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1/14/13 4:47 AM
The Bar Mitzvah ceremony is Judaism's second most important ceremony for Jewish males, the first being ritual circumcision on the eighth day of life. While ritual circumcision, or Brit Mila, initiates a male Jewish child into the covenant of his people, the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah initiates a boy into manhood at age 13. Upon reaching this plateau, a young man obtains the rights of Jewish Manhood, including being counted in a Minyan or prayer group requiring at least 10 Jewish males to conduct formal Jewish prayer. It also allows a young man the honor of being called to the Torah, Judaism's most sacred text, and is a major milestone in his Jewish education and preparation towards all the responsibilities of an adult, including marriage and heading a family.
The origins of the formal Bar Mitzvah ceremony date back at least to the period of the Second Temple and though customs differ somewhat in various Jewish cultures, including European or Ashkenazi backgrounds verses Sephardic or Oriental cultures. The basic ceremony of being called up to the Torah for the first time, and reading portions from both this holy scroll and from the Haphtarah or supplemental readings based on the Torah, are more or less the same in all of Jewish tradition.
When a young man approaches age 13, he begins studying for this ceremony including learning special melodies or trope in order to chant the verses from the holy readings of the Torah and Haphtarah portions for the Shabbat that he is to become a Bar Mitzvah. In many Jewish cultures, this also includes the Thursday preceding Shabbat as this enables proud parents and relatives to take photographs of his chanting from the Torah, an act forbidden on Shabbat. In Israel, this event can be even more meaningful as it is often done before the Kotel or Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Some people living abroad consider this act to be of such importance that they actually travel to Israel in order for their child to be formally initiated into Jewish Manhood in front of Judaism's most sacred symbol: the last remaining portion of the Temple.
In American, non-orthodox congregations, the mothers and other female relatives of the Bar Mitzvah have a greater role in the religious part of the ceremony with the entire family often invited to join the young man on the Bimah or platform where the Rabbi and the Torah reader are located to receive a special rabbinical blessing on Shabbat. In some conservative and reform congregations, the mother is even given the same honor as her husband in being called up to the Torah. Upon finishing his Haphtarah reading the Bar Mitzvah is often bombarded with sweets being thrown at him by his family, guests, and by members of the congregation.
After the Rabbinical blessing, the Bar Mitzvah may give a small talk or sermon to thank those who prepared him for this special moment in his life, as well as express what this occasion means to him and his ascent into Jewish Manhood. The ceremony of becoming a Bar Mitzvah is truly a milestone in the life of every young Jewish male.
In addition to the religious element, this event is also accompanied by parties and even formal banquets for the young man, his family and friends. These parties can range from being simple family get-togethers to very elaborate affairs, costing thousand of dollars; with limitations only to the parent's (and grand parent's) pocketbooks.
In addition to receiving various religious articles such as books, prayer shawls or talitim and the leather tifillim worn daily by religious Jewish men in morning prayers, the young man also receives numerous Bar Mitzvah Gifts of both money and personal items which add to the excitement of the occasion. In recent years Bar Mitzvah gifts have included more Israeli made products like unique Hamsa Hands and Jewish jewelry handcrafted by leading Israeli artists.
Visit our Bar Mitzvah gifts section for some great gift ideas.
1/14/13 4:53 AM
As contrasted with the secular calendar year, beginning on January 1, according the Julian calendar, the Christian calendar year actually begins with the period of Advent. The month long Advent period begins in the fourth week of November and ends on Christmas Day, December 25th. This period, leading up to the Western calendar date of the birth of Jesus, is marked with a number of celebrations involving the use of the color purple in church decorations and regalia worn by priests and other church officials. Advent means "coming" and "arrival" and is supposed to note the correlations between Jesus' birth and his later death by crucifixion. Greenery, particularly evergreen and holly wreaths, are popular items given during this period, as well as potted holly and evergreen trees and shrubs. The period officially ends with Christmas, the most popular gift giving holiday during the Christian year. During Advent, gifts of ornamental jewelry of seasonal colors, including red, blue, green, and purple, are lovely ways to remember special friends and loved ones.
January is an important religious month for those belonging to Greek and Russian Orthodox churches; as well as to the Armenian church. The former two Christian faiths celebrate Christmas on or about January 6, according to the Gregorian calendar year. The Armenians celebrate the holiday near the end of January; usually on or about January 26th.
February is marked by many as the month when St. Valentines Day is celebrated on February 14th. St. Valentine is considered by many as the Patron Saint of Romance, and gifts of flowers, handmade jewelry, and especially candy and sweets are very popular in North America and Europe. As the heart is a very special symbol of Valentine's Day, jewelry and other items of this shape are very popular as well as diamond jewelry - especially engagement rings, as many marriage proposals are made on this occasion.
The month of February also has a week long joyous festival period usually known as Mardi Grass in the USA, and Carnival in South America and some southern European countries. During this period, which ends on the official beginning of the six week period of Lent, people dress in festive carnival garb and literally go "dancing in the streets". Gifts of festive foods and beverages, as well as all types of parties are popular during this festival period.
The more somber period of Lent, in which many Christians forsake the eating of meat, leads up to Easter, which commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Since Lent is an intensely religious period, especially the last two weeks before Easter, gifts of religious importance, including crucifixes and other jewelry items are ideal including Cross Jewelry. Easter itself also symbolizes spring and eternal renewal, and many people give gifts of candied eggs and other sweets, and even baby chickens, rabbits and other animals. Gifts of clothing are also important, and many Christians still traditionally dress up on Easter Sunday. The period of Holy Week leading up to Easter is a good time for giving religious jewelry and related items.
