What Are The Cycles Of Life In Judaism?

See how each phase of life is celebrated in Judaism, and how the individual Jew can learn and grow each step of the way.

Judaism places great importance on living life and appreciating the day-to-day gifts that God gives us.To aid us in our growth as individuals, Jewish tradition places importance on certain milestones throughout our lives, offering us both a chance for introspection and a fresh chance to embark on a new part of our journey in life.The themes of these events usually are linked with greater responsibility, and should reflect our growth both in terms of age and commitment.

On the eighth day of life, a Jewish baby boy is introduced into the Biblical covenant of Abraham.After the morning prayers, usually in a synagogue, the baby boy is brought in and circumcised.The ritual is done by a mohel, or ritual circumciser.He has both rabbinic training and medical certification to perform the minor operation.After the baby boy has been circumcised, he receives the name by which he will be known in the Jewish community.A festive meal is made afterwards to mark the joyful occasion.

A baby girl is named in most communities on the Sabbath after her birth. The father is called up to the Torah and announces the girl's name to the congregation.A festive meal is also usually made after this announcement.

In some communities it is the custom not to cut the boy's hair until his third birthday.The little boy is taken to community leaders and scholars as well as family friends and relatives to allow them to all take a symbolic snip of the little boy's hair.Age appropriate advice is usually given to the child and he is usually showered with small gifts and candy.

If the boy is mature enough, he begins to wear a kippah/yarmulke (skull cap) and tzitzis (the fringed garment worn by religious Jews).He begins his formal education, also, by learning how to recognize the first few letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The next major milestone in life is the bar/bat mitzvah celebration.A boy becomes obligated in all the Biblical commandments at the age of thirteen.Girls are considered to mature faster than boys, so they celebrate their Bat mitzvah at the age of twelve.For boys this is usually celebrated in the synagogue, with the young man participating in the services for the first time by reading from the Torah or leading the prayers.For girls, there is usually a party held in the home or synagogue for friends and family.This event is a time for a young man or woman to commit to being an observant Jew; it is also the beginning of a child's gradual separation from his or her parents.Sadly, in practice, this joyous event has become just another chance for the young man or lady to get presents.The serious implications of the day are often neglected.

The next great milestone in Jewish life is marriage.According to Jewish tradition, we are not really whole until we find our proper partner.From the time we are born until the point of marriage we live a half life, though we may not fully realize it at the time.The first man and woman came together and had children, forever making a mark on the world.So too, when a Jewish couple marries, a tremendous impact is made on the world.By raising a committed Jewish family, the married couple adds one more link in the chain of the Jewish people and strengthens it.After the wedding, there are 7 days of feasting among friends and family.Some commentators within the Jewish tradition see these seven days as paralleling the seven Biblical days of creation and emphasize the Jewish belief that the basic family of a man and wife and their children are a driving force in the further development of the world.

Finally, at the end of a hopefully meaningful and well-lived life, older people prepare to leave this world.It is a common practice for elderly parents to make an ethical will for their children and grandchildren, expressing the traits and virtues that they hold dear and wish to be carried on by the family after their death.This offers parents a way to continue to have a guiding hand in enriching the lives of their children well after their death. Many of these wills have become famous as great works of ethical literature, and others are handed down from generation to generation within certain families

When it becomes apparent that death is near, if possible, a rabbi is called upon to lead the person in the recitation of the final confession of sins and the saying of the Shema, a passage from the Hebrew Bible that expresses the basic Jewish belief in God's oneness.

If a person cannot be buried in the land of Israel, the Jewish homeland, then a small amount of dirt from the Holy Land is placed in the coffin as a reflection of hope that all Jews will one day be together again in the Holy Land.

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