Judaism - Practices

  • Created by: TBako
  • Created on: 04-08-20 14:34

Public acts of worship

What is it?

Most services involve reading the written prayers in the synagogue reminding Jews that they are part of a community. Public worship allows:

  • individuals to spend regular time in praise, request and thanks to God
  • Jews around the world and communities to follow similar services bringing unity between them

SOWA - "my vows to Hashem I will pay, in the presence..in the courtyards of his house" (Psalm 116)

Synagogue Services The main public acts of worship that take place within the synagogue are daily prayer services which take place everyday, three times a day; the Shabbat services; and the festival services


  • Shabbat begins at dusk on Friday and ends at the appearance when three stars appear in the night sky on Saturday 
  • There are Shabbat services in the synagogue on Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon
  • Reform and Liberal jews tend to focus more on Shabbat than daily prayer services
  • Prayers such as the Amidah and Aleinu are said
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Public acts of worship (2)

Daily prayers

  • Jews can pray anywhere, not only in a synagogue but if there is a minyan present then the additional prayers of the Kaddish, Kedushacan be said
  • Jews are expected to prayer three times a daily (morning, afternoon and evening) and there are usually services in the synagogue to coincide with these times
  • Orthodox synagogue prayers are said in Hebrew
  • Reform and Liberal synagogues balance prayers in Hebrew and English
  • Jews often stand to say prayers as a reminder of God's presence
  • Prayers are usually said silently when praying alone
  • The Siddur contains the daily prayers which vary throughout the year


  • Gives a Jewish person a sense of belonging to the whole community of Jewish believers
  • The rabbis taught that there is more merit in praying with a group than there is praying alone
  • Provides worship at statutory times and worshipping at set times gives order and purpose to people's religious life.
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The Tenakh and Talmud

What is it?

The Tenakh is the Jewish holy book made up of three divisions:

  • the Torah: the books of Moses - it is the most sacred object in Judaism taking form as a handwritten parchment scroll that is kept in the Ark; a printed copy is called a Chumash
  • the Nevi'im: the books of the prophets
  • the Ketuvim: the Writings

Orthodox Jews regard the Torah as the literal word of God given to Moses on Mt Sinai so it is considered divine and timeless and cannot be altered. The rest of the Tenakh shows how the Jewish people lived during the times of the Prophets and how they tried to keep them on the right path. Many Reform Jews believe the Torah is human creation - written by their ancestors and inspired their understanding of themselves and the place of God in their lives

What is it?

The Talmud is the record of the oral tradition and literally means "instruction or learning"

Orthodox Jewish tradition says this instruction was given to Moses by was eventually written down so its word wouldn't become distorted over time

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The Tenakh and Talmud (2)

Reform Jews see the Talmud as human creation that reflects the distilled wisdom of many generations of the Jewish people

The Talmud is the source of all Jewish legal teaching and decision. Two parts of the Talmud are:

  • the Mishnah - the core text written in Hebrew
  • and the Gemara - the Rabbinical analysis written in Arabic

Importance of their use in daily life and worship

  • One scroll is taken from the Ark and sections are read four times a week in Orthodox synagogues (Mon, Tues, Sat am, pm) and once a week in Reform and Liberal synagogues (on Sat/Shabbat)
  • Over the year the whole Torah is read in sequence
  • The Talmud is regarded as central to Orthodox Jewish life and all Jews are encouraged to read it

SOWA"if he has acquired words of the Torah he has attained the afterlife" (Perkel Avot 2:8)

  • Many Reform and Liberal Jews view the Talmud as a rich source of study and study it at their own will
  • Some feel Aramaic is an inaccessible language and arguments in it aren't relevant to Jews today
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Food Laws

What is it?

