How to do Candle Lighting

Baruch ata Adonoy, Elo-heinu melech ha-Olam, asher kidish-anu bi-mitz-vosav vi-ratza vanu, vi-Shabbos kod-sho bi-ahava uv-ratzon hin-chi-lanu, zikaron lima-aseh vi-raishis. Ki hu yom ti-chila li-mikra-ay kodesh, zay-cher li-tzi-as mitz-rayim. Ki vanu vachar-ta vi-osanu kidash-ta mikol ha-amim. Vi-shabbos kod-shicha bi-ahava uv-ratzon hinchal-tanu. Baruch ata Adonoy, mi-kadesh ha-shabbos. (“Amen”)

Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, who made us holy with his commandments and favored us, and gave us His holy Shabbat, in love and favor, to be our heritage, as a reminder of the Creation. It is the foremost day of the holy festivals marking the Exodus from Egypt. For out of all the nations You chose us and made us holy, and You gave us Your holy Shabbat, in love and favor, as our heritage. Blessed are you God, Who sanctifies Shabbat. (“Amen”)

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What is Chanukah Rituals

Judaism –> Hanukkah Rituals

Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of lights. Chanukah is a Hebrew word meaning “dedication”. It is also spelled Chanuka, Hannukah or Hanukkah. The first evening of Chanukah (called Erev Chanukah) starts after the sunset of the 24th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. As in Jewish tradition the calendar date starts at sunset, Chanukah begins on the 25th.

also see:

Chanukah rituals ~ Dreidel Rules ~ What is Chanukah?
  How to Light a Menorah
Chanukah rituals:

The Jewish Holidays of Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) has relatively simple religious rituals. Some aspects are practiced at home by the family, other aspects are communal. There are additions to the regular daily prayer services in the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book.

The Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah)

Chief importance is attached by Jewish law and custom to the kindling of the Chanukiah, a menorah specially designed for use on this holiday. The reason for its use is not for the lighting of the house within, but rather for the illumination of the house without, so that passers-by should see it. Accordingly lamps are set up near the door leading to the street; and when a house had doors on several sides, lamps are placed in front of each door. It is customary to have a separate Chanukiah for each family member. Only when there was danger of Anti-Semitic persecution, as was the case in Persia under the rule of the fire-worshipers, or in Europe before and during World War II, were lamps supposed to be hidden indoors. As the lights were intended only for illumination in honor of the feast, reading by them was prohibited (Talmud, Tracate Shabbat 21b-23a).

Blessings over the candles

Typically 3 blessings (Brachahs) are recited during this eight-day festival. On the first night of Hannukah, Jews recite all three blessings, on all subsequent nights, they recite blessings number 1 and 2. On the first night of Chanukah one light (candle, lamp, or electric) is lit on the right side of the Menorah, on the following night a second light is placed to the left of the first and is lit first proceeding from left to right, and so on each night.

The First Brachah. Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheynu melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivanu le-hadlik ner shel Chanukah.

Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights.

The Second Brachah. Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheynu melekh ha-olam, she-asah nisim la’avoteynu, ba-yamim ha-hem, ba-zman ha-zeh. Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors, in ancient days, at this season. The Third Brachah. Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheynu melekh ha-olam, she-heche’yanu, ve-kiy’manu, ve-higi’anu la-zman ha-zeh. Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

After kindling the lights, the Hanerot Halalu prayer is recited.


Haneirot halalu anachnu madlikin Al hanissim ve’al haniflaot Al hatshu-ot ve’al hamilchamot She-asita la’avoteynu Bayamim hahem, bazman hazeh Al yedey kohanecha hakdoshim. Vechol shmonat yemey Chanukah Hanerot halalu kodesh hem, Ve-ein lanu reshut lehishtamesh bahem Ela lirotam bilvad Kedai lehodot u’lehalel leshimcha hagadol Al nissecha veal nifleotecha ve-al yeshuotecha. We light these lights For the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests.

During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred. We are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but only to look at them; In order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and your salvations.

Additions to the daily prayers An addition is made to the “hoda’ah” (thanksgiving) benediction in the Amidah, called Al ha-Nissim. This addition refers to the victory achieved over the Syrians by the Hasmonean Mattathias and his sons. (The erroneous designation of Mattathias as son of Johanan the high priest seems to rest upon the late Hebrew apocryphal “Megillat Antyokus” or “Megillat Hanukkah,” which has other names and dates strangely mixed.) The liturgical part inserted reads as follows:

“We thank You also for the miraculous deeds and for the redemption and for the mighty deeds and the saving acts wrought by You, as well as for the wars which You waged for our ancestors in ancient days at this season. In the days of the Hasmonean Mattathias, son of Johanan the high priest, and his sons, when the iniquitous Greco-Syrian kingdom rose up against Your people Israel, to make them forget Your Torah and to turn them away from the ordinances of Your will, then You in your abundant mercy rose up for them in the time of their trouble, pled their cause, executed judgment, avenged their wrong, and delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and insolent ones into the hands of those occupied with Your Torah. Both unto Yourself did you make a great and holy name in Thy world, and unto Your people did You achieve a great deliverance and redemption. Whereupon your children entered the sanctuary of Your house, cleansed Your temple, purified Your sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courts, and appointed these eight days of Chanukah in order to give thanks and praises unto Your holy name.”


1st, 2nd and 3rd Temple in Jerusalem

Judaism –> 1st, 2nd and 3rd Temple in Jerusalem

Chanukah is the time of the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. The festival commemorates the Maccabees’ restoring the Second Temple to its original sanctity after it had been ransacked and defiled (but not destroyed) by the Greeks. It is, therefore, worth dedicating a few minutes to consider how the Temple relates to us today. By this, we mean, of course, the Third Temple, whose re-building and long-awaited presence will usher in the Messianic Era.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, religious Jews have expressed their desire to see the building of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Prayer for this cause has been a formal part of the Jewish tradition of thrice daily Jewish prayer services. Though it remains unbuilt, the notion of and desire for a Third Temple is sacred in Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, as an unrealized place of worship. The prophets in the Tanakh called for its construction, to be fulfilled in the Messianic era.

