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  • How many days after the birth of a boy is circumcision (Brit Mila) performed?

    The Brit milah ritual is performed eight days after the birth of a boy. Circumcision brings the child into the covenant with Abraham, who is traditionally considered the first Jew. The mother hands over the newborn to the sandek (godfather) through a relative or friend of the family. The sandek is usually a family member present at the ceremony and who holds the child, while the mohel, who is qualified to perform the circumcision, performs the operation. The sandek then passes the child to the father and together they recite a prayer. The name of the newborn is announced to those present: the Hebrew name sometimes differs from the usual {...} Read more
  • Is there a symbolic ritual after the birth of a Jewish girl?

    After the birth of a Jewish girl, her name is announced, often at the synagogue, during a ceremony. This ceremony is sometimes called Brit Bat (bringing the girl onto the covenant) or Britah (feminine version of Brit that means covenant). It is also called Simchat Bat (the joy of the girl) or Zeved Bat (the gift of the daughter).The ritual during this ceremony is less strict than that of circumcision. In addition to the naming, it includes a festive meal, a reading from the Torah and other books, and songs.The timing of the ceremony also varies, ranging from a few days to a few months after the birth..The ritual during this ceremony is less fixed than that of a circumcision, and besides the naming, it can also include a festive meal, a reading from the Torah and other readings and songs. The timing of the {...} Read more
  • Pidyon Haben seeks to redeem male firstborns from:

    The mitzvah (commandment) of Pidyon Haben, the redeeming of the eldest son, is held when the newborn is at least 31 days old. It consists of “redeeming him from a Cohen”. (Numbers 18:15) Although this mitzvah is a bit complex, let us try to explain it: Originally, G-d had attributed the function of Cohen (priest) to the eldest son of each Jewish family to represent it in the Temple. (Exodus 13:1-2, Exodus 24:5, commentary by Rashi) Then came the affair of the Golden Calf. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and saw this spectacle, he broke the Tablets of the Law and gave the following ultimatum: “Choose! Either G-d or the idol” (“He who loves the Lord follows me” Exodus 32:26). Only the tribe of the Levis sided with G-d (“All the Levites gathered around him”, Exodus idem). Then G-d decreed that {...} Read more
  • What is mikvah (a pool of water supplied by a natural source) used for?

    A mikvah is a pool of water supplied by a natural source such as a river or lake. It is used for Jewish purification ceremonies. The mikvah is used for various rituals: conversion, marriage, or after menstruation (among Orthodox and Masorti Jews). Some men in the Hasidic community immerse themselves in the mikvah on a weekly or even daily basis. The mikvah is also used to purify newly acquired items. The persons entering the mikvah must immerse themselves completely, their hair must be untied, and they are not allowed to wear any jewellery, clothing, or even bandages. Every part of the body should be in contact. with the {...} Read more
  • At what age do Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah?

    The Bar-Mitzvah for boys and the Bat-Mitzvah for girls represent the public celebration of the coming of age. These terms mean: “son/daughter of the commandment” and refer to both the ceremony and the person performing it. It is usually celebrated at the age of 13 for boys and 12 for girls. The Bnai Mitzvah (plural form) ceremony consists of the reading of a passage from the Torah. In Orthodox Jewish circles, this reading is done only by boys, the ceremony for girls being much less elaborate. Afterwards, the father or parents of the new adult recite a blessing. After the ceremony, the family usually holds a reception or party at which the Bar/Bat Mitzvah receives {...} Read more
  • How many days does the mourning period of “shivah” last?

    When a Jew dies, Jews recite prayers ending with the Shema, the main text of the Jewish liturgy. As far as possible, it is customary not to leave a person who is dying alone. Once dead, the person is washed and buried according to a ritual. The relatives of the deceased (parents, wife, brothers, sisters and children) tear off part of their clothes before the ceremony to symbolise their grief. Jews are buried in very simple coffins or shrouds which symbolise equality as well as the worthlessness of material wealth. The relatives of the deceased participate in the burial by throwing earth into the grave until the coffin is covered. This ceremony is brief and simple. After the funeral, the immediate family observes a shivah, period of mourning, which lasts seven days (shivah means seven in Hebrew). During this {...} Read more
  • How many blessings are recited for the couple during a Jewish wedding?

