JEWISH LIFE CYCLE
BIRTH TO DEATH AND AFTER DEATH LIFE CYCLE
Jewish rituals mark significant stages in the life of each individual, but also his or her family and the entire community. Rituals often mark the transition between phases.
Although a human soul exists even before birth a human life begins with birth, namely from the moment when, during giving birth, the majority of a baby’s body or his/her head pokes from the mother, according to the Jewish religious law (Halacha).
Judaism discards completely the “original sin” and it considers that a child is born pure, entirely free from sin. According to Jewish religious laws a caesarian section as well as any other procedure to save the life of a mother or baby is permitted. Medically supported fertility is permitted.
NAMING OF A CHILD
During a Jewish ritual, call to read Torah (Aliya Torah) or when writing a Ketubah (marriage contract) or speaking certain prayers, for example, a person formally uses his/her Jewish name.
A daughter will be named when her father calls and reads the Torah for the first time after she is born.
A son will be named during the circumcision ritual ceremony (Brit Milah).
The general form of a Jewish name for a male is: ,male name BEN (son) name of father" and for female: ,female name BAT (daughter) name of father". There is not any formal religious requirement that a name should be in Hebrew. It may be in Yiddish.
A name itself has no specific religious significance. Ashkenazi traditionally name a child after a recently passed member of the close family, partly to pay respect to that person and partly due to superstition in case of giving the names of alive persons. Children should not be named after their father. It is not unusual to name a child after his father or a cuisine still alive with Sephardim.
In Jewish religion rituals begin with the very birth, namely with Brit Milah for boys and Simchat Bat for girls.
Brit Milah, or as the Ashkenazi pronounce it Bris Mila, is the circumcising ritual of a baby boy on the eighth day after his birth and it is dated from around 3700-4000 years and G-d’s covenant with Abraham. The word Brit means a covenant, while the word Milah means circumcision. Circumcision (Brit Milah) is an indication that a child is Jewish.
Circumcision is usually practised in the family home or synagogue on the eighth day after birth, provided the baby is healthy. It can also be carried out at a hospital. Brit Mila (circumcision) should be done by a medically controlled expert named Mohel.
Brit Milah is an outside physical sign of eternal G-d’s covenant with Jewish people, but it also became an integral part of Jewish tradition and heritage and, hence, this ritual is made by absolute majority of Jews regardless if they are religious or not.
Simchat Bat is a celebration of the birth of a little girl. The word "Simchat" means celebration and the word "Bat" girl and, therefore, the term "Simchat Bat" can be translated as a ,, celebration of the daughter".
This ceremony is comparatively more recent and it is concentrated in the blessing of a little girl and the explanation of the name her parents have chosen. It may take place in the synagogue or in an ceremonial house.
Pidyon Haben stands for the redemption of an elder son. Jewish law and tradition state that all firstborns and the best in general belong to G-d. This is a fact with firstborn as well. Originally, according to the Torah, the first-born should be priests and staff within the "Tabernacle". However, after the «Golden Calf» event, the first ones lost that role because of their behavior and the G-d chose the Levi tribe instead of them to perform these functions. Although the first-born were replaced by Levites (Kohanim), they retained some holiness and, consequently, their parents had to redeem them from Kohens (priests).
The redemption of a son is known as Pidyon Haben. The Torah states that the redemption ceremony may be suspended 31 days after the birth of a firstborn earlier. The son is redeemed by money - the father of the son gives five silver chains or the equivalent of these (today about 150 kunas) to a Kohen of his choice.
During the ceremony a short ritual is performed as well (No.: 18:14-18). Only parents of older children are obligated to redeem themselves, but this responsibility does not apply to a member of the Levi tribe.
BAR/ BAT MITZVAH
Bar and Bat Mitzvah ( Son/ Girl Commands) ceremony indicates the transition of a child to an adult. Technically, the term Bar/ Bat Mitzvah relates to a child coming of age, according to the Jewish religious provisions and, therefore, it should be more correct to say that a boy at his 13th birthday becomes Bar Mitzvah, and a girl at her 12th birthday becomes Bat Mitzvah, regardless if he/she had the ceremony or not. This means that on that date, parental responsibility ends and the child is "religious by age" and responsible for himself or herself. This responsibility is reflected in the child's obligation to observe all the commandments and ordinances of G-d (mitzvoth).
