Judaism vocabulary

All of the AQA (although it's probably suitable for other exam boards) RS Judaism syllabus broken down into definitions, I know there's a lot but that is everything I could find in the text book. I coloured them in importance, Red being most important and black being a bit irrelevant.

  • Created by: becca
  • Created on: 02-05-11 21:35


'going' -> Jews are 'going with G-d' Jewish law, the code of conduct for Jewish life.

Details of how best to keep the mitzot transmitted from G-d to Moses at the same time as he gave him the Torah.

Details of Halakhah are contained within the Oral Torah.

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Closing ceremony of Shabbat, candle lit.

Includes all the normal features of a weekday service and a prayer to G-d asking him to bless the congregation and community throughout the coming week.

Rabbi performs havdalah, making four blessings; the first over a glass of wine, the second over a box of fragrant spices (symbolises hope that the coming week will be good-fragrant), the third over a special havdalah candle which is lit to show Shabbat is over and fire can be made once more then the final one actually being the havdalah blessing over  wine that is then drunk.

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Divorce document, must be presented from husband to wife in front of the Bet Din.

It is handwritten in Hebrew and must must be signed by two witnesses.  It gets handed from husband to wife in front of witnesses.

For the divorce to be recognised in the Jewish community both partners must agree to it.

It is not legal under UK law and they also need a civil divorce.

Once a couple have recieved a get they are free to remarry under Jewish law.

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Part of the Talmud, commentary and debate on the Mishnah.

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Sefer Torah

Handwritten copy of the Torah.

Written by a Sofer.

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"30" Secondary period of mourning lasts until 30 days after the persons death.

Jews resume their normal lives but can't celebrate (even religious), listen to music or cut their hair.

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Shabbat Shuva

"Shabbat of Return" Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 10 Days of Returning.

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Plaited bread eaten at Shabbat and festivals.

Responsibility of wife and daughters to make (or buy) it the day before religious observances.

Families use this as an oppourtunity to pass on Jewish tradition to their children.

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Ritual bath Orthadox women have once a month and men have before important events eg their wedding.

Often performed by many Jews hours before Yom Kippur begins.

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Broken pieces of matzoh hidden for children to find at Passover, last thing eaten at Passover Seder (Feast)

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Jewish religious leader/teacher

In Orthadox synagogues the rabbi is always a man but in Reform it may be a woman.

They are leader of the services in the synagogue and a teacher of all aspects of Jewish law including the Torah, Talmud and Halakhah.

They will also conduct weddings and funerals and comfort the deceased's family and visit those in the community who are ill or in hospital.

They are usually the synagogue's representative in the wider community.

They undergo extensive training so they are able to teach the meaning of the Torah and Talmud and explain how to live according to this teaching.

There is no specific dress for rabbis and they are encouraged to marry and have a normal Jewish family life to give them experience.

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"Order" Prayer book containing all prayers for every single day; for daily, Sabbath and occasional use.

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Kol Nidrei

'All the vows' First service of Yom Kippur, Jews ask G-d to renounces all vows which they make in the following year and can't keep.

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All knowing.

Jews believe G-d is Omniscient, Omnipotent (all powerful) and Omnipresent (is everywhere)

So Jews believe G-d is capable of doing everything and anything but holds his powers back and allows them 'free will' to choose how to live on the earth.

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"Decrees" Mitzvot that go beyond rational reason

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Bet ha knesset

Synagogue/ prayerhouse

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613 rules/commandments G-d gave the Jews in the Torah.

Transmitted from G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai.

These form the basis of Halakhah

By obeying the laws and commandments Jews believe that they are fulfilling G-d's will on earth and, in doing so, forming a close relationship with him.

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Important central prayer in the Jewish prayer service "prayer of santification".

Kaddish means 'holy' because it begins by stating the holiness G-d.The prayer praises G-d and acknowledges that he knows best.

Frequently said at funerals for the souls of the dead. 

So when it's said during the Shabbat Saturday morning service those in the congregation who have died are often remembered.

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Pointer used to follow the section of the Torah chanted in Hebrew

This is out of respect for G-d's word and Jews try and avoid touching the Torah scrolls unless absolutely necessary.

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Prayer shawl. Worn by Jewish men (and women in Reform) to morning prayers, Sabbath worship and holy days to help remind them of their relationship with G-d and the importance of prayer.

Has 613 long fringes called Tzitzit attached at the corners. These are the most important parts as they are a reminder of the laws from G-d that Jews are expected to obey.

It is white an usually made of wool, cotton or silk but never a combination of wool and linen.

Some Jews wear a small tallit a tallit katin all day under their clothes but not next to their skin.

By wearing this shawl Jews believe they are following the instruction in Numbers 15:38-40 "you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.  You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of your Lord,"

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'doorpost' Scroll containing the Shema in a box attached to the door post(s) in a Jew's house they touch it and kiss their fingers as they walk past to show their love and respect for G-d.

Inside the mezuzah case is a handwritten kosher parchment containing Hebrew verses from the Torah, on the back of the scroll one of the biblical names for G-d is written.

Some Jews attach a mezuzah to every doorpost (except toilet) while other Jews will only put one on the right door post of the front door.

By having this box Jews believe they are obeying G-d's command in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "These commandments that I give you today [...] Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Having a mezuzah beside the front door is a visable sign that it is a home of a Jewish family and also a constant reminder of the need to obey G-d's commandments as well as a sign of unity of the Jews as G-d's people.

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(TNK) 24 books of the Jewish bible made up of Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvi'im

In the Christian Bible the Tenakh is referred to the Old Testament.

It is a development of the religious of the Torah as pronounced by the Prophets and through later writings.

