SECTION 1 The Irish Jewish Communities and the Jewish Home
Topic 1.3 The Significance of the Home in Judaism
How the Torah is the basis for Jewish home and family.
The religious activities that take place at home and within
the family (e.g. Sabbath and Holiday meals, Torah study,
prayer, Passover Seder). Characteristics of a Jewish home
(mezuzah, prayer books, candlesticks, ketubbah, charity
box, etc.). The biblical origins of the Jewish food laws. The
main elements of kashrut observance. The role of the
various family members in religious activities in a Jewish
home. Their respective functions in preserving Jewish
identity and in promoting an ethical and just life style. The
role of women in maintaining a kosher home, educating
the children, and transmitting religious practices, beliefs
and values to the next generation.
For HL: The protection of equal rights for women in
Jewish marriage, as guaranteed in the marriage
Discuss the significance of the home in Judaism; describe
three religious activities that take place in the Jewish
home; describe the characteristics of the Jewish home and
their significance; explain the Jewish food laws and identify
the texts where they originated; describe the main
elements of kashrut observance; describe the role of
various family members in a Jewish home; provide
examples of how each family member preserves an ethical
and just life style; discuss the role of women within the
Jewish home and community.
For HL: explain the origins of equal rights for women
in Jewish marriage; evaluate the current status of
women within Jewish faith and practice.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE JEWISH HOME1
There are elements which are characteristic of a Jewish home regardless of the
practices of its residents and there are other additional characteristics which are
particular to very observant Jewish families. Firstly, we will look at the general
characteristics and, later, we will look at what one might expect to find in the
households of more observant Jews.
Mezuzah literally means ‘doorpost’ and is a
small casing, made of wood, metal, ceramic or
other material. It is the rabbinic interpretation
of the instruction to ‘write them on the
doorposts of your house’ (Deuteronomy 6:9).
1 Vanessa Oochs has a very good article on what makes a Jewish home in ‘My Jewish Learning’:
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The mezuzah contains the parchment with the Shema Israel, Deuteronomy 6 text,
reminding Jews of the oneness of G-d and of G-d’s commandments.
The original word Tzedakah means righteous
behaviour but has come to mean the giving of
charity. It is a fundamental religious
obligation or mitzvah (good
deed/commandment) to do right in Jewish life
and is required even if a person is of limited
financial means. It is taught that Tzedakah
money was never yours to begin with, rather,
it always belongs to God, who merely entrusts
you with it so that you may use it properly.
Hence it is one’s obligation to ensure that it is
received by those deserving of it.
Dreidel (Yiddish)/Sevivon (Hebrew):
A four-sided spinning top for a game at Hanukkah.
Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the
Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש
(Shin), which together form the acronym for "סנ
דולג יהה "םש (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – "a great
miracle happened there"). These letters also form
a mnemonic for the rules of a gambling game
played with a dreidel: Nun stands for the Yiddish
word nisht ("nothing"), Hei stands for halb ("half"),
Gimel for gants ("all"), and Shin for shtel ayn ("put
Shabbat candles are lit on Friday
nights 18 minutes before sunset.
Lighting Shabbat candles is a
tradition enshrined in rabbinical
law. Candlelighting is traditionally
done by the women of the household
but may be done by men. After
lighting the candles, the woman
waves her hands over them, covers
her eyes, and recites a blessing. It is
traditional to light two candles, but
in some homes an additional candle
is lit for each child. The lighting of
Shabbat candles has a dual purpose:
To "honor Shabbat" (דכבו )שבת and
2 Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreidel
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create shalom bayit or domestic peace
Menorah or Hanukkiyah
A menorah is a six-branched candelabrum and
a hanukkiyah is a eight-branched candelabrum
used at Hanukkah. It has become an
expression of Jewish creativity an art. Every
type of style is used: antique, classical ornate,
modern, austere, plain, elaborate. The candle
holders can even be in the form of small silver
or copper birds, and can burn with oil or a wax
candle. Each member of the family may light
his or her own. On successive nights of the
eight-day festival of Hanukkah, (beginning on
25th of the Jewish month Kislev, near
December in the Gregorian calendar) a candle
for each of the previous nights is lit again, so
that on the last night, eight candles are
burning, plus a ninth – the one which is used
each night for lighting the others. It is known
as the shamash – the servant. It is usually at a
different height to the other candles.
