(1) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8
Describe in detail the way in which a fully observant Orthodox Jewish family would keep this mitzvah. You should explain the symbolism of the various ceremonies and rituals where relevant
Shabbat is the only Jewish holiday enjoined by the Ten Commandments, making it an especially important one to the whole family. It is observed on the seventh day in commemoration of the seventh day on which God rested after completing the Creation, and of God’s role in history and his covenant with the Jewish people. Along with all Orthodox Jews, the family are strictly obligated to sanctify Shabbat at home and in the synagogue. They will all avoid work on this day and will engage in worship and study. The Talmud specifies the activities which they are to abstain from and, being Orthodox, the family would say that anything resembling these is work and is therefore forbidden on Shabbat. They stop their creative work in order to reflect on the powers God has given, making sure they make the right use of them.
A member of the family, usually the mother or father, will use a Jewish calendar, diary or newspaper to find out the precise time Shabbat begins on that Friday evening. This is because it varies from week to week and it is therefore uncertain to which day the period between sunset and nightfall begins. Knowing the correct time is important to the whole family to ensure they are observing the rules for Shabbat for the exact length of time God expects from them and because the time division follows the biblical story of creation: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:5). Shabbat lasts from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday.
Before Shabbat each member of the family will carry out the necessary preparations so that they won’t need or want to undertake any of the forbidden activities. For example, the mother will have prepared all the meals needed because God said it was important to have three meals during Shabbat, but that they should still abstain from growing or preparing the food. Modern technology has made this easier because the Jews are able to put their meals in slow cookers and although the parents aren’t able to create a fire or turn on the heating, they are able to set a timer for the heating. The light on the fridge is also taped up so that the fridge can be opened without breaking the Shabbat rule, not to create fire or light. It is usually the mother that thoroughly cleans the house and gets all the necessary shopping beforehand because cleaning is seen as work and is therefore forbidden.
The use of a car is also forbidden, so the parents will be unable to drive to shops. Collecting food is also seen as work because the Israelites had to collect manna in the wilderness. The whole family must have prepared their clothes for the day, because the mother is unable to iron or sew. Children must have completed any homework or jobs that have to be done, before the Friday evening, because the completion of work and writing is also forbidden. The children must also be able to leave school early (especially during winter) in order to ensure they have enough time to arrive home before Shabbat begins. If either of the parents have jobs, they must make sure that everything important is completed and that they wont need to speak to colleagues because they are unable to use the phone or machines such as computers and fax machines.
The Shabbat table must be laid by the family beforehand because the meal that they share on the Friday evening is very important, even members of the family that have left home try to return for this meal because it unites them. Each member of the family has a bath before sunset and wears their best clothes, for the meal. All members of the family will try to wear some white to symbolise purity and hope. It is important to the whole family to abstain from these activities, and many more, during Shabbat. This is because the Talmud lists them as forbidden and says that God made the seventh day holy by resting after making the world, therefore the opportunity to rest is the mark of being free and Shabbat offers this opportunity.
The Shabbat preparations involve everyone in the family, from the youngest upwards because, although there are synagogue services to attend, the main focus of Shabbat revolves around the home and is a day for the family to share together.
In preparation for the approaching day of holiness, the woman of the house must light white candles before the sunset. This not only welcomes Shabbat, but it also symbolises peace coming into the house, joy, blessing and serenity, because God created light. For the family, the home is central to the celebration of Shabbat and this is an important duty for the woman. She will then recite the berachah of God, all in hope of driving away any sorrow and unhappiness. The father then takes an important role in welcoming the Shabbat. He says a special blessing over bread and wine and the emphasis of the family is expressed by blessing the children and reciting proverbs in honour of his wife. A father’s blessing is very important for the Jews because Abraham began the custom with their ancestors.
The males in the family will attend an evening service in the synagogue. The service is attended to welcome Shabbat as a bride. The ‘husband’ is the Jewish people. The women do not attend this service because it is felt that their place is at home at this time. They are also very busy with preparations and the rituals they partake in to welcome Shabbat. The men greet each other by saying ‘Shabbat shalom’, which wishes them a good and peaceful Shabbat. They also say hymns and psalms and recite blessings, like Kiddush, over wine.
The Shabbat celebratory meal is eaten on the Friday evening. Each Friday morning, usually, the mother will bake fresh Challot (sweet braided loaves) because as it bakes it produces an amazing aroma that fills the house and reminds the family that Shabbat is on its way. Everybody washes their hands as a symbol of purity to give Shabbat the best welcome possible. Before the meal, after the father has blessed the family, he recites the prayer of holiness so that each member of the family is involved, by saying ‘Amen’ at the end of each blessing. Kiddush begins the meal because it sets a special atmosphere and gives a sense of occasion. Kiddush is said because it is an important way of sanctify the meal. One of the adults in the family will recite part of the Genesis; this has the importance of teaching the children because it speaks of God resting after creating the world. This helps the family understand the importance of Shabbat and sticking to its rules.
Throughout the meal, many items are present and many actions take place that are an important part of the festival. A white tablecloth is laid out on the family dining table before the meal, symbolising the purity. The woman of the house, or whoever has prepared the meal, must ensure it is eaten with the best cutlery and crockery because it is important that the family welcome the Shabbat with the utmost significance and treat it like a queen or bride. Two candles are used to give extra brightness than usual and to symbolise the extra or ‘double’ soul that each member of the family has on Shabbat. This number of candles also has many other meanings that different members of the family will believe in. The adults present often believe that it symbolises the number of parents in an ideal family and the different commandments that have to be observed on Shabbat. The family may also believe it is an important symbol of past (creation) and future (exodus).
