Jewish ceremonial objects
The Jewish population of Israel shows a wide attitudes diversity towards the tradition and the Jewish religious observance. Ranging between the orthodox ultra and the secular ones, the Israelis change greatly in his life styles and in his religious practices. Although only 20 % adheres definitely to all the religious prescripts, most of the Israelis observe some combination of Jewish customs, in accordance with his personal preferences and his ethnic or familiar traditions.
This largeness of beliefs and habits steadies itself in the Jewish ceremonial objects - some of which are enclosed in hearths absolutely not observantes and others, only in the families more observantes. For some, the above mentioned objects are an indispensable part of the rituals of the life, while others simply admire his beauty, his craft and his historical meaning.
To weigh - and perhaps precisely that's why - of the prohibition of doing images, the Judaism has developed a big variety of ceremonial objects that adorn both the synagog and the hearth. The beauty was praised by the rabbis of beginning of the Common Age, who gave form to the practices and the Jewish ceremonial objects; in one of these contexts (the Holiday of the Tabernacles) the search of the beauty is considered to be a Biblical order.
The ceremonial objects can be done of clay, stone, bronze, pewter, china, glass, silver and gold, as well as of wool, cloth, parchment and other materials. To separate them from the images engraving, they avoid any similarity with the human figure.
The objects that are described next can be in synagogs and hearths. They all are destined for the use, and in general they are even used in regular form if there are considered to be a part of the familiar heredity.
The Bible orders two times the Jews (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20) "and you will write them [the God's words] in the jambs of the doors of your house and in the portals of the city".
The Hebrew word for jamb, mezuzá, has happened to be the name of the object itself, the mezuzá (pl. Mezuzot), a rectangle of parchment in which there are inscribed the excellent Biblical passages (Deut. 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). In his reverse there appears the word S-H-A-D-A-I, one of the God's Names and acronym of Shomer Dlatot Israel - "protector of the doors of Israel". The parchment is coiled and placed diagonally in the right jamb of all the rooms, except the baths.
To protect the parchment, this one is placed in a groove that is realized in the jamb, and cutlery with glass, or it placed in a box, which can be simply of plastic, although also forms and artistic materials are used.
Examples of grooves in the jambs can be observed in the ancient Jewish quarters in Israel, like the Old Cities of Jerusalem and Hebrón. There are Jews who accustom also to take a mezuzá hanging to the neck.
The most ancient material evidence of this is a parchment of mezuzá found in Qumrán, where AEC lived through a Jewish sect in the Ist century. Nowadays, they can be mezuzot in most of the jambs of the doors of Israel. Some persons usually touch the mezuzá on having happened and the fingers kiss.
The mezuzot are checked two times every seven years due to the natural deterioration and many Jews check them or replace when they turn out to be afflicted by personal or collective sorrows.
The meal in Shabat
In spite of being observed in different grade by every family, the Shabat (Saturday) is the day of official rest of Israel. For the Jews observantes, the Shabat implies a variety of rituals related to the special holiness of the day, which have given place to a series of ceremonial objects.
In many hearths, the day of rest is received shortly before the sunset on Friday with the sails ignition on the part of the house proprietor. Two or more sails are lit in candelabra that sometimes are extremely decorated and in general of value. The sails are placed at sight, on the Shabat table. The meal in Shabat is preceded by the kidush (consecration of the wine), for which glasses are used with or without saucers. The "glasses of kidush" are valued gifts and heredities; in general they have engraved the name of the one who receives them, as well as of the occasion in which they were granted.
The meal in itself is dedicated by two breads of Shabat (jalá, pl. Jalot), that are covered while the kidush is recited. This has created beautiful coverages of jalá tacks. The knife used to cut the jalá often has a handle worked with such inscriptions like "Private room for the Sacred Shabat".
At the end of the Shabat, for the havdalá ("division", in Hebrew, a brief ceremony that marks the end of the Shabat and the beginning of a new week), three ceremonial objects are used: a braided sail, a box of spices and a glass. The kidush glass can be used, but in many hearths there is a game separated for the havdalá, with spices boxes with form of towers in miniature with sliding doors or of hinges. The objects for the kidush and for the havdalá are generally of gold and silver.
Holidays and Jewish festivities
The Jewish festivities, with his ceremonies, his special meals and his festive familiar meetings, are celebrated extensively in Israel. For more observantes, these special events imply elaborated customs, but some traditions of these holidays are even fulfilled by the not observantes. Some objects related to the festivities are, therefore, also in the secular hearths.