It was compiled by a group of scholars and leaders called the 'Men of the Great Assembly' in 450 BCE and has since remained unchanged.

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Passover, festival celebrating Jews leaving Egypt. So called because it remembers the night when the G-d's Angel of Death of death passed over Egypt killing every first-born child and animal but not the Hebrews.

It celebrates their freedom when they left Egypt as well as the birth of the Jewish nation and that G-d has fulfilled his promise by controlling history to bring them to the land he promised them. However it's also sad as it remembers the bad times when they were slaves in Egypt also the death of the first-born Egyptians.

All chametz is removed from house as G-d instructed they weren't to eat any leaven for the days in celebration, it's symbolic of being 'puffed up with pride' which is inapropriate at a festival marking a story that was impossible without G-d.

It lasts eight days and Jews will not go to work for the length of the festival (if possible).The most important part of the festival occurs at the beginning of the celebration with the Seder Meal that is a large celebration meal and also has symbolic elements that are reminders of the origins of the festival.

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Ner Tamid

Everlasting flame, a light kept burning in the synagogue in front of the Ark.

Reminder that G-d is eternal and of the menorah(seven branched candlestick) that was kept burning in the Temple.

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White robe worn by Orthadox prayer leaders and some Jews on Holy days such as Passover Seder and some grooms wear one under the wedding canopy.

Some Jews wear it as part of their burial garments.

White is said to symbolise purity and humility.

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Canopy Jewish couples marry under.

Symbolises future home.

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'count' or 'number' Minimum of 10 adult Jews needed to be together for certain acts of worship to take place eg public worship in synagogue and for study of the law.

In Orthadox it must be ten men over 13 but in Reform it can include adult women.   It is only when 10 Jews come together that it's believed G-d is amoung themand that coming together in a group strengthens prayer and makes it more meaningful.

In the Talmud 'community' is used and 10 is an important number in Judaism- 10 Commandments, G-d sent 10 plagues to Egypt, 10 days of repentance...

Advantages of the minyan are that Jews who don't have access to a synagogue can still come together for communal worship anywhere and they played a big part in Concentration Camps in WW2 enabling Jews to continue to worship in secret.

Disadvantages are that it might be difficult to find 10 adult men in very small Orthadox Communities.

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"Sanctification" A ceremony of prayer and blessing over wine performed by Jewish head of household to sanctify Shabbat and Festivals as well as part of daily prayers

It's associated with reading the Torah so can never be said without a minyan.

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Holds the baby whilst it is circumcised.

Being chosen to be a sandek is considered an honour.

The role is often given to the baby's grandfather or other respected members of the synagogue congregation.

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Written version of Oral Torah, given to Moses on Mount Sinai at the same time as the Torah.

Collated and written down in 200 CE to prevent it being altered or misinterpreted.

Arranges into 6 orders/parts/sections each one known as a 'Seder'.

Each Seder deals with a different general aspect of the Oral Law.

Discussion and debate on the Mishna are summarised in the Gemara.

Together with the Gemara it is known as the Talmud.

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Shabbat Meal

Friday night family meal welcoming in the weekly festival of the Sabbath.

The meal starts with the husband and father blessing the children in the hope that they will continue the faith and observance with their own children in the future. He will then recite the Kiddush blessings including sharing red wine.

They all wash their hands as purification then retake their places at the table.

The man leading the ceremony blesses the challah bread thanking G-d for providing them with food.

He then cuts the challah bread dips it in salt (as a reminder of sacrifices being dipped in salt at the temple) and passes it around.

The actual meal then follows which can take several hours with songs being sung between courses and stories being shared, enoying the company of their family and any friends they may have invited is worth spending time over. 

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Holy City of the Jews, homeland of the Jews.

It's the historic place of pilgramage for Jews and is still considered an important city to visit.

It is no longer a duty to visit Jerusalem but many Jews still choose to do it as they believe they are maintaining the traditional practices of their faith.

The Western Wall the last remaining wall of the last Temple stands in Jerusalem.

Jews face towards Jerusalem when they pray and the Aron Hakodesh faces it.

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Book that is used to recreate/tell the events of Passover.

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Jewish godparent, hands baby to Sandek so Mohel can circumcise.

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One who redeems and saves from the consequences of sin.

In Judaism the concept of G-d as the reedemer of Israel is very important.

It is a fundamental belief in Judaism that G-d will always save or redeem his people, especially at times of crisis.

This is reflected in the Siddur where the central Amidah prayer is always preceeded by a blessing which praises G-d as the redeemer of Israel. "blessed are You Lord, who redeemed Israel."

The belief in G-d as the redeemer is also included in the final sentence of the shema prayer where G-d identifies himself as having saved the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt: "I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt"

Jews believe their gratitude due to G-d who redeemed them is a vital part of their worship and one that will strengthen their loyalty to him.

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"7" Week long intense mourning period for close relatives.

Starts after the burial and they have eaten the meal of condolence consisting of eggs and bread.

The mourners stay at home, sit on low stools/the floor, don't wear leather shoes, don't shave/cut hair or work and they don't do anything for comfort or pleasure eg bathe, have sex, put on fresh clothes or study the Torah (except related to mourning or grief).

They wear the clothes they tore at the time of learning of the death or at the funeral.

Mirrors are covered so that they don't focus on their appearance.

Three times a day prayer services are held in the home where the shiva is held with friends, neighbours and relatives make up the minyan.

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Prayer affirming belief in one G-d (monotheism), found in Torah. The opening line is: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d the Lord is One"

One of the most important prayers in Judaism, recited twice a day as part of morning and evening prayers.

Monotheism means Jews regard all aspects of their life as being controlled by G-d.

