Learn Hebrew Today!
Hebrew Lesson 1
(Right Click, Save As)
(Try for Free)
(Try for Free)
מעגל החיים היהודי
ma-a-gal ha-ha-yim ha-ye-hoo-di
Jewish Life Cycle
The Jewish life cycle events are rites of passage that are weaved throughout the life span. They serve to strengthen the individual Jewish identity and bind them to the larger Jewish community.
Ceremony / ritual te-kes טקס
Traditional custom min-hag מנהג
Good deeds / religious obligation mits-va מצווה
613 laws of the Torah that are derived from Judaism's classical Torah and rabbinic texts.
Brit milah brit mi-la ברית מילה
Male babies get circumcised on their eighth day of life. They also are given their names, sometimes after a recently deceased relative. Fathers of newborn boys are called forward at the synagogue on the first Sabbath after the birth, to recite the aliyah and ask blessings for the health of mother and child. Baby girls will be named at this time but boys will be named on their Brit Milah.
Circumcizer / mohel mo-hel (male) מוהל
A mohel is a Jewish person trained in religious and medical fields to practice circumcision. All types of Judaism except for Orthodox Judaism allow females to be a mohelet מוהלת.
Brita / zeved habat bri-ta בריתה / זבד הבת
Brita is a Jewish naming ceremony for newborn girls. A new tradition that started in the 20th century is a ceremony for welcoming baby girls into Judaism. It has a couple of names: Simchat Bat (celebration of the daughter), Brit Bat, Zeved habit or Brita. It is usually celebrated within the first month of the birth at a synagogue or at a party at home. The mother gives thanks for the birth of the new girl by reciting Birkat hagomel. She also recites from the Song of Songs and announces the new girls’ name.
Bar mitzvah bar mitz-va (male) בר מצווה
The Bar mitzvah (son of the commandment) ceremony marks the passage from childhood to adulthood. It takes place when a boy is thirteen years old. In the Orthodox tradition, only boys lead the congregation in prayer and reading of a "portion" of the Torah. From this age, the children are responsible for their own observation of the Jewish ritual law such as moral responsibility for own actions, and must follow the 613 laws of the Torah. Secular Jewish tradition is to research and present a paper on a Jewish topic that interests them and relates to the Jewish part of their identities. They are also eligible for the privileges such as: reading from the Torah and participate in a Minyan, may possess personal property, and may be legally married according to Jewish law. After the service many families celebrate with a big party with family, friends, and members of the community. Traditional gifts include religious or educational books, savings bonds for college education, and cash in multiples of 18 (in gematria, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for life – chai).
Bat mitzvah bat mitz-va (fem.) בת מצווה
The Bat mitzvah (daughter of the commandment) ceremony marks the passage from childhood to adulthood. It takes place when a girl is twelve in the Orthodox tradition and at age thirteen in the Reform tradition. The girls become responsible for their actions by observing the Jewish ritual law such as moral responsibility for owns actions, and the following of the 613 laws of the Torah. In the Orthodox tradition girls can’t read from the Torah and participate in a Minyan. A Bat Mitzvah in the non-Orthodox congregations can be similar to a Bar Mitzvah including reading the Haftarah portion of the Torah and giving a d'var Torah, a discussion of that week's Torah portion.
Tallit (Jewish praying shawl) ta-lit טלית
Tallit is a Jewish four-cornered shawl that is worn while praying. It has tzitzit (fringes) on each of its four corners. The tzitzit is worn as a reminder of the 613 commandments. The tallit is often used in Jewish wedding ceremonies as a wedding canopy (chuppah). The tallit is usually worn over the shoulders, but some cover their head with it.
Yarmulke kee-pa כיפה
Yarmulke, from Yiddish, is a Jewish head covering. In the eastern cultures it is a sign of respect to cover the head during prayer.
Tefillin tfi-lin תפילין
Tefillin are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, with black leather straps. They are worn on the hand and forehead by observant Jews who follow this commandment. Wearing Tefillin while praying is a commandment that boys start to obey when they are close to their thirteenth birthday.
Rabbi rav (male) רב
A Rabbi is a religious teacher with duties that include sermons, pastoral counseling, and Jewish representative to the larger community. All non- Orthodox Jewish denominations ordain women as rabbis and cantors. A female will be called Rabanit רבנית. The Hebrew root word רַב (rav) means great. Semicha is the rabbinic ordination process of the Jewish law codes that each person needs to complete in order to be a Rabbi. The Reform movement requires students to have a bachelor's degree and know basic Hebrew before entering its rabbinical seminaries. The students learn psychology, history of Judaism, academic biblical criticism and have practical rabbinic experience in congregations.
Wedding ha-too-na חתונה
A Jewish wedding takes place under a chuppah (wedding canopy), symbolizing a happy home. The groom gives the bride a ring, and then breaks a glass by stepping on it to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. In many modern weddings the bride also gives the groom a wedding ring. After the groom brakes the cup the guests shout "Mazel tov!" (Good luck). The Sheva Brachot are seven blessings that are recited by the rabbi. The groom drinks from a wine cup during these blessings and give the cup also to the bride to drink the wine. A ketuba (marriage contract) is signed by two witnesses before the wedding ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the new couple retreats to be alone together (yichud). After the service many families celebrate with a big party with family, friends, and members of the community. It is customary for the guests to dance with the couple carried in the air in chairs, sometimes holding onto a napkin together to symbolize unity.
Bride and Groom ka-la ve-ha-tan כלה וחתן
Marriage and Chuppah (canopy) ni-soo-een ve-hoo-pa נישואין וחופה
The actual ceremony of the marriage.
A wedding takes place under a chuppah (wedding canopy), symbolizing a happy home.
Ketubah (marriage contract) ktoo-ba כתובה
The ketubah is a marriage contract that is signed in the presence of two witnesses before the wedding. It details the husband's material obligations to his wife. It is a legally binding agreement that is read under the Chuppah and later framed and displayed in the couple’s home.
Shiva (seven days of mourning) shiv-a שבעה
Jewish mourning (avelut) אֲבֵלוּת traditions help the family during the bereavement period. The Shiva (seven) is a weeklong custom of sitting at home and being comforted by friends and family for the loss of a loved one. During a Shiva visitors pray together with the family and prepare them meals. There is a custom of tearing a small tear in one’s clothing as a sign of sadness at the news of a close family relation's death. The Shloshim is the thirtieth day following burial when mourners are forbidden to marry, attend any festivities and men do not shave or get haircuts.
Kevura (burial) kvoo-ra קבורה
The Chevra Kadisha חברה קדישא (holy group) usually prepare the deceased for a Jewish burial in Jewish cemetery plots. The burial takeד place as soon as possible In Jerusalem it's on the same day. Kaddish קדיש is mourner's prayer that is recited at all prayer services at funerals and memorials. The family commemorates the dead by visiting the grave. When visiting Jewish graves it is customary to put a small stone at the graveside.