expected from a regular Jew.”
We teach our kids to feel superior to “regular Jews”. Is that the message we are giving our kids?
The talmudic definiton of Chossid is one who goes “Lifnim mishuras hadin,” beyond the letter of the law. This means that a chossid does more than everyione else, like in the gemaras example: a tzaddik buries his nails, and a chossid burns them. Yes, Chassidim are superior. We can elevate ourselves without putting down others.
We aren’t inherently superior, we just hold ourselves to a higher standard, making us superior in the sense that we act that way
Great article. My son felt “peer pressured” into fasting his three fasts, one of which was in camp. Even though I told him he doesn’t have to. He didn’t eat properly beforehand and ended up very sick!
There’s no need to nitpick him every single thing that goes wrong or confuses you. I think it’s cute that they think they have the best and I encourage my kids to try to see if they could make it and if they couldn’t OK and it was no need to make a big deal about it.
It isn’t the parents.
I don’t curse – my teen does
I don’t refer to non Jews with derogatory names – my teen does
I don’t have gaming devices at home – me teen is an expert player anyway
I discouraged 3 fasts – my teens fasted anyway
Age 12 is exactly when social pressure becomes a big deal and so you end with situations that are bigger than any one person can solve on their own.
Ok, that’s you. Here was what I encountered in camp with certain children: 1: I curse because my father does at home. 2: Many crown heights kids have inherent racism from their parents who lived in ch during the riots. 3: My parents bought the gaming devices for me (it could’ve even been for me doing well in school etc. 4: My father told me to fast the three fasts. Preparing your kids for social and peer pressure starts at home. The same way you tell your kids before camp that there are staff members you should stay away from… Read more »
Every point you just said is absolutely correct. Kudos
Soz fam, but there’s no problem with having a gaming device at your house, as long as the gaming is kept to a moderation and is placed before the important stuff. As my saintly father would say, “Work hard, play hard”. It’s a much better medium of entertainment than non-Jewish music, movies and TV shows, because a: there is an unfathomable amount of videogames that don’t have any bad content in them, and b: you are actually doing something when you game, as opposed to watching a movie like a brain-dead potato. So don’t make it sound like it’s a… Read more »
Their mother makes better food for those fasting than those not
Good point….and more Gatorade!
Kudos to the writer for expressing the truth and finally enlightening many where our focus should be.
You are right it’s a Total myth and parents should know that and focus on different things, however just to point out alot of kids actually WANT to fast at that age.
Which was great to read.
In chinuch in general: you cant impose on a child/young man to do something that you are not doing.
Second: the young man shouldn’t feel forced. Forced minhagim or mitzvos lead to letting go of yiddishkeit chv
Lastly: encourage. From personal experience: Half a day is fine for training, more then a half a day is wonderful – keep going to the best of their capability and a whole day is great BUT NOT MANDATORY. If you tell it to them sincerely that’s what really counts and they’ll do the best of their capability.
saying the first Ois of the Bar Mitzvah Mamer by your Hanochas Tefillin is a completely made-up Minhag that has no source. The Rebbe wrote in many letters that every boy by his Hanochas Tefillin should Know by heart very well Perek Mem Aleph Tanya from the beginning till the word “Liyodim” which speaks about the Kavonos you should have while putting on Tefillin. However, there are no letters of the rebbe saying that a boy by his Hanochas Tefillin should say the first Ois of the Bar Mitzvah Mamer.
so true, glad you pointed this out
I would prefer if this article were about tipping and not this. I was not a counselor for many years now but I remember myself being Bar Mitzvah. At that age fasting the first time was more of an exciting thing, a challenge, than something to dread. Same goes with learning to lein. Both these gave a feeling of accomplishment over something like learning yet another maamor. Sometimes something that may not be the most important or “original” is still a good thing since it give a sense of accomplishment. I’m also surprised that how someone dresses made it on… Read more »
Well written article. When I was 11 and came home with the “3 fasts” my father told me theres no such thing, but all my friends were doing it so I did it as well. I dont believe it’s family minhagim, comes more from peer pressure
I believe that the writer of this article kind of missed the point himself. I do agree with what your saying it’s just that the three fasts (as far as I know, and as far as it was for myself) was an existing thing to do not a burden. True people do exaggerated a little but not really something that needs to be addressed as a whole (just some specific individuals).
I think we all appreciate you coming out and telling us but I don’t believe it’s was really necessary.
Those are my thoughts.
Yes, bar mitzvah bachurim should not think or be pressured that they need to learn a parshah. They should lear how to lain in general, and the first thing they should learn is the maamer & kitzur shlchan aruch. If they finished all that, then they can do extra stuff.
My family minhag is that the bar mitzva must make a siyum – either on a mesechta gemara or on all of mishnayos. M
aking a siyum is IMPORTANT because it makes the bar mitzva seuda into a seudas mitzva (and not just a birthday party).
This family minhag is shared by many other families and is sourced back from the first Rebbes (I think Tzemach Tzedek).
Many “chassidim” keep the “easy” minhagim, but let the tough ones slide. It’s the challenging minhagim that separates the real chassidim from the CHINO’s (chassidim in name only).
I am geza and just because I don’t have my kids make a siyum, it doesn’t make me a “CHINO” (Chassid In Name Only). The term CHINO was never used in previous generations, only Geza or a Tzu-gekumen. Don’t use the term “CHINO” and don’t introduce it to our community.
dont impose on me that you are related to The Baal shem tov and have to hold you in such a status, when you clearly ACT like a CHINO for the purpose to put others down.
Does the Rebbe want chassidim who talk to and think about b’nei Abraham Yitzchok and Yaakov like this? Both of you. The lack of kavod for a fellow yid who is precious to Hashem like an only child born in old age because it makes a person feel good to think they’re better.
Whether its a minhag or a myth, its not worth writing an oped about it. I doubt any kid is forced into it. Most kids like to brag about it, and so be it.
Puleeze. If parents want to instill a custom in their children regarding fast days, that’s their prerogative, just as any other family, sect, cultural, societal custom. It’s not the counselor’s position to judge. If the camp has a policy, which by virtue of their sending their kids there, the parents agree to, then counselors seek to maintain such policy. But counselors aren’t to insert their opinion about such things.
Kesubos daf 50A art-scroll notes #19
There is a source after all! In TODAY’s Daf Yomi (the source posted) the Gemara specifies that “Abaye states that 2 years before a boy’s 13th year, he should be trained to fast for a few hours (Yoma 82a). When he becomes 12 he should fast the entire day.” OP- in addition to this being a genuine source, I have a couple bones to pick with your article. 1: in the Chabad Pesach Haggadah (only), Mah Nishtana is written in a different order, beginning with the MINHAG of dipping twice to point out the importance of minhag in Yidishkeit. 2.… Read more »
A fast day is a holy day and not a day to just watch movies so even after bar mitzvah they need this memo
A Chayol learns to do his duty that he does not like. Each kid can ask a shaila if there is an issue of fasting. Hope we don’t spoil them