Artistic impression of the Third temple The scenario of a rebuilding of the Third Temple also plays a major role with-in some interpretations of Christian Eschatology. Unused ancient Jewish floor plans for a Temple exist in various sources, notably in Chapters 40–47 of Ezekiel (Ezekiel’s vision pre-dates the Second Temple) and in the Temple Scroll discovered at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Role in Orthodox Judaism Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez Orthodox Judaism believes in the rebuilding of a Third Temple (or Fourth Temple [Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, Herod’s Temple]) and the resumption of sacrificial worship, although there is disagreement about how rebuilding should take place. Orthodox authorities generally believe that rebuilding should occur in the era of the Jewish Messiah at the hand of Divine Providence, although a minority position, following the opinion of Maimonides, holds that Jews should endeavor to rebuild the temple themselves, whenever possible. Orthodox authorities generally predict the resumption of the complete traditional system of sacrifices, but some Reform authorities have disagreed. Mainstream Judaism maintains that Korbanot, or sacrifice, will be reinstituted, in accord with the laws in the Torah and the Talmud. This belief is embedded in Orthodox Jewish prayer services. Three times a day, Orthodox Jews pray the Amidah, which contains prayers for the Temple’s restoration and for sacrificial worship’s resumption, and every day there is a recitation of the order of the day’s sacrifices and the psalms the Levites would have sung that day.

The generally accepted position among Orthodox Jews is that the full order of the sacrifices will be resumed upon the building of the Temple. Traditionally the view that sacrifices will not be restored has been considered a heretical view, held mostly by very liberal Reform Rabbis. Although Maimonides wrote in his early work “A Guide for the Perplexed” “that God deliberately has moved Jews away from sacrifices towards prayer, as prayer is a higher form of worship,”, however his definitive book “Mishneh Torah” – which is considered by some to be the final authority on Jewish law – states that animal sacrifices will resume in the third temple, and details how they will be carried out. Some[who?] attribute to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Palestine, the view that animal sacrifices will not be reinstituted. These views on the Temple service are sometimes misconstrued (for example, in Olat Re’ayah, commenting on the prophecy of Malachi (“Then the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God as in the days of old and as in former years” [Malachi 3:4]), he indicates that only grain offerings will be offered in the reinstated Temple service, while in a related essay from Otzarot Hare’ayah he suggests otherwise).


Judaism – Basic Judaism

By the Hellenic period, most Jews had come to believe that their God is the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contains within it universal truths. This attitude may reflect growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most “philosophical” people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths. Jews began to grapple with the tension between the particularize of their claim that only Jews were required to obey the Torah, and the universalism of their claim that the Torah contained universal truths. The result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning both identity, ethics, one’s relation to nature, and one’s relation to God, that privilege “difference” — the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the differences between locally variable ways of practicing Judaism; a close attention to different meanings of words when interpreting texts; attempts to encode different points of view within texts, and a relative indifference to creed and dogma. The subject of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is an account of the Israelites (also called Hebrews) relationship with God as reflected in their history from the beginning of time until the building of the second temple (approx. 350 BCE). This relationship is generally portrayed as contentious, as Jews struggle between their faith in God and their attraction for other gods, and as some Jews (most notably, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses) struggle with God. Modern scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis). While Judaism has always affirmed a number of other Jewish Principles of Faith, it has never developed a binding catechism. It is difficult, or impossible, to generalize about Jewish theology, because Judaism itself is non-creedal; that is, there is no dogma or set of orthodox beliefs that Jews believed were required of Jews. Josephus emphasizes laws rather than beliefs when he describes the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). A number of formulations of Jewish beliefs have appeared, most of which have much in common with each other, yet they differ in a number of ways. In the last two centuries the Jewish community has divided into a number of Jewish denominations; each has a greatly different understanding of what these principles are. Most of Orthodox Judaism generally holds that the principles are unchanging and mandatory, non-Orthodox forms of Judaism generally hold that these principles have evolved over time, and thus allow for more leeway in what individual adherents believe. These topics are discussed more fully in the article on Jewish Principles of Faith.

Jewish denominations

Judaism is commonly divided into the following denominations: Orthodox Judaism (includes Hasidic Judaism, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism) Conservative Judaism (Outside of the USA it is known as Masorti Judaism.) Reform Judaism (Outside of the USA also known as Progressive Judaism, and in the U.K. as Liberal Judaism) Reconstructionist Judaism

Classical Jewish works

Some of these categories overlap, and some books have features that pertain to more than one category. Therefore, in order to make this outline as useful as possible, the link to some individual books may appear under more than one category. The Hebrew Bible and commentaries Rabbinic literature The Mishnah and its commentaries. The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud and their commentaries. The Tosefta

Halakhic and Aggadic

Midrash Codes of Jewish Law and Custom The Mishneh Torah and commentaries The Tur and commentaries The Shulkhan Arukh and commentaries The Responsa literature Jewish Thought and Ethics Jewish philosophy Jewish ethics and the Mussar Movement Kabbalah Hasidic Judaism Classical Jewish Poetry (Piyyut) Jewish Liturgy, including the Siddur

Principles of Faith

A number of formulations of Jewish beliefs have appeared, most of which have much in common with each other, yet they differ in certain details. A comparison of several such formulations demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying theological perspectives. Below is a summary of Jewish beliefs. A more detailed discussion of these beliefs, along with a discussion of how they developed, is found in the article on Jewish principles of faith. Monotheism – Judaism is based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in one God. God is conceived of as eternal, the creator of the universe, and the source of morality. God is one – The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical for Jews to hold; it is considered akin to polytheism. Interestingly, while Jews hold that such conceptions of God are incorrect, they generally are of the opinion that gentiles that hold such beliefs are not held culpable. God is all powerful (omnipotent), as well as all knowing (omniscient). The different names of God are ways to express different aspects of God’s presence in the world. See the entry on The name of God in Judaism. God is non-physical, non-corporeal, and eternal. All statements in the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature which use anthropomorphism are held to be linguistic conceits or metaphors, as it would otherwise be impossible to talk about God. To God alone may one offer prayer. Any belief that an intermediary between man and God could be used, whether necessary or even optional, has traditionally been considered heretical. The Hebrew Bible, and much of the beliefs described in the Mishnah and Talmud, are held to be the product of divine Revelation. How Revelation works, and what precisely one means when one says that a book is “divine”, has always been a matter of some dispute. Different understandings of this subject exist among Jews. The words of the prophets are true. Moses was the chief of all prophets. The Torah (five books of Moses) is the primary text of Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism holds that the Torah is the same one that was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah that we have today is exactly the same as it was when it was received from God by Moses with only minor scribal errors. Due to advances in biblical scholarship, and archeological and linguistic research, most non-Orthodox Jews reject this principle. Instead, they may accept that the core of the Oral and Written Torah may have come from Moses, but the written Torah that we have today has been edited together from several documents. God will reward those who observe His commandments, and punish those who violate them. God chose the Jewish people to be in a unique covenant with God; the description of this covenant is the Torah itself. Contrary to popular belief, Jewish people do not simply say that “God chose the Jews.” Jews believe that they were chosen for a specific mission; to be a light unto the nations, and to have a covenant with God as described in the Torah. This idea is discussed further in the entry on the chosen people. Reconstructionist Judaism rejects the concept chosenness as morally defunct. The messianic age. There will be a moshiach (messiah), or perhaps a messianic era. The soul is pure at birth. People are born with a yetzer ha’tov, a tendency to do good, and with a yetzer ha’ra, a tendency to do bad. Thus, human beings have free will and can choose the path in life that they will take. People can atone for sins. The liturgy of the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and tzedakah (dutiful giving of charity) atone for sin. A more detailed discussion of the Jewish view of sin is available in the entry on sin. What makes a person Jewish? Jewish law considers someone born of a Jewish mother, or converted in accord with Jewish Law, Jewish. (Recently, American Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish people have included those born of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers if the children are raised following the Jewish religion.) A Jewish person who ceases practicing Judaism and becomes a non-practicing Jew is still regarded as Jewish. A Jewish person who does not accept Jewish principles of faith and becomes an agnostic or an atheist is also still considered to be Jewish. However, if a Jew converts to another religion, such as Buddhism or Christianity, that person loses standing as a member of the Jewish community and becomes known as an apostate. Traditionally, his family and friends will mourn over him, for since he has left the religion, it is as if he has died. However, while the person is outside the Jewish community and has non-Jewish views, that person is still Jewish by most authorities in Jewish law.

