Marriage is an opportunity for adults to create their own Jewish home and to pass on Jewish values. The bride and groom formalize their union under a special canopy (chuppah). The chuppah symbolizes the Jewish home that the couple will build together. The wedding ceremony concludes with the breaking of a glass to remind those in attendance of the fragile nature of existence and of all that is imperfect in the world, even during this joyous event.
The final rite of passage is death. Burial takes place as soon as possible and there is no wake. It is commanded that another individual always accompany the deceased until the time of burial, and it is considered a high honor to be chosen to do so. The funeral and preparations are simple. The body is not embalmed but is wrapped in a white shroud. It is laid to rest in a plain wooden coffin without details, metal hinges, or paint. Following the funeral, family members and friends visit the individuals in mourning for seven days (shiva). Mourners light special memorial candles, cover their mirrors and wear a strip of torn black cloth or torn clothing, symbolizing the absence of vanity. Following the week of shiva, mourners observe a thirty-day period of mourning. During this period of time, mourners refrain from attending joyous events, such as weddings and celebrations. For the next eleven months, relatives recite the prayer that affirms life and faith in God (kaddish) at every prayer service.
Jewish Holidays and Festivals
A central tenet of Judaism is the celebration and observance of the weekly sabbath and the holidays, which involve rituals for both the home and the synagogue. The Jewish festivals are divided into four categories: the sabbath, the High Holy Days, the three pilgrimage festivals, and the minor holidays. They occur throughout the year and mark changes of the seasons and important historical events.