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Tarachow, S. (1951). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 20:506-507.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20:506-507

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Sidney Tarachow

March 13, 1951. A PSYCHOANALYTIC STUDY OF A RELIGIOUS INITIATION RITE: Bar Mitzvah. Jacob A. Arlow, M.D.

Puberty rites have the function of resolving, in a socially accepted way, the heightened Oedipal conflicts which accompany sexual development. Identification must replace rivalry and fear of castration. Jewish boys undergo two initiations, circumcision, eight days after birth, and Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen. In the formal Bar Mitzvah ceremony the father gladly declares he is rid of his son, that is, no longer morally responsible for his sins. The candidate is especially coached for the ceremony and also coached in the application of the phylacteries. The affect is that of an important examination; and the candidate is to be rewarded by festivities and gifts. It is an ordeal by recitation. The father does not assist the son during the ordeal. The initiate makes a speech expressing gratitude to his parents, a declaration of masculinity and identification with the Jewish people. The significance of the ceremony to a woman is presented by a female patient who had intense penis envy of a younger brother. The envy was stimulated at the brother's Bar Mitzvah and years later reactivated by the Bar Mitzvah of her own son.

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