  • Important teachings about G-d included in it are:
  • "All your heart" Jews believe G-d requires absolute loyalty
  • "All your soul" Jews belive G-d requires total spiritual dedication.
  • "All your strength" this demands the dedication of money and physical strength. Jews believe that in order to love G-d, they should constantly appreciate that any material possesions such as money are a direct gift from G-d. By giving to charity Jews believe they are serving G-d.
  • "Teach them diligently" Jews believe that by learning the words of G-d, the Torah, they are able to pass on the teachings to their children and continue the tradition of Jewish education.
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Unleavened bread eaten at Passover.

G-d instructed them to celebrate Pesach every year by eating unleavened bread for seven days.

3 matzot are on the table in preparation for the Seder meal.

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Seder plate

Passover food plate. On the plate are:

Bitter herbs (maror)- (eg horseradish) to represent the bitterness of slavery

Bitter vegetable (chazeret) - (usually lettuce) command says bitter herbs

A burnt egg (beitzah)- symbolic of the sacrifices made at the Temple.

Shank bone of lamb or chicken (zeroa)- symbolic of the sacrifices made at the Temple

Vegetable (karpas)- (usually parsley) represents the Jews lowly origins in Egypt or new life and are dipped in salt water to symbolise the tears Jews shed in slavery

Charoset- sweet, made to look like mortar the slaves used, the maror and chazeret are dipped in it.

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Illegitimate child, born by a chained woman (husband refused her a divorce) or out of wedlock

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"Torn" Forbidden food

Not slaughtered in the correct manner

Fats and certain internal organs are Trefah

Or it includes:

  • pork, camel, rabbit, rodents and reptiles
  • any animal that died of natural causes
  • eagles hawks and vultures
  • seafood without fins and scales eg crabs, prawns, lobsters, oysters and clams
  • any insects
  • amphibians such as frogs
  • most hard cheeses
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Platform in the centre of the Synagogue from which the Torah is read and the rabbi leads the service.

Along with the Ark it is the focal point of services.

Some Jews believe it is a reminder of the of the alter which was a central feature of the courtyard and the priest would address people and read the Torah from there.

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Leather boxes containing handwritten extracts of Torah with straps (sometimes called phylacteries)

Strapped to forehead and left arm by Orthadox men

Worn only during morning prayers and not on Shabbat or during festival days.

The arm is pulled across the heart as he prays so G-d's word enters both his head and his heart.

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Man trained to perform circumcision.

A chosen woman takes the baby from his mother to the mohel then leaves

who then places the baby briefly on an empty chair (Elijah's chair) to symbolise the presence of the prophet Elijah who is believed to be present at every circumcision.

The mohel then places the baby on the sandek's knee.

The mohel then effects the circumcision by removing the baby's foreskin.

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Chevra Kadisha

"Holy society" a group of Jewish men and women who prepare bodies of the dead for burial according to Halakhah.

Referred to the burial society in English.

Their two main requirements are to show proper respect to the corpse and the ritual cleansing and subsequent dressing of the body for burial.

They are well-known Jews from the community which means the body is well looked after and prepared for burial by people the deceased knew and not strangers.

The body is washed carefully (men by men, women by women) then wrapped in a plain linen shroud and in a tallit (in the case of men usually) with one tzitzit (fringe) removed from corners to signify it will no longer be used for prayer in life.

The body is then placed in a simple coffin, to show that in death there is equality between rich and poor because they are treated the same, the coffin is then sealed.

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Bar/Bat Mitzvah / Bat Chayil

"Son/daughter of commandment" Male/female coming of age celebration at 13 for boys and 12 for girls (because girls mature at an earlier age than boys).

They become an adult according to Jewish law and are accountable for their own faith, obliged to follow the commandments as though they were adults and gain a right to take part in active worship.

Their is no need to have a ceremony to mark coming of age as it is not mentioned in the Torah but many choose to.

Bat Chayil "daughter of valour" an opportunity for girls around 13 to learn about their faith, takes place after Bat Mitzvah.

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Ritual slaughter method.

The animal must be healthy and slaughtered by a rabbi called a shochet who has been specially trained to ensure that animals are slaughtered in the correct manner to be kosher.

A very sharp, smooth-bladed knife (chalef) must be used to slit the animal's throat in such a way that the animal doesn't suffer.

The blood must then be removed from the animal as the Torah instructs they must not eat blood.

Certain parts of the animal such as the fats around the flanks and some internal organs (eg kidneys and intestines) are still trefah and must be removed and not eaten.

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"leaven" Leavened foods such as bread, prohibited at passover.

Chametz is anything made of the five major grains (including wheat, oats and barley) that have not been cooked within 18minutes of coming into contact with water.

This is because they swell while cooking meaning they would not be unleavened as required by G-d.

It could also be symbolic of being 'puffed up with pride' which would be inappropriate during a festival marking a story that could not have happened without G-d.

Some Orthadox Jews also avoid rice, corn, peanuts and during Pesach for the same reason.

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College of Jewish further studies.

The Talmud and Halakhah are studied extensively there.

Orthadox Jews regard a period of time spent in study at a yeshivah as an important part of their son's education and take great care choosing which to send them to.

You have to go there to become a rabbi, but boys are expected to attend at the age of 16 and the Talmud forms the basis of the curriculum.

The style of study is unique as it is done in paired learning system, with two students learning together in the style of a debate, with each contributing to the learning process.

The subjects learned at yeshivah are an important part of the ongoing relationship with G-d, as well as providing essential Jewish continuity making sure Jews have a good understanding of their faith.

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Denomination of Judaism, Strict.

Believe the Torah is the actual word of G-d and therefore follow the laws exactly according to the interpretation in the Talmud. They believe that they are to preserve the traditional worship based on G-d's instructions in the Torah.