Two loaves are placed on the table, and blessings are said over them. The double portion is an important reminder of when the Israelites were in the wilderness after the Exodus and a double portion of Manna was left for them so that they wouldn’t have to collect any on Shabbat. The loaves are covered by a cloth called a Hallah, symbolising the dew over the manna. This is important because it makes the meal even more special and precious to the family. The hallah dressed the bread like a bride and protects its sensitivities. The two loaves, that the family eat, must be plaited to represent God, Israel and the Torah which are important when bound together in the bread because they are mutually dependant, showing the family that the three can’t exist without each other. After the blessings, a piece of bread is dipped in salt and given to each member of the family. The parents or children will often have invited guests to this special meal and they are also given a piece of the salted bread because hospitality is always greatly important to the Jewish faith and its festivals.
The knife that is used to cut the bread for each member of the family is covered during the meal because the knife is a weapon of war and violence. The parents want to protect the children from this and emphasise that Shabbat is a time of peace and harmony. During the meal, a plaited candle is always present to symbolise God’s omnipresence and the potential in every human being. After the meal a special grace is said by a member of the family and Bible stories are told to the children to spread joy and happiness whilst they learn. The whole meal and the preparation involved is extremely important to the whole family because it brings them together on one of the most important days of the week and reminds them of their dependence on God for all that is good in life. Sometimes the family may sing songs at the table, which emphasise the joy and togetherness that Shabbat brings.
On Shabbat morning the whole family will attend a synagogue service, which is one of the most important and central parts of the festival. It is the chief bond uniting the family with each other and other Jews. The parents ensure that the service is attended because it keeps the family as part of a worshipping community. It is often three hours long for everyone to fully appreciate the importance of the holiday. The males and females will sit separately during the service. The parents aren’t allowed to use the car during Shabbat, so the family are likely to walk to the synagogue together. The Rabbi leads the family and others in prayer, during the service. The men of the family refrain from wearing their Tefillin whilst praying because Rabbis say that Shabbat is a sign of God’s relationship with the Jews and no other sign is required. Every Shabbat one, or maybe two, scrolls are taken out of the Ark and as it is opened each family member will join the congregation in singing the first line of the Shema.
The scroll is then carried round the synagogue with great rejoicing. The men will kiss their tallit as they touch the passing Torah, before it is taken up to the bimah. Having the Torah read to the Orthodox family, from the bimah, is very important because it reminds them of the altar in the Temple. The father may be involved in carrying the scroll and other members of the family may be called up to read or recite a blessing. If a boy in the family has had his 13th birthday during the previous week he celebrates his Bar Mitzvah during this service. This is a Jewish custom and makes the birthday extremely special for the young boy and his family. This is all a very important part of the service, especially for the family, because it involves them in the joy and gives them a sense of identity.
The readings, by members of the congregation, are said before or after a portion of the Torah is read. This is then followed by the chanting of the Haftara. Psalms are also read to the whole congregation, by the Rabbi, during his sermon. These readings are all very important to the family because Jews look upon the Torah and Shabbat as God’s two greatest gifts to them. Kiddush is said again at the end of the service as an important blessing. As the family leave the synagogue they wish each other and, members of the congregation, ‘Shabbat Shalom’. This wishes them the peace of Shabbat. Often guests will be invited back to the family’s home for the afternoon because hospitality is a great feature of Shabbat and the religion. Attending the service each week helps them to show their dedication to God and ensures the day is lived as a celebration and not an annoyance.
The synagogue service is usually held in the morning, leaving the family with the afternoon free to enjoy the Shabbat holiday. A lunch is often eaten similar to the meal eaten the night before. Kiddush is again said over Challot to sanctify the remaining hours of the holiday and keep them just as special as the rest. The festival forbids many things, but there are still plenty of activities each member of the family can partake in. They may set time aside in order to study the Torah, this will remind them about what matters most to Jews – the family and the Torah. They will spend time, during Shabbat, thinking about what God intends human life to be because Jews realise that it is important to God that there is human co-operation. All Jews want to help make the world a better place, and the family may spend this time thinking of ways in which they can achieve this.
This can also be done in the synagogue during an afternoon service, if the family want to attend. If not, they may choose to go for a walk to spend more time together because family is seen as very important. If the adults are feeling particularly social, they may hold a gathering at their home to express outwardly the happiness inherent in the Shabbat holiday. Hospitality has also been very important to Jews because it is a custom that occurs in many festivals and goes back to the times of Abraham, so friends and family are invited. The group entertain them selves with drama, community discussions, lectures and singing. The children can play games and music. Usually the mother or father will provide refreshments that can be offered round by themselves or the children, in order to complement the congenial atmosphere and perpetuate the Talmud’s recommendation to eat three full meals that day.
As the day draws to an end, a special ceremony is held in the family’s home to mark the end of Shabbat. It is said at any time after nightfall in order to give the day a departing ceremony. This is to show how special and important it is to them. They may choose to attend this ceremony at their local synagogue, to give a sense of socialism and community, instead of at home. Wine and candles are used to welcome the Shabbat and the same symbols are used for it’s departure. A chosen member of the family will say a special blessing called the Havdalah, which means ‘division’. It is said to emphasise the idea of separation (between light and dark, sacred and the profane, Israel and other nations and Shabbat from weekdays). It praises God for all these separations.
The family then chant two other blessings, the first over sweet smelling spices and the second over a lighted candle. The spice box is passed around each member of the family, in the hope that the deeds of the next week will be sweetened. The spices are also important for the family to be able to remember Shabbat throughout the week, by the sweet scent of the spices. The lit candle is a very important symbol for the departure of Shabbat because fire can now be kindled, after having been forbidden for the past day.
