Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, although both the people
and its religion are older than the word "Judaism" itself, which did
not come into use until many centuries after the beginning of Jewish history.
It is a religion of many laws and customs that touch on every part of the
life of the Jew. A Jew is a Jew not only because of what he or she believes
but also and mainly because of what he or she does. The Jewish religion includes
basic principles of ethics and human behavior. Jews are expected to shape
their lives by these principles, to obey the requirements for daily behavior,
to observe the Holy Days and festivals, and, most importantly, to feel themselves
a part of the Jewish people, to learn and know its history and to be concerned
with the welfare and security of Jews wherever they may be.
From Grolier's The New Book of Knowledge
The laws and practices of Judaism, as well as its principles and values,
are to be found in great literary works, written over centuries, that provide
guidance and instruction for the Jewish people. The first of these writings
is the Bible. As centuries passed and new laws and customs emerged out of
the old, they were written down in great bodies of literature called the Talmud and the Midrash. While these were completed many centuries
ago, commentary and explanation have kept their teachings up to date.
For centuries, especially when Jews were required to live by themselves
and not allowed to join freely in the lives of the people around them, there
was general agreement on the practices and the life-style of Judaism. With
the end of the 1700's, when Jews achieved freedom in the countries of Western
Europe and the United States, many changes took place as Jews tried to interpret
their religion and its requirements in a way that would enable them to participate
as fully as possible in the lives of the people about them and to play a role
in the societies of which they were a part. This period was called the Jewish
Enlightenment. Some Jews clung desperately to the practices of the past while
others initiated a great variety of changes. The Judaism of today reflects
the difference, and sometimes the tension, between those who cling tightly
to the past and those who try to come to terms with the present.
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There is no formal creed that all Jews are obliged to accept, but certain
basic teachings can be found in all periods of Jewish history, though they
may not always have been understood in the same way. Foremost among these
is the Shema, so called because it is the first word
of the Hebrew sentence in Deuteronomy, "Hear O Israel, the
Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Since ancient times this sentence has
been recited by Jews every day in their prayer. It is spoken again before
retiring and is the last utterance of one's life. It expresses the Jew's faith
in a Creator of all that is. It is a way of saying that life is worth living
no matter what difficulties have to be faced. It says that God is One and
thereby rejects a belief in no god at all or a belief in two gods or three
or many. This belief in one God is called monotheism.
A Covenant with God. According to the Bible an event took
place at Mount Sinai that shaped the whole course of Jewish history. It was
there that Mosesthe leader of the Jewish peoplespoke to the
Children of Israel, in God's name, and presented to them all the laws by which
they were to live. Among those laws are the Ten Commandments and many other
laws and regulations covering every aspect of life for both the individual
and society. According to the Bible, the Jewish people, or Children of Israel
as they were then called, entered into a covenant, or agreement, with God,
through which they were pledged to keep God's law. God, in turn, would look
after them, making their land fertile and securing them from their enemies.
Because of the covenant, the Jewish people looked on themselves as a chosen
people, not chosen for special advantage, but chosen for special responsibility:
to obey God's law and to serve God always. So strong was this idea that even
when the sacred city Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.,
and again by the Romans hundreds of years later, the people did not rebel
against God but said it was because of their sins that tragedy had come upon
them. They looked on their exile from their land as punishment for their failures,
not the failure of their God to care for them. In modern times this idea was
modified by Reform Judaism, which looked on the scattering of the Jewish people
as a call to teach the world about God, and it became the "mission" of the Jewish people to do so. More recently, the Reconstructionist
movement removed from its prayer book any reference to the chosen people though
they continued to believe that the Jew has a special obligation to study God's
law and to live by it.
A Jew's Responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Jew
to bear witness to God in everything he or she does, not only to observe the
religious customs and practices of Judaism but to be examples of proper moral
behavior. Almost a hundred years before the beginning of the Christian era,
a great rabbi named Hillel was approached by a pagan who wanted to be taught
all of Judaism in a brief statement. "What is hateful to
you, do not do to another. This is the law, all the rest is commentary. Now
go and study," was Hillel's prompt reply.