Hebrew is the sacred language Judasim and the language in which the scriptures are written so it is the language that must be used inworship to ensure that there is a correct understanding of the scriptures sent by G-d.

Men and women sit separately in Orthadox syanagogues to avoid distractions during worship as the focus of the worship must be G-d.

There are only male rabbis because they believe that G-d gave clear instructions that this role may only be undertaken by a man.

Singing in the synagogue is unaccompanied and they stand for certain prayers to show they are above animals and as devotion to G-d 

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Chazzan (Cantor)

Trained singer that leads or chants prayers in the synagogue.

This is necessary in Orthadox Synagogues as musical instruments are not used but a cantor will also lead the singing in a Reform synagogue where an organ may be used.

All that is required to become a cantor is that the person is of good moral character and has knowledge of the prayers and chants used in worship, they will have training to lead the singing.

They will chants parts of the prayers during Shabbat worship and other festivals as well as at weddings and funeral services.

They will help young people who are preparing to go through their Bar/Bat Mitzvah to learn how to chant the passages that they are to read in the ceremony.

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Food that's not Kosher or Trefah, can be eaten with meat or dairy. Eg Fruit and vegetables.

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Bet Din

Religious court made up of rabbis, there are separate Bet Din for each of the main branches of Judaism. The matters they deal with include:

  • Making valid the religious bills of divorce (the get) and helping the couple to make decisions about how the property is divided and provisions for any children.
  • Supervising conversions to Judaism ensuring all three requirements are met.
  • Resolving civil disputes over matters such as property or business, it is a legally binding arbitrator in the UK.
  • Resolving religious disputes, arbitration recognised by the Jewish community over issues related to the bringing up of children and the certification of mohelin (circumcisers).
  • Providing kosher certification to restaurants or food stores to prove they are selling genuine kosher food or that the animals are slaughtered according to Jewish dietary laws.
  • Making judgments on current issues related to medical ethics related to medical treatments or end of life issues such as abortion or euthanasia. 
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'Ours' 'Our duty' prayer found in the Siddur, recited at the end of 3 daily services and circumcision.

It reminds the congregation of the Jewish struggle to obey G-d.

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Kosher/ kashrut

'fit' or 'correct' Observed for health or hygeine reasons, an animal has a more important job than as (eg a camel) and simply because G-d instructed which foods are kosher.

Animals must be slaughtered according to shechitah and includes:

  • Cows, sheep, goats, deer
  • chicken, turkey, geese, quail
  • fish that have scales and fins eg salmon, tuna, carp, herring, cod
  • soft cheese and certain hard cheeses
  • any fruit or vegetables that are free of insects

Jews do not eat meat and dairy product together, "do not cook a goat in its mother's milk".  And there must be a gap between eating milk and meat.

Strict Jews will have separate utensils, sinks, dishwashers and other kitchen items (eg tea towels, dishcloths, chopping boards, dish drainers) for milk and meat products, the way to make a utensil kosher is to heat it or soak it for days.

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Yom Kippur

Day of atonement, follows on from G-d writing down his judgement on Rosh Hashanah, it is the sealing of the book of judgement and so is the last opportunity to appeal to G-d to change his judgement before the book is sealed.

Most see it as the most solemn day of the year as it involves reflecting on sins, fasting and asking G-d for forgiveness, others see it is a more joyful event as through it they have their sins forgiven and repair their relationship with G-d.

The atonement at Yom Kippur is atonement between Jews and G-d as between each other must have been made in the days leading up to it.  Some explain it as at-one-ment, becoming at one with G-d or others through repentance.

No work is doen on Yom Kippur and it is a time of total fasting for 25 hours, bathing, wearing leather shoes and sexual intercourse is also prohibited.

It is usual to wear white as a symbol of purity and men will wear their kittle, as sins were referred to as becoming "as white as snow".

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Seven branched candlestick.

Jews believe G-d told Moses how a menorah was to be designed and that they were to be used in places of worship, some believe it represents the burning bush G-d spoke to him through telling him return to Egypt to lead the Jews out of slavery.

A menorah with 9 branches is used at Hanukkah and is only lit at that time.

The menorah in the Temple had 7 branches to represent the 7 days of the week and was lit every evening by the priests.

The menorah in the synagogue will generally have 6 or 8 branches because an exact duplicate of the Temple's ritual items is considered improper.

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'scribe' one who writes Sefer Torah.

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Aron Hakodesh

The Holy Ark, a cupboard with doors or curtains only opened to take out the relevant scroll during worship.

The most important feature in the prayer hall as it is where the Sefer Torah is kept, when not in use during worship.

It is set in the wall facing Jerusalem where the Temple stood.

It is usually raised above steps as a reminder that G-d is above his people and they must 'go up' to the Torah because it is above humanity.

It represents the Holy of Holies in the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant which held the Ten Commandments in Moses' time.

Above the Ark there are usually 2 stone tablets with the beginning of each of the Ten Commandments written on it in Hebrew as a further reminder of the link.

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Ram's horn.

Blown in the synangogue every morning (except Shabbat) for a month to announce the coming of Rosh Hashanah.

Blown 100 times on Rosh Hashanah.

Blown to signify the end of the fast on Yom Kippur.

The Messianic Age will be announced by it being blown from the Temple Mount and the Jews will return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

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A sweet paste made out of apple, honey, cinnamon, nuts and wine.

Food on Seder Plate at Pesach.

Made to look like mortar used by the Hebrew slaves.

Sweet taste is a reminder that life now is weet compared with slavery.

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Ornaments on a Torah

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Brit Milah

Circumcision- When a baby boy is 8 days old he presented for the Brit Milah ceremony in which he is circumcised, it takes place either at the synagogue, the baby's home or a hospital and is attended by family and friends.