Jewish philosophy

Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. Early Jewish philosophy was influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Islamic philosophy. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Gersonides. Major changes occurred in response to the enlightenment (late 1700s to early 1800s) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers, and then the modern Jewish philosophers. See the article on Jewish philosophy for more details.

The Torah and Jewish law

The basis of Jewish law and tradition is the Torah (the five books of Moses). According to rabbinic traditional there are 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to Kohanim and Leviyim (members of the priestly tribe), some only to those who practice framing within the land of Israel, and many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem existed. Less than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today. While there have been Jewish groups which were based on the written text of the Torah alone (the Sadducees, the Karaites), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. These oral traditions originated in the Pharisee sect of ancient Judaism, and were latter recorded in written form and expanded upon by the Rabbis.

Rabbinic Judaism has always held that the books of the Tanakh (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. They point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, oral, sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as “the oral law”. Some of the methods by which it is derived can be found in halakhic

Midrash. However, by the time of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (200 CE) much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah. Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world’s major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylon), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmuds. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages.

Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is not based on a literal reading of the Torah, but on the combined oral and written tradition, which includes the Tanakh, the Mishnah, the halakhic

Midrash, the Talmud and its commentaries. These have been summarized into codes of Jewish law by various Torah scholars, such as Rabbis Alfasi, Maimonides, Ya’akov ben Asher, Karo etc. Halakha is developed slowly, through a precedent based system. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa (in Hebrew, ‘”Sheelot U-Teshuvot”.) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa.


Cherem is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except in rare cases in the Ultra-Orthodox community, cherem stopped existing after the enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the greater gentile nations which they lived in. A fuller discussion of this subject is available in the cherem article.


Jewish life is bound up with religious tradition, and is celebrated in an annual cycle of Jewish holidays. Life cycle events Life-cycle events occur throughout a Jew’s life that bind him/her to the entire community.

Brit milah – Welcoming male babies into the covenant through the rite of circumcision.

Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah – Celebrating a child’s reaching the age of majority, becoming responsible from now on for themselves as an adult for living a Jewish life and following halakha.


Mourning – Judaism has a multi-staged mourning practice. The first stage is called the Shiv’ah (observed for one week), the second is the shloshim (observed for one month) and for those who have lost one of their parents, there is a third stage, avelut yud bet chodesh, which is observed for one year. Other topics, each with its own entry The entry on Rabbis discusses the role of the rabbi, and provides links to entries on many important rabbis. A discussion of the Jewish priesthood may be found in its own entry, Kohen. Rabbinic literature – discusses the many works of classical Judaism Kosher aka Kashrut – The Jewish dietary laws; this entry deals with the rationale for the existence of these laws, describes which foods are and aren’t Kosher.

Shabbat – This entry is about the Jewish view of the Sabbath, the role that it plays in Judaism, and the rules governing its observance.

There is an entry on the Role of women in Judaism.

The Temple in Jerusalem is no longer extant, but it still plays an important part in the Jewish faith. There is a description of the Jewish services, which describes the daily prayer services, and offers a guide for visitors to the synagogue (also: Temple).

The Role of the cantor in Judaism discusses the role of the cantor (hazzan) as an emissary of the congregation.

The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl.

Jewish eschatology – Jewish views of the messiah and the afterlife. The entries on Jewish ethics and the Mussar Movement concern the ethical teachings of Judaism.

Holocaust theology Halakha (Jewish law and custom) and the responsa literature.

The article on Jewish views of religious pluralism describes how Judaism views other religions; it also describes how members of each of the Jewish religious denomination view the other denominations. Jewish sects and denominations before the Enlightenment Rabbinic Judaism at one time was related to Samaritanism; however Samaritans no longer refer to themselves as Jews, and both groups view themselves as separate religions. Around the first century A.D. there were several large sects of Jewish leadership, generally each differently seeking a messianic salvation as national autonomy from the Roman Empire: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., these sects vanished. Christianity survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion; the Pharisees survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism (today, known simply as “Judaism”). Some Jews in the 8th century adopted the Sadducees’ rejection of the oral law of the Pharisees / Rabbis recorded in the Mishnah (and developed by later Rabbis in the two Talmuds), intending to rely only upon the Tanakh. Interestingly, they soon developed oral traditions of their own which differ from the Rabbinic traditions. These Jews formed the Karaite sect, which still exist to this day, though they are much smaller than the rest of Judaism. Rabbinic Jews hold that Karaites are Jews, but that their religion is an incomplete and erroneous form of Judaism. Over time Jews developed into distinct ethnic groups: the Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern Europe and Russia); the Sephardi Jews (of Spain, Portugal and North Africa) and the Yemenite Jews, from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. This split is cultural, and is not based on any doctrinal dispute. Development of Hasidic Judaism Hasidic Judaism was founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), also known as the Ba’al Shem Tov, or the Besht. His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe; it came to the United States during the large waves of Jewish emigration in the 1880s. Early on, there was a serious schism between the Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as mitnagdim, (lit. “opponents”). Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship; their untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Since then all the sects of Hasidic Judaism have been subsumed into mainstream Orthodox Judaism, particularly Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. See the articles on Hasidic Judaism and Mitnagdim for more detailed information. Development of modern denominations in response to the Enlightenment In the late 18th century Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment. Judaism developed into several distinct denominations in response to this unprecedented phenomenon: Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism, many forms of Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and a number of smaller groups as well. This subject is covered in more depth in the article on Jewish denominations.