Failure to obey the law is a sin. To recover from sin, a person may repent,
which in Hebrew means "to return" and try again. Repentance,
therefore, is a way of recovering from doing something wrong and must be followed
by an act of atonement, a way of making up for one's errors. So important
is it for the Jew to be "at one" with God that the most important day
of the religious calendar is called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
Life After Death. In its thinking about the future, Judaism
presents a wide variety of beliefs. In biblical times there was no belief
in any real life after death. The dead went to a place called Sheol for an
eternity of silence and sleep. There was a belief that someday all the world
would accept God and would be united in keeping God's law. This joyous future
was to be in this life on earth: Shortly before the beginning of Christianity,
the idea of a life after death gained popularity and has remained a part of
traditional Jewish belief to this day, although the nature of that life after
death is not presented in any detail. The idea of a coming great day is still
held by most Jews but is interpreted in several ways. Traditionalists, or
Orthodox Jews, believe that God will send his "anointed one" (Messiah)
who will lead the world to a universal acceptance of God. When that time comes,
say the Traditionalists, the righteous dead of all generations will be brought
back to life. Liberal Jews still retain a faith in the triumph of goodness
and truth and the coming of a better day, but they believe that it will be
accomplished through human effort and cooperation.
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It is not surprising that a people as spiritually creative as the Jews
would find that not all agreed on how the tradition was to be understood or
the direction Jewish life was to take. Some of these differences were not
of great consequence, but others, of great significance, left their imprint
on the development of Judaism. Some differences today are broad and of great
consequence, causing considerable tension among various groups in the Jewish
The differences in Jewish life today grow
out of different approaches to the Jewish religious tradition. This tradition,
including the Written law (the Bible) and the Oral law (the Talmud and the
writings of the rabbis, or teachers), is accepted without question by those
called Orthodox. Orthodox Jews accept the Revelation to Moses at Sinai as
described in the Bible and accept as binding the decisions of the Talmud and
later codes of Jewish law. (Non-Orthodox Jews consider the traditional texts
to be of great importance but are prepared to make changes that will help
adjust Jewish life to the modern world.) In spite of general agreement on
basic religious ideas, some differences can still be found among the Orthodox,
among whom are the Sephardim, descended from Jews who
lived in Spain and Portugal until the end of the 1400's; Ashkenazim, Jews from Central and Eastern Europe; and Hasidim, a community that originated in Eastern Europe.
The Hasidim (the word hasid means "pious") are descended from Jews of the 1700's in Poland and the Ukraine
who led a mystic revival and spiritual revolution in Judaism. While Orthodox
in their beliefs, they stressed the importance of joy and enthusiasm in performing
their religious obligations. The founder of the movement was Israel ben Eliezer,
called the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the good name").
Political and social conditions led to the rapid spread of the Hasidic movement.
Numerous sects grew up around religious leaders, called Zaddikim ("holy men"), who dominated the life of
their communities and frequently created dynasties of religious rule.
The Hasidic movement at first was rejected by the intellectuals who dominated
Jewish life, but it attracted the masses who suffered from poverty and discouragement.
While the followers of this movement held to the requirements of Jewish law
(Halakhah), they appeared to their opponents as giving
too much attention to the mystical and the emotional elements in Judaism.
These opponents, called Mitnaggedim, were often violent
in their denunciation of the Hasidim. Both groups felt threatened, however,
by the Jewish Enlightenment at the end of the 1700's and the Reform movement
that began to emerge.
After World War II, those Hasidim who escaped from Eastern Europe settled
in Israel and the United States and have since moved as well to other parts
of the world. They are frequently recognized by their traditional clothing
and their close community life.
As Jews moved into the modern world, some
felt the need to find a way of life closer to that of their neighbors. In
1818 a group of Jews in Hamburg, Germany, built a synagogue, which they called
a temple. They introduced German in their prayer, shortened the service, and
allowed instrumental music in their worship. A sermon was preached in German.
They introduced Confirmation for boys and girls in place of Bar Mitzvah (see "Ceremonies and Rites"). They gave up a belief in a personal Messiah and
the hope that all Jews would someday return to the land of Israel. They eliminated
head covering and special dietary regulations and put great emphasis on ethical
The Reform movement did not grow rapidly until it was transplanted to the
United States. In 1873, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise established the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, which today has more than 750 congregations in its membership.