A chosen woman carries the baby on a cushion from his mother into the room where the invited men (including the father) are gathered. She hands him to the mohel who briefly places him on an empty chair (Elijah's chair) to symbolise the presence of the spirit of the prophet of Elijah at every circumcision. The baby is then placed on the knee of the sandek where the mohel effects the circumcision.A kiddush blessing is then said, wine is drunk with few drops being given to the baby and he is formally named, there is then a festive meal (Seudat Mitzvah) to celebrate

The definition of a Jew is any person with a Jewish mother, circumcision is a mark of the baby's Jewish status as he has received his father's blessing and become religiously ready to be entered into membership of G-d's chosen raceand is a life-long constant reminder of this. Its origins are of G-d's instructions to Abraham to confirm the covenant between them and would be a requirement for all male Jews.

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Ancient commentary on part of the scriptures.

A very descriptive account of the process that surrounded the giving of the law to Jewish people.

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Response of rabbis, code of practice.

Responses of a learned group of rabbis and experts on Halakah collected together and published so that rabbis and teachers could use them for explaining solutions to problems about Halakah.

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Consists of the first five books of the Tenakh. Often referred to as the 'Five Books of Moses'.

It is the most sacred object in Judaism and is a handwritten parchment scroll that is kept in an Ark (special cupboard) in a place of honour facing Jerusalem in synagogues.

 The word of the Torah is considered divine and timeless and therefore cannot be altered.

Orthadox Jews regard the Torah as the word of G-d revealed to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai at around 1280 BCE.

Reform Jews hold the view that the Torah was written by person(s) inspired by G-d and as such that G-d's will was revealed over time to humans gradually and so the laws developed over a period of time.

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Next 8 sections of the Tenakh after the Torah, starting with Joshua.

Often subdivided into Early Prophets (which are more historical) and Latter Prophets (which are more prophetic).

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'Writings' or 'scriptures'

Consists of the eleven remaining books of the Tenakh.

These include the five Megillot or 'scrolls' that are read as part of the celebrations and observance of festival and fast days.

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A journey made for a religious reason to a place which has some religious significance for the faith.

Anyone who makes such journey is called a pilgrim, and they are usually able to identify a special spiritual reason for visiting, often with long-lasting effects.

The Torah makes pilgrimage a duty for Jews, however over time the duty to attend has become voluntary. Without the Temple, pilgrimage became less important.

Almost all Jewish pilgrimage sites are in Israel and tend to be tombs of prophets or other great Jewish figures and vary in importance in Jewish thinking.

Since the end of WW2 concentration camps have become places of pilgrimage as they have a special meaning to many Jews who can trace their family back to discover relatives murdered there. Shrines are established at Auschwitz I and II.

Many modern Jews reject the idea of pilgrimage saying G-d cannot be found more in one place than another.

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Western (Wailing) Wall

The only remaining part of the Jewish Temple site, a large piece of wall over 2000 years old which is the only remaining part of the perimeter wall of Herod's Temple.

Jews believe that in making a pilgrimage to the Western Wall they are making a personal sacrifice in terms of time and money.

It is also a reminder of the end of history when the Messianic Age will be announced by the sounding of the shofar from the Temple Mount and Jews will return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

Jews who pilgrimage to the Western Wall get as close as they can before offering their prayers, many write messages on small slips of paper and place them in cracks in the wall in the hope that they will be answered.

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Jews value life but recognise death is a natural ending to life and part of G-d's plan which cannot be avoided.

It is expected that no Jew should die alone and it is considered to be an act of great kindness to be with a person at the moment of their death to ensure their eyes are closed.

If possible the dying person will make a final confession and recite the Shema.

In Orthadox Judaism those present and others on first hearing of the death of a loved one will follow the example of Jacob and make a small tear in their clothes. Over the heart for close family and on the right hand side of the chest for others.Reform Jews are more likely to cut a neck tie or wear a torn black ribbon.

They make a blessing to G-d: "Blessed are You, our G-d...the True Judge."

The Jews then follow a clearly set mourning period.

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To allow full expression of grief but also to gradually help a mourner get back to normal life, times for mourning are clearly set.

The most intense mourning occurs between the time of death and burial, at this time the deceased's close family are called the 'immediate mourners'.

'immediate mourners' are not required to obey any positive mitzvot but are left alone to allow them full expression of their grief. The mourning period that then follows is Shiva followed by Sheloshim.

The final period of mourning is observed only for a parent; they avoid celebrations such as parties for 11 months  and the male mourners continue to say the mourner's kaddish every day

Once this final period of mourning is over all formal mourning stops although on each anniversary of death (Yahrzeit) sons recite the mourners' kaddish, if possible make an aliyah (Torah blessing) and light a Yahrzeit candle which burns for 24 hours.

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Jews are required to bury bodies rather than cremate them as soon after death, usually within 24 hours; although some Reform Jewish funerals are delayed to allow friends and family to attend.

While the body is awaiting burial someone stays with it and candles are lit beside it, many Jewish communities have a Chevra Kaddisha to care for the body and prepare it for burial.

Funerals do not take place in a synagogue as they are regarded as a place for the living but are instead transported direct to the cemetery for burial.

During a short service psalms are read, prayers are said and a rabbi says a few words about the deceased person, the coffin is then lowered into the ground and the mourners shovel earth on top of the coffin. After offering word of comfort to the mourners, everyone then washes their hands before leaving the cemetery to symbolise leaving the death behind.

Jewish law requires a tombstone to avoid the deceased being forgotten

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Beliefs About Life After Death

There is little teaching in the Jewish holy books about life after death; the emphasis is on living correctly and that will influence what happens after death. Orthadox and Reform Jews do not agree as there is little certainty.