During Bat Mitzvah, a girl reads a prayer in the prayer book (Siddur) or tells her vision of a biblical story.
During a Bar Mitzvah Ceremony in synagogue the boy is for the first time wrapped in the prayer shawl (Tallit) and puts on himself phylacteries (tefillin), and reading the Torah is called (Aliyah).
In Judaism, many issues are associated with family life. The family is a nucleus around which everything is built and, therefore, wedding rituals make the focus. There is no definite place for a wedding to be celebrated. Some marry in a synagogue, others in special ceremony rooms and others outside.
Since the wedding should be under the ,chuppah“ (canopy), which symbolizes a home to be built jointly by the spouses, some of communities insist that the marriage should be performed outdoors. A Jewish wedding is a marriage ceremony which follows Jewish laws and tradition. While customs vary across communities, there are common traditional customs.
The first is "Ketubah" (wedding contract), which must be signed by the "chathan" (husband) and two witnesses. All groom’s responsibilities towards the bride, like food, clothes, marital relations, but also the amount of support that would be due in the event of divorce, are written down in Ketubah. Furthermore, there is ”cuppa“ (canopy) under which the wedding is performed, followed by the ring whereby the groom (“chathan“) betroth the bride (“Kallah").
Technically, a Jewish marriage has two large sections.
The first is: "Kiddushin " (engagement), which is also called "erusin" (commitment/bethrotal) and the second is: "nissuin " (marriage) by which young people begin their life together. In the first section the groom betroths the bride and thus separates her and forbids her to all other males, and by the second section they are beginning their lives together.
The ceremony in which Nissan is finished is known under the name of "cuppa".
The best known custom of Jewish marriage is to break a glass by the bridegroom, who by certain interpretations, expresses mourning after the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.
DEATH, AND MOURNING RITUALS
In Judaism, a death triggers a series of major rites. As soon as a Jew hears of a close family member or the death of a beloved person or a great tragedy, he/she shall tear of his/her garment (Korea) expressing his/her sorrow – for his/her parents at the left side above his/her heart and for all others at the right side.
Burial should be agreed as soon as possible. It should be done within 24 hours, under Jewish rules, but if a deceased family comes from afar, the burial can be held.
A corpse shall be dressed in a special clothes and it may not be left alone at any moment (shomrim). A body is to be buried in the ground and, in principle, it is not to be buried in a coffin, but may.
There are three phases of bereavement. These are: aninut, shiva and avelut.
Animate is the period from death to burial and during this period the family has no further responsibility as it must prepare for burial. Chevra Kadisha ("Sacred Society") does all the necessary things associated with the funeral and takes care of a body. It also takes care of the cemetery. Community member coming to the funeral to honour the dead ("Kavod Hamet") and comfort the bereaved ("Nichum aveilim"). The second stage of mourning is Shiva (seven). After the funeral, the family goes home and mourns for seven days in the house and does not leave it in principle. The first meal after the funeral consumed by the mourners is something round (hard egg or lentils), as a symbol of eternal life.
After Shiva starts a third stage of grief: avelut. If someone suffers the loss of a parent, he/she mourns for a year, avoiding happy events and saying Kaddish (prayer for the dead) each day for 11 months. Avelut for a spouse lasts 30 days ("Sheloshim").
The custom is for the stone to be revealed on the 40th day.
Yahrzeit is an anniversary of death. One night before many Jews lit a candle for the dead. The candle burns for 24 hours and the kaddish is prayed on this day.
Judaism has always believed in the afterlife ("World to come / "Olam Ha-ba"), but its forms and ways of expression have varied and postponed much from one period to another. So even today in Judaism there are several different concepts about the destiny of a human after his/her death and they relate to the soul immortality, resurrection of dead and nature of the world after Messianic redemption. Although these concepts are intricate, there is no generally accepted theological system for their interrelationships.