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LIFE CYCLES

Birth

Baby Boys

Judaism welcomes baby boys with the ritual of brit milah. The Hebrew word brit means covenant. Circumcision in Judaism is a sign of the covenant between God and Israel which links one generation to another. The Rabbi will help you determine if a Pidyon HaBen is required.

Judaism views circumcision as a religious ceremony, thus, it is recommended that a Mohel perform the circumcision. A Mohel is a Jew who has been trained in the physical procedures of circumcision and understands the religious significance of the ritual. If a mohel is unavailable, then a Jewish physician can perform the circumcision. It is customary to invite the Rabbi to conduct the service. A brit milah is usually followed by a festive meal with family and friends.

Barring any unusual circumstances, the brit milah is performed on the eighth day of life, even if the eighth day occurs on Shabbat or a holiday. It is considered an honor to be given a special role in the circumcision ceremony and there are three important roles:

  • Sandak holds the baby on his lap while the baby is circumcised
  • Vatterin is the "godmother" who takes the baby from the mother to the Kvatter.
  • Kvatter is the "godfather" who takes the baby from the Kvatterin to the Mohel.

Please contact the Temple office at (941) 955-8121 with any further questions, so that Rabbi Werbow may assist you with naming, prepare for the Brit Milah, and help you determine if a Pidyon HaBen is required.

The Ceremony of Pidyon Ha’Ben

The ritual of Pidyon Ha’ben literally means “Redemption of the Son” and applies to a relatively small number of Jews. It applies only to the firstborn male child if he is born by natural childbirth. Thus, if a female is the firstborn, no child in the family is subject to the ritual. If the first child is born by Caesarean section, the ritual does not apply to that child (or to any child born after that child). If the first conception ends in miscarriage after more than 40 days' term, it does not apply to any subsequent child. It does not apply to members of the tribe of Levi or children born to a daughter of a member of the tribe of Levi.

Originally, it was intended that the firstborn would serve as the priests and Temple functionaries of Israel; however, after the incident of the Golden Calf, in which the tribe of Levi did not participate, God chose the tribe of Levi over the firstborn for this sacred role. However, even though their place has been taken by the Levites, the firstborn still retain a certain degree of sanctity, and for this reason, they must be redeemed.

The firstborn son (who meets the criteria above) must be redeemed on the 31st day (the day of birth being the first day). However, the ritual cannot be performed on Shabbat because it involves the exchange of money. The child is redeemed by paying five silver dollars to a Kohen and performing a brief ritual.

Contrary to popular opinion, there are no absolute religious rules or regulations concerning the naming of a Jewish child. The child may be named after any person, friend or relative, dead or living; or the child need not be named after any particular person at all. A traditional custom, however, is to honor the memory of a beloved person by naming a baby for that person.

Baby Girls

Baby girls are welcomed in a variety of ways, including baby-naming ceremonies at the synagogue or at home. The object of a baby-naming ceremony is to officially present the child with a Hebrew name. In this touching ceremony, a Hebrew name is affectionately given to the baby in its parent's arms. There is no set time for a baby-naming, and while some families choose to name their daughter shortly after the birth, others choose to wait for a few months.

Parents of a Jewish baby girl are invited to have their daughter receive her Hebrew name in the Synagogue any time the Torah is read- Monday, Thursday, or Saturday morning. However, many families choose to have a less formal ceremony and name their newborn daughters in their home. It is customary to invite the Rabbi to conduct the service. Family and friends may be invited to say a few words and the ceremony is usually followed by a festive meal.

Please contact the Temple office at (941) 955-8121, so that we may assist you with making arrangements for a baby naming.

B'nai Mitzvah

Bar and bat mitzvah refers to the idea that the mitzvot, or commandments, of Jewish life are incumbent upon a young person at the age of 13 years. In colloquial speech, a “bar mitzvah” or “bat mitzvah” refers to the celebration in the synagogue that marks this transition to adult Jewish identity. This celebration often involves leading the prayers, reading from the Torah and Haftarah (Book of Prophets), and offering a D’var Torah, or commentary, on the portion of the week. Synagogue celebrations are often followed by a festive meal. It is not necessary to have a “bar mitzvah” celebration in order to be considered “bar mitzvah,” that is, an adult in terms of Jewish practice. One reaches the age of majority automatically, but the celebration offers an opportunity to demonstrate one’s skills, learning and commitment.