In 1875 he founded the Hebrew Union College, in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the
training of rabbis. In 1889, Rabbi Wise organized the Central Conference of
American Rabbis, which now has almost 1,500 members.
Those who shared much of the spirit
of Reform but were unhappy with some of its extreme positions created a Conservative
movement. Members of this movement were willing to accept change, but only
at a slower pace and in greater adherence to the tradition. Solomon Schechter,
the head of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, was one of the
foremost spokespersons of the movement. Conservative congregations are joined
in the United Synagogue, and the Rabbinical Assembly is the association of
As is the case in Reform Judaism, there is tension within the Conservative
movement between those who seek a more traditional expression of the Conservative
philosophy and those who strive for a more liberal adjustment to the needs
of Jewish life today.
In 1934, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan
published his Judaism as a Civilization, an
attempt to apply modern thought to the Jewish religion. A movement grew out
of this effort, and today there is a fellowship of Reconstructionist Congregations,
and a Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. The Reconstructionist
movement publishes its own prayer books, as do the Reform and Conservative
The diversity of Jewish thought
frequently gives rise to sharp exchanges among the various groups of Jews,
especially between those who hold to strict orthodoxy and those who take a
more liberal position. In Israel, the Orthodox enjoy government support and
try to limit the development of any liberal form of Judaism. Of particular
concern are such questions as "Who is a Jew?" "Who may be authorized
to accept converts?" and "Which Jewish institutions should be given
public and government support?"
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Foremost among the sacred writings of Judaism is the Bible, a collection
of books composed over a period of a thousand years, from the 1100's to the
100's B.C. It is what Christians called the Old Testament, although the arrangement
of some of the books is dif
ferent in the Hebrew Bible. Of especial importance is the Torah,
comprising the Five Books of MosesGenesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
and Deuteronomythe main source for Jewish law.
Since the Bible was understood to contain all the laws necessary for personal
and community life, it was continually studied and explained to make it applicable
to change. Originally these explanations and comments were handed down orally
from one generation of rabbis to the next. In the second century of the Christian
era, this "Oral law" was arranged into a code and written down in a
work called the Mishnah. Once written down, this code required interpretation
and development, which was called Gemara. One Gemara was developed
in Palestine and was joined to the Mishnah in the early 300's to produce the Palestinian Talmud. Another Gemara was developed in Babylonia and was
joined, at the end of the 400's, to produce the Babylonian Talmud.
These great collections of Jewish law and lore became the basis for all later
development of the Jewish tradition.
Another body of literature, the Midrash, developed through the
interpretation of the biblical texts. Largely nonlegal in character, it contains
imaginative elaboration of the stories and ideas of the Holy Books.
After the completion of the two Talmuds, Jewish law continued to develop
as inquiries were directed to the academies in Babylonia from the many places
in which Jews lived. These questions and answers, in the hundreds of thousands,
represent the Responsa literature. It tells us much about Jewish
law and a great deal about the social, economic, and political conditions
of Jewish life.
In the 1100's Moses Maimonides organized the vast body of Jewish law in
a work called the Mishneh Torah. In the 16th century Joseph Caro
used a different structure to produce the Shulhan Arukh ("The
Prepared Table"), which became the standard text for Traditional Judaism.
Jewish mysticism, called Cabala, produced a work called the Zohar ("Splendor"). It was largely written by Moses
De Leon, who died in 1305. The Zohar long was attributed to a rabbi of the
100's, Simeon ben Johai, who still is considered its author by some.
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The worship of God is an essential part of the Jewish faith. Originally,
this worship was expressed in both prayer and sacrifice. Sacrifices were offered
during the four centuries of its existence in the Temple of Jerusalem built
by Solomon and after that, for another five centuries, in the Temple built
after the return from Babylonian exile. In addition to sacrifices, administered
by the priests, psalms and prayers were sung by the Levites, a tribe that
since earliest times had been charged with the supervision of Jewish worship.
While the Temple was still in existence,
a popular institution emerged that became a house of prayer, a place of study,
and also a place for community gathering. This institution came to be known
as the synagogue, and when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans
in the year 70, it became the leading institution in Jewish life. It is found
everywhere today and is the central institution of every Jewish community.