Each member of the family then spreads their hands towards the light to express the thought that light is God’s gift and is too be used to good purpose. It also reminds them that the first thing God created was light. With the end of Shabbat, the ‘first day’ of creation begins. The family have used all five senses of smell, sight, taste, hearing and touch throughout this ceremony and this heightens the spirituality of the festival. The mother or father will end the ceremony by putting out the candle with the wine as the rest of the family sing songs that ask for help and for the arrival of the messianic age.
(2) Discuss the ways in which the lives of this family will be affected by their observance of this mitzvah, and the reasons why they are enthusiastic about keeping the traditional Sabbath practices alive in modern times.
The family’s lives will be affected in many ways by their observance of Shabbat. It is the most difficult mitzvah of the year and will put each member of the family under pressure. There are lots of ways in which the festival can be very difficult and many Orthodox Jews would feel that although it is a day meant for rest it actually makes life more stressful, by having to fit it in around the busy, hectic lifestyles of today’s society.
The word Sabbath means ‘rest’, but in the home of an Orthodox family a great deal of work has to be done before the day. Friday becomes busier than any other day of the week and this puts the family under more stress to get everything completed on time. The whole house must be cleaned, food cooked and all jobs finished before sunset. Someone in the family also has to take even more time out in order to find the exact time in which Shabbat begins that week. This has to be done before Friday evening and can be difficult because the time is only displayed on some Jewish calendars and newspapers. This causes extra stress before the day has even begun.
Orthodox women are not obliged to pray during Shabbat, wear the Tefillin or read the Torah at the services so it seems that the festival is easier for them and has less effect on their lives, but this is not so because there is lots that they are obliged to do. They must always keep to the traditional guidelines to set a good example to the children. It is usually the women who have to take time off work and important jobs in order to prepare for Shabbat. They must cook the meal, clean the house, light the candles and carry out traditional rituals like the removing of a piece of dough whilst the bread is baking. Women work more these days and preparation for Shabbat can be virtually impossible or can make their lives very hectic, making it difficult for them to obtain certain jobs and complete work on time.
The men in the family are obliged to attend the Synagogue on Friday evening to pray, whereas the women aren’t. This could have the effect of dividing the family on an occasion which is meant to be joyous and bonding occasion. This may be difficult for the younger men in the family because they will see their sisters and mothers being able to stay at home on the Friday evening. As with the adult women, the men will also have to take time off work to observe the Sabbath in the traditional way and this can cause stress over the early or late completion, or worry over what is happening whilst they abstain from work, because they are unable to communicate via technology like the telephone and computer. Traditional observance of Shabbat will affect the choice of job the adults make because they have to ensure that they will be able to take at least a whole day off, each week. Using the car is forbidden and even using public transport, which means that the parents can’t travel any distances and therefore can’t make any important trips. This can have bad affects within businesses because it prevents problems from being solved as quickly as possible.
Taking this time of work can cause a reduced wage, which can have a disastrous effect on the whole family. Life can be even more expensive if you have a family and so they would need as much money as possible. This could make it difficult to find enough money to buy essentials and pay the bills. To make things worse Shabbat can be an expensive holiday to have each week because to for an Orthodox family to observe it, they would need the correct bread and candles, good crockery and posh clothes. The family would also lose even more money by having to abstain from creativity, which means leaving the heating and lights on for the whole day, if they don’t have timers. Not only do the candles cost money but they are a hazard to have in a family home. The constant lighting and close contact could cause a fire, effectively ruining homes and lives.
They are also dangerous to have around children, especially the very young or babies. If accidentally left unattended the candles could cause the death of a child. The many forbidden activities on a traditional Shabbat could make the parents feel as though they are wasting a day because they are unable to get on with important jobs around the house. Even the children may feel they are wasting homework time. Not being able to work would have a very bad effect on teenagers because they would be unable to revise for important exams and would lose a day each week for coursework. University and sixth form students are unable to write essays and coursework over this time. This could ultimately affect their school and exam results, which affects their lives and futures. Children often have to leave school early, especially during winter, because it is a tradition to be home before sunset so that you can welcome in the Shabbat with the family.
This can cause them to miss important information and work each week. It also puts them under stress to catch up on missed work, at the same time as new work. Teenagers and sixth form students are unable to get Saturday jobs, so they have less money than their friends and less to pay school fees. This can make life even more of a struggle during their education. This Orthodox family may have to abstain from doing things which they enjoy, during this free time, because they have been defined as work. This can be very frustrating because different people consider different things as work. Sometimes people choose to do things which are hard work to others, because they enjoy them. This makes it hard to abstain from doing these, whilst they have all this free time.
The laws of Shabbat mean that food and milk can’t be heated for babies. This can make it difficult for parents to feed them and if they don’t get the correct food and nutrients it can cause health problems in the future.
In today’s society, a traditional Shabbat can have a particularly restrictive affect on children and can cause boredom, which leads to resentment against the festival and even the religion. If there are no afternoon activities planned and no television or computers allowed the day can become very boring. Modern society relies on things like television and computer games as a form of entertainment; it is very difficult for children to give this up each week. They are unable to participate in many weekend activities like other children their age and this can have a depressing affect on children, causing them to feel left out and isolated. It can also lead to bullying or loss of friends, which can have a devastating affect on children. Teenagers can’t go shopping or even use mobile phones, causing them to feel isolated or cut off from society and their friends.
