Page one of the Oct. 2 View section tossed me between the emotions of astonishment, pride and respect on the one hand, and disgust, revulsion and embarrassment on the other. The article "True Grit" described the rigorous, all-but-unbearable training young sailors undergo to qualify as SEALs in the U.S. Navy, "the military's most elite operational force." Side by side with it was "What Price for That Big Day?" describing the escalating expenditure by families of my co-religionists on the "theme" bar and bat mitzvah celebrations--in exploitation of which there was recently held what was deceptively called "Los Angeles' first bar mitzvah planning show." I say "deceptively" because a planning show for the coming of religious responsible age of Jewish boys and girls would have to do with texts, and learning processes and customs and study of the Mitzvot, the religious precepts and privileges now accorded to the young candidates.
It was disheartening for me, as a rabbi these past 45 years, to read of the costly, circus atmosphere of the celebrations being touted by the exhibitors at that show. What do they teach the young celebrants? They teach that conspicuous consumption, competitive extravagance (and) over-indulgence are somehow connected with coming of the age of responsibility of the Jewish adolescent.