Marriage is both a private agreement codified by a wedding contract, and an engagement towards the Jewish community to accomplish what is written in the book of Genesis "Grow, multiply and inhabit the Earth…".
The Bible represents marriage as a fundamental part of the plan of the Creation, as meant for the whole human kind. The aim of marriage is not only that to ensure descendance to the couple, but also that to ensure each other help. The duty to create a family, according to the Jewish tradition, is the first of the 613 precepts of Torà. Man and woman together, in love and mutual respect, complete each other physically, morally and spiritually. Only in marriage man and woman’s exigencies, both physic and social, can be oriented to holy aims.
Marriage can take place in the synagogue, at the bride’s home or even on the open air.
The ceremony takes place under the wedding altar, the chuppah, whose four corners are the symbol of the house that the couple will begin to build from that day. During the ceremony, the ketubbah, the wedding contract, regulating the economic, social and consortial duties, and whose aim is to defend the bride’s rights, is read.
The main moment of the ceremony is when, after the brides have declared their mutual obligation, the bridegroom declares to “consecrate to him” the bride and put a ring on her finger. The blessing of brides by the parents shows all the family loving and the continuity of family tradition.
According to a greatly spread tradition, the bridegroom at the end of ceremony breaks a glass, to remind Jerusalem which has not built yet and to underline that even in the moment of joy, some reflection must be.
The Rabbi, who presides the ceremony and is the warrant of its right course, ends to write the ketubah.
The religious festivity of Rosh ha-Shanà which takes place on the 1st of Tishri (September) and lasts two days, is the beginning of the new Jewish year and is marked by the sound of shofar, the ram's horn which reminds Isaac's sacrifice.
Rosh ha-Shanà commemorates both the creation of the world and the day in which God will judge every creature. It is thought that it represents for God the right moment to remind the action of human kind, it is not surprising therefore that the festivity is preceded and followed by days with a high tone of repentance.
The greatest rites of Rosh ha-Shanà take place in the synagogue, where people stay for many hours in both the days of festivity. Several times the “voice” of the shofar, from the tevà, the little altar used for the reading of the Torà, rises.
In the afternoon of the first day there is the tradition to go by a water course to accomplish the ceremony of tashlit, with the symbolic action to sink one’s sins into the water.
Rosh ha-Shanà (as well as Kippur) has not a clear reference to episodes of Jewish history; they are days devoted to reflection and are also a period of preparation to the feast of Sukkoth.
For this festivity it is a tradition eating apple slices with honey as the wish of a sweet year, sending friends and relatives wishing cards, harvesting at home a little amount of corn and maize as a wish of prosperity.
Sukkoth is the feast of huts: it starts on the 15th of Tishri (September) and lasts seven days.
It reminds the forty years spent in the desert by the people of Israel after the escape from Egypt, when, precisely, they were forced to live on huts.
The precept characterizing the feast is the building, on open air, of a sukkà (hut) which must have three walls and a covering of branches that allows seeing the sky. Under the sukkà meals are taken and, possibly, people should sleep: the sukkà must be considered in the same time a shelter and a home where it is pleasant to live, to study, to read and to chat.
Abandoning his home to go and live in a fragile hut, the Jew puts into evidence that he trusts in the divine protection.
In the synagogal functions a very important role is played by the other main symbol: the “four species”. They are constituted by lulav, i.e. a palm tree branch, by a branch of willow e by a branch of myrtle: these three species of vegetables are kept in the right hand, while in the left one an etrog (lime) is kept; they symbolize together the fertility of the land at the end of harvest time.
During the prayer the lulav is waved in all directions to plea for rain and to show the universal dominium of God, and it is taken around the synagogue telling hymns with the refrain “hosha’na” (“save us”). The seventh day there is a particular ceremony where the lulav turns seven times around the Torà.
Two moments mark the spirit of this feast: the first one is the ceremony in which the scrolls of Torà are brought into procession; the second one is the closure of the yearly reading of the Torah.
At the proclamation of the last chapter of Deuteronomy, with which the Pentateuch ends, in fact, the first chapter of Genesis follows. The sense of this yielding is clear: the cycle of the proclamation of the holy word can never interrupt, as the end connects to the beginning.
Pesach (Passover) is one of the most important festivities of the Jewish calendar and reminds the freedom of Jews from the Egyptian slavery. It begins on Nissàn 15th (March- April) and lasts eight days. For the whole time of the festivity it is forbidden to eat leven food, as to remind the hurrily eaten dinner on the eve of the escape from Egypt, and the bread is substituted with unleven bread (matzàh).
In ancient times Pesach was celebrated only in the night between the 14th and the 15th of Nissàn, which, originally coincided with ancient spring festivity in which sheperds were joyful and thankful for the birth of the new lambs in the flock. In the course of the development of the calendar of festivities another celebration, the agricultural festivity of unleven bread (matzah) came closer and closer to Pesach, until when this latter festivity was clearly declared the beginning of the feast of unleven bread.
The two connected celebrations are considered as a unique festivity, lasting seven days, starting the evening preceding the 15th Nissàn, first month of the Jewish calendar.
The preparation of the festivity of Pesach points its attention to the elimination from the domestic walls of the leven food (chametz), as to remind the hurrily eaten dinner on the eve of the escape from Egypt. The climax of rites for Pesach is constituted by the celebration of the Supper, named seder (the Order), which takes place in the first two evenings of the festivity. On the table, laid with Pesach dishes, there three unleven breads (mazzot), a leg of lamb ( zerda), to remind the ancient sacrifice of Pesach, a boiled egg (betza) symbol of mourning to remind the destruction of the Temple, bitter herbs (maror), to remind the bitterness of slavery, celery (karpas) to be eaten with vinegar or salted water, similar to the shed tears and a smashed fruit salad (charoset), which reminds the clay with which the Jewish slaves built bricks.
The seder represents the prosecution of the story since their own origins and this telling without stopping is, beyond being undoubtedly a process of high cultural identity, also the right execution of the biblical precept ordering to tell the children the coming out from Egypt.
Everything is enclosed in the Haggadah (narration) which comprises the story of the coming out from Egypt and the different rabbinic interpretations in the centuries after.
Shabbat (from Shavat: to end, to have a rest) reminds the rest the Lord had after the creation: it begins at sunset of Friday evening and ends with the showing in the sky of the three first stars in the evening of Saturday.
No job can implying a transformation of Create be done on the day of Shabbat. On Friday, before sunset, the woman lights two candles; at the beginning of dinner the head of the family consecrates the Shabbat with wine (Kiddush) and two whole breads (challòt). At the end of Shabbat, the ceremony of Havdalàh separates the feast day from the working days and during this rite blessings on wine, on spices, on light and on the separation between holy and secular things are pronunciated.