    Jewish weddings can be celebrated in any place. However, in some communities the synagogue is preferred. The ceremony is presided over by a Rabbi or other officiate with the couple standing under a wedding canopy known as a chuppah. This canopy symbolises the home that will be created by the new couple. The officiating rabbi says a blessing and the couple shares a glass of wine followed by the reading of the ketubah (the marriage contract). The groom then gives a ring to the bride and in many communities the bride also gives a ring to her new husband, followed by the participants in the ceremony reciting seven blessings for the couple. Finally, the groom will smash a glass with his foot to remind those assembled of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, because according to tradition, despite the joy of the {...} Read more
  • Is having a Mezuzah on the doorposts of Jewish houses a commandment?

    A Mezuzah is a parchment inscribed by hand with verses from the Torah in Hebrew. It is affixed to the door frames of Jewish homes. In Deuteronomy 6:9, God tells the Jewish people to attach the commandments to the doorposts of their houses. The Mezuzah is the fulfilment of this. The parchment, written in black ink with a special quill pen, is rolled up and placed in a protective and decorated holder that can be made of any material, and then affixed to the doorways of the {...} Read more
  • What does the word tefillin mean?

    Tefillin (from the Hebrew “tefillah”: prayer), or phylacteries, are two small square black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment made of animal skin, attached with leather ribbons, that contain verses from the Torah. Every weekday morning (Sunday through Friday), Jews must wear these boxes during prayer: one tefillin on the forehead and the other tied to the left arm so that it rests against the heart. This practice comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as {...} Read more
  • What is the story about the Seder of Passover?

    The Seder is a ritual celebrated on the first and second night of the festival of Pesach (which falls in March or April). Families and friends gather around the table to read the Haggadah, the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. While many Jewish holidays take place in the synagogue, the Seder is conducted at home and it is customary to invite guests, including strangers and people in need. During the Seder, participants drink four symbolic cups of wine, eat unleavened bread and share symbolic foods placed on the Seder plate: salt water to recall the tears of the Hebrew slaves, bitter herbs to recall the bitterness of life in Egypt, and a bone to recall the sacrifice of the Passover lamb at the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. The ceremony goes on until late into the night. The guests, among whom children {...} Read more
  • Can observant Jews work on Shabbat?

    The Sabbath is the weekly day of rest for Jews. This day begins at sundown on Friday and lasts until sundown on Saturday. Sabbath symbolises the seventh day after the creation of the universe, when G-d decided to rest at the end of six days of creation. Traditionally, observant Jews are not allowed to work on Shabbat, and this includes no business transactions, no use of machinery and no writing. For many Jews, it is the day on which they attend religious synagogue services. On Shabbat, Jews often spend time with family and friends. Traditionally, three festive meals are served: Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and {...} Read more
  • How else is Chanukah known?

    Also known as the Festival of Lights, this celebration lasts eight days and occurs in late November or December. The most important Hanukkah ritual is the candle lighting in a special candle holder, called a hanukkiah. One candle is lit each day until the eighth candle is lit on the last day of Hanukkah. It is customary to eat foods fried in oil, such as doughnuts and potato cakes. This holiday is less important than other Jewish holidays, as it does not originate in the Bible, but from a later period in Jewish history (2nd century BC). Nowadays, children usually receive gifts during this celebration, which is the closest Jewish holiday to New Year’s and Christmas (see {...} Read more
  • What are Jews instructed to do during Purim?

    The festival of Purim is often considered the Jewish equivalent of the carnival. This early spring festival recalls how Queen Esther saved the Jews of Persia from annihilation, as described in the biblical Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah. This festive celebration, as with all Jewish holidays, begins at sunset, when the Book of Esther is read in the synagogue. On this festival, Jews are instructed to get so drunk that they can no longer tell the difference between good and evil, and there is a joyful racket in the synagogue as rattles are used. As the story tells that Esther hid her Jewish identity, Jews, especially children, celebrate this festival by dressing up. In addition, on Purim, gifts or food are exchanged with friends (mishloah manot), donations are made to the needy and a festive meal is {...} Read more
  • Aliyah is a Hebrew word that means:

    Aliyah has a double meaning for Jews. lt can mean the act of being called forward to read the Torah in the synagogue, and aliyah can also refer to a Jewish person’s move to lsrael. Aliyah (plural, aliyot) is a Hebrew word that means “going up” or “elevation.” The term aliyah, going up to lsrael, is based upon Genesis 50:13; after Jacob died, his sons carried his body out of Egypt to the land of Canaan to be buried as he had requested. Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of lsrael (Eretz lsrael in Hebrew). The State of lsrael’s Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants automatic rights to residency and Israeli citizenship. Lately, the rise of antisemitism in Europe has motivated more and more Jews to make aliyah. {...} Read more

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