Marriage

Planning a wedding is no simple matter, but at Temple Beth Sholom we're here to help. A Jewish wedding is celebrated with music, special blessings, and a wedding canopy - all or part of which can take place at the synagogue.

The rabbi usually officiates and offers special words of blessing and encouragement and many couples choose to have the rabbi and cantor co-officiate. However, it is vitally important to understand that there are certain times of the year when Jewish weddings do not take place because of other holidays and observances, and so couples must consult with the rabbi before choosing the final date and making other arrangements.

It is also important to note that it is the policy of the Rabbinical Assembly that Conservative rabbis only officiate at weddings when both the bride and groom are Jewish. Interfaith couples are warmly welcomed at all services and temple events, and are encouraged to consult with the rabbi regarding any and all questions in which a dual-faith household may encounter.

Rabbi Werbow officiates same-sex marriages as well. However, as per the above statement, both partners must be Jewish.

Conversion

The ancient rabbis teach that "the righteous of all nations shall have a share in the world to come." The Jewish people are defined by more than our faith; we are linked by both history and destiny, and have never believed that Judaism is the only proper religion for all peoples. Becoming Jewish is a choice which many have made, but which takes time, study, and integration into the community because one is not only adopting a religion, but joining the Jewish people.

At Temple Beth Sholom, we welcome inquiries about conversion to Judaism. Some people may be married to someone Jewish or be part of a Jewish family and wish to more fully participate in the rituals, beliefs, and history of the Jewish people. There are also people for whom Judaism is the right "fit" in terms of community, religious practice, and spiritual ideals. Please consult with us for more information.

Divorce

Just as a Jewish wedding is made holy by the laws, prayers and customs of the Jewish people, in the unfortunate case when a marriage must end, there is a distinctly Jewish way of divorce. A Jewish divorce document is called a "get" and can be issued when the civil divorce proceedings are final. The husband and wife can be together for the issuing of the get or it can be done separately through an appointment with the rabbi. A get is a hand-written Hebrew document, prepared by a specially trained rabbi, which means it can take several weeks or more to arrange. This is important because Conservative rabbis cannot officiate at weddings where either bride or groom has only a civil divorce but not a get. In cases where the ex-spouses live in different areas, Conservative rabbis will work as a team, sending documents by mail and ensuring that all parties are treated with dignity and compassion.

Death

Judaism is the religion of life, but has much to teach at life's end. There is a Jewish way of death, mourning and bereavement, which often begins at the sickbed, when the rabbi will help a family recite the vidui, or final confession, of a dying person. In Judaism, the vidui (confession) is a ritual of transition and release and is a great comfort to many families.

Once death has taken place, the funeral usually happens within a day or two; the precise time is set by agreement of the family, the funeral home, and the rabbi. Usually the rabbi will visit with the bereaved family before the funeral in order to plan the service, answer any questions, and collect information for a eulogy. After the funeral, the family is encouraged to stay at home for up to seven days. The concept of "shivah" means "seven" and comes from a Biblical verse which describes the period of mourning as one week.

After shivah, immediate family members will recite a prayer reserved for mourners, the Mourner's Kaddish, for up to 12 months after the death, depending on various circumstances. An "unveiling" of the memorial stone can happen at any time which is both comfortable and convenient for the family; it does not have to be a minimum number of months after the death, but should be arranged in advance so that the rabbi can help recite the memorial prayers.

It is impossible to fully describe traditional Jewish mourning practices in just a few sentences, so please feel free to contact us, either before or after a loved one's passing, with questions or concerns. In urgent situations, including imminent death or arranging a funeral, please call the Temple Beth Sholom office at any time. If it is after office hours, there will be at least one emergency contact number given on the outgoing message.

To learn more about the Chevra Kadisha, click here

Temple Beth Sholom is the owner of the only Jewish cemetery in the Sarasota-Manatee County area. Click here for more information on the TBS Cemetery.