Early teachings in the Torah refer to joining one's ancestors upon death however over time this belief appeared to change.

  • Sheol is mentioned a number of times in the Tenakh, including the Torah, and is described as a shadowy place of darkness and silence where all souls exist without consciousness. Later on this idea of a temporary state develops and from this the idea of the soul being immortal arises.
  • The prophecies of Daniel and the Talmud look forward to a time of Resurrection, however many Jews, mainly Reformed, who reject this.
  • There is much debate about Judgement and the world to come as who qualifies to go to Gad Eden (heaven) and Gehinomin and if these are physical or spiritual places, although it is made clear it is not only for Jews
  • Some Jews believe the messiah will come and lead the golden Messianic Age when the righteous dead will be resurrected.
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The Covenant between Abraham and G-d is described as 'an everlasting covenant' (brit olam).

This describes the view that G-d will never break his covenant agreement even if from time to time they fail to fulfill their covenant obligations and break his laws. "For you are the holy people to the Lord your G-d, and the Lord has chosen you out of all peoples that are on the face of the earth."

Jews are sometimes referred to as the 'Chosen People' this description has caused some problems as this gives the impression that Jews are in some way a superior nation, however they believe they are chosen for responsibility not superiority.

Jews believe that all nations have a basic obligation to serve G-d by obeying the Noachide Covenant; established after the flood, it was 7 laws to make society more structured and civilized that have to be fulfilled to gain entry into heaven. It was the first time justice was given up to mankind.

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Shabbat is a weekly festival that is observed by Jews, it begins sunset Friday night and lasts until sunset Saturday. For Jews this is the 7th day of the week and is often referred to as the Sabbath.

Jews regard it is a day of complete rest set aside to worship and focus on G-d. They believe it is a requirement of their faith and has its origins in the creation story; this is formalised as a required practice in the Ten Commandments.

Therefore Jews believe that in observing Shabbat they are not only obeying a commandment but are also imitating G-d.

Shabbat is also an important opportunity for families to spend time resting and focusing on G-d together and also allows them to join the synagogue congregation in communal worship without work getting in the way.

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Hold the view that the Torah was written by person(s) inspired by G-d and as such believe that G-d's will was revealed to human beings gradually and therefore the laws developed over time; so it is not his direct word. For Reform Jews it is the spiritual and moral code within the Torah and Talmud that must be obeyed, not each individual law.

They try to keep as many traditions of Judaism but make it relevant to modern life. Therefore it's acceptable to to change the way in which God is worshipped as they regard Judaism as an evolving religion that  adapts to modern life.

This means Reform Jews will often travel by car to the synagogue for Sabbath worship, men and women will sit together for worship and take an active part in the service as they believe that G-d has given them equal status in worship. Most parts of a Reform service are in English and singing is often accompanied by an organ.

The service in a Reform synagogue maybe led by a woman Rabbi.

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Messianic Age

Messiah means 'anointed one' and is a reference to the future king of Israel who will be a descendant of King David that will rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age, Orthadox Jews say a prayer at the end of each morning service for his swift arrival.

The Messianic age was described by the prophet Micah as a time when war will end and all people will enjoy universal peace and harmony.

Traditional Jewish thought is that this direct descendant of David will be responsible for gathering all the Jews back to Israel and bring world peace and understanding between nations and also be responsible for rebuilding the Temple.

Orthadox Jews are obliged to accept and uphold the 13 principles of faith and included in this is the belief of the coming Messiah.

The belief of the coming Messiah has helped to sustain Jews through some of the darkest periods in history such as the Holocaust.

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Rosh Hashanah

'head of year' as it's first day of the year. Remembers the Creation Story from Genesis, considered anniversary of when G-d first created humans.  It's thought that each year on this day, G-d writes down a person's bad deeds, judges them and decides their fortune for the year, so it's known as the day of judgement.

Candles are lit before the festival begins and fruit they haven't eaten for a while is bought as part of the food (to symbolise renewal, linked to forgiveness and atonement).

The evening service focuses around G-d's kingship and the greeting is "L'shanah tovah" (For a good year). At home Kiddush is recited and apple dipped in honey is eaten (symbolising hope for a sweet year) and a fish head is sometimes eaten (symbolising the wish that good deeds will grow in number like fish).

The morning service is longer and very popular with the shofar being blown 100 times and. Tashlikh often takes place in the afternoon where families go down to a river and empty bread from their pockets to symbolise the casting off of sin.

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The birth of a child is a happy event as in the Jewish faith it is seen as fulfilling a duty to G-d as he instructed to "Be fruitful and increase in number" and helps to maintain the faith.

Traditionally a boy is formally named 8 days after his birth at circumcision and a girl by her father at the synagogue around a month after her birth.

However nowadays it is more common for them and their mother to be blessed at the synagogue on the first Shabbat after their birth with the girl being named then.

Traditionally the first born son was required to devote himself to service in the Temple but as today the Temple doesn't exist this is no longer necessary however some families (mainly Orthadox) choose to pay a small amount to a kohein (descendant of a priestly family which would have served in the Temple) in order to maintain the tradition by redeeming their son from Temple service.

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'the closing of the gates' Final service of Yom Kippur.

In ancient times the gates of the Temple would have been closed at the end of prayer, the doors of the ark are kept open to symbolise the doors of the Temple throughout the Ne'ilah service and so the congregation has to stand throughout the service.

This is seen as the last chance to make confession before the ritual is over, atonement is complete and the book of judgement is fianlly sealed.

The door of the Ark is then closed symbolising the closing of the gates of G-d's judgement.

A long blast on the shofar signals the end of the fast.