The state of Judaism among Jews today

In most western nations, such as the USA, England, Israel and South Africa, many secularized Jews have long since stopped participating in religious duties. Many of them recall having religious grand-parents, but grew up in homes where Jewish education and observance was no longer a priority. They have developed ambivalent feelings towards their religious duties. On the one hand they tend to cling to their traditions for identity reasons; on the other hand the influences of western mentality, daily life and peer-pressure tears them away from Judaism. Recent studies of American Jews indicate that many people who identify as being of Jewish heritage no longer identify as members of the religion known as Judaism. The various Jewish religious denominations in the USA and Canada perceive this as a crisis situation, and have grave concern over rising rates of intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish community. Since American Jews are marrying at a later time in their life than they used to, and are having fewer children than they used, the birth rate for American Jews has dropped from over 2.0 down to 1.7 (the replacement rate is 2.1). (This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate relations, p.27, Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1996) In the last 50 years all of the major Jewish denominations have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with increasing numbers of younger Jews participating in Jewish education, joining synagogues, and becoming (to varying degrees) more observant. There is a separate article on the Baal teshuva movement, the movement of Jews returning to observant Judaism. However, this gain has not offset the demographic loss due to intermarriage and acculturation.

Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christians groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue.

There are articles on Islam and anti-Semitism and Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs.

See also: Jews, Abrahamic religions, Israel, Zionism, Anti-Semitism, Siddur, History of the Jews in Russia and Soviet Union


Jewish Cooking Terms

Halacha literally, the path that one walks. It refers to Jewish Law, the complete body of rules and practices that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical commandments, directives of the Rabbis, and binding customs.

Hashgacha  literally, supervision, generally refers to kosher supervision.

Hechsher to the certification of a kosher product or ingredient, given by a Rabbi or a kosher supervisory agency.

Kasher to make kosher, usually applied to the salting and soaking procedures used in the production of kosher meat and poultry. The term is also used to describe the kosherization procedure of a non-kosher facility or utensil, so that it may be used in the preparation of kosher food.

Kashruth the state of being kosher.

Keilim – vessels or utensils.

Kli Rishon, Kli Sheni, Kli Shlishi

Kli rishon, literally the first utensil, refers to a utensil that is used for cooking, baking or roasting food or liquid, and contains that hot food or liquid. When hot food or liquid is transferred from the kli rishon into a second utensil, this utensil is called a kli sheni. A kli shlishi is the third utensil into which hot food or liquid is transferred.

Kosher is the Hebrew word meaning fit or proper, designating foods whose ingredients and manufacturing procedures comply with Jewish dietary laws.

Kosherization  – the process of changing the status of equipment which had been used with non-kosher ingredients or products, to use with kosher ingredients or products.

Mashgiach – one who is trained to supervise kosher food production.

Mehadrin –  to the most stringent level of kosher supervision.

Mikvah – literally, gathering, refers to a structure, a ritualarium, in which water is gathered for purposes of immersion.

Milchig – dairy, refers to dairy products as well as dishes, utensils, and equipment used in their preparation.

Mevushal refers to wine which has been cooked.

Orla – the Torah commandment to wait for three years before partaking of any fruit from fruit-bearing trees. The forbidden fruit of this period is known as orla.

Pareve – neutral, indicates a product which contains no derivatives of poultry, meat, or dairy ingredients and can therefore be eaten with either a meat, poultry or dairy meal. Pareve items include all fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, eggs, kosher fish, etc.

Pas Yisroel baked goods prepared in ovens which are turned on by the mashgiach.

Shechita – the Torah prescribed manner of slaughtering an animal or fowl for consumption.

Shochet – one who is specially trained to slaughter kosher meat and poultry according to the Jewish tradition.

Shmitta the agricultural cycle observed in Israel, in which every seventh year the land lies fallow.

Tevilas Keilim  meaning dipping of utensils, refers to the immersion of vessels, utensils, or dishes in a ritualarium (mikvah) before their first use.

Click here for “The Mitzvah of Tevilas Keilim” article.

Tovel To dip or immerse in a ritualarium (mikvah).

Traiboring the process of removing forbidden fats and veins from meat in order to be prepared for the next stage of kashering, namely, the salting process.

Click here for “Beware: Glatt May Not Always Be Kosher” article.

Treifah – food that is not kosher. The term is generally used to refer to all foods, vessels, and utensils that are not kosher. Literally, it means an animal whose flesh was torn or ripped.

Yoshon, literally, old, refers to the grain that has taken root before Pesach, even if it is harvested after Pesach. It is called “old grain.” It is permitted to be eaten without restriction. When a product is yoshon, it means that yoshon grains, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt, were used in its preparation.

Click here for yoshon articles.

Other Related Jewish Terms

Birkas HaMazon

Birkas HaMazon – blessing of the food, commonly referred to as Grace After Meals. The recitation of birkas hamazon is called “bentsching” in Yiddish.


Kiddush – sanctification. Kiddush is the prayer recited over wine sanctifying Shabbos or a Yom Tov.


See “Seder” in Passover Terms.


Seuda – a meal, specifically a festive or Shabbos meal.


Shabbos is the seventh day of the week, which in the Jewish calendar begins at sunset on Friday and ends after dark on Saturday night.

Yom Tov

Yom Tov refers to the holidays on the Jewish calendar. These include: Rosh Hashana (September or October), Yom Kippur (September or October), Succos (October), Chanukah (December), Tu B’Shvat (January or February), Purim (February or March), Passover (March or April), Shavuot (May or June) Tisha B’Av (July or August).

Glossary of Passover Terms


Chometz refers to food products containing any grain (wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt) or grain derivative, not specially prepared for Passover use.

Chometz Gamur

Chometz gamur, colloquially called “real chometz,” refers to products containing fermented grains. These products are biblically prohibited on Passover.


Kitniyos – legumes, are those grains that can be cooked and baked in a fashion similar to chometz grain and yet are not considered, in the eyes of halacha, to be in the same category as chometz. Some examples are rice, corn, peas, mustard seed, and the whole bean family (i.e. kidney, lima, garbanzo, etc.). It is customary for Jews of Ashkenazic descent to refrain from eating kitniyos on Passover.

Kosher for Passover – foods acceptable for use during the Passover holiday which require special preparation. See “chometz”.