In more observant households, one would expect to find the following:
Two sinks for the separation of meat and dairy.
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Containers separating meat, dairy, and parve (which is neutral food which
can be eaten with meat or dairy).
This is required according to kashrut or Jewish food laws.
Colour-coded cutlery or crockery, pots or pans.
Red is usually for meat and blue for dairy.
Jewish prayer book containing the order of daily prayers.
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The Chumash (the Torah/Pentateuch/first five
books of the Bible), books of the Ne’vim
(Prophets), and the five megillot (scrolls) which
are parts of the Ketuvim (Writings), the third
major section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The
Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, the Book of
Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and
the Book of Esther.
A four-volume work on legal codes
of Judaism dating back to the 1500s.
It covers areas such as laws of
prayer and holidays, laws governing
charity, tzedakah, dietary laws, laws
concerning Jewish marriage and
divorce, and Jewish civil law.
The following items are commonly found in a Jewish home with Jewish affiliation
but not shomrei mitzvot (observant):
Everyday Use Mezuzah may be only one on the
Tzedakah (charity) box (in Yiddish
The more strong the Jewish
identity, the more likely one might
find paintings or decorations of
Dreidels (Yiddish) or Svivonoim
Graggers (Yiddish) or Ra’ashanim
(Hebrew) – percussion
The Irish Jewish
Siddur (Prayer book)
Novels and/or general
non-fiction books of
Jewish interests, e.g.
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Children’s story books.
Shabbat Two candlesticks
Kiddush cup (Kiddush means
sanctification and is used often as a
ritual of blessing of wine)
Challah cover (deckl) (challah is
the braided bread eaten on
Hagim Menorah(s) (8-branched
candlestick for Hanukkah)
Seder Plate (For Pesach meal)
Pesach dishes (Passover)
associated with the
The following items are commonly found in a Jewish home where the family is
shomrei mitzvoth (observant):
Mezuzot: On the front door and
all real rooms other than toilets
2-handed cups for netilat
colourful plastic for casual use,
silver or bronze ones for more
Bentschers (Birconim: Prayer
and song books) for Bircat ha
Mazon (Grace after meals)
Kitchen with two sides, two sets
of dishes, counter-tops etc.
Ketubah (Contract detailing the
obligations of a husband towards
Decorations, artistic calligraphy
(possibly Bircat Habayit –
blessings for the home - inside
the front door)
Jewish-themed paintings are
Toys included alef-bet (AB) toys,
In Dublin: The Irish Jewish
Elsewhere: Jewish calendar
Tikkun (Chumash written as
in Torah scroll)
Siddurs (Prayer Books)
Mishna (rabbinical texts from
c. 220 CE
Shulchan Aruch (
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Modern halachic books
Other books from rabbis and
authorities meant as guidance
Novels and/or general non-
fiction books of Jewish
interests, e.g. history, politics,
Children’s story books.
Shabbat At least 2 candlesticks (may be
for the number of family
Kiddush cups and saucers (may
(possibly combined with
chumas) in towns with an
eruv (The eruv allows
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be different ones for family
members, havdalah etc.
Breadboard for Shabbat
Mayim aharonim (ritual washing
before meals) dispenser
Havdalah candle and holder
Saucer for havdalah cup
Spice box (Besamim)
May be special platters, etc.
labeled for Shabbat and/or yom
tov (days on which certain
activities are not permitted)
Slow cookers or blech in kitchen
Urn left on for hot water
observant Jews to carry
needed things in public on the
Pirkei Avot (Part of Jewish
Law from the Mishnah)
Hagim All the items for Shabbat may be
used for yom tov.
Some families will have separate
items like Kiddush cups marked
for yom tov use.
