How does Judaism help us become more independent in mind and spirit? Traditionally, after a bar mitzvah has completed the recitation of the aliyah, the father of the youngster recites a blessing known as “she-petarani“, after the first major word in the prayer – “Blessed is the One who freed me (she-petarani) from the responsibility of this child.” According to Hertz, this prayer does not express the relief of a father at being freed from the care of his child, but rather the joy of the father as his child enters the community as an independent adult. What does it mean, however, to be an “independent adult” at the age of thirteen? One of my bar-mitzvah students years ago was troubled enough by this idea that he was compelled to remind his parents in his D’var-Torah that he would still need them during his teen-age years! Becoming an “independent adult” at the age of thirteen certainly does not imply financial or emotional independence at such a young age. Rather, the bar and bat mitzvah represents an age of moral and religious independence, the age at which a young person assumes the responsibility for their moral and religious behavior. Up to this point in their lives, the parent had the responsibility for the Jewish education of their child. From now on, it is up to the young person to make the decisions about how to pursue their Jewish education. It is up to the young person, now, to determine how and to what extent they will fulfill their ritual obligations in their Jewish life. Up to this point in their lives, the parents had the responsibility to guide their child in their ethical and moral life. From now on, it is up to the young person to seek moral and ethical guidance from his parents and teachers. The young person will now join all other adults in accepting the full consequences of their own moral and ethical lapses. They will also, of course, reap the full reward for their good moral and ethical behavior. Judaism, therefore, helps us to become more mindful and aware of our responsibilities as Jews by providing a ritual, the bar/bat mitzvah, that marks the beginning of moral and religious independence. But independence of mind and spirit has long been characteristic of the Jewish people as a whole. After all, our people’s survival in the Diaspora as a minority for so many years has required a great deal of independence from the majority culture in which we have lived. First of all, there was always relentless pressure upon Jews to convert to Christianity or Islam. Resistance to this pressure required a great deal of intellectual and spiritual independence as well as physical bravery. Secondly, Jews were not granted citizenship in the European countries in which they lived until the 19th century. Therefore, we were forced to set up our own communal institutions for education, taxation, justice and health and welfare to take care of the needs of the Jewish community, while the civil government of the country took care of (or neglected) everyone else. In a speech before the society of B’nai Brith in Vienna in 1926, Sigmund Freud gave thanks for two characteristics that he said were due to his “Jewish nature”. “Because I was a Jew,” he said, “I found myself free from many prejudices that hampered others in the use of their intellects; and as a Jew, I was prepared to take my place on the side of the opposition and renounce being on good terms with the “compact majority.” The “outsider status” of the Jew in society has thus been a double edge sword. It has led to a great deal of prejudice and persecution as a minority. It has also freed us to think independently and to have the courage to hold unpopular opinions, which, in the case of Freud, led to a revolution in how humanity understands itself.