Matzoh  – specially prepared unleavened bread which is acceptable for Passover use.

Passover – Pesach in Hebrew – is the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt, observed in the spring.

Seder  – order. A seder is the Jewish ritual conducted as part of the observance of Passover. The Haggada, the text from which the seder is conducted, contains the precise order of the prayers, song, discussion, story-telling, eating of ritual foods and the festive meal.

 Glossary of Ethnic Foods Throughout history, Jews have lived around the globe. Consequently, their cuisine reflects the culinary influences of their host country. For example, stuffed grape leaves are popular with Sephardic Jews whose roots are in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. For Ashkenazic families who trace their roots to Central and Eastern Europe, a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal is not complete without gefilte fish. Lox and bagels, a popular American combination, was originated by impoverished Jewish immigrants to these shores because lox was inexpensive fare. Therefore, only a few foods actually relate to Jewish religious ritual. These include matzoh and charoses which are required eating on Passover. Wine and challah are essential to the Shabbos and Yom Tov rituals. Latkes have become traditional Chanukah foods because they are fried in oil. In this case, the oil is the essential ingredient. Some have the custom to eat donuts (sufganiot in Hebrew), which are also fried in oil, instead of latkes.

Blintz – a thin crepe-like pancake rolled around a filling of cheese or fruit.

Borscht – a classic beet soup served hot or chilled, pureed or chunky.

Challah  – a sweet, eggy bread, usually braided, which is served on Shabbos or Jewish festivals.

Charoses – a mixture of fruit, wine and nuts eaten at the Passover seder meal. This condiment is symbolic of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

Cholent – a slow cooked stew (from the French chaud – hot/warm and lent -slow) which is served on Shabbos. Ingredients generally include beef, vegetables, beans and barley. Since it is not permitted to light a fire on Shabbos, and since Jews wanted to eat hot food on Shabbos, cholent became a popular dish. Cooking starts before Shabbos begins, and continues on a covered flame or in a crockpot on Shabbos.

Click here for “Oven Kashrus: For Shabbos Use” article. Gefilte Fish – traditionally served on Shabbos, made with ground or chopped fish and shaped into balls or a loaf.


Holiptches – stuffed cabbage, a favorite Hungarian dish.

Kreplach – small squares or circles of rolled pasta dough filled with ground beef or chicken and folded into triangles. They can be boiled and served in soup or fried and served as a side dish. They are traditionally served at the Erev Yom Kippur meal as well as on Hoshana Rabbah and Purim.


Kugel – a casserole of potatoes, noodles or vegetables in an egg based pudding. Kugel is a traditional dish served on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Latke – a potato pancake, fried in oil, traditionally eaten during Chanukah. Matzoh See “Matzoh” in Passover Terms.

Tzimmes Tzimmes – a sweet stew containing carrots.


What are the Dreidel Rules? – Basic Judaism

It has four sides: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hey), ש (Shin), and is usually played with coins, chips, or gelt (chocolate coins). These letters also stand for the words Nes Gadol Haya Sham meaning “a great miracle happened there,” or, without the nikkud (vowel marks), נס גדול היה שם (Hebrew is read right to left).

A great miracle happened there

Dreidel The dreidel is associated with Chanukah.

 What is a dreidel – spinning top game.
It has four sides: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hey), ש (Shin), and is usually played with coins, chips, or gelt (chocolate coins). Collectively, these letters are interpreted as, “a great miracle happened there,” or, without the nikkud.

In Israel, one letter on the dreidel are different. The shin has been replaced with a pei, transforming the Hebrew phrase into Nun, Gimel, Hey, Po.
“A great miracle happened here.”

  • נס גרול היה שס (hebrew is read right to left)

Before beginning, each player starts with 10 or 15 coins, and then each player puts one in the pot. Before spinning the dreidel each player deposits a fixed proportion of the amount received into a “kupah” or kitty. One of the players spins the dreidel. The dreidel stops and lands with one of the symbols facing up and the appropriate action is taken:

  • Nun – nischt – “nothing” – the next player spins
  • Gimel – gantz – “all” – the player takes the entire pot
  • Hey – halb – “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
  • Shin – shtel – “put in” – the player puts one or two in the pot

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon Hebrew: רבי משה בן מיימון

  • The existence of God
  • God’s unity
  • God’s spirituality and incorporeality
  • God’s eternity
  • God alone should be the object of worship
  • Revelation through God’s prophets
  • The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
  • God’s law given on Mount Sinai
  • The immutability of the Torah as God’s Law
  • God’s foreknowledge of human actions
  • Retribution of evil
  • The coming of the Jewish Messiah
  • The resurrection of the dead

These principles were controversial when first proposed, evoking criticism by Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo, and were effectively ignored by much of the Jewish community for the next few centuries. (“Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought”, Menachem Kellner). However, two poetic restatements of these principles (Ani Ma’amim and Yigdal) eventually became canonized in the siddur (Jewish prayer book), and these principles became widely held. Today most of Orthodox Judaism holds these beliefs to be obligatory.

Halakhic works

See also Mishneh Torah on his influence in halakha With Mishneh Torah, Maimonides composed a code of Jewish law with the widest possible scope and depth. The work gathers all the binding laws from the Talmud and incorporates the positions of the Geonim (post-Talmudic early Medieval scholars, mainly from Mesopotamia). It is a highly systematised work and employs a very clear Hebrew reminiscent of the style of the Mishna. While Mishneh Torah is now considered the forerunner of the Arbaah Turim and the Shulkhan Arukh, two later codes, it met initially with a lot of opposition. There were two main reasons for this opposition. Firstly, Maimonides had refrained from adding references to his work for brevity. Secondly, in the introduction, he gave the impression of wanting to “cut out” study of the Talmud to arrive at a conclusion in Jewish law. His most forceful opponents were the rabbis of the Provence (Southern France), and a running critique by Rabbi Abraham ibn Daud (Raavad III) is printed in virtually all editions of Misheh Torah.


Through the Guide for the Perplexed and the philosophical introductions to sections of his commentaries on the Mishna, Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Scholastic philosophers, especially on Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. He was himself a Jewish Scholastic. Educated more by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers than by personal contact with Arabian teachers, he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and science with the teachings of the Bible.