It is the forerunner of the Christian church and the Muslim mosque.
The religious leader of the Jewish community is called a rabbi,
which means "master" or "teacher." The position of the rabbi
derives from Jewish tradition, which qualifies the rabbi to respond to all
matters of Jewish law and ritual. Upon the completion of study, the rabbi
is ordained by other rabbis who have supervised the instruction. In this way,
the office has maintained a continuous history of more than 2,000 years. Until
1972 all rabbis were men, but in that year the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion ordained its first woman rabbi. In 1986 the first woman
rabbi was ordained at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary.
The leader of a congregation in prayer need not be a rabbi but may be a
member of the congregation with a knowledge of the prayer service or liturgy.
When the knowledge necessary for leading a worship service is accompanied
by a fine voice and a familiarity with the musical tradition of the synagogue,
such a person is called a cantor. Until recent times all cantors
were men, but now female cantors serve in many Reform and some Conservative
Jews are expected to pray three times each day: in the morning, afternoon,
and evening. The prayers are read from a prayer book and may be recited either
privately or with a congregation, which requires a group of at least ten worshipers,
called a minyan. A Traditional service, which would count only males
as part of the minyan, is entirely in Hebrew. In Conservative and
Reform congregations women may be included in the minyan, and the
prayers may contain varying amounts of English.
Additional prayers are recited on Sabbaths and Festivals, and a passage
from the Torah Scroll (Five Books of Moses), appropriate to the occasion,
is read to the congregation.
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Since biblical times the Sabbath has been a day of utmost importance. It
was set aside because God completed the creation of the world in six days
and made the seventh day a day of holiness and blessing. It is also a reminder
that the Children of Israel were once slaves in the land of Egypt and that
Jews were therefore obliged to free their servants and slaves from labor on
the Sabbath. The day is also referred to as a "sign of the covenant"
between God and the Children of Israel. While no work is to be done on the
Sabbath, rest is not its main purpose. Its goal is holiness, and the day is
set apart in each week for prayer and study.
The Sabbath begins with the setting of the sun on Friday evening. Following
the service of welcome for the Sabbath, a Sabbath meal is shared by members
of the family. Shortly before sunset, Sabbath candles are lit, generally by
female members of the family. The Sabbath meal begins with a kiddush
(the sanctification of the Sabbath over a cup of wine) and the breaking of
a special loaf of bread called a hallah. Following the meal, grace
is recited and Sabbath songs (zemirot) are sung.
Some Reform and Conservative congregations have their worship services
following the Sabbath meal and include the lighting of the candles and the kiddush as part of the service. Following the service there is usually
a congregational social hour called Oneg Shabbat ("Sabbath delight").
The Torah Scroll is read on Saturday morning
and again at the Sabbath afternoon service. The day is ended with a special
service of Havdalah ("distinction"), which notes the difference
between the sacred and the profane, between the Sabbath and the ordinary days
In the fall of the year the High Holy Days are observed. They are days
of reverence and awe and a time to look into one's heart and to begin a new
religious year as a better person. The first of these days is Rosh Hashanah ("new year"), and it is followed on the tenth day by Yom
Kippur ("Day of Atonement"). To assist in the act of repentance
on Yom Kippur, it is customary to fast during the whole 24-hour period. According
to the tradition, these days provide forgiveness for sins against God, but
sins against others can be forgiven only when one has repaired the damage
that has been done.
Passover comes in the spring and commemorates the Exodus from
Egypt (when Moses led the Jews out of slavery) and the beginning of the planting
season. Seven weeks later the Festival of the First Fruits is observed and
is called Shabuoth. The third festival, called Sukkoth,
is observed at the time of the last harvest. The last day of the Sukkoth Festival
is called Simchat Torah ("Rejoicing of the Torah"), and it
notes the completion of the annual cycle of weekly scripture readings from
the Torah Scroll.
There are two holidays that commemorate historical events. There are special
prayers for these days, but the usual restrictions against work do not apply. Hanukkah is an eight-day Festival of Lights that begins on the 25th of
Kislev (late November or December); it commemorates the "Rededication"
of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees in 165 B.C. Candles are lighted
in an eight-branched candelabrum (menorah). The closeness of Hanukkah
to Christmas has encouraged the giving of gifts, especially in America. Three
months later, on the 14th of Adar, the holiday of Purim, or Feast
of Lots, commemorates the rescue of the Jews of Persia with the help of Queen
Esther, the wife of King Ahasuerus, whose prime minister Haman had tried to
destroy them. The Scroll of Esther (Megillah) is read, and the day
is marked by merrymaking, costumes, and the exchange of food.