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'order' Pesach meal. The wife and mother of the house light candles to welcome the festival into the home, other members of the family visit the synagogue to offer thanks to G-d for his role in the escape of Egypt.

The Seder meal begins with the recitation of the Kiddush blessing, on the table are red wine, 3 matzot, a seder plate and a copy of the Haggadah. The first glass of red (because of the blood smeared over the doors) wine is drunk then the food on the Seder plate is then eaten.

The story of the escape from Egypt is told from the Haggadah throughout the meal, a second glass of wine is blessed and shared. After the meal the children have to find the afikomen and are given a small gift for doing so, showing the emphasis of family even on a serious occasion.

A third glass of wine is then poured and a prayer said, it's blessed then shared. A 4th and a 5th is poured with the 5th being left for Elijah who is expected to arrive to announce the coming of the Messiah and left undrunk and the door open. There is singing and psalms then the 4th glass is blessed and drunk.

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kiddushin 'sanctified' 'set aside' for each other.

Traditionally parents helped by a matchmaker (shadchan) chose a partner for their son/daughter to marry, this is still practiced by ultra Orthadox Jews who believe the shadchan is working on G-d's behalf by pairing people up for marriage.

Reform Jews tend to choose each other, often with the help of the synagogue or Jewish dating agency. Some Jews believe that, provided the match is well made,  love will during marriage and 'falling in love' doesn't have to happen before marriage.

Once a couple have decided to marry and have parental approval they become betrothed which legal status in Jewish law and can only be broken by divorce.

Traditionally the ceremony was a year before but today is usually just before, no sex is allowed during betrothal and they prepare for their lives with each other. During this time a ketubah (wedding contract) is drawn up which formally lists the husband's obligations.

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Shabbat Celebrations

Shabbat worship is the most important form of worship that takes place in the synagogue, as well as at home. It is a day of rest and no work is done from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday

The friday night observance starts with the wife/mother lighting candles and beckoning her arms over them to welcome in Shabbat a special meal is then served.

The whole family attends the saturday morning service Orthadox Jews would walk to the synagogue and restrict their journey to the synagogue and back.

The service lasts around 2 hours with the first part following the same format as other daily services of prayers and psalms. Men wear prayer shawls and cover their heads before the service begins. As they leave they wish each other 'Shabbat Shalom' meaning have a peaceful Shabbat.

At the end of Shabbat is Havdalah.

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Combination of the Mishnah and the Gemara.

There are two versions of the Talmud.

The Talmud is divided into six sections each given a name connected to their content.

Jews are encouraged to study it extensively and it is the basis of the curriculum at the Yeshivah.

The Talmud is regarded as the central feature of Orthadox Jewish life

It is viewed as the source for all Jewish legal teachings and decisions that affect every aspect of Jew's life.

However some Jews do not regard the Talmud as being so important as they find Aramaic too difficult that the debates within the Talmud are not relevant today.

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Centrality of the Torah

Simchat Torah is one of all the happiest Jewish festivals, it marks the completion of the cycle of reading the Torah with the reading of the last verses of Deuteronomy and the first verses of Genesis, it's a festive occasion marked with singing and dancing and the Torah scrolls being carried around the synagogue in a procession

This demonstrates how central the Torah is to Judaism.

They believe that without the Torah the Covenant with G-d would lack any meaning. It is so important that throughout their history thousands of Jews have lived and died by its teachings.

Jews view the Torah as the basis for every aspect of their lives.

The covenant (which is so important to Jewish life) is centered on the values of the Torah and keeping to the Torah is regarded as the basic demand of the Torah.

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'bringing together' a Jewish place of worship; can be anywhere, any shape and any size.

Many Orthadox Jews call it 'shul' meaning 'school' showing the importance of the synagogue as a place of learning more about their faith; shul is the name of the library within the synagogue where Jews can go to study their religion.

Many Reform Jews will call it the Temple as they believe it is a replacement for the Temple whilst Orthadox Jews would find that offensive as they believe when the Messiah comes the Temple will be rebuilt.

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'standing prayer' 

Said standing at all services.

Expected to clear their minds of everyday concerns and to concentrate on G-d and the blessings they have received from G-d.

They must not ask for anything during it on Shabbat.

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Days of Awe

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, seen as 2 stages in the process of judgement and atonement.

It's a 10 day period starting on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and ending on 10th Tishri (Yom Kippur).

Atonement means to restore a relationship with G-d by trying to put right wrongs against G-d and individual people.

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Yad Vashem

'yad' hand, 'shem' name, A Holocaust memorial, an archive of information including the names  and testimonies of Holocaust victims and a museum dedicated to them.

It was set up by the government in Israel and is situated on the Har Hazikaron- The Mount of Rememberance in Jerusalem.

It contains the largest collection of material and documentation connected with the Holocaust.

Many Jews go and hope to find out a little bit more about members of their family who died in the Holocaust from this archive.

There is a Hall of Names remembering each victim by name, not just number.

Most Jews who visit pay tribut not only to family members but also fellow members of their faith as the idea of community is very strong but it is up to debate whether it is a pilgrimage visiting Yad Vashem.

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'dome' A.k.a. carpel or yarmulkhah which translates as 'in awe of the Lord'.

It is a small, slightly rounded brimless skull cap worn by Jewish men and some Reform Jewish women.

Orthadox Jews wear it continually whereas other Jews may only wear it during prayers, Torah studying and eating.

They believe they are obeying an instruction in the Talmud, by wearing the kippah Jews are showing their submission to G-d and are reminded that G-d is always above them.

It is also acts as an outward sign the person is a Jew and that they accept the 613 laws from G-d.