The Holy Day of Pentecost occurs on the 50th day after Easter. Pentecost is not overly celebrated as it occurs so soon after the Easter holiday season. Pentecost was originally an Old Testament holiday and though the Christian meaning is different, it does relate to the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Red is a popular color for this holiday, so gifts with red, including jewelry, paintings and other mementos are appropriate gift ideas. Recent Christian interest in the Kabbalah makes "red string" and other Kabbalah Jewelry items good gift ideas.
The Autumn festivals of Tabernacles and Thanksgiving (in the USA) are good holidays to give gifts relating to the fall harvest. These gifts can include food parcels, paintings and pottery gift items. Though The American holiday of Thanksgiving is not really a Christian holiday, it does have much religious significance. The original celebrators of this holiday, the Puritans, were deeply religious people who considered their founding of Plymouth and other American colonies part of a Covenant with God. As with Tabernacles, gifts relating to the harvest and Autumn motifs are appropriate seasonal gifts.
1/14/13 5:08 AM
In Jewish tradition, a young girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah automatically at age 12, which is one year earlier that boys. This is because girls often reach puberty earlier than boys; and according to tradition, become obligated to observe all the customs and rituals designated to young women, including preparing themselves for their eventual role as wives and mothers. In Orthodox households, girls do not usually have religious rituals connected with being a Bat Mitzvah. While their male counterparts are inducted into their entry into manhood with religious rituals, including being called up to the Torah, religious girls mostly observe this event with family celebrations.
Orthodox Jewish traditions define definite roles for girls and later for women, which include keeping a kosher home and observing the Mitzvot, or religious and moral customs and laws. Once becoming a Bat Mitzvah, an Orthodox Jewish girl is expected to begin preparing herself for her household and family duties, including the observance of all the Jewish religious holidays, and of course Shabbat. Observance of the Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer and rest is considered among religious Jews to be the most important holy of all days; and as stated in Chapter 2, verse 2 of the Book of Genesis: "And on the seventh day, God finished His work which He had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all the work He had made."
In less strict branches of Judaism, however, girls may have similar rituals as boys, including being called up to the Torah and fully participating in the religious service, including reading from the Torah and chanting the Haftorah (the biblical readings which were written after the Torah or Five Books of Moses). In fact, reaching the age of Bat Mitzvah may actually be the beginning of a girl's Jewish learning, and may induce her to continue her religious studies; even one day reaching the point of even becoming a Rabbi or Cantor in a Conservative or Reform congregation.
And, like Bar Mitzvah boys, becoming a Bat Mitzvah for girls is an excuse to invite all her friends and classmates for a get together or party! On such an occasion a Bat Mitzvah gift is traditionally given, either of religious significance, or simply anything that young 12 year olds would like, clothes especially. If you're looking for an original and unique way to combine the two, you can present the birthday girl with Jewish jewelry - both beautiful and meaningful on this occasion. Whatever the religious background, the milestone of becoming a Bat Mitzvah is becoming more meaningful in Jewish households, particularly as many Jewish girls become more interested in engaging in Jewish studies and their heritage.
Possible ideas for Bat Mitzvah gifts can include handmade jewelry, Star of David jewelry, Hamsa earrings, Bat Mitzvah jewelry boxes with Jewish themes, Shabbat candleholders, a beautiful Kabbalah bracelet, 24K Inscribed Shema Yisrael Necklace in Silver and other Judaica gifts.
Visit our Bat Mitzvah gifts section for some great gift ideas.
1/14/13 5:13 AM
Candelabrum, the first Menorah referred to in the Bible is the seven-branched candlestick constructed for and used in the portable Temple set up by the Jewish people in the wilderness, after their Exodus from Egypt. The material used for fuel in that Menorah was pure olive oil and the high priest commanded to tend the Menorah on a daily basis, making sure it had an adequate supply of oil.
The Menorah of the Temple was constructed of pure gold. The Menorah is also the central symbol of "Hanukkah" the festival of lights, along with the beloved Dreidel. This Menorah consists of eight branches corresponding to the fact that Hanukkah is an eight day holiday. The fuel used is either wax candles or olive-oil, and blessings are recited praising the lord for giving us the "Mitzvah" of lighting the Hanukkah lamps and in commemoration of the miracles he performed for the Jewish people at the time of the original Hanukkah (in 165 B.C.E.).
The Hanukkah Menorah is also called a Chanukkiah, is the nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight days of the Hanukkah holiday. Hanukkah celebrates the success of the Jewish revolt against the Hellenistic Empire and the rededication of the Temple. The victors found only enough pure olive oil to light the Menorah for one day, but miraculously, the amount lasted for eight days until reserves were replenished.
In celebration of that miracle the Hanukkah Menorah has eight branches for candles (or oil lamps) that are all at the same level. The ninth branch in the Menorah (Shamash) is used to light the other eight, one for each day. The name Chanukkiah was created at the end of the 19th century in Jerusalem by Eliezer Ben Yehuda's wife, the reviver of the Hebrew language.
Some Hanukkah Menorahs and Dreidels available at MostOriginal.com:
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9/26/13 5:29 AM
This year Hanukkah starts November 27, 2013 and ends December 7, 2013. The Hanukkah is a great holiday for kids and is best celebrated with family and friends. Hanukkah is an eight day holiday that gives praise to the Great Temple in Israel. Thousands of years ago, the Syrians took the Great Temple away from the Jewish people, and a small group of Jewish, untrained farmers threw this force out and reclaimed their Great Temple.Read More