Taking part in traditional rituals and practices on Shabbat can make the children, and even the parents, feel like an exhibit, different and as though they are not normal. Shabbat often doesn’t fit in with local cultures and modern society work practices. This is made even worse by the fact that the Christian Sabbath, which is the majority, celebrate Sabbath on the Sunday. They can see everyone else going out and leading what society sees as a ‘normal’ life. This can encourage bullying and a lack of enthusiasm for the festival. There are just too many rules to follow and all the ‘dos and don’ts’ make the Jews sound weird to other people, affecting their lives in the community and creating a problem for the family, in distinguishing what can and can’t be done.
Using the car is forbidden on Shabbat, making the day even more difficult for the family, especially if they have young children or elderly or disabled members of the family. This means that walking long distances can become an almost impossibility. In Orthodox, traditional observance the family are meant to walk no further than 1 and 3 quarters miles. This is still a long distance and will tire certain members and make the trip feel like a chore. This also means that, to keep this rule, the family have to buy a house within this distance from a synagogue. This reduces their choice and can leave them feeling unhappy with the area they live in.
However, for an Orthodox family, the Jewish rules become such a complete way of life that they can’t and won’t break the traditional observance, despite any restrictions and difficult effects it has. Tradition- doing things the way they have always been done- is very important in Judaism. It comes every week and is an important reminder of God’s creation. Shabbat itself symbolises the covenant God has with the Jewish people and this emphasises why they are so enthusiastic about keeping traditional practices, they feel these practices thank God , praising him for the covenant and creation, and help them feel closer to him.
Despite the pressures involved, Shabbat is so unique that it must be respected by behaving differently, to differentiate it from the rest of the week, there are also many positive ways in which the day affects the lives of each member of the family and causes them to be enthusiastic about observing it in the traditional way. They festival has so many benefits for the family, heightening the enthusiasm. Orthodox Jews hold very firmly to the teachings of the Torah because they were revealed by God to Moses. The observance of Shabbat is the fourth commandment. This rule came from God, so strict Jews, such as this family, have no objections against it and enjoy the challenge Shabbat creates, seeing it as a necessity to their religious faith.
Many Jews would say that all the festivals are wonderful occasions and Shabbat provides a discipline to life which brings family togetherness, right from childhood and this is seen as a wonderful thing. The adults in the family are particularly enthusiastic about keeping the tradition of a day of rest, because it allows them to set time aside to study the Torah and Talmud. This is important to them for guidance in life and to learn new things, whilst enabling them to pass their Jewish knowledge to the children. Shabbat affects the way in which the next generation of Jews will develop because the parents are more able (through the festivities) to teach their children a sense of values and pass on what is believed to be right. The children will realise a sense of right and wrong, what is of real value in life and how people should behave.
Shabbat is also a time for relaxing with the family. Nowadays, many people live highly stressful lives. People work too hard and Shabbat gives them time to remember what’s really important in life. They are continually hurrying to get things done and families seldom have time to just be together. Shabbat is like calling time out, everything stops and an incredible peace descends on the family. A traditional Shabbat is important to them because they are able to spend time together in an unhurried, relaxed atmosphere. The family like to keep it traditional and abstain from work to feel relieved, happy and to aim for better spirituality, whilst feeling better physically.
The opportunity to rest is the mark of being free, and the family know a traditional Shabbat offers this. This increases their enthusiasm for the holiday because it is enjoyable and they are able to talk about what has happened to each of them during the week. This is a nice change from always watching the television, ensuring that the family don’t become more and more distant from each other. They want to keep it traditional, as their Jewish ancestors would have celebrated it, because their heritage is extremely important to them and is wonderfully satisfying.
It is keeping Jewish culture alive and unites the family with all Jewish communities in the world to give them security and a sense of identity. Children may find the day restrictive, but most parents will try not to make it so. After a hard working week the whole family look forward to Shabbat because it’s a pleasure to come together, relax, eat a meal together, be able to talk and have some time to read without interruption. Some Jewish families feel pressurised to have certain objects at Shabbat, like fine cutlery or a white tablecloth, but the traditions and nature of the festival teach the family that it’s not the objects, but the actions that are important. It’s having the loaves of bread on the table, not what covers them that matters.
Many Orthodox Jews are enthusiastic about the practices of Shabbat each week because it is a day out of the twentieth century for a change. A day of rest and relaxation. All the traditions like candles, songs, a special meal affects each individual. It provides a sense of wellbeing and fulfilment, as though everything they do is right. This means they enjoy life more and have something to look forward to each week. It is a festival primarily enjoyed in the home, which affects the lives of the family in a very positive way and is important because the home is a very special place in the Jewish faith. It is the central point of the religion and is of great spiritual and physical importance because it is where we learnt to talk, walk, feed and play. This reflects on how the family feel about Shabbat. Instead of feeling like they are being cooped up inside all day, they feel there is much to learn and share. They are able to have a celebratory meal together and even invite friends and relatives, to be hospitable and make it more enjoyable.
During the meal, the family are able to have deep and interesting discussions lasting long into the night. It is quality time, a time of connection, communication and inclusion. The women are especially enthusiastic to observe the tradition of candles and the lighting, because it is seen as a lovely sharing time which brings mums, daughters, grans, friends and guests close in the warmth and beauty of the moment. It is important to them, to know that Jewish women all over the globe do the same thing, and that gives a wonderful feeling of unity. Baking home made Challot for Shabbat is very satisfying for the women in the family.
