Confirmation: Connecting the Past to the Present

By Rabbi Locketz

Please join us for an extraordinary celebration.  On Saturday night, June 8, at 7:00 PM in the sanctuary at Bet Shalom, we will reenact on the bima the moment when our tradition teaches us that Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai so many thousands of years ago.  At that time, we will celebrate as our tenth grade Confirmands reaffirm publicly, and as a community of young adults, the commitment they each made when they became Bar and Bat Mitzvah just a few years ago.

Our tradition teaches us that the holiday of Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks, which occurs 49 days after the beginning of Passover, recounts the culmination of the journey the Israelites took from servitude to Pharaoh to their acceptance of Torah.  That journey…those 49 days…marks one of the greatest advances our ancestors experienced…from the lowest of lows in Egypt to the highest of highs of Torah on Sinai.

And it is on this holy day that Reform Judaism assigned the celebration of Confirmation.  As some of you may know, Confirmation was borrowed by the early Reformers in Germany, in 1810, from Protestant Christianity as a way of instituting a communal celebration for our emerging young adults and future Jewish leaders.  Some communities over time even favored Confirmation to Bar and Bat Mitzvah which experienced a great decline in Reform Judaism in the first half of the 20th century.  But today at Bet Shalom we believe both are important rites of passage.    

As a 13 year old crosses the threshold of Jewish adulthood in becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, they publicly declare that Judaism and the Jewish Community is important to them.  It is a magical moment in the life of the synagogue and our families…but there is no magic involved.  A youngster works hard to demonstrate that they have begun to assimilate Jewish life skills that assure us that they will be prepared to take the mantel of Jewish responsibility from those that came before them, care for it, and pass it on to the generation that follows – their own children.  This is symbolized so powerfully as we pass the Torah through all the living generations of a family to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah as they formally take their place as a link in the chain connecting all future generations back to Moses on Mount Sinai.

But it doesn’t end there.  If it does, that chain of connection has been diminished.  And this is the reason we have so much to celebrate on Shavuot…that another generation of youngsters have hung on and continued to learn Torah and to participate in our congregation.  In High School, Judaism can be studied in a very adult way and as our students grow and develop we have the opportunity to help them evolve their beliefs and practices in ways appropriate for adults.  We cherish this experience as rabbis and know our students do, too. Studying Torah is a lifelong adventure…in some ways we never actually reach the top of the mountain…but we do pause from time to time to celebrate important moments in the Jewish Life Cycle…and Confirmation is one of those moments.  Please join us as we honor these students, and their families, for their dedication, their commitment and their learning.

We will also gather for Yizkor on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.  This is also a time for memory.  In moments of joy such as we experience during Shavuot, we are also instructed by tradition to remember those who came before us, on whose shoulders we stand.