Literally “covenant of circumcision,” Berit milah refers to a religious ritual through which male babies are formally welcomed into the Jewish people. A circumcision is a surgical procedure in which the foreskin is removed from the penis. The ceremony of Berit milah is celebrated on the eighth day after birth, but may be delayed for health reasons.
Literally “son/daughter of the Commandment,” B’nai Mitzvot (plural) represent a ceremonial recognition that a young person (usually age thirteen) has reached the age when he or she is responsible for the performance of the mitzvot. According to Jewish law, the individual is no longer a minor and now takes on new religious privileges and responsibilities.
Confirmation constitutes an individual and group affirmation of commitment to the Jewish people. The ceremony of Confirmation is not a requirement, but an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors; Moses, Joshua, Josiah, and others “rediscovered” their Jewish roots at different times in their lives. So do youths stand before the congregation recommitting themselves to the Jewish people.
During the traditional wedding ceremony, the groom enters first and stands under the chupah (marriage canopy). The bride arrives at the chupah with her escort(s). The couple stands together under the chupah with the bride to the right of the groom while the rabbi reads or chants a section from Psalm 118 and/or Psalm 100 and then recites a medieval hymn. Next the bride circles the groom three or seven times. The rabbi or canter then reads or chants the Betrothal Blessing, followed by the exchanging of rings. The groom recites the legal formula of betrothal and the ketubah (marriage contract) is read. A second cup of wine is filled and the rabbi, cantor, or friends read or chant the Sheva Berachot. The groom breaks a glass and everyone yells “Mazel tov!” The couple usually spends a few moments alone before joining their family and friends for a celebration.
Death and Mourning
Immediately following the death of a loved one, the shock and pain of loss can immobilize us. Jewish custom dictates that burial should take place as soon as possible after death to help relieve the anguish that families endure in anticipation of a final farewell to a loved one. Most Jewish funeral services take place in a synagogue and a procession then travels to the cemetery where Kaddish is recited following interment. Some Jews hold the complete service at graveside. The open expression of sorrow is permitted, even encouraged for dealing with grief. Beginning with the family’s arrival at their home after burial, a process called shivah (meaning “seven,” referring to the seven-day period of formalized mourning) is set into motion that leads the bereaved gently but firmly back to life and the world of the living.
Congregation Beth Israel’s cemetery, Gan HaZikaron, is located at Mission Memorial Park at the end of Ord Grove Terrace in Seaside. Their address is 1915 Ord Grove Avenue, Seaside, CA 93955 and their phone number is (831) 394-1481. Mission Memorial makes arrangements with the family arranging date and time for a graveside service. This is coordinated with the Rabbi.
B’nai Mitzvah Resources
This unique, step-by-step book and compact disc package will lead the novice through each step of learning how to chant Torah. Divided into 13 lessons and additional useful appendices and bibliography, the book allows the reader to ‘self-teach’ the important principles of Torah cantillation. The only pre-requisite for this course of learning is a basic ability to read Hebrew and a willingness to learn! Includes CD of corresponding recordings.