They are still able to keep the tradition, even if they are unable to bake their own, because it is easy to buy some from tasty Jewish bakeries that are now around. The celebratory meal fills the house with many wonderful aromas of traditional Shabbat food, including from the lunch for the next day, this increase the enthusiasm of everyone involved and especially entices the children to keep the festival traditional, whilst reminding and teaching everyone present of their dependence on God for all that is good in life.
As technology progresses, keeping the traditions of Shabbat has become easier for the whole family, which makes them more enthusiastic to observe it as it always has been. For example, the family may eat a dish called ‘cholent’ for lunch. This will be left to keep warm on the stove, the low flame of which will be covered with a sheet of metal called a ‘blech’. This covers the flame and controls of the stove, as no cooking is allowed over the entire Shabbat. Modern appliances have made it much easier for Orthodox Jews to keep to the rules of Shabbat, which inevitably increases their enthusiasm for keeping the holiday traditional. For example, timers can be set for things like the heating and lights so that they don’t have to be left on for the whole of Shabbat. This saves the family money that would have cost previous Jews. Machines can be programmed to do things at certain times, like cookers and even computers, so essential work may not be missed.
The synagogue plays a very important part in Jewish worship. This is part of the reason why the family are enthusiastic to keep the festival traditional, by attending special services to worship God. The Friday evening study services at the synagogue help the family to better understand the Torah and how to live your life, the service will not only help them to strictly observe Shabbat, but it also brings the congregation together and the family can be more social, making new friends or just spending time with ones they already know. The children can also attend youth services and groups that help them meet with other Jews their own age. They can learn about fun things surrounding Shabbat and it helps them realise that although Saturday is a special day out for their non-Jewish friends, it is just as special, in so many ways, to the Jews. As well as attending these services, the children can also conduct their own, which would be more appropriate to their interests and much more suitable and interesting for the youths of the congregation. This also helps them to become practically involved with the religion as well as giving them key skills in preparation, speech giving and co-operation which are very important.
The services during Shabbat are especially important to young boys, because the first Shabbat after their 13th birthday is when their Bar Mitzvah is held. They are especially enthusiastic to keep it traditional around this time because it is a celebratory custom that has been conducted since the time of Abraham. The Orthodox family would have found their home near to a synagogue, because walking there each Shabbat is a tradition they would want to keep. By not using the car for a whole day each week, the family are saving money that non- Jews wouldn’t. This makes them more enthusiastic to keep the tradition of only walking, to travel, on Shabbat. The walk can have a very positive effect on the family, giving them time to spend together and a chance to walk rather than constantly depending on the car, because life is always a rush. It slows life down, giving each individual a chance to think.
After the services there are lots of afternoon activities that take place to prevent boredom. These will often happen in the home. The children and parents can get much enjoyment and happiness out of this hospitality. They make new friends, feel part of the community and can play games or show off certain talents in drama and singing. These activities are fun and still keep to the rules of Shabbat. This makes it seem less restrictive and encourages the family to keep it traditional. The free afternoons are also a perfect time for the children to importantly widen their knowledge on the religion.
Any festival has its negative effects on those that observe all its rules, but despite these the family are still enthusiastic about keeping the traditional Sabbath practices alive because they can all become involved and enjoy the festivities of their unique day. It is important for parents to bond with their children and to encourage them to do something different when they find it difficult to abstain from televisions and computers. Children may find it particularly difficult and separating from their friends, but it helps them to learn that if your friends are truly genuine and caring, they will respect your religious beliefs as part of who you are.
It’s a day so different from all the others, that gives each member of the family a sense of identity and by keeping the traditions they can all find their own place in the religion, knowing they are spending the day as their older relatives always have done. They know that, by observing traditional practices, Jews around the world are doing the same things and this emphasises their sense of identity and helping them to feel part of a community. When they are in the homes of other family members or friends, during Shabbat, they know that each ritual will be the same and this provides a welcome structure for the whole family. So to be able to spend a holiday at a friend’s or relative’s house and see the same candles, the same bread and the same wine focuses the mind, to create something beautiful out of very basic objects is very satisfying.
(3) “For religious people, every day should be holy.”
Do you agree? Give reasons for your opinion and show that you have thought about different points of view. You must refer to Judaism in your answer.
I believe that in religion, every day should be treated as holy because, especially in Judaism, the whole life is directed towards thinking about and putting into practice their faith in God and observance of his guidelines. There are days of the year on which holier rituals are carried out and more time is spent reflecting on the religion, but every day of the week involves activities that are important to the religion and are considered holy. The faith of a Jew is incorporated into every day of their life, giving each one a special holiness because of its dedication to God. The covenant that God created between himself and the Jews is the reason for this. By following the lifestyle advocated by God:
“And you shall do that which is proper and good in the eyes of Hashem,”
The Jew is commanded to “be holy” and “to create holiness” in themselves. They can experience and contribute to the holiness through many actions. They feel that as a sign of gratitude and commitment every aspect of everyday should be sacred and set apart. They also believe that actions which aren’t considered holy or being carried out for God should not be done.
On an average day, Jews will be thinking about God, their religion and how they should act, which already makes the day more sacred and holy to them, but they aill also partake in lots of rituals that set time apart for remembrance, thanks or even just thought. Even the home, in which every day is spent, is considered holy because of the mezuzah, a parchment scroll on which two passages are written. These command the Jew to write God’s words on the doorpost, setting it apart from other houses. It is a constant reminder of God and his Torah. By having mezuzah in the house as well they can make every room sacred for God. They touch it and then their lips when they enter or leave the room. It is then a permanent visual aid, reminding them of God’s commands in their home life. A typical Jewish day is the best example of the way Jews want every day to be holy.