Jewish food laws are an opportunity for many people to bring Kedusha - holiness

The Tenakh and Talmud provide Jews with laws and detailed guidance on how to keep them

  • Kashrut - the laws relating to food
  • Kosher - food that is acceptable to Jews
  • Treifah - food that is unacceptable to Jews, means "torn"
  • As these laws are found in the Torah, Jews believe they come from God

SOWA - "These are the animals you may eat...every animal that has a split hoof that brings up its cud (if not) they are unclean to you" (Deuteronomy 14:3-10)

  • Eating dairy and meat together are avoided
  • Eating pork is unaccepted
  • Some have suggested kosher food laws benefit health, eg not eating animals that are unconscious before they are killed reduces the risk of eating an unhealthy animal
  • Pigs in Israel used to carry a lot of diseases and it was unwise to get them
  • Many Jews keep the laws because they believe they it has been given to them from God
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Food Laws (2)

Their application in Jewish life today

Orthodox: 1. believe the rules are important to keep and 2. have separate utensils for meat and dairy products (difficulty when eating out as the food as to be kosher and the cooking methods)

Reform and Liberal: 1.believe the laws are outdated and 2. for some, certain principles of kashrut are important as a way of expressing kedusha and have a sense of connection with God


  • observe a three-hour gap between eating meat and dairy
  • don't eat anything containing yeast during Passover - the house is deep cleaned to remove food that can't be eaten; for some separate crockery and cutlery are used to avoid contamination
  • there are Jews who observe "eco-kashrut" aiming to bring contemporary ethical and ecological issues into consideration of what is fit to eat
  • Refrain from pork even if they don't follow all dietary laws
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Private Prayer

What is it?

Many Jews can't attend synagogue daily so individual prayers are said at home to replace them; they can be said individually or as a family; prayer is encouraged and considered an important part of Jewish worship

SOWA"Tremble and sin not; reflect in your hearts while on your beds and be utterly silent" (Psalm 4:5) - Jews are encouraged to clear their heads before prayer so they can focus only on God and connect with him

Shabbat Prayer

  • On Friday night the Shabbat meal is prepared before candles are lit to welcome Shabbat
  • Prayers are recited before the meal begins
  • Kiddush - the prayer of sanctification is said which celebrates God's creation of the universe and remember the release of their ancestors from slavery in Eygpt
  • After this the food is eaten; the meal can take several hours with stories being told and songs sung

Prayer three times a day

SOWA - "Evening, morning and noon, I supplicate and moan, and He has heard my voice" (Psalm 55:18)

Jews say the Shema before sleeping and say the Modeh Ani after waking up to thank God for the gift of life

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Private Prayer (2)

  • Jews pray to praise, request and thank God
  • The Torah commands for Jews to join together to thank God strengthing their relationship with him
  • Having set times to pray allows Jews to have God at the forefront of their lives by acknowledging him in every part of the day
  • Blessing over the food is said before and after eating
  • SOWA"You ill eat and you will be satisfied and bless Hashem, your God for the God land that he gave you" (Deuteronomy 8:10)

Importance of different forms of prayer

Different types of prayer: daily, individual, constant, Shabbat and festivals allow Jews to connect with God in different ways

  • Daily - allow regular prayer and sometimes connecting as a family
  • Individual - allows for personal reflection and solitary time with God
  • Constant -- keeps God in an individual's heart and mind and allows a spontaneous opportunity for thanksgiving
  • Shabbat - brings family and friends together in regular celebration
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The Shema and Amidah

What is it?

  • the Shema is the most important prayer in Judaism - "Hear O Israel Hashem is our God, Hashem is the One and Only"
  • it's recited twice a day declaring the fundamentals of the Jewish faith
  • SOWA -  "You shall love Hashem with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources.., you shall reach them thoroughly to your children" (Deuteronomy 4)
  • the tallit (a fringed shawl with the fringe on the corner as a reminder of the commandments in the Torah) is worn by men and boys in morning service; it is used to cover their head during prayer to focus
  • tefillin (two small boxes with straps containing specific verses of the Torah)  are worn on forehead and arms excluding Shabbat and festivals; symbolises connecting the heart and mind, emotion and intellect to God
  • the Shema is kept in a mezuzah (a container found on the right doorpost outside Jewish homes) reminding Jews of God's presence
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The Shema and Amidah (2)

What is it?