Negative theology

The principle which inspired his philosophical activity was identical with the fundamental tenet of Scholasticism: there can be no contradiction between the truths which God has revealed and the findings of the human mind in science and philosophy. By science and philosophy, he understood the science and philosophy of Aristotle. In some important points, however, he departed from the teaching of Aristotle; for instance, he rejected the Aristotelian doctrine that God’s provident care extends only to humanity, and not to the individual. Maimonides was led by his admiration for the neo-Platonic commentators to maintain many doctrines which the Scholastics could not accept. For instance, Maimonides was an adherent of negative theology (also known as Apophatic theology.) In this theology, one attempts to describe God through negative attributes. For instance, one should not say that God exists in the usual sense of the term; all we can safely say is that God is not nonexistent. We should not say that God is wise, but we can say that God is not ignorant, i.e. in some way God has some properties of knowledge. We should not say that God is One, but we can state that there is no multiplicity in God’s being. In brief, the attempt is to gain and express knowledge of God by describing what God is not, rather than by describing what God is. The Scholastics agreed with him that no predicate is adequate to express the nature of God, but they did not go so far as to say that no term can be applied to God in the affirmative sense. They admitted that while “eternal”, “omnipotent”, etc., as we apply them to God, are inadequate, at the same time we may say “God is eternal” etc., and need not stop, as Moses did, with the negative “God is not not-eternal”, etc.


He agrees with “the philosophers” in teaching that, man’s intelligence being one in the series of intelligences emanating from God, the prophet must, by study and meditation, lift himself up to the degree of perfection required in the prophetic state. But here he invokes the authority of “the Law”, which teaches that, after that perfection is reached, there is required the free act of God before the man actually becomes the prophet.

The problem of evil

Maimonides wrote on theodicy, the attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the premise that an omnipotent and good God exists. He follows the neo-Platonists in laying stress on matter as the source of all evil and imperfection.


Maimonides answered an inquiry concerning astrology, addressed to him from Marseilles. He responded that man should believe only what can be supported either by rational proof, by the evidence of the senses, or by trustworthy authority. He affirms that he has studied astrology and that it does not deserve to be described as a science. The supposition that the fate of a man could be dependent upon the constellations is ridiculed by him; he argues that such a theory would rob life of purpose and would make man a slave of destiny.

True beliefs versus necessary belief

In Guide for the Perplexed Book III, Chapter 28, Maimonides explicitly draws a distinction between “true beliefs”, which were beliefs about God which produced intellectual perfection, and “necessary beliefs”, which were conducive to improving social order. Maimonides places anthropomorphic statements about God in the latter class. He uses as an example the notion that God becomes angry with people who do wrong. In the view of Maimonides, God does not actually become angry with people, but it is important for them to believe God does, so that they desist from sinning.

Resurrection, acquired immortality, and the afterlife

Maimonides distinguishes two kinds of intelligence in man, the one material in the sense of being dependent on, and influenced by, the body, and the other immaterial, that is, independent of the bodily organism. The latter is a direct emanation from the universal active intellect; this is his interpretation of the noûs poietikós of Aristotelian philosophy. It is acquired as the result of the efforts of the soul to attain a correct knowledge of the absolute, pure intelligence of God. The knowledge of God is a form of knowledge which develops in us the immaterial intelligence, and thus confers on man an immaterial, spiritual nature. This confers on the soul that perfection in which human happiness consists, and endows the soul with immortality. One who has attained a correct knowledge of God has reached a condition of existence which renders him immune from all the accidents of fortune, from all the allurements of sin, and even from death itself. Man, therefore is in a position not only to work out his own salvation and immortality. The resemblance between this doctrine and Spinoza’s doctrine of immortality is so striking as to warrant the hypothesis that there is a causal dependence of the later on the earlier doctrine. The differences between the two Jewish thinkers are, however, as remarkable as the resemblance. While Spinoza teaches that the way to attain the knowledge which confers immortality is the progress from sense-knowledge through scientific knowledge to philosophical intuition of all things sub specie æternitatis, Maimonides holds that the road to perfection and immortality is the path of duty as described in the Torah and the rabbinic understanding of the oral law. Religious Jews not only believed in immortality in some spiritual sense, but most believed that there would at some point in the future be a messianic era, and a resurrection of the dead. This is the subject of Jewish eschatology. Maimonides wrote much on this topic, but in most cases he wrote about the immortality of the soul for people of perfected intellect; his writings were usually not about the resurrection of dead bodies. This prompted hostile criticism from the rabbis of his day, and sparked a controversy over his true views. Rabbinic works usually refer to this afterlife as “Olam Haba” (the World to Come). Some rabbinic works use this phrase to refer to a messianic era, an era of history right here on Earth; in other rabbinic works this phrase refers to a purely spiritual realm. It was during Maimonides’s lifetime that this lack of agreement flared into a full blown controversy, with Maimonides charged as a heretic by some Jewish leaders. Some Jews at this time taught that Judaism did not require a belief in the physical resurrection of the dead, as the afterlife would be a purely spiritual realm. They used Maimonides’ works on this subject to back up their position. In return, their opponents claimed that this was outright heresy; for them the afterlife was right here on Earth, where God would raise dead bodies from the grave so that the resurrected could live eternally. Maimonides was brought into this dispute by both sides, as the first group stated that his writings agreed with them, and the second group portrayed him as a heretic for writing that the afterlife is for the immaterial spirit alone. Eventually, Maimonides felt pressured to write a treatise on the subject, the “Ma’amar Tehiyyat Hametim” “The Treatise on Resurrection.” Chapter two of the treatise on resurrection refers to those who believe that the world to come involves physically resurrected bodies. Maimonides refers to one with such beliefs as being an “utter fool” whose belief is “folly”. If one of the multitude refuses to believe [that angels are incorporeal] and prefers to believe that angels have bodies and even that they eat, since it is written (Genesis 18:8) ‘they ate’, or that those who exist in the World to Come will also have bodies—we won’t hold it against him or consider him a heretic, and we will not distance ourselves from him. May there not be many who profess this folly, and let us hope that he will go farther than this in his folly and believe that the Creator is corporeal. However, Maimonides also writes that those who claimed that he altogether believed the verses of the Hebrew Bible referring to the resurrection were only allegorical were spreading falsehoods and “revolting” statements. Maimonides asserts that belief in resurrection is a fundamental truth of Judaism about which there is no disagreement, and that it is not permissible for a Jew to support anyone who believes differently. He cites Daniel 12:2 and 12:13 as definitive proofs of physical resurrection of the dead when they state “many of them that sleep in the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” and “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.” While these two positions may be seen as in contradiction (non-corporeal eternal life, versus a bodily resurrection), Maimonides resolves them with a then unique solution: Maimonides believed that the resurrection was not permanent or general. In his view, God never violates the laws of nature. Rather, divine interaction is by way of angels, which Maimonides holds to be metaphors for the laws of nature, the principles by which the physical universe operates, or Platonic eternal forms. Thus, if a unique event actually occurs, even it is perceived as a miracle, it is not a violation of the world’s order (Commentary on the Mishna, Avot 5:6.) In this view, any dead who are resurrected must eventually die again. In his discussion of the 13 principles of faith, the first five deal with knowledge of God, the next four deal with prophecy and the Torah, while the last four deal with reward, punishment and the ultimate redemption. In this discussion Maimonides says nothing of a universal resurrection. All he says it is that whatever resurrection does take place, it will occur at an indeterminate time before the world to come, which he repeatedly states will be purely spiritual. He writes “It appears to us on the basis of these verses (Daniel 12:2,13) that those people who will return to those bodies will eat, drink, copulate, beget, and die after a very long life, like the lives of those who will live in the Days of the Messiah.” Maimonides thus disassociated the resurrection of the dead from both the World to Come and the Messianic era. In his time, many Jews believed that the physical resurrection was identical to the world to come; thus denial of a permanent and universal resurrection was considered tantamount to denying the words of the Talmudic sages. However, instead of denying the resurrection, or maintaining the current dogma, Maimonides posited a third way: That resurrection had nothing to do with the messianic era (here in this world) nor to do with Olam Haba (the purely spiritual afterlife). Rather, he considered resurrection to be a miracle that the book of Daniel predicted; thus at some point in time we could expect some instances of resurrection to occur temporarily, which would have no place in the final eternal life of the righteous.