More specialized items include:
Shofar (ram’s horn used at Rosh
Etrog holder (for Sukkot)
Lulav holder (for Sukkot)
Sukkah may be taken apart and
Menorahs (Could be several)
Plates for mishloach manot
(Basket of food or items sent to
friends at Purim)
Seder plate (Ke’arah)
Matzah cover (can be combined
seder plate/matzoh item)
There may be special containers
for seder items –
Matzah, maror, charosets
At least 6 machzors, for Rosh
Hashannah, Yom Kippur,
Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot
Eichah (Book of Lamentations
for Tisha B’Av
Kinot (Laments or dirges)
Selichot (Penitential poems
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Jewish Food Laws
(See powerpoint in the Teacher Notes Section)
Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods Jews can and cannot
eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. "Kashrut" comes from the
Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning fit, proper or correct. Kashrut is the same
root as the more commonly known word "kosher," which describes food that
meets these standards. The word "kosher" can also be used, and often is used, to
describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit
for ritual use. The Torah offers no explanation for the dietary laws other than the
holiness of God and his chosen people: ‘You are to be holy to me because I, the
Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own’ (Lev.
It is difficult to know what ingredients are in one’s food and how they were
processed, so it is helpful to have a rabbi examine the food and its processing and
assure kosher consumers that the food is kosher.
The origin of these food laws is contained in the Torah:
1. ‘Animals with split hoof and chew cud’ (Lev. 11:3;
Deut. 14:6): Cow, Lamb, Chicken, Duck, Turkey, Goat, Deer.
2. ‘Fish with fins and scales’ (Lev. 11:3; Deut. 14:6): Cod, Trout, Plaice,
Herring, Salmon, Tuna.
3. ‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are
unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black
kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of
hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl,
the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the
hoopoe and the bat’ (Lev 11:13-19). The Torah lists forbidden
birds but does not specify why these particular birds are
forbidden. All of the birds on the list are birds of prey or
scavengers, thus the rabbis inferred that this was the basis for
the distinction. Other birds are permitted, such as chicken, geese, ducks and
4. Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of
any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any
kind’ (Lev 11:22). Of the "winged swarming things" (winged
insects), a few are specifically permitted but the Sages are no longer certain
which ones they are, so all have been forbidden.
3 The information here is abridged from the Jewish Virtual Library:
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5. ‘And these are unclean to you among the swarming things
that swarm on the ground: the mole rat, the mouse, the great
lizard of any kind, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the
sand lizard, and the chameleon’ (Lev 11:29-30, 42-43).
Rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects (except as
mentioned above) are all forbidden.
6. All fruits, vegetables and grains are permissible
(Gen. 1:29), with the exception of grape products.
Due to laws against eating or drinking anything
offered to idols, and the fact that wine was often made
for pagan offerings and celebrations, all wine and
grape juice that is not made under Jewish supervision
Although the details of kashrut are extensive, the
laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:
Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh,
organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in
accordance with Jewish law.
All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish,
eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.
(According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy,
and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food
may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact
occurred while the food was hot.
Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
Kashrut Certification: Food which is kosher will be indicated as Kosher or Glatt
(without blemish) Kosher. See the following pictures:
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Food that is permissible is KOSHER.
Food that is not permissible is TRAYF/TREIF.
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PARVE is a Hebrew term (PAREVE is the Yiddish term) that describes food
without any meat or dairy ingredients.4
Exercises on Kashrut
1. Prepare a menu for a kosher restaurant with a starter, main course and a
2. What might make kashrut observance difficult if one is an observant Jew
and is visiting a non-Jewish household? Make reference to food and
utensils in your answer.
3. Draw a table of acceptable kosher foods.
4. Which of the following are kosher or in accordance with Jewish food
laws? Why? Why not? Explain.
4 Jewish dietary laws considers parve food to be neutral; Parve food can be eaten with both meat
and milk dishes. Fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables are parve.
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5. Explain why there might be a problem with any of the following foods. In
each case, state your reason and give the text from the Torah which is its
A cardigan with cotton and wool
A creamy sauce over a meat dish at dinner time
A bottle of wine
Pork chops or sausages
A crabmeat sandwich