The Amidah is the core part of every Jewish worship service and is referred to as the HaTefillah (the prayer); meaning "standing" and refers to the series of blessings recited while standing up

Importance of different forms of prayer

Morning prayer

  • thanks for the use of the body are given
  • psalms and selections from the Tenakh are chosen to focus the mind on God
  • the Shema and Amidah are recited

Afternoon prayer

  • Psalm 145 is recited  during these prayers
  • followed by the Amidah
  • ending with the Aleinu

Evening prayer - the Shema, Amidah and Aleinu are recited

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Ritual and ceremony

Importance: rituals are grounded in Jewish law; governing religious life and daily life whilst observance shows gratitude to God, providing a sense of Jewish identity and bringing God into everyday life#


  • The life of a baby begins when the body has half emerged from the mother's body
  • The child is born pure and entirely free from sin
  • SOWA - "(she) may not touch anything sacred and she may not enter the sanctuary"
  • If a women had a boy she must observe Leviticus 12:3 for 7 days plus 33 days
  • If a women had a girl she must observe Leviticus 12:3 for 14 days plus 66 days; it is thought she'd take longer to recover after having a girl as she has created another creator reflecting the holiness around giving birth
  • once the mother has stopped bleeding she will attend a mikvah
  • children are given a Hebrew name and an English name

Brit Milah - the covenant of circumcision

  • it's an outwards physical sign of God's everlasting covenant
  • SOWA - "Abraham circumcised his son Isaac at eight days just as God had commanded him" (Genesis 21:4)
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Ritual and ceremony (2)

  • the removal of the foreskin is performed by a mohel
  • the ritual of Pidyon ha-be (Redemption of the Son) applies if the firstborn is a male born by natural birth
  • historically, the firstborn son would give service in the Temple and is only redeemed of this by paying a small sum to a kohein, a priest and a descendant of Aaron - this ritual isn't usually observed in Reform communities

Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies

  • these ceremonies take place when a boy is aged 13 or when a girl is aged 12 in Orthodox communities and aged 13 for both in Reform and Liberal communities 
  • this is seen as the coming of age when the young people can take responsibility of their actions ad faith
  • after the bar mitzvah, the boy can lead the synagogue service or take an active part in the service, and can also be included in a minyan or read as part of a service; Reform and Liberal also grant these things to a girl after her bat mitzvah
  • young Jews are expected to study and prepare carefully as (orthodox) they will read various texts and girls will undertake a variety of learning, volunteering and charitable tasks which may include learning to make challah bread for Shabbat 
  • in Reform and Liberal communities, girls and both read the Torah and learn the same tasks as girls
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Ritual and ceremony (3)


  • Huppah, a canopy to symbolise couples new home and privacy of marriage but also openness to family and friends
  • Sheva Berachot (the seven blessings) are recited
  • Orthodox marriages - two religious male witnesses are needed for the signing of the Kebutah (the marriage contract); Reform and Liberal marriages - two Jewish adults can witness
  • The groom stomps on a glass to symbolise the destruction of the Temple before the couple retire to another room to spend time alone and complete the nisuin

Mourning ceremonies

  • Its aim is to help the bereaved return to normal life after the loss of a loved one avelut (mourning)
  • Orthodox Jews make a tear in their clothing upon hearing the death of a loved one; Reform wear a torn black ribbon or cut a tie
  • SOWA"Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned his son for many days" (Genesis 37:34)
  • Both then make a blessing to God referring that he is the true judge and accept God taking the person's life
  • Aninut - from death to burial
  • Shiva - the first seven days of mourning
  • A period of intense mourning, mourners: stay at home sitting on low stools on the floor, don't make (turn over)
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Ritual and ceremony (4)

  • themselves look nice or work, don't do anything that gives comfort or pleasure, wear clothes worn to the funeral, pray three times a day
  • Sheloshim - the first 30 days form the burial
  • Yud-bet Chodesh - the year of mourning for a parent, the 12 Hebrew months after the day of death
  • Yahrzeit - the anniversary day of the death, according to the Jewish calendar

The Funeral

  • Jews are traditionally buried not cremated ideally within 24hrs of death
  • Some Reform and Liberal communities permit cremation
  • Candles are lit around the body and the body is never left alone while awaiting burial
  • Jews believe the synagogue is a place for the living so the funeral takes place entirely at the cemetery
  • A short service takes places, then the coffin is lowered, then mourners shovel earth onto of the coffin
  • Everyone who attends washes their hands in a ritual outside the cemetery
  • The hands are washed by pouring water from a cup over each hand alternatively three times symbolising leaving death behind
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What is it?

Shabbat is a special day of rest. The Jews believe that God instructed them to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. It begins Friday evening at dusk and ends when three stars appear in the sky on Saturday night. This can be a challenge in winter when the sun fades before the working day is finished.