Quotes from Maimonides

Teach your tongue to say “I do not know” and you will progress. The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes. Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and summit of charity’s golden ladder. (See Rambam’s Ladder in Tzedakah.) We are obligated to be more scrupulous in fulfilling the commandment of charity than any other positive commandment because charity is the sign of a righteous man.

No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.


Basic Judaism

Kosher Meat

For meat to be kosher, you must start at the very beginning. You must ensure that only healthy animals are slaughtered for use in kosher foods. These animals must have split hooves and chew their cud. Cattle and sheep are the primary animals used in the koshering process. In the USA, only the front quarters of the animal are used for koshering.

If you see any of the symbols that are represented, it means “the food has been inspected by one of the many kosher certifying agencies in the United States. Each agency identifies itself by its own unique symbol.” Kosher Symbols List with Pictures – [read more…]

Hogs and pigs do not chew their cuds and are therefore not Kosher.

A kosher inspection starts while the animals are still alive and continues until the finished product leaves the plant. This system operates under the diligent and watchful supervision of kosher inspectors, who stringently control the process from the time the meat is slaughtered until it is shipped.

Kosher Slaughter (Shechitah)

This is where additional costs come in. The slaughter is performed by a “shochet”
(a man of skill, piety and expertise). Make sure that:

1. Neck area is clean 2. Severing of the trachea and esophagus 3. Cut is within the proper area 4. No hesitation 5. No pressing

6. No tearing


Jewish Marriage

Conservative Jews use a traditional ketubah, but have incorporated two changes. Aramaic ketubot are still used, but since Hebrew has been reborn as a living language, an official Hebrew version of the Ketubah is now sometimes used. A second change is that a new paragraph is allowed as an option; this paragraph includes a directive that if the couple ever gets a civil (non-religious) divorce, they must go to a Bet Din (rabbinical court) and follow its directives, which tells the husband that he must give his wife a get, a Jewish divorce.

The Reform and Reconstructionist movements use both more equalized versions of the ketubah, and also use documents that are essentially not a ketubah at all, but rather a new form of wedding celebration document.

Jewish Wedding Traditions

Shidduch – The very first stage of a traditional Jewish marriage, is the shidduch, or matchmaking.
When the families have met, and the young couple have decided to marry, the families usually announce the occasion with a small reception, known as a vort.
Ketuvah – At the reception itself, the first thing usually done is the completion, signing and witnessing of the ketuvah, or marriage contract.
Bedekin – After the signing of the ketuvah, which is usually accompanied by some light snacks and some hard liquor for the traditional lechaims (the Jewish salute when drinking, which means, “to life!”), the groom does the bedekin, or “veiling.”
Chuppah – The next stage is known as the chuppah, or “canopy.” The chuppah is a embroidered cloth stretched or supported over four poles, and is often carried by attendants to the location where the ceremony will take place. It is meant to symbolize the home which the couple will build together. Embroidered cloth usually used is a tallit.
Kiddushin – The groom, now takes a plain gold ring and places it on the finger of the bride, and recites in the presence of two witnesses, “Behold you are sanctified (betrothed) to me with this ring, according to the Law of Moses and Israel.”
Sheva Brachos – After this, the sheva brachos, or seven blessings, are recited, either by one Rabbi, or at many weddings a different blessing is given to various people the families wish to honor.
Cheder yichud – Now that the couple are married they are accompanied by dancing guests to the cheder yichud, “the room of privacy.”

Family Purity The Laws of “Family Purity” (taharat hamishpacha) have always been a pre-requisite of the Jewish marriage. This requires a knowledge of the menstrual Niddah laws which all Jewish brides and grooms have been required to study and practice.


The Jewish concept of marriage is based on kiddushin (sanctification). The wife and husband are publicly sanctified to each other in an exclusive relationship. The rules regarding such sanctification, by definition, are for a relationship between the Jews. The Jewish declaration of marriage includes the phrase that the marriage is being carried out by the laws of Moses and Israel; such a declaration has no meaning for a marriage ceremony between a Jew and a gentile. If any such marriage is carried out Jews of course recognize the civil legitimacy of such a ceremony, but accord it no religious legitimacy.