In the summer, on Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av, or Ab), a fast day memorializes
the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem and other sad
occasions of Jewish history.
Three additional days marking recent events are observed by many Jews:
Yom Ha-Shoah, or Holocaust day on the 27th of Nisan (usually in April); Yom
Ha-Atzmaut, the anniversary of the founding (1948) of the State of Israel,
on the 5th of Iyar (in April or May); and Yom Yerushalayim, the unification
of Jerusalem (1967), on the 28th of Iyar (in May).
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Life-cycle events are important in Judaism and reflect a striving toward kedushah ("sanctification"), which is the goal of Jewish religious
The birth of a child is regarded as a blessing from
God and an occasion for deep gratitude. Traditionally, a daughter would be
named in the synagogue on the first Sabbath following her birth. A son is
named at the Brit Milah ("Covenant of Circumcision") on the
eighth day. The circumcision is performed by an official called a mohel. Through the ceremony of circumcision the child is brought into the
Covenant of Abraham and enters into the Community of Israel.
When young people reach the age of 13, there is a special ceremony among
the Orthodox for boys only and among Reform and Conservative Jews for girls
as well. The young person is called to the reading of the Torah and may be
counted henceforth in the minyan for the congregational worship.
A boy is called a Bar Mitzvah ("Son of the Commandment"),
and a girl is called a Bat Mitzvah or Bas Mitzvah ("Daughter of the Commandment"). In many synagogues the Bar and Bat Mitzvah
participate in the conduct of the service of worship, read out of the Torah,
and chant the prophetic portion or Haftarah. This is an important
day in the life of the family, and guests are invited to the synagogue to
share the joy.
Early Reform congregations discarded Bar Mitzvah in favor of Confirmation
for both boys and girls. The Confirmation service takes place on the Festival
of Shabuoth, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Although
Confirmation is still held in the Reform synagogues, it has not displaced
Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
The Jewish marriage ceremony takes place under a
canopy (chupah), which is a symbol of the bridal chamber. The traditional
ceremony begins with a blessing of betrothal (engagement) and is followed
by the kiddushin, in which the groom places a ring on the index finger
of the bride's right hand and says, "Behold, thou are consecrated unto
me with this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel." Liberal Jews
will often use two rings, allowing the bride to recite her formula to the
groom. A traditional marriage contract (ketubah) is then read. Written
in Aramaic, it lists the responsibilities of the husband for the care and
support of the bride. In Liberal ceremonies the traditional ketubah
may be replaced by a personal statement of the bride and groom to each other.
Following the ketubah, seven benedictions are recited. The ceremony
concludes with the breaking of a glass or other fragile object. For some the
glass-breaking is a memorial to the destruction of Jerusalem; for others it
may be a reminder of the fragile character of human happiness. An authorized
official, usually the rabbi, is required by state law;
but Jewish law requires two witnesses and someone who is sufficiently learned
to oversee the ceremony.
Civil law requires that divorce take place according to the laws of the
state of residence. This is acceptable to Reform Jews, but Traditional Jews
require that a get, a Jewish divorce, be signed by the husband before
either party may remarry.
Following death and burial, the immediate family enters
a seven-day period of mourning (shivah) during which they remain
at home except for the Sabbath, when they may attend the synagogue. After
the seven days, and until the 30th day, the mourning customs are eased and
the bereaved begin a return to normal life. During this time, and for the
next ten months, it is customary to recite the Kaddish (mourner's
prayer), which concludes every congregational service of worship.
On the anniversary of a death, a yahrzeit ("anniversary")
candle is lighted and the kaddish prayer recited in the synagogue.
On Yom Kippur and each of the Pilgrimage Festivals a memorial service (yizkor) is held.
