Learn about rituals of Judaism and their meanings. Such rituals have long been a cornerstone of the Jewish faith and are as important today as they have always been.
Rituals of Judaism: A History of Tradition
The Jewish faith is rich with history and tradition. This includes many rituals of Judaism that are as important to the faith and its followers as are the Holy Books.
Each ritual of Judaism is full of symbolism and special meaning. While the details of many of the rituals have changed over the years, the basic meanings have stayed the same.
Rituals of Judaism: In the Home and Synagogue
In some religions, most or all of the important rituals will take place in the house of worship or specified holy place. With rituals of Judaism, there are rituals that take place at the home as well as in the synagogue. The section below offers examples of rituals, including those that may take place in the home.
Examples of Important Rituals of Judaism
With so many rituals that are important to the Jewish faith, it is not possible to assign a hierarchy in which some are deemed more or less important than others. To the Jewish people, each ritual has an important place in their life and in their faith.
- Circumcision: The circumcision of infant males, called Brit milah in Hebrew, is one of the rituals that is practiced across all forms of Judaism. This ritual is mandatory to the Jewish faith and was traditionally performed by the father of the baby. Today, almost all Jewish circumcisions are performed by a mohel. This is a person who has been trained to perform circumcisions and is usually either a doctor or a rabbi.
- Bar Mitzvah: Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah and B’nai Mitzvah are coming of age rituals within the Jewish faith. Bar Mitzvahs are for sons, Bat Mitzvahs are for daughters and B’nai Mitzvahs are for more than one person, such as for two sons. This is the ritual at which the young person becomes accountable for their own actions. They may also now lead prayers. Traditionally, this would be the time when the young girls would be eligible for marriage and the men could own property.During the celebration, the young person will read from the Torah and lead the service. The exception is in Orthodox circles where the girls will not be permitted to lead the service.These services are usually followed by a celebration, such as a party or a special dinner.
- Mikveh: Mikveh is the ritual of Judaism in which followers are fully immersed in a pool of water to instill purity. Traditionally, the water had to be “living water”, for example a flowing stream. Today, it is more common to have a special bath in the synagogue that is used for this purpose. There are many reasons that one would participate in Mikveh including to gain purity after childbirth or menstruation, on the wedding day (men and women) or when converting to Judaism (men and women). Mikveh is also used to cleanse eating utensils that have been acquired from non-Jews.
- Shabbat: Shabbat is an example of a Jewish ritual that takes place at home. Shabbat, which means Sabbath, takes place on Friday. The ritual includes the lighting of candles, reciting special blessings and readings. Typically, there is a special meal during which the entire family comes together.
Rituals of Judaism: Changes throughout the Years
As is the case in most religious rituals, there have been many changes over time. Still, the details of how the rituals are performed are far less important than the meaning behind them.