The most basic of the ceremonial objects used for the festivities is a Janucá lamp (janukiá), a candelabrum with nine arms in tier for sails of wax or small glasses for the olive oil. Eight arms are used for the ceremony; the ninth one is higher or separated and eight is used to light others. The Janukiot can be done of any not flammable material, from precious metals to copper and wood. The students generally make his janukiot after the holiday approaches.
For Séder de Pesaj (the ceremonial history of the Exodus), a big salver is used. In his most elaborated version, the "salver of the Séder" - of china or of silver - has compartments separated for the food that the ceremony demands, each of them symbolically of an aspect of the slavery and liberation of the Israelites. Some Séder salvers have three apartments, to place three matzot (sing. Matzá - unleavened bread, in memory of the bread baked by the Israelites during the Exodus of Egypt). Every matzá is covered and discovered alternatively during the Séder; for this purpose diverse embroidered cloths are used.
Shortly before Sucot (the Holiday of the Tabernacles), the families acquire a game of the "four species" - a branch of palm tree, branches of myrtle, branches of willow and a lemon - that are used during seven days of the holiday in the prayers of thank you and in the ceremonies. The pure beauty of these items is considered to be a part of the observance of the prescript of the "cuatros species", especially with regard to the lemon, a citric fruit that is cultivated, harvested and sold under strict conditions. An elaborated literature has developed with regard to the characteristics needed from four species and his price it can come to several hundreds of dollars. The special boxes that are used for the lemon can belong to functional models and / or decorated, to all kinds of materials; other items keep generally in utilitarian envelopes.
The sucá herself (the tabernacle, pl. Sucot) is a ceremonial object, a ceremonial "hearth" in which the family eats and the males can sleep during the week of the holiday. It is made of walls of wood or of cloth and is roofed by branches, the sucá is much decorated inside. The most common decorations are illustrations on the topic of Biblical figures to who the family "invites" to his tabernacle. At present they are used sucot reusables, some of which include straw roofs.
For the observantes, the religious ceremony is a part of the everyday life and it needs personal ceremonial objects. The above mentioned objects are different for the men and the women and in fact they apply themselves principally for the males because the requisites of the personal ritual center on them.
The skull-cap (kipá in Hebrew) is the external indicator of an orthodox Jew. It does not imply any holiness and there can be woven to crochet with designs, religious motives and (in case of the children) the name of the one who uses it. In general it is used by the secular males in religious ceremonies.
Two types of garment with fringe are used by the males. The most well-known is the talit (pl. Talitot), taled or cloak of prayers - a rectangular cloak of the size of a blanket with fringe (heb.: tzitzit) in his ends, since it is ordained in Numbers 0:38-41. The talitot generally are white and they are done of wool, cotton or silk. Many have black, or blue stripes, the majority. The fringe is done of four common fibers knotted in accordance with a prescribed form. The talitot can have some embellishment in the ends or in the neck, where silver fibers and / or a silver stripe they create a "necklace" sometimes embroidered with the words of one of the blessings that are said on having been wrapped in the talit. The talit can place himself on the shoulders or on the head, as layer.
In any communities the talitot are not used by the single males; in others, adolescent and even the children use them. The cloak in itself does not have any intrinsic meaning, but the fringe is considered to be sacred. After the Shemá recites Israel (the phrase "Hears Israel, the Gentleman is our God, the Gentleman is One", the recitation two times for day of the declaration of the God's unit) in the morning religious service, the faithful join the fringe of four ends and kiss them after the word is mentioned tzitzit. It is a custom to bury the Jewish males with his talitot, from which the fringe has been extracted.
The second type of finery with fringe is the talit katán ("child talit"), used by adults and children from three or four years of age. The intention of this underwear without sleeves is to observe the order of using fringe during every hour of the day.
The Bible (Exodus 13:16; Deut. 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) it orders the males to tie the God's words in his front and in his arms, and this prescript is fulfilled literally after the tefilín are placed: a pair of boxes in forms of bucket of black leather, mounted on bases, which contain the excellent passages written in parchment. They stick with thongs of black leather to the arm and to the head. The tefilín laying begins 13 years after age. The tefilín are used during the morning prayer of the working days, with some exceptions.
One treats them with very much respect and they must not fall down or take to impure places.
Flavio Josefo (Ist century EC) informed that the Jews were placing themselves tefilín, and their fragments were found in the caverns of the area of the Dead Sea. The Hebrew term tefilín often is translated mistakenly like phylacteries, the Greek term for "amulet", as it is mentioned in the New Testament (Mat. 23:5). Nevertheless, the Jews do not consider them to be as such.