Some reform Jewish communities allow members to observe Shabbat from 6pm on Friday to 6pm on Saturday to help ease the conflict between modern society and religious observance. They believe being flexible is a good way t bring more Jews into observance.

SOWA - "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because on it He abstained from all His work which God created to make." (Genesis 2:3)

How it is celebrated?

At home

  • Three meals take place during Shabbat on Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday evening
  • Friday evening meals begin with a Kiddush blessing and blessing upon the challah bread
  • The end of Shabbat is marked on the Saturday evening with the havdalah blessing over wine when a special candle is lit
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Shabbat (2)

  • The home is cleaned and candles are lit before Shabbat begins as kindling light is forbidden during Shabbat, then a meal is served
  • Careful preparation of food is needed because cooking during Shabbat is forbidden as they need to ignite the cooker, which is considered doing work

SOWA - "You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day." (Exodus 35;3)

The synagogue

Shabbat services consist of:

  • The Amidah is recited as the congregation face Jerusalem
  • The Torah is removed from the Ark as the first part of the Shema is recited
  • At the bimah, a section of the Torah is said in Hebrew (Orthodox), English (Reform) and a yad is used to follow the words
  • The Torah is then returned to the Ark
  • The Rabbi gives a sermon in the language of the congregation
  • Shabbat services end with prayers including the Aleinu (which expresses a Jew's duty to praise God) -  "Let us now praise the Sovereign of the universe and proclaim the greatness of the Creator"
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Shabbat (3)

  • Then the Kiddush is said (a prayer that acknowledges that God knows best) - "Exalted and hallowed be God's name, in the world which God created, according to plan"
  • Then a hymn is sung


Observing Shabbat is a core part of the Jewish faith; believing it is one of the commandments given to Moses by God

Many modern Jews love in countries where Judaism isn't a predominant faith which provides challenges in observing Shabbat as strictly as they'd like to 

Modern life involves compromises for some Jews, eg driving a car to the synagogue

Shabbat remains a day of enjoyment for Jews today as they can connect with family whilst observing God's commandment of resting and keeping the day holy

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What is it?

For Jews, there is a time for happiness and celebration and a time for sadness and commemoration

SOWA - "Everything has its season and there is a time for everything under the heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

  • Festivals occur at set times in the Jewish calendar
  • Most festivals are based on the history of the Jewish people
  • Joyful events celebrate God's involvement and intervention on their behalf
  • Some festivals focus on God as a creator (Shabbat) and others on their relationship with Gd (Yom Kippur)
  • Festivals can be celebrated at home and in the synagogue involving the whole community


Festivals are important as it allows Jews to connect. Jews believe it's important to commemorate the Passover. Festivals provide an opportunity for families and synagogue communities to come together and share their common past. Tradition is important and for Orthodox Jews, it's simply continuing the way of life.

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Festivals (2)

Rosh Hashanah

  • means the "head of the year"
  • It's the first day of the year and is used to remember the story of creation at the start of the Torah
  • Orthodox celebrate over two days, Reform and Liberal in one day
  • It's considered the anniversary of the creation and the Mishnah says on this day God writes down the deeds of a person, judges them and makes decisions about the year to come
  • It's a time for Jews to evaluate their behaviour, reflect on the past year, to make peace and to ask forgiveness of others before the judgement of God is finalised
  • After going to the synagogue Jews wish each other L'shanah tovah "a good year"
  • A festive meal is celebrated in the home with the addition of fruit to symbolise renewal
  • After Kiddush, slices of apple sipped in honey is eaten in hope of a sweet new year and a pomegranate may be eaten to symbolise that plentiful good deeds will be plentiful as the seeds in the fruit

Yom Kippur

  • The second days of awe; it is the holiest days on the year
  • A day to reflect on sins and seek forgiveness from God in order to become "one" with him
  • In the ten days before Yom Kippur Jews seek forgiveness from other people and must seek forgiveness from God
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Festivals (3)

  • Many undertake 25 hours of fasting following the instruction in Leviticus 16 to "deny themselves"; some believe it helps focus their mind on the important prayers of the day and other fasts because it's a mitzvah
  • Leviticus 16:20-22 details how a goat was led into the desert carrying the sins of the Jewish people, on Yom Kippur Jews try to replicate this by confessing and atoning for their sins before God seals the book of judgement containing the decisions made on Rosh Hashanah about an individual's future