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Orthadox Dress

Whatever Jewish men and women wear it must be modest, although what is considered as modest varies between communities.

In Israel there are rules about the thickness of a woman's stockings length of earrings and length of skirt.

Orthadox men will often wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts whilst some very Orthadox won't wear shorts or T-shirts, have beards and long side locks as outward sign of their Jewish faith.

Some believe married women should cover their hair in public and it is usual for all Orthadox woman to cover their heads when attending the synagogue.

It is forbidden to mix wool and linen, this prohibition is called shatnetz. Although they are unsure why this is.

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Jewish Laws in 21st Century

Some of the rules today are impractical or out dated in the 21st century, some of the punishment required in the Torah and Talmud would seem barbaric to people living in the UK, living in a non-Jewish community can make it hard to keep laws.

A committed Jew would agree it is difficult but not impossible and that the effort involved is another way to show devotion and obedience to G-d.

Deciding whether laws are outdated depends very much on the interpretation of Halakhah.

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5th Commandment: "Honour your father and your mother," is a key teaching which shows the importance of family in Judaism. Although there is nothing from parents to child, if Jewish parents are following the faith as G-d intends there would be no question that they would love, respect and care for their children anyway. This extends to bringing them up within the Jewish faith and nurturing not only their physical development but also their spiritual development.

For thousands of years Jewish families have been all inclusive, extended to aunts, grandparents... But with rising divorces this is becoming more challenging. Both the home and synagogue inspire a sense of community which provides security and trust. A home isn't considered complete without children.

Traditionally the mother and father have distinct roles. The father should provide religious and financial support and study the Torah (with children) whilst the mother ensures the home is kosher, prepares for Shabbat and teach daughters.

Jewish couples are allowed to use fertility treatment as long as it couldn't be interpreted as adultery or could harm the child's biological and religious identity.

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The bride approaches and circles the groom.  They then recite 2 blessing over wine, the first a standard blessing, the second related specifically to marriage. 

The rings are exchanged and the ketubah is read then presented to the bride.

While the couple are stood under the chuppah they recite 7 blessings along with the rabbi. Who will then make a short speech about the couple before blessing them in front of the congregation. A song of seven blessings is sung towards the end of the service.

The final act of the service is usually the groom breaking a glass under his heel to symbolise the destruction of the Temple, their regret this couldn't take place their, that in life there is great sadness as well as great happiness and the taking of the bride's virginity. The congregation then shout "mazel tof" (meaning good fortune).

Finally they spend a few minutes alone in a private room, yikhud (seclusion) to symbolise their new status as husband and wife. 

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Traditionally Judaism has given different roles to men and women, the role of man was to be responsible for roles outside the home and to provide what his wife needed to fulfill her role within the home. Her roles included caring for and bringing up children in a home that reflected their faith; this was seen as important as children are the next generation and gain their Jewish identity from their mother.

Many Orthadox Jews live this traditional way as they believe it allows more room for spiritual growth and some women prefer the idea of homemaker to working.

Reform Jews do not promote separation between men and women although mainy women still choose to fulfill their traditional roles.

These different views are reflected in the seating in the synagogue, the opportunity to become rabbis and the popularity of Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.

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Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice: unfairly judging someone before the facts are known. Discrimination: to act against someone (usually negatively) on the basis of these prejudices.

Causes: Fear (feeling scared or intimidated by someone), victim (been attacked by a person from that race), ignorance (do not understand the group), upbringing (racist attitudes at home), envy (Jews were historically rich), scapegoating (minority groups unfairly blamed for problems), stereotyping (saying all members are like one bad member). Jews have been victims to some of the greatest acts of prejudice the world has ever seen, such as World War 2 and the Holocaust ('shoah' meaning whirlwind).

There are several refernces in the Torah making it quite clear Jews should not treat people in a way that discriminates against them. These show G-d expects Jewish people to deal fairly with everybody and treat them as they treat themselves and their families. "When an alien (non-Hebrew) lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him...Love him as yourself."

JCORE (Jewish Council for Racial Equality) tries to combat racial discrimination

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Attitudes to Suffering

Suffering originates with the disobedience of Adam and Eve when they ate they apple, their punishment was suffering throughout their lives. In the ketuvim, Job is a biography of a man who underwent a great deal of suffering as G-d proved his strength of faith to Satan. Jews do not take these stories literally but use it to explain why suffering exists.

Vicarious suffering is suffering on the behalf of someone else.

Rabbis responsible for the Talmud explained that suffering:

  • is a way of cleansing people from sin.
  • encourages people to reflect on what they have done wrong.
  • helps people to realise the need for repentance to bring them back to G-d.
  • is a way of G-d testing the righteous.
  • may be a result of sins of the generation not the individual.
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Shabbat Services

The whole family attends the Saturday morning service in the synagogue, men wear prayer shawls and cover their heads before the service begins. It last around 2 hours and the first part follows the same format as other daily services of prayers and psalms.

The Amidah is then offered by the congregation in silence as they stand facing the ark and Jerusalem. Two members of the congregation then go to the Ark and take out the Torah scrolls and then the Shema is said. The Torah is carried around the synagogue in a procession to the bimah.

A section of the Torah is chanted in Hebrew with it being returned to the ark when it is finished. Then the rabbi will deliver a sermon in English (even Orthadox). The service ends with the Aleninu then the Kaddish and some prayers for the ruler of the country and the state of Israel. The famous Jewish hymn Adon Olam (Master of the World) that praises G-d, is then sung.

Shabbat ends with Havdalah.

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Miss KHP


Fantastic set of definitions specific to AQA but can be used for other exam boards if you are studying Judaism in as much detail as this.

Why not print them out and make revision cards out of them?

You can even test youself on here to check your progress.

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