The ceremonial objects of the women are associated with the marriage. The weddings are carried out under a jupá, a fastened canopia by four sticks, placed generally outdoors and supported by friends of the fiancés. The wedding ceremony often is named "the jupá". The contract of marriage, the ketubá (pl. ketubot) establishes the obligations of the husband towards his wife, be from the financial point of view and in other areas of the life. Prepared and signed before witnesses shortly before the wedding ceremony, the ketubá is kept by the woman. For very prosaic that are the ketubot, generally are decorated of diverse ways, sometimes in very elaborated form. For centuries, the ketubot were done in parchment and they have been decorated by brilliant coloring and by Jewish symbols.
In the Synagog
The synagogs change of common buildings and even rooms (in Israel the antiaircraft refuges often are used for such an end) up to magnificent lounges. The principal ceremonial object is the Sacred Ark, which can have the form of a simple closet of wood, or of one decorated. The Ark in general is in high place, his access is across a stairs and it is decorated by illustrations of Ten Orders.
The Ark is leaned or fixed in the wall that gives towards Jerusalem. It has an embroidered or decorated curtain, in general of heavy velvet, or decorated wooden doors. A synagog can have several curtains games for the Ark: smooth for the weekdays, decorated for Shabat and Holidays, half notes for the High Festivities.
The most important ceremonial object is the roll of the Torá, the Pentateuco, which reports the history of the Jewish people and spreads the universal messages of the monotheism and of the ethical behavior. One keeps it constantly in the Ark, except for the public reading. The roll formed of big pieces of parchment sewed together, can come to a height of up to 80 cm. It is mounted in two wooden poles to coil it, to raise it and to carry it. In the custom ashkenazí (European), the manacles of these poles are covered generally by crowns or auctions of some thin metal. The Torá is tied by a strip, smooth or embroidered, which comes untied only when it is read in public, and is protected by a case, in general embroidered. A pectoral one, memory of the one that the Supreme Priest was using, hangs from the manacles on the case. In the communities mesorientales (sefardíes) the roll of the Torá is placed in a cylindrical, varnished and decorated box, and in general wrapped with a strip. Most of the boxes are of wood, but models exist also in silver and in gold.
The roll of the Torá is treated by the maximum reverence although, of course, it is not adored. As the tefilín, it neither must be dropped, nor must be taken to an impure place. The parchment of the roll of the Torá does not touch except when it is absolutely necessary. The reader is helped with a silver or wooden leader who has in his end a hand with the widespread index.
The synagogs can have additional rolls; the most common are Singing of the Cantares, Rut, Eclesiastés and Ester, who are read publicly in Pésaj, Shavuot (Whitsunday), Sucot and Purim, respectively. Some synagogs have an ark separated with the rolls of the Biblical books of those that there read themselves the haftarot, the supplementary public readings in Shabat and holidays. The roll that more commonly is, after the Torá is that of Ester, who counts the Purim history. Since it does not mention the God's name, it is of minor holiness that other rolls and it is in many hearths. One supports it in a made box of wood, silver or other materials.
An ornamental lamp, symbol of the "eternal light" in the Temple of Jerusalem, is placed opposite to the Ark. The synagogs can work perfectly without this lamp, and many synagogs in Israel lack her.
The ceremonial objects in the synagog include a shofar (pl. Shofarot), a horn of ram that does asdic to itself at the end of the morning services during the month previous to New Year (Rosh Hashaná), in Rosh Hashaná himself and in the Day of the Pardon (Yom Kipur). The shofarot in general are not decorated, but they can be recorded whenever the mouthpiece remains intact.
The walls of the synagog are adorned by diverse objects. One of them is the Shiviti, a representation of the Psalm 16:8 - "I have put God [heb. Shiviti] always in front of me". Other objects are news about the synagog and a sign indicating the Jerusalem direction.
Many synagogs are provided with a very carved and decorated high armchair that remains empty during the ceremony of the circumcision, which realizes the males of eight days of age. This furniture is known by the name of the "Chair of Elías" based on Malaquías 3:1, where the prophet Elías is called "the angel of the agreement" - brit in Hebrew, which also means circumcision.
Care and waste of the ceremonial objects
The Jewish ceremonial objects are used in regular form, and therefore they suffer from wear. The writing on the parchment disappears, the leather of the tefilín is cracked. The fringe of the talitot wears out, and the books, especially the used ones in the synagog, disarm themselves.
The above mentioned objects are revered, and they need of a special treatment when they cannot already continue in use. Together with any other thing that takes the God's name, they are placed in a special container called guenizá (file). When the guenizá is full, his content receives a ritual burial.