Civil versus religious marriages, and inter-faith marriages There is an ongoing debate about inter-faith marriage in especially the Jewish community. Traditionalists speak of a “Second Silent Holocaust.” Modernists see inter-faith marriages as a contribution to a multicultural society that enriches lives. Similar debates occur in other communities, for instance among the Roma people. In the past, intermarriages were extremely rare, and were often the result of a Jew rejecting their religion and heritage; in 1800s Europe intermarriages often took place as the result of a conscious and deliberate effort to assimilate into European society. Over the last century the rate of intermarriage in the USA in particular has skyrocketed, but most occur for different reasons. Most of these intermarriages take place because the Jew has a much larger chance of meeting a non-Jewish partner, and because many Jews in the USA are being raised without a religious, observant upbringing, and without any detailed formal Jewish education. All branches of Orthodox Judaism, both Haredi and non-Haredi, refuse to accept any validity of intermarriages. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism do not accept the Halakha (Jewish law) as normative, so technically they do not have firm rules against it. Therefore, under certain circumstances that must be discussed with the rabbi beforehand, many Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis will officiate at a marriage between a Jew and a gentile, as long as the couple agrees to certain conditions. These conditions usually state that the couple must raise the children as Jewish and provide them with some sort of formal Jewish education. However some Reform and Reconstrictionist Jews view intermarriage as a threat to the unity and survival of the Jewish people, and many still discourage it. There is a difference between a religious Jewish marriage and the secular marriage. In the United States (and many other countries), when a rabbi officiates at a wedding, it is de facto a legal wedding by the law of the United States, as well; therefore, a rabbi cannot officiate for you without a civil license. This is the secular (civil) marriage. However, Kiddushin is a ceremony that can only take place between two Jews. Many rabbis will not officiate at a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew because it is outside the realm of Jewish law and custom. Jewish educators note that the vast majority of American Jews receive no Jewish education whatsoever after age 13, and have no substantial understanding of Judaism’s theological, philosophical, and ethical teachings. Some hold, therefore, that much intermarriage today, is thus not a deliberate rejection of Judaism, but a choice to marry a person that one has happened to meet. If a gentile converts to Judaism in accord with Halakha (Jewish law) and then marries a Jew, this by definition is considered a Jewish marriage, not an intermarriage.


Halakha (Jewish law) allows for divorce. The document of divorce is termed a get. The final divorce ceremony involves the husband giving the get document into the hand of the wife or her agent, but the wife may sue in rabbinical court to initiate the divorce. Conservative Judaism follows most of the laws and traditions regarding marriage and divorce as is found in Orthodox Judaism. One difference is that the Conservative movement allows certain changes to be made in the Ketubah (wedding document) to make it egalitarian. Often a clause is added to prevent any possibility of the woman ever becoming agunah (called “the Lieberman clause”). Most Orthodox Jews hold that this modification is a violation of Jewish law, and this have devised a separate prenuptial agreement external to the ketubah which has a similar effect. In a recent development the Rabbinical Assembly, the international assembly of Conservative rabbis, has also promoted the use of a separate prenuptuial agreement, to be used in place of the Lieberman clause. This is not because they have concerns about its legitimacy, but rather about its effectiveness. Reform Jews have traditionally not used a Ketubah at their weddings. They instead usually use a short wedding certificate. They generally do not issue Jewish divorces, seeing a civil divorce as both necessary and sufficient. In recent years those in the traditional wing of Reform have begun using egalitarian forms of the ketubah. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism do not recognize civil law as overriding religious law, and thus do not view a civil divorce as sufficient. Thus, a man or woman may be considered divorced by the Reform Jewish community, but still married by the Orthodox or Conservative community.

Marriage in Israel

As civil marriage does not exist in Israel, the only institutionalized form of marriage in Israel is the religious one. I.e. marriage must be conducted by a cleric. In specific, marriage of Israeli Jews must be conducted according to Orthodox Jewish halakha. The subject of marriage in Israel is a very controversial subject, as secular and religious Jews are at odds regarding the establishment of civil marriage in Israel.


Etrog – Esrog – Basic Judaism

Judaism –> Esrog / Etrog

Esrog / Etrog: The Etrog is used with the Lulav, Hadas (myrtle) and willow branch (Arava) at the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot . Of the Four Species of plants enumerated in Lev. xxiii. 40 , on which the carrying of the lulav is based, tradition takes “the fruit of the goodly tree” ( , properly “the fruit of a fair or noble tree”) to designate the citron. The citron (κίτρον, κίτριον); Citrus fruit of a tree of the orange and lemon family. It is oblong in shape, and sometimes as much as six inches in length. The skin is thick, some what hard, fragrant, and covered with protuberances; the pulp is white and subacid. Modern naturalists assume the north of India to be its native home; but it passed to the countries of the Mediterranean from Media or Persia ; hence the name of the tree, “Citrus medica,” and of the fruit, “Malum medica,” or “Malum Persica”

It is therefore possible that the Jews brought the tree with them from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael on their return from the Babylonian Captivity.

What to Look for In An Esrog
  1. A
beautiful esrog should be shaped like a tower, wide at the bottom  and narrow at the top. The esrog should also be straight; it should be  recessed inward at the bottom where the stem grows; it should have  a ‘pitim’ on the end opposite from the stem; it should be free of spots

 and blemishes; and it should be covered with bumps and depressions.

“and you shall take of yourselves on the first day (of Sukkot) the fruit of a goodly tree, a palm branch, the myrtle branch, and the willow of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d seven days”
Leviticus 23

(Esrog grown
without pitim)

Click on the image for a larger view. 

2. If the esrog does not have all of these features, it may still be valid for the sake of the mitzvah. Therefore, if an esrog is not recessed, the esrog is still valid, and an esrog that is smooth – without bumps – is also valid. And if the esrog does not have a ‘pitim’ it is also valid, unless it originally had one and it came off.

3. If part of the esrog’s skin came off, or if it is dry, rotten, or punctured, it is not valid. If there are spots or blemishes that do not come off when a gentle rubbing, then it should be shown to a Rabbinic authority.

4. An esrog must be a pure bred, and not grafted from different species.

5. An esrog can be quite large in size, but it should not be smaller than an average egg.

The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is quite a drastic transition,
from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous.

This festival is sometimes referred to as Zeman Simkhateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing. Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following the festival are separate holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah, but are

commonly thought of as part of Sukkot.

The word “Sukkot” means “booths,” and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday. The name of the holiday is frequently translated “The Feast of Tabernacles,” which, like many translations of technical Jewish terms, isn’t terribly useful unless you already know what the term is

referring to. The Hebrew pronunciation of Sukkot is “Sue COAT,” but is often pronounced as in Yiddish, to rhyme

with “BOOK us.”

Each day of Succos we take the Lulav and Esrog and wave it gently in every direction; right, left, forward, up,
down, and to the rear, to show that Hashem is truly everywhere.

The Blessing on the Lulav

Take the Lulav in your right hand and say the blessing:

Boruch Atoh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kid’shonu

B’mitzvoisov V’tzivonu Al Netilas Lulov.

The first time you do this, also say the blessing “Sheh-heh-che-yonu:”

Boruch Atoh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Melech Ho-olom Sheh-heh-che-yonu

V’kee-monu V’hi-gi-onu Lizman Hazeh.

During the morning service, we take the Lulav and Esrog and hold them during the Hallel prayer, waving them at certain points. Then we take out a Sefer torah and stand with it in the center of the synagogue (on the Bima),

and circle it, holding our Lulav, as we recite a special prayer for blessing in the coming year. This is called