Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bar Barakah

Bar Barakah means “Son of the Blessing”.  Many traditions and cultures have a rite of passage; some at a certain age, others at a point of maturation determined by the parents.  Boys need to be called into manhood and girls need to be called into womanhood.  Jesus received a blessing from his Heavenly Father in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, God said, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Men, especially young men, long to hear their earthly fathers say, “I love you, I’m proud of you, I’m pleased with you”.  

Do you remember the particular moment when you knew you were a woman or a man?  How about when you were married…could you point to the day you became married?  Of course we can – it’s the day of our wedding and most of us know the approximate time, when the minister declared us husband and wife.  Craig S. Hill likens a Bar Barakah to a wedding in the sense that it is an opportunity for a father to say, in the presence of family and friends, “Today, Son, you are a man”.  Of course, all of this also applies to young girls…my husband and I just happen to have had three sons first before we had a daughter. 

Several years ago an Internet friend mentioned her son’s Bar Barakah.  I asked her about this and she explained to me that it was the Christian equivalent to a Jewish Bar Mitzvah.  I was familiar with the term, Bar Mitzvah, I knew it was a rite of passage but beyond that I wasn’t too sure what was involved.  My friend said they had read a book by Craig S. Hill titled “Bar Barakah” and I immediately ordered it and read it.
About a year ago my husband, Dan, and I started discussing this idea and we knew we wanted to do something special for Ashton, our oldest son’s 13th birthday.  Approximately six months before his birthday we started really praying about what to do and who to involve.  My husband already owned a book called, “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes so he and Ashton started meeting on Wednesday nights, after dinner, and reading through this book.  We explained the idea behind the Bar Barakah and Ashton got very interested and involved.

Through our studying we realized men who are very successful in life surround themselves with other successful people.  We wanted to choose mentors for Ashton in very specific areas.  We chose the areas of relationships, finance, work ethics, chivalry, and ministry.  Then we spent time praying and asking God to show us men whom Ashton already had some connection with who were strong in these areas.  God was very gracious and soon we had a list.  Dan contacted each of the men and gave them time to also pray about this.  We knew we were asking for a big commitment, to meet with Ashton on a regular and ongoing basis, and to mentor him in a specific area.  We received affirmation from each of the men God laid on our hearts.  These men became known as his Council.

The Bar Barakah is the blessing but Hill suggests parents make as big a deal of this as a graduation or a wedding.  Children need to know that you value this time and you are willing to make an investment for them.  Dan thought it was important for Ashton to be very involved in the planning so that he knows what party planning entails.  When they met on Wednesday nights they began to discuss details.  Ashton chose one of our ministers to officiate the ceremony alongside Dan, colors, the menu, venue, helped design invitations, made the guest list, and helped make many other decisions. 
We ordered our invitations from Tiny Prints and we were quite thrilled with their quality and service.  

The guest list was to be intimate, the five men who were invited to be part of Ashton’s council and their wives, our ministers and their wives, his Sunday school teacher and her husband, grandparents and his closest friends and their families.  We ended up having some additional 11th hour guests that I was absolutely thrilled to share in our day.

I have to be honest at this point and say that, as the mom, I felt kind of left out in the planning...which is kind of the point, that the son leaves the wing and safety of his mother and steps into the world of manhood.  So along the way I spent a lot of time in prayer and made a prayer garland as a decoration.  And I hired our most favorite photographer, Belle Hess, because I didn’t want to miss a moment of the ceremony and I knew I’d want this day captured on film.  Nearly all of the pictures shared here are her fantastic work!

Ashton wrote beautiful, scriptural commitments in several areas including serving Jesus, submission to authority, purity and others.  Our minister asked Dan and I to confirm similar commitments.

Each family was asked to bring a scripture, blessing or word of encouragement to share with Ashton.  The chairs were set up in a semi-circle while Dan and Ashton went to each man and Dan asked, “Will you accept my son as an equal?”  When the man answered to the affirmative, Dan asked if he had anything he would like to share.  Each man shared heartfelt words, some were eloquent, others were short and concise, but they were all important.  

Then Dan asked the women and children to stand on one side of the path and the men to stand on the other side.  At this point I prayed over Ashton and released him into manhood, while Dan and the other men called Ashton forth into manhood.  Ashton knelt and all the men laid hands on him and prayed special blessings over him. 

Dan and I then presented Ashton with special gifts, an Armor of God coin printed  with Ephesians 6:13-17 on it and a wristwatch.

After the ceremony we served chocolate fondue with strawberries, Oreos, and marshmallows, summer sausage, cheese and crackers, mocha punch and iced sweet tea. 

It was a very special day and I believe Ashton felt loved, special, and blessed.  So what now?  Ashton continues to meet with his Council on a semi-regular basis.  We gave each man full discretion to do what he sees fit, whether that means reading a book and discussing it, working in the workshop, or going out for a mocha latte and chatting about life.  Dan and Ashton continue to meet every Wednesday night and are continuing to work through “Disciplines of a Godly Man”.  Ashton’s Bar Barakah also influenced his homeschooling curriculum this year as he is reading a lot of biographies about great men and other great books for men.  


If this is something you think you’d like to learn more about, let me share some more thoughts and resources!  First of all, there is no one “right age” to have a Bar/Bat Barakah.  Some sources suggested an age range of 12-18.  One source suggested paying attention to when the child is showing interest in the opposite sex: paying more attention to personal grooming, showing physical signs of puberty, etc.  We wanted to be very proactive and we know at some point Ashton will want to seek out advice from people outside of his family.  We wanted to surround him with those people and foster relationships that we hope he will lean on when that time comes, hence his Council.

Some books that we highly recommend:
Bar Barakah: A Parent’s Guide to a Christian Bar Mitzvah (link is to the Kindle edition, we used the 1998 paperback edition but have since read recommendations for the updated version)

There are lots of great books out there in this area right now, I would love to hear about other ones that you have read and loved!  The Internet is, of course, a great resource and we gleaned from blogs and website about how others have conducted their son’s ceremonies.  

In the end, the most important thing that a parent can do is impart a blessing to their child.  I believe this with every fiber of my being.  It can be a special day with a special ceremony and all of your child’s special loved ones, or it can be in an intimate moment but don’t miss the opportunity to pour a blessing out on your child and say “You are my child in whom I am well pleased.”