It is my bar mitzvah this week. I was told this means I am becoming a man. My mother doesn't think so. So who's right?
You turn thirteen, and nothing seems to happen. On the outside, you are the same little guy that you were way back when you were twelve and three quarters. But inside, in your soul, a massive shift has occurred.
From the moment you turn thirteen, two inner voices start to make themselves heard. One is the voice of goodness, your inner drive to do that which is right and moral and good. The other is the voice of evil, the darker side of your personality that urges you to do whatever you want, no matter whom it hurts and no matter what rules you break.
Both of these speak in your voice. They are not external influences, they are you, in your head. And they will fight to control your life, for the rest of your life. People who don't know this can become very confused. One minute they feel good and want to do what's right, the next minute an ugly urge surfaces and they behave badly. "What's wrong with me?" they think. "Who am I, a pure angel or a rotten little devil?" The answer is: Both. You have a side that is pure and selfless, and another side that is vulgar and selfish. You have to choose which side to follow, and take responsibility for your choice. This battle begins at Bar Mitzvah.
In the years ahead you will be tested many times. You will be approached by people who you think are your friends, offering to do things that you know are wrong. Your inner voice of evil will say, "Go on, everyone does it, it's no big deal, there's nothing wrong." But a deeper voice, sometimes harder to hear over the noise around you, will say, "No. You have to do what's right, no matter what anyone else will think of you."
You will have help in your battle with the inner devil. The Torah will always be there to guide you, inspire you and teach you right and wrong. This is why a Bar Mitzvah boy is called to the Torah - to plug in to your source of inspiration before embarking on your mission. When you make the blessings over the Torah, everyone will respond Amen! This symbolizes the support and encouragement you will receive from your family and community as you face the challenges that will come your way.
Being mature means taking responsibility and not blaming outside forces for your failings. Some people never grow up. But you, on the day of your Bar Mitzvah are taking the first step in becoming a man.