Prayer is not simply something that happens in the synagogue once a week but it is an integral part of everyday life. They are constantly reminded of God’s presence and of their relationship with him because they continually pray to him. The first thought in the morning, even before they get out of bed, is a prayer thanking God for returning their souls to them. The holiness and sanctity continues throughout the day because there are prayers to be recited before enjoying any material pleasure, such as eating and before performing any mitzvah, such as washing and lighting candles.
They will also pray whenever something good or bad happens and before they got to bed. These are known as berakhot and have to be said at least 100 times each day to increase the holiness and acknowledge God as the ultimate source of all good and evil in the universe. These prayers are said in addition to the formal ones which are recited three times a day, every weekday. This is to dedicate as much of the day as possible to thought about God and to increase the awareness of the role he plays in their lives. If they only pray when they feel inspired then not every day would be set apart for God.
The Talmud states that it is permissible to pray in any language, nut to pray in Hebrew adds a special importance and holiness to each day. Reciting in Hebrew is important because it is the pure essence of Jewish thought and is a responsibility they undertook as part of the covenant made with God. It is also considered a “holy language” because of its intrinsic characteristics. As well as praying in Hebrew, every time they pray they face Israel. This makes it extra sacred because the Land of Israel is more holy than all other lands.
A Jewish day completely revolves around their religion and keeping it holy. This is partly due to the comprehensive way of life, filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life: what they can and cannot eat, what they can and cannot wear, how to groom themselves, how to conduct their business and most importantly, how to treat God. These rules and practices are known as ‘Halakhah’ and is the Jewish law. It gives spirituality to each day and gives all trivial acts a religious significance. They are constantly reminded of their faith and so it becomes an integral part of their entire existence.
The daily rituals, I am about to explain, are laws of the Halakhah, instituted in the Torah to keep every day, between holidays, holy. Kashrut is the body of Jewish law that deals with what they can and cannot eat and how it must be prepared and eaten.
They call this keeping “kosher” and it is something the Jews will do every single day of their lives. This involves the maximum removal of blood from their meat and not mixing meat with milk. This is because the Torah commands “thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Every day, great trouble is put into observing this law, making sure they are not cooked or eaten together. It is observed with exact care as a means to self discipline and purity. This shows their obedience to God and it elevates the simple everyday act of eating into a religious ritual. Even the dinner table, used regularly each day, is holy because it is compared to the Temple altar. A Jew that observes the laws of kashrut cannot eat a meal without being reminded of the fact that they are a Jewish.
A Jew will ensure that time is set apart each day to study the Talmud and Torah. They learn more about the religion and achieve guidance in life, whilst proving their commitment to God and keeping his mitzvah. They are able to spend thinking only of this and none of the material things in life, which is very holy and sacred to them.
At the heart of the Halakhah is the unchangeable 613 mitzvot that God gave to the Jewish people in the Torah. The Jews keep to all mitzvah (commandments) that apply to them. For example, every day Jews observe the mitzvah to recite grace after meals because the Torah has told them to and that it blesses the Lord. It is also performed out of respect for God and to make the day holier for him because he has ultimately provided them with the food they need to survive.
As well as prayer each day, Jews will often visit the synagogue by themselves or with the family, to bring extra holiness to each day. They don’t just visit the synagogue for special services and festivals; instead they often go to just pray and be closer to God. Prayer in the synagogue brings them closer to God and allows their mind to be completely focused on God rather than things that are happening in the home. There are many items worn during prayer in the synagogue that are of great significance to each day and the sacredness of prayer. There are three items worn by adult male Jews, each time they pray, as reminders of God and their obligations to him. The first is a prayer shawl, called a Tallit, a white, square or rectangular garment made of wool or silk.
The most important feature of it is the fringe tzizit in each four corners. This is very important to remind them of the holy mitzvoth they have to keep each day. The second sacred object is the tephillin, which are two black boxes that contain four passages of the Torah to instruct the Jew. The material it is written on is very important because it comes from a kosher animal and is treated with great respect. This is worn every time the Jew prays. One box is bound to the forehead and the other to the arm opposite the heart. This is important because they remind him that he must worship God with his whole person, the heart and the head. Tephilin are very holy symbols of the covenant because they stress obedience to the Torah. The third item is the kippah. This is a skull-cap worn by the men during prayer. Some wear this all day as a way of expressing their respect for God.
To incorporate their faith into everyday and make it holy Jews will fulfil the commandment in the Torah to help those in need, both in physical and financial. They will give at least ten percent of their income to charity. It is a sacred, instinctive response to express thanks to God, ask forgiveness or to request a favour from God. The spiritual benefit of giving to the poor each day is so great because it gives them an opportunity to perform Tzedakah, which is the highest of all commandments.
Although I agree that for the Jews, each day is holy there are some days which are holier than others and have a special focus. These days are considered holidays, emphasising their holiness because the word originated from ‘holy day.’ Morally, everything a Jew does each day is directed towards God, but certain days are more important because more focus is put on God. These days are mainly well known festivals and are holier because extra effort is made, there are more rules to observe and far more togetherness.
Pesach (or Passover) is a very important festival because unlike all other holy days it celebrates the beginnings of the Jewish people, when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Before Passover their house must be cleared of all foods containing leavened grain products or yeast in response to a passage commanding so in the Torah. This is followed so completely that families will have special kitchen utensils, crockery and cutlery used only for this festival and stored away for the rest of the year This makes it extra sacred because it means the use of it reminds them only of Passover and of God’s control over history and nature.
