Traditional Jewish ceremonies

Baby naming ceremonies

Every individual is born different. They say that no two individuals are alike, twins may look identical, but not everything about them is the same. But what’s special and unique about each and every one of us, is our names. One of the most exciting times for a parent is naming their babies. In the Jewish tradition, baby girls go through a zeved habat, while baby boys undergo brit milah. The girls undergo their ceremony at the first Shabbat following their birth, while boys are circumcised and named on the eighth day after their birth as part of their circumcision ceremony.

Zeved habat (The gift of the girl)

The Zeved HaBat is a ritual that originated in Sephardic and Italian Jewish customs from the seventeenth century. The ceremony is derived from the Hebrew verse in Genesis 30:20 in which Leah has already given birth to Zebulon, and preceding the birth of her daughter Dinah. Leah says, “Zevadani Elohim Oti Zeved Tov (God has granted me a gift).”

Brit milah (fundamental sign of the covenant between God and the Israelites)

And God spoke to Abraham saying: …This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you and thy seed after you -every male child among you shall be circumcised.” (Gen. 17:12)

One of the most important celebrations in Jewish tradition is the naming ceremony. Its purpose is not only to present the new born to the community, but it also ensures that child that he/she is part of something important, something great. Those present in the ceremony, place the child under the protection and show their support and commitment to the physical and spiritual well being of the child.

Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah = son of the commandment.
Bar=son   Mitzvah= commandment

Bat Mitzvah = daughter of the commandment.

Bar is for boys. Bat is for girls. The plural is B’nai.

According to Jewish law, when Jewish children reach a certain age, (13 years old for boys and 12 years old for girls), it’s the beginning of their becoming of age and is already responsible for their actions. Although, under the same law, children are not required to follow the commandments, but they are encouraged to do so as much as possible to learn the responsibilities they will have as adults.

Whoever becomes Bar or Bat Mitzvah has the responsibilities of an adult Jew under the Jewish law

responsibility for his/her own actions

Has the Right to be called to read from the Torah (The first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) and participate in a Minyan (Minyan  in Judaism refers to the quorum of ten male Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations)

May have the right to possess personal property

May be married

Must follow the 613 laws of the Torah

Must follow certain rules that are not observed before.


Confirmation is a somewhat less popular coming of age ceremony when a child turns 16 or 18. Confirmation was developed by the Reform movement, (One of the major movements of Judaism, believing that Jewish law was inspired by God and one can choose which laws to follow) which criticized the idea that a 13 year old child was an adult. They replaced bar and bat mitzvah with a confirmation ceremony at the age of 16 or 18. But due to the popularity of the bar or bat mitzvah, the movement has no choice but to revived the practice.

Wedding ceremonies

Signing of the marriage contract

Before the wedding, the marriage contract (ketubah) is signed with two witnesses present. It symbolizes the obligations of the husband to his wife, like food, clothing and marital relations.

Covering of the face

Covering of the face is a traditional practice in a jewfish wedding. The groom accompanied by family and friends, goes the room of the bride and places a veil over her face. The covering is removed after the ceremony. The veiling ritual is known in Yiddish as “badeken”

Under the Chupah

The wedding takes place under a canopy symbolic of their moving into their new home starting together as husband and wife.

The Kiddushin ceremony

This symbolizes the sanctification and dedication of the man and woman to each other and a cup of wine is used for a special betrothal blessing from which the husband and wife drinks.

The Nisuin ceremony

A second cup of wine is poured and the seven blessings are recited by friends or families chosen by the couple.

The blessing

Seven blessings are usually recited by reading or chanting by the selected members of the bridal party who are called up individually.

Breaking the glass

After the couple drinks from the second cup, the groom breaks the glass with his right foot. (Others use light bulb because the glass is thinner) This custom was also incorporated into the ceremony to remind everyone that even at the height of one’s personal joy, we must, nevertheless, remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The 7 Jewish wedding blessing

These Blessings are very important part of a traditional Jewish wedding celebration. The 7 blessings were taken and adapted from ancient rabbinic teachings, it starts with the blessing said with a goblet of wine, and ending with the traditional breaking of a glass to remember that even during the happiest moments of  their life, they must remember and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple.(the  book of psalms): I do not raise you above the height of my joyous occasions, in the midst of our greatest `joy we must always remember that God’s kingdom is not complete until the Holy Temple is rebuilt. After the breaking of the glass,( in some weddings they use light bulbs because it’s easier to break) the guests shouts “Mazel tov”(good luck)

In many ceremonies the prayers are read or chanted in both Hebrew and English. The blessing may be recited by different people selected by the Kallah (bride) and Chatan (groom). Often times, some couples ask friends and love ones to read the blessings, or may ask all the guests to read the blessings from a wedding program.

1)   Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, SheHakol Barah Lichvodo

Blessed are you, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has created everything for your glory.

2)   Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Yotzer Ha’Adam

Blessed are you, our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.

3)   Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Asher Yatzar Et Ha’Adam Betzalmo, b’Tzelem Dmut Tavnito, VeHitkon Lo Mimenu Binyan Adei Ad. Baruch Ata HaShem Yotzer Ha’Adam

Blessed are you, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are you, Creator of Human Beings.

4)   Sos Tasis VeTagel HaAkarah, BeKibbutz Bane’ha Letocha BeSimchaa. Baruch Ata HaShem, Mesame’ach Tzion BeVaneha

Let the barren city be jubilantly happy and joyful at her joyous reunion with her children.  You are blessed, Lord, who makes Zion rejoice with her children.

5)   Sameach TeSamach Re’im Ahuvim, KeSamechacha Yetzircha BeGan Eden MiKedem. Baruch Ata HaShem, MeSame’ach Chatan VeKalah

Let the loving couple be very happy, just as you made your creation happy in the garden of Eden, so long ago.  You are blessed, Lord, who makes the groom and the bride happy.

6)   Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Asher Barah Sasson VeSimcha, Chatan VeKalah, Gila Rina, Ditza VeChedva, Ahava VeAchava, VeShalom VeRe’ut. MeHera  HaShem Elokeinu Yishama BeArei Yehudah U’Vchutzot Yerushalayim, Kol Sasson V’eKol Simcha, Kol Chatan V’eKol Kalah, Kol Mitzhalot Chatanim MeChupatam, U’Nearim Mimishte Neginatam.  Baruch Ata HaShem MeSame’ach Chatan Im Hakalah.

You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, groom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship.  May there soon be heard, Lord our God, in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of grooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts of song.  You are blessed, Lord, who makes the groom and the bride rejoice together.

7)   Baruch Ata HaShem Elokainu Melech HaOlam, Boreh Pri HaGafen.

Blessed are You Hashem our God King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Unveiling ceremony

Matzevah (Unveiling of the tombstone) A headstone is known as a matzevah. There are varying customs about when it should be placed at the head of the grave. Most communities have an unveiling ceremony 1 year after the death. Some communities do the unveiling even after a week from the burial. In Israel it is done after the “sheloshim”, (the first thirty days of mourning). There is no restriction about when the unveiling is going to held, other than, the unveiling cannot be held during certain periods like the Passover.

At the end of the ceremony, a cloth or shroud covering that has been placed on the headstone is removed, customarily by close family members. Part of an old Jewish tradition is bringing a bag full of stones in the gravesite. This symbolizes the visitation of the gravesite to reminisce the memory of the loved one.

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