Since Jewish religion goes back thousands of years, it is natural that there are numerous customs and traditions that are practiced today. As you can expect, some of them got lost in time, others came and took their place. Nowadays, there are multiple ceremonial items that are not only used during rituals, but people also collect those hand-crafted objects. In the following article, we have gathered a list of some items that we are going to introduce you to.
First of all, we are going to start with Mezuzah. In Biblical Hebrew, this word literally means ‘doorpost’ which is why today people place it on the right side of the doorpost of their homes. It consists of two parts – a case that holds a special scroll called klaf. When it comes to the case, its main purpose is to protect the parchment, so it is not always necessary to have one. Due to this, it can be made out of different materials, but the most common ones are metal, plastic, ceramic, and wood. This case can be made by a house member, but however, the parchment cannot.
Firstly, it has to be written on kosher animal parchment. Secondly, it cannot be printed, but instead, the verses are hand-written. Creating it is a delicate process since there cannot be any kind of flaws or damages. In addition, each letter must be designed perfectly. Also, only one side of this parchment is inscribed, while the other contains a single word – ‘Sha-dai’. It is not only one of the G-d’s names, but it is also an acronym for ‘Shomeer daltot Yisrael’ which means “Guardian of the doorway of Israel”.
Furthermore, another item you as surely familiar with is the Hanukkah menorah. This is another item that every Jewish household possesses and that is used during the celebration of Hanukkah. It is a nine-branched candelabrum which is lit during the eight-day holiday (one of the candles is called ‘servant’ and it is used to light the remaining eight). So what is the story behind this? Well, around 2000 years ago, Greeks came into power of the Land of Israel and they tried to force upon Jews their Hellenistic rituals. When Jews managed to defend their land and win back the Holy Temple, they wished to light the candelabrum. However, they discovered that there was enough oil to last for a single night. Still, the flame lasted for eight days and nights, which is why nowadays, Hanukkah menorahs include eight candles plus an additional one. When it comes to the materials used, the menorah can be made out of any material that is fire-safe. You should also try not to confuse the Hanukkah Menorah with the Temple Menorah. The former one has nine branches, it is lit outside, after the sunset and let burn into the night. On the other hand, the latter one had seven and it was mainly made out of gold, and it was lit inside, during the daytime.
Kiddush cup is another artifact that has become a symbol of the Jewish Sabbath. People celebrate it on a Saturday with numerous ceremonies. Some go to the synagogue, many eat challah (a special bread), but most of them perform the ritual called Kiddush. This is a simple prayer or a blessing that is usually recited by the head of the household on both Friday evening and on Saturday. The ritual includes a cup that holds wine or grape juice. Since these have become an integral part of Jewish tradition, they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The only requirement is that it is different from ordinary cups, which is why they usually include specific and unique designs. The traditional Kiddush cup is a silver goblet with a base and steam that elevates it.
Another item that is used during the celebration of Sabbath is a challah cover. As already mentioned, people prepare and eat special loaves of bread that are covered with this cloth. Before the holiday meal begins, the bread is covered with this cloth until it is blessed with the wine from the Kiddush cup. Again, these can be made of any kind of materials or paper and the only requirement is that it is not transparent and that it is big enough to cover the entire loaf i.e. the bread cannot be seen from any side. They can be hand-made or store-bought. When it comes to design, there are numerous options. They can be embroidered, painted or include an inscription.
While on the subject of Sabbath, we have to mention another ceremony that concludes it and marks the beginning of a new week. This ritual is called Havdalah which literally means ‘separation’ in Hebrew. It again includes the blessing of a wine cup, a special candle called “Havdalah candle” that has multiple wicks, and the smelling of ‘besamim’ – herbs, fruit or spices. This ceremony is performed on a Saturday night after the three stars have appeared in the night sky. The lighting of the candle symbolizes the moment Adam created the light (fire) from rubbing two flint stones together after the world was overtaken by darkness because Eve had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. During the ceremony, people look at the reflection of the light in their fingernails.
Finally, we are going to mention the Matzah Cloth. During the meal which celebrates the Passover, flat crispbread is served and it is usually covered with the Matzah Cloth. It symbolizes the bread people had time to make before the night they escaped from Egypt. Since Jews only eat this type of bread during the seven or eight days of the holiday, they use a special clover or this cloth to cover it and to ensure it stays fresh. If you want to, you can make this cover from scratch with your kids. You can sew it and create three pockets that hold the prices, or on the other hand, if you are not a crafty person, you can purchase a simple cloth in a store.
To sum up, in this article we have discussed several items that are used during different Jewish ceremonies and holidays. As you can see, they are not only all equally important, but also each one of them has a unique significance and purpose. In case you want to find more items such as tefillin, make sure you visit this website.