The most spiritual part of the festival is the opening meal, called the Seder, in which unleavened bread is eaten to recreate the slavery conditions of their ancestors and to relive the exodus. It is very holy because of its strong connections with their ancestors and God, and because of its reminder of their dependence on him. Bitter herbs are eaten during Seder, to remind them of what is being commemorated. Parsley leaves represent freedom and the bitter stalk, slavery. This is rarely eaten throughout the year, giving it its own important spiritual meaning. These are dipped in salt water as a symbol of the slave’s tears. Many other spiritual, unusual foods are eaten, including a hard boiled egg and a lamb bone as a reminder of the sacrifices offered in the temple. The Talmud states that each person must also drink four glasses of wine. This shows dedication to Gods commandments.
The days of Passover are sacred and set apart from the rest because they celebrate freedom and without the events commemorated by it, there would be no Jewish people. In every Kiddush, throughout the year, Jews speak “in remembrance of the exodus”, but it is Passover which celebrates the birth of a nation. It expresses the sense of belonging to a people, chosen by God and depending on him.
The tradition and ritual of Sukkot creates an important festival to the Jews. The seven days in which it is observed are very holy and special because they focus on what God has given and celebrate his protection of the Israelites in the wilderness. This is different and holier than the rituals carried out on normal days because the Jews fulfil the mitzvah to “dwell in booths.” These booths remind them of their dependence on God and contain a hole in the roof, so that they feel closer to him. Having to stay in these booths is very special because it means families are able to spend more time, than usual, together. The “four species” is a very symbolic part of Sukkot and makes it extra holy. It contains an etrog and different leaves as a reminder of the harvest and the variety of people making up the Jewish community. It is waved in all directions, each day of the festival. This is a very spiritual act that symbolises God’s omnipresence.
The days leading up to the festival of Rosh Hashanah are far holier than most of the year because they are spent repenting and Jews must enter into a mood of self reflection. The days are made holier and happier by an increase in good deeds. To fulfil the obligations of honouring and enjoying the festival, Jews will prepare, bathe, wear new clothes and clean the house. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days, in which certain work is forbidden. These days are of great holiness and importance because they are traditionally when God opens the “Book of life.” During these days Jews beseech mercy in recognition of their sins, reflecting the importance of God. It is also the anniversary of the creation of the world, making it particularly holier and more significant than other festivals. Sacred blessings are recited over the candles, lit before sunset on the first night. Evening prayers and services are conducted with special melodies that enhance the special atmosphere.
Each day of the festival is sanctified over wine by saying Kiddush, which sets it apart from other days. Special foods are eaten on Rosh Hashanah that aren’t eaten for the rest of the year, this gives the meals a special importance. Jews are more careful about keeping kosher on these days – to make it holier and perfect in the eyes of God. Each food is very symbolic to the Jews, for example apples dipped in honey represent joy and blessing. Fruit is eaten, that has not been eaten for a year, to represent renewal. On Rosh Hashanah everyone should hear the Shofar to fulfil the commandment in the Torah. Its powerful blasts are a very important part of making the festival holier than others because it is only blown 100 times on these days out of the whole year. It not only warns people of the coming day of judgement, but importantly calls people together before God, so that communities and families spend more time together.
Yom Kippur is without a doubt the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a sacred experience for the Jews. The principle theme is atonement and is extremely holy because all actions are directed towards making God happy. On this day, Jews ignore physical needs, such as eating, to help them to concentrate on special needs, notably forgiveness. This Day of Atonement is extra holy because it combines the elements of remorse and confession with those of prayer and spiritual purification. Fasting enhances this because it is done in fulfilment of the biblical command “you shall afflict your souls.”
In honour of the holiday, it is customary to wear best clothes and to prepare the house as they would for Shabbat. Most clothes and special materials are white, on this day, for holiness and to symbolise purity. Many Jews will carry out a special ritual on the eve of Yom Kippur, particular to this festival to set it apart from others. They immerse themselves in a ritual bath in order to enter into a “pure”, holy manner. Jews do not light candles in their home every day, only for special occasions, and because Yom Kippur is so holy they will light specific candles called Yahrzeit candles.
To set it apart from regular days and other festivals, Jews attend more services on Yom Kippur. They chant Kol Nidrei to stress the importance of the day and to remember when Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, but vowed to God to remain Jewish. The story Of Jonah is read on this day as a sacred reminder that God is willing to forgive anyone that repents their sins. Yom Kippur is especially holy because of the constant communication with God and the many pleas of forgiveness, for sins. It is the holiest day of the year because, they believe, it is when God makes his final judgement on each individual and what will happen to them throughout the next year.
In addition to these festivals, Shabbat is the holiest day of each week. It is a spiritual day because of its constant focus on God. It is immensely holy because it is the only festival in whose observance is a commandment. Sabbath is so important each week that God told the Jews to keep it “holy”, therefore it is referred to as the “holy day”. This emphasises how holier it is than regular days with the same rituals each day. Shabbat has lots more additional mitzvah and rituals, for every Jew to partake in. Shabbat itself is the holiest day of each week, even without the rituals, because it symbolises Gods creation of the world and his covenant with the Jewish people. The holiness is shown by the way in which the day is welcomed so much differently from any other. Other than festivals, it is the only day of the week in which the Jews must ensure that the house is cleaned, the table laid, food prepared and the best clothes are worn by everybody.
