There are around 14 million Jewish people in the world, a number that is expected to reach 16 million by 2050. Judaism is the world’s oldest religion, dating back nearly 4000 years so you can imagine that there are plenty of fascinating and incredible traditions.
Some of these Jewish traditions are well-known, such as Hanukkah and Bar Mitzvahs, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps you’ve recently converted to Judaism, or you’re simply interested in knowing more about Judaism. If so, continue reading for six incredible Jewish traditions that you should know about.
This is the Jewish day of rest and happens each week from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday. It is a time to reflect on the story of creation, when God created the world in six days, taking time to rest on the 7th.
Jewish families may choose to celebrate or observe Shabbat in different ways. Some may light candles and say a blessing upon opening and closing of Shabbat. Others may choose to disconnect from cellphones and other tech devices for the entire 24 hours.
Jews should not do any work on Shabbat, so it goes without saying that household chores have to wait until Sunday. This means that all your chores and food preparation has to occur before sunset on Friday.
2. Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah
The coming of age ceremony is incredibly important in Jewish beliefs. This takes place when a boy turns 13 and a girl turns 12. The male celebration is a Bar Mitzvah and the female ceremony is a Bat Mitzvah.
The honoree will take part in a number of old and respected traditions during the ceremony, such as being called up to the Torah to say the blessings and recite some of the Prophet’s writings.
After the traditional ceremony, there will usually be a huge celebration and reception, much like a big birthday party. There is a loose dress code (modest dresses for women and kippahs for men) and other customs such as speech giving and passing out candy.
3. Kashrut – Keeping Kosher
The Jewish religion sets out certain laws and practices concerning food. These rules are extensive. However, they include restricted animals which Jews may not eat and these animals include pigs and prawns.
But kashrut isn’t just about what Jews can and can’t eat, it also concerns the killing of animals and the preparation of food.
Orthodox Jews who have the means will often have two separate kitchens in order to keep kosher. This is because dairy and meat shouldn’t come into contact, and utensils may not crossover in preparation for the two.
The most unique kosher rule is that Jews cannot consume any grape products made by non-Jews. The extent to which these kosher rules are followed differs from person to person. However, typically Jewish people will not consume pork or prawns.
Hanukkah is one of the most well-known Jewish customs and is often used as a parallel to Christmas festivities in pop culture. This celebration takes place over eight days and usually takes place in November or December.
It is a moveable feast, meaning it doesn’t have a fixed date on the Roman calendar but falls on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.
There are plenty of traditions and customs surrounding this celebration. The center of the celebration is the lighting of a nine-branched menorah.
On each evening of the holiday, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. Blessings are recited during the ritual while lighting the candles. The menorah is then displayed in the window.
5. Jewish Wedding Traditions
There are plenty of unique Jewish customs observed and performed during wedding ceremonies. For example, at orthodox Jewish weddings, men and women will sit separately at the ceremony.
If you’re bringing a gift to a Jewish wedding, it should be money in increments of $18, symbolizing Chai (life).
The ketubah is the Jewish marriage contract. It’s a document that outlines the groom’s responsibilities to his future wife. This ketubah is signed by the bride and groom and read to the guests later in the ceremony.
It is a beautiful document that is treasured in Jewish ceremonies. Choosing a ketubah design for your wedding should be done with consideration to ensure it’s perfect.
6. Mourning and Burial Traditions
There are some incredibly fascinating Jewish practices surrounding the passing of a loved one. Typically, open caskets and cremation are unacceptable in the Jewish religion. According to tradition, the deceased should be buried in a simple wooden casket without metal parts.
The initial morning period is called Shiva and lasts for seven days. During this time the doors to the homes of the family members of the deceased will remain unlocked or open. This is because everyone is invited to comfort the mourners.
If you are visiting a Jewish family during Shiva to pay your respects, you will not knock or ring the bell — simply walk in.
During Shiva, mirrors in the house are covered up and the female mourners will not wear makeup while the male mourners won’t shave.
Respecting Jewish Traditions
Which of these Jewish traditions have you heard about before and which do you find surprising? It’s important to understand different traditions, whether you are Jewish or not. This way you can respect those around you by observing the correct customs and practices.
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