Judaism Customs

In Judaism, a spiritual leader is a rabbi and the place of worship is a synagogue. Synagogues are also used as study and community centers. Judaism promotes community and family life.

The Tradition of Praying

It is customary for Jews to recite prayers three times a day, with the Amidah service and the Shema Yisrael, which is the declaration of faith and recited from a verse from the Torah. Communal prayer is the preferred method of praying, but independent prayer is also allowed. Prayers are usually done upon waking up, before eating or drinking and after eating meals.

While praying or attending the synagogue or religious event, most Jews cover their heads. Orthodox Jewish men cover their heads at all times with a skullcap called a kippah or yarmulke, which symbolizes respect toward God. For liberal Jews covering the head is not mandatory. Orthodox Jewish men also wear tefillin on their heads and arms during morning prayers. Teffilin are black leather cubic coverings with religious texts.

Jewish Holidays

Jewish holidays are important days of the year and mark significant points in Jewish History. The weekly holy day of Judaism is the Sabbath which lasts from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Sabbath is a commemoration of God's day of rest after the six days of creation. A Sabbath family meal is part of the religious custom. Observing the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments.

There are three major pilgrimage festivals including the Sukkot (Tabernacles), Passover, and Shavuot (Pentecost). These festivals commemorate the important events in Jewish history including the Exodus.

Other holy days, which are focused on judgment and forgiveness, include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that is celebrated beginning on the 25th day of the Hebrew calendar. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights and is celebrated by lighting candles on a menorah for eight nights.

Jewish Dietary Laws

Kashrut, or the Jewish dietary laws, is an important part of Jewish customs and tradition. Food is prepared in specific ways according to these laws and is often referred to as kosher. Only certain types of food are considered kosher and these include mammals with split hooves who chew their "cud" and sea animals must have fins and scales. Pigs, shellfish, crustaceans and certain birds, except for chicken and turkey, are not kosher.

Moreover, food is kosher when it has come from a healthy animal and has been properly slaughtered. Jewish dietary laws even govern the types of dishes and utensils used to prepare and consume food.

Other Jewish Customs

Other customs of Judaism include male circumcision, which according to Judaism, takes place when a baby is eight days old and tracks back to the covenant between God and Abraham.