I had an amazing week talking with and learning from my Jewish friends, as well as receiving input from a Rabbi. My love for Jewish traditions and beliefs always immensely grows when I further my knowledge. This week my eyes have been open with excitement when I made parallels to Boy Jesus teaching in the temple and Jewish practices.
Although there is a gap between his birth and Jesus being found as a boy in the temple, we can assume it would have been what happened to any Jewish boy his age. Jesus was Jewish and was raised practicing and participating in Jewish traditions, cultures and beliefs. That absolutely implies that his childhood was spent actively learning, studying, and preparing as it was required of that by all Jewish boys. Jesus as a boy was well taught in the law and with the scriptures to prepare to reach age of accountability and adulthood, where they would then take on more and better responsibilities within their religious practices. In Jewish culture, age thirteen has always been that age. We can know that Jesus had a deep understanding of God.
Biblically, Jewish men were required to attend the religious celebrations surrounding the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, which is likely why Jesus and His family were there, celebrating and participating in their Jewish beliefs. Approaching thirteen, Jesus may have been preparing for, and in the process of, what we call today, a Bar Mitzvah. The title wasn’t used back in biblical days, nor was it celebrated the same way, but that age has always been the law and practice to further their vocation and advance in status. Bar means “son” in Aramaic, and Mitzvah means “commandment” in Hebrew, it is when they become a “son of the commandment.”
Which also means at that age, they will advance in status and finally participate in the observances of the Jewish faith. It’s finally being able to be called up to do an aliyah, which is reciting a prayer before and after the Torah reading, as well as for the first time nowadays allowed to finally read from the Torah, itself. They will then be trusted as a witness, and become obligated to bearing his own responsibility and all commandments of God. Before the age of thirteen and without a childhood of dedication to learning, they would not be ready or allowed to do those things. (Similarity to boys in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, reaching a certain age and understanding to receive Aaronic priesthood and then being able to have more responsibilities and new ways to participate, like pass the sacrament).
I find it so exciting to know that, of all ages Jesus teaching in the temple as a boy could have happened, that it happened at the age of twelve. Although during preparation for Jewish boys it is not uncommon to talk to elders on teachings, it isworth pointing out that He was teaching them in the temple. Different, impressive, and significant to do as a young boy, absolutely nods to his path towards growing into our Savior. But also, significant to note that He was teaching before the age He was deemed ready—before He was even really able and allowed to do so. And with JMT, we learn even underage and unfit, they were hearing Him and asking Him questions.
To participate in the celebration and feast of Passover, multitudes of people came from distant provinces in large companies and caravans, mostly for needed safety against violence. Scriptural wording of after the custom of the feast and fulfilled the days nods towards the celebration’s duration which lasts seven days, symbolic of time that passed of their people fleeing for their freedom from the up until the parting of the Red Sea. Mary and Joseph knowing somewhat of Who Jesus was to become because of prophesies and their angel, wisemen, shepherd experiences, Jesus being found in the temple teaching on His own, was further confirmation and further witness. Showing His love and dedication to both of His Fathers, He was Coming into His own, learning and blossoming in who God intended for Him to be.
Regardless of being raised a normal mortal Jewish boy, it has always been within Jesus to be among us, to help our understanding, to grow in knowledge of our God, and to be our Savior.
An incredible truth lays within that sentence. But we can also see ourselves in another lesson we can pull from this experience. Investing to study, dedicating time to learning, increasing in wisdom and stature leads to growing into our own divinity. It leads to learning more about ourselves and who God wants us to become.