The first pilgrim festival: Pesach

  • Pesach is referred to as the Passover as it is based on the night that Gd passed over Eygpt killing every firstborn male but not those of the Jewish people
  • Jews try to gather together as a family and include members of the community who can't be with their own relative
  • Pesach is a reminder of God's love for the oppressed and weak members of society
  • Today all chametz (foods containing wheat, barley and oats) is removed from the house as it isn't eaten for seven days so the home is thoroughly cleaned
  • Lasts eight days (Orthodox) and seven days (Reform and Liberal) with Seder meal being the most important event
  • Seder means "order" because everything that happens during the week follows the order set out in the Haggadah
  • Everything on the plate is symbolic: a shank bone and a roasted egg are reminders of the sacrifices Jews used to make in the Temple, chazaret is a type of maror made a grated horseradish,
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Festivals (4)

  • karpas is a leafy, green vegetable dipped in saltwater to represent tears and maror (bitter herbs) are dipped in charoset (apple, cinnamon, nut and wine mix) to symbolise the mortar used in buildings by slaves; the sweetness represents freedom
  • Four cups of wine are drunk as four symbols oof freedom which the guests pour for each other just the free people had slaves do; then a fifth cup is left poured and undrunk in hope for Elias to return

The second pilgrim festival:Shavuot

  • The festival celebrated the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and marking the wheat harvest in ancient Israel
  • Marks the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot
  • To celebrate the gift of the Torah Jews may take time to explore texts in community learning programmes
  • Customs involve eating dairy and decorating the synagogue with greenery

The third pilgrim festival: Sukkot

  • Begins four days after Yom Kippur marking the end of the summer and bringing in the autumn fruit harvest
  • Sometimes known as the Feast of the Tabernacle it's a reminder of the dwellings the Jews lived in whilst in the wilderness for years.
  • It's celebrated for eight days
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Features in the synagogue

Nature and history of the synagogue

  • the synagogue is the Jewish worship place meaning "bringing together"
  • SOWA - "A multitude of people is a king's glory." (Proverbs 14:28) - refers to the strength of Judaism being in the gathering of Jews together - the greater the number involved, the more honour to God

Syanagogue design

  • The design is focused on facilitating worship together, focusing on the bimah where the Torah is read
  • The ark and bimah are in every synagogue
  • The design of the seating and position of the bimah can vary slightly: Orthodox - have seating on three sides facing a central bimah with the Ark being on the fourth side; they may also be a separate balcony for women, Reform and Liberal: the bimah may be placed at the front before the Ark, seating would be angled towards the front of the hall
  • Synagogues face towards Jerusalem; the community would face Jerusalem when standing in prayer

Objects of devotion

The Ark

  • The Aron Kodesh/ Ark is the most important element of the prayer hall and is set in the wall which faces Jerusalem
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Features in the synagogue (2)

  • It's where the Torah scrolls are kept in honour of the holy o holies in the Temple which contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments
  • The doors or curtains are only opened when the Torah scrolls are taken out during worship or occasions, eg Yom Kippur

Ner Tamid

  • Ner Tamid means "eternal light" which is kept burning at all times in front or above the Ark
  • SOWA - "to kindle a lamp continuously" before God for all eternity (Exodus 27:20-21) 
  • This light reflects God's eternal nature and the menorah (a seven-branched candlestick) was kept burning in the Temple because of the commandments

The Bimah

  • The Rabbi leads the service here
  • The Torah scrolls are removed the Ark, place on the bimah and read from there

Yad - The words of the Torah are followed using this

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Features in the synagogue (3)

  • It's a long pointer shaped at the end with a pointed finger; used so the Torah is not touched directly by the leader respecting the special status of the sacred Scripture

The synagogue in the community

  • The synagogue can also be used as a community centre: Hebrew classes, adult education classes, youth clubs and charity events can be held there alongside regular worship and celebrations of festivals and rites of passage, eg Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Traditions in the synagogue

  • Men and women sit together in Reform and Liberal but are separate in Orthodox
  • Married women cover their heads in Orthodox for modesty whilst in Reform and Liberal women are encouraged to wear a tallit and sometimes a kippah as a sign of equal obligation
  • Musical instruments may be used in Reform and Liberal services but not in Orthodox
  • Women take an active part but not in Orthodox
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