Judaism welcomes those who wish to
accept the Jewish faith. A ceremony of conversion (gerut) is conducted
by three rabbis who determine the candidate's preparation. Traditional Jews
require a visit to the ritual bath (mikvah) for a woman and circumcision
for a male. Reform Judaism does not officially require either, although many
Reform rabbis request this of those they have instructed. Upon conversion
the new convert, or proselyte (ger), is considered a Jew in every
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The Bible declares certain animals, fowl, and fish as acceptable for food,
while others are prohibited. An animal must chew the cud and have cloven hooves,
while fish must have both fins and scales. Forbidden or acceptable fowl are
listed by names. A further restriction says, "Thou shalt not boil a kid
in the milk of its mother." This has led, in Traditional Judaism, to a
complete separation of meat and dairy foods, which may not be served out of
the same dishes or eaten at the same meal or in close proximity of time to
The laws of the Talmud further extend dietary restrictions, and even an
acceptable animal must be ritually slaughtered by an official trained to perform
the task with a minimum of pain to the animal. Only the forequarters of a
properly slaughtered animal may be eaten because of the presence of a forbidden
sinew in the hindquarters. The flesh of meat and fowl must be soaked and salted
to remove all traces of blood.
The prohibition of bread or leaven on the Passover requires further dietary
precautions. An unleavened bread called matzot is eaten.
Food that is acceptable according to Jewish law and the utensils that may
be used are kasher, or kosher. Foods not acceptable are
Reform Judaism officially rejected the dietary laws although many Reform
Jews keep some form of dietary restriction. Conservative Judaism accepts all
the dietary restrictions, except for wine, which is no longer restricted.
Traditional Jews observe the dietary regulations as a divine mandate, while
Conservative and Reform Jews often observe the dietary laws for historical
and psychological reasons.
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Certain objects have a special meaning in Judaism. In the synagogue, the
Ark is a large cabinet, usually highly decorated, that houses the Torah scrolls.
The menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum originally used in the Temple.
Since the destruction of Jerusalem, it has brought to mind associations with
ancient ritual. During Hanukkah an eight-branched menorah is used. It is
called a Hanukkiah.
The tzitzit are fringes that appear on the four corners of the
prayer shawl worn in the synagogue and by Traditionalists as part of their
regular clothing beneath their outer garments. The prayer shawl is called
In response to the verse in Deuteronomy 6: 8,9"Bind them as a
sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe
them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates"two objects
were developed. The first, tefillin, consists of two boxes containing
passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy. These boxes are attached by straps to
the left arm and the upper forehead during morning prayer, except on Sabbaths
and holidays. The second, called mezuzah, consists of a narrow case containing a small parchment inscribed with verses
from the Book of Deuteronomy. The mezuzah is put on the right doorpost
leading into a home or a room.
The shofar ("ram's horn") was used in biblical times on
ceremonial occasions. In today's synagogue it is sounded on Rosh Hashanah
and at the end of Yom Kippur. In the State of Israel it is sounded on official
occasions such as a presidential inauguration and in Orthodox neighborhoods
to usher in the Sabbath.
On the festival of Sukkoth "four species" are brought to the synagogue
and held during the prayer service. They are the palm branch (lulav),
the myrtle (hadas), the willow of the brook (aravah), and
the citron (ethrog).
Another common symbol, although without religious meaning, is the six-pointed
star called the Magen David (Shield, or Star, of David). It is an ancient
symbol and in the 1800's was selected as the symbol of the Zionist movement.
It was later adopted by the State of Israel for its flag. During Nazi rule,
Jews were compelled to wear the Magen David on their clothing.
While there is little basis in Jewish law for covering the head, even in
prayer, custom requires a head covering for all Traditional Jews as a sign
of reverence for God. Nontraditional Jews use the head covering less strictly.
Its most common form is the skullcap called kipah in Hebrew and yarmulka in Yiddish.
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Judaism is a religious faith, but it is also more. It is an ethical discipline,
a cultural heritage, and a joyful experience of the beauty of life. Jews of
different times and places may have developed different interpretations, but
the flexibility of Judaism makes it possible to think and believe and practice
within a broad framework. The vast cultural variety of Judaism and the breadth
and depth of its teachings and practices indicate that Judaism should be consideredin
Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan's termas a "civilization."
Jerome R. Malino
Rabbi Emeritus, United Jewish Center
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