Upsherin

Today was not a work day so we walked down to the Old City where we always experience something new. We were at the Wailing Wall and we noticed a small group of people. They were holding a little boy and reading from the Torah. An older gentleman, who appeared to be his grandfather, was holding his hand on the boy's head while he and the child's mom read together from the Torah. It seemed to be something very important and my first thought was they might be giving the child a blessing. I saw his mom cut a lock of his hair and place it in a little silk bag. They bounced the boy up and down, sang some Jewish songs, and threw candy in the air. After the circle broke up, I approached one of the family members and asked if this was a special occasion. I was told that when a Jewish boy turns three, there is a ceremony (upsherin). It is an age-old custom to allow a boy’s hair to grow untouched until he’s three years old. On his third Jewish birthday, friends and family are invited to a hair cutting ceremony called an upsherin. The member of his family explained that this ceremony is not usually done at the Western Wall but they chose to do it there to make it more meaningful. She also explained that it was a ceremony to give the boy a blessing for a good life and his future. From this age the child is taught to wear a kipah and slowly he would be trained to learn and study the Torah. I thanked her, gave her my card from the Jerusalem Center and said we were new to Jerusalem and told her I felt privileged to observe this. Right after this the group went to a place where they were serving food and drink and the child's mother allowed me to take some more photos. We turned around and saw a Jewish family having their photo taken under a white canopy. We were standing in line to go to the Temple Mount when we heard a drum and some music. In the distance we saw another velvet canopy with a large group of people approaching. Then we saw a young girl and boy who were balancing on the shoulders of men. We assumed they were headed to the Wailing Wall for some bar and bat mitzvahs. There is a lot of celebration when boys and girls reach the age for their mitzvahs. Orthodox Jewish boys never cut their side curls.