From the ketubah to the chuppah, here's everything you need to know about the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony.
Jewish Life Events
In addition to the holidays and festivals and days of remembrance and mourning that Jews celebrate and commemorate every year, Jews also mark certain occasions in life – from birth to death – by uniting ( in happiness or sadness) as a community.
These life-cycle events include the circumcision of Jewish boys after birth, the Pidyon Haben, or redemption of the firstborn son, and baby-naming ceremonies for Jewish girls – all joyous events that bring family and friends together and serve as the first link between these children and the Jewish people.
Once these children have matured to age 12 or 13, they become full-fledged adult members of the tribe, by becoming bar or bat mitzvah. This means that Jewish religious rights and privileges are extended to them and they can no longer rely on their parents to take responsibility for their Jewish observance.
The next great event in the Jewish life-cycle is marriage, or choosing to leave the parental home to begin a new life together as a couple. This is symbolized by the signing of the ketubah, or the Jewish wedding contract, and a ceremony under a chuppah, the wedding canopy.
Of course, no life cycle is complete without death. Just as cheerful events are celebrated in Judaism by coming together, so too loss provides an occasion to unite. Jewish law and practice both honor the deceased and show concern for the well-being of those in mourning.
All of these Jewish life-cycle events are discussed in greater depth in the articles below.
Traditionally written in Aramaic, the ketubah details the groom's obligations toward his future wife.
Ancient Hebrews habitually married strangers, the bible shows; but the embrace evolved into fervid bans - until the modern day.
Procreation is considered the first commandment given by God and is thus of supreme importance to observant Jews.
Abraham was commanded to undergo circumcision (brit milah) at age 99; a majority of Jewish males since then have been circumcised at eight days old.
In this ancient tradition, a Jewish firstborn son is 'redeemed' from the hands of a priest (Cohen) using silver coins.
One of the oldest Jewish jokes is about the 13-year-old boy who takes the podium at the front of his synagogue to recite his bar mitzvah speech. 'Today I am a fountain pen,' he says.*
Judaism places great emphasis on honoring the dead and has ritualized the ceremony and the mourning rites, with only slight differences between communities.
Jews have been dying ever since there were Jews, but how they are buried has vastly changed through the millennia.
From dark netherworld populated by ghosts to reincarnation to multiple souls: The Jewish concept of the afterlife has been to hell and back.
Jewish religion and beliefs
The first ten of the 613 commandments given by God to the Jewish people form the foundation of Jewish ethics, as well as civil and religious law.
The word 'Jew' originates with the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah, but what its name means is a matter of great controversy. It could even mean 'Thank God'.
Generally, Conservative Judaism is egalitarian in its approach to both rights and religious obligations, is opposed to intermarriage, and believes in traditional Sabbath observance.