There are also so many more rewards for observing Shabbat because each individual has something to do and everyone wants to keep the day holy to show their obedience to God. A special meal is eaten on Shabbat, where the whole family and guests can spend more time together than usual meals. The rituals and symbols involved with this meal make the day much holier and give it great meaning. They also give the family something important to look forward to each week. Plaited loaves are eaten on Shabbat as an important representation of the dependence between God, Israel and the Torah. Two loaves are used to symbolise the double portion that God left for their ancestors so that they wouldn’t have to break the mitzvah to not work, looking for food. Shabbat is the only day of the week where a Hallah cover is used to protect the bread and the best cutlery and crockery are used. Candles are an extremely important part of Shabbat, to set it apart from regular days.
They are lit various times throughout the day, symbolising peace coming into the house, the creation of the world and the extra brightness that Shabbat brings over other days. The family can spend more time together and with God on Shabbat because they are not distracted by work and school, like the rest of the week. They are also able to spend more time within the Jewish community because there are special synagogue services that only occur on Shabbat. They meet as a community to pray and worship before God. It is only during the Shabbat service that a weekly portion of the Torah is read. This makes the services on Shabbat extra holy because of the great importance of the Torah to Judaism.
It is how God wishes them to live their entire lives. Shabbat even has its own special greeting, different form other days. When greeting or bidding farewell, each Jew will say “Shabbat Shalom” to express their wishes that everyone has a peaceful and happy Shabbat. The afternoon is made extra sacred by the study of the Torah or spending more time in the synagogue. Shabbat gives them the time to do this and focus on God. As well as having a special welcome, Shabbat is set apart from normal days by its sacred departure. The Havdalah is performed and more prayers are recited. This shows how important and holy the day is because they are sad that the day has ended. The ritual involves blessings over wine and spices as well as a candle, and this only happens on Shabbat.
For a Jew, each day is holy and important, but there are some days in their lives which are even more important to the individual and their family. These days are so important that they have a special name, each one is known as a ‘rites of passage’. The rituals carried out on these days are in addition to the normal mitzvah, making them even more holy than usual.
The birth of a Jew, into a family, is an extremely sacred occasions. They believe a child is born completely pure and free from sin and the birth is so holy that extra prayers are said. They believe that every person is a gift from God, so the day must be sanctified by prayer in thanks to God. After a child is born, the father is given the holy honour of aliyah, which is an opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah in the synagogue. This is especially holy because it is the only day when a blessing is recited purely for the health of the mother and the child.
Brit Milah is a much holier day than most because it is one of the most universally observed commandments. It is the circumcision of a male, usually when eight days old. There is more to the ritual than merely the process of removing the foreskin; it is very holy because it is a commandment specific to the Jews. The circumcision is a physical sign of the eternal covenant between God and the Jews. It is also a sign that the Jewish people will be perpetuated through the circumcised man. The circumcision is performed on the eighth day of the boy’s life and is holier than most other rituals because it can only be carried out by an observant, educated Jew called a mohel. This man is religiously qualified and it is a very religious ritual, blessed by a rabbi, so that it is completely directed towards God.
The Bar and Bat Mitzvah is the next very holy ‘rite of passage’ in the life of a Jew. ‘Bar Mitzvah’ means ‘son of the commandment’ and occurs when the Jewish boy reaches the age of 13. Bat Mitzvah is the same for girls at age 12. It is very important because it enters them into the covenant relationship with God. When approaching Bar Mitzvah, the boys wear a very sacred prayer shawl and can begin wearing a pair of Tefillin. On this special occasion the relatives recite blessings for the child as they become adults in the religion. During the ceremony, for the first time the child is able to read a portion of the Torah to the congregation, in Hebrew. This brings them closer to God and involves them more in their religion. After this, the father recites baruch shepatarani, in which they thank God for having brought the boy to maturity and declares the boy is now responsible for his own actions. This is very sacred to the father because it is the only time he will recite it for that child.
Marriage is an extremely holy occasion in the life of an adult Jew. It is seen as vitally important in Judaism. Refraining from it is not considered holy. There are many rituals carried out on the day of the ceremony that set it apart in the life of a Jew and bring them much closer to God. The ceremony takes place under a chupah because it can be held up by 4 poles, held by friends or relatives of the couple. This is a very important way of bringing people together before God. The Rabbi reads a section from the psalm as a blessing.
This is a sacred way of blessing the couple in the name of the Lord and expresses thanks to God. The bride then circles the groom to symbolise her basic rights for the rest of their marriage: food, clothing and sex. A betrothal blessing is said to sanctify the marriage. The groom places the brides ring on her right index finger to symbolise her acceptance. The Ketubah is read and signed before God to sanctify and bind the marriage, setting it apart from the betrothal. The ceremony is set apart from most other joyous occasions, by the blessings over wine. This is very sacred, as well as adding to the festivity. Kiddush is recited twice to sanctify the occasion. Fasting on the day of the wedding is a very important part of the holiness because the couple are able to make peace with God before entering the covenant of marriage.
In Judaism, life is valued above almost all else to every day is considered holy, but death is not considered a tragedy or any less holy. Death is the last ‘rite of passage’, but is still considered very holy because they believe, like our lives, it is all part of God’s plan. Candles are a sacred symbol in Judaism and so they are lit next to the body. The mourner recites a specific blessing, holier than usual blessings, to describe God as “the true judge”. The mourners have a special meal that is very symbolic and holy. It usually consists of eggs (as a symbol of life) and bread. Death is such a holy occasion for Jews that it has a mourner’s prayer called Kaddish. This is to reaffirm their faith in God, despite their loss.
Holiness and faith is incorporated into every day of their lives, so I agree that every day is holy for them, but the specific festivals and ‘rites of passage’ are considered much holier days. The sanctity and importance of each of these extra rituals, brings every individual Jew closer to God. The focus of these days is completely spiritual, with none of the usual distractions faced every day.