Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Bar Mitzvah
A Simple Jew asks:
What were your thoughts when you said the brocha "baruch she-petarani" at your son's recent bar mitzvah?
Chabakuk Elisha answers:
When a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah he is called up to the Torah, and subsequently the father recites "Baruch Shepetarani Mehaonesh Halozeh" - loosely translated to mean "Bless You for freeing me from punishment for this one's actions." I always found this "brocha" (although it is not actually a brocha since G-d's name is not mentioned) strange. Indeed, is this a great joy - that I am "off-the-hook" and no longer responsible for the actions of "this one"?
There are many drushim on this, but the explanations that I saw or heard struck me as nice, but contrived. I looked at it from the simple meaning of the words, and so, when saying the blessing, I imagined myself as one who nurses a bird to health and finally sets it free, or an inventor who finally sets his invention into action, perhaps selling it to others for their use. The idea being that the child is no longer in my realm, he is now a fully functional being that must fly and function on his own.
For his own good I must take a step back for him to achieve his goals; I can no longer take full responsibility for him - for it is time that he take responsibility for himself so that he will rise to the next level. Although 13 years old is a bit young in our society, the next stage of process has begun as his life shifts into the next gear.
We can easily see that adolescents do not respond to parental authority as small children do - and as a result, parents must change their approach. I think this is what the blessing means. As I stood next to my son and in front of the Torah, I bless G-d. I bless Him for His wisdom in creation. I bless Him for giving me the opportunity to play a vital role in raising an entire world. I bless Him for giving me a road map to follow, and to show to the next generation. And I bless Him for telling me that my next responsibility is to realize that my part has now changed. I must let my son fly a little freer, and he will be a man.