Monday, October 27, 2008

Jewish Knowledge (1)

Topic: Jewish Knowledge A-Z #1


Observed as a strict fast, lasting 24 hours. Commemorates the fall of the First and Second Temples. Is also the anniversary of the Fall of Bettir in 135 ending the Bar Kokba war, and of the explusion of the Jews from Spain. It is the great day of mourning in the Jewish calendar. The special ritual is keyed to sorrow, being largely the recital of the Book of Lamentations, the Kinoth or Dirges relating Jewish martyrdom, and Judah Halevi's Zionide. Among the Ashkenazim this sense of mourning is emphasized by worshippers sitting on the floor, removing the curtain from the Ark, and by visitng cemeteries on that day. The Sephardic service is similar except that the Ark is covered with a black curtain, and the reader records the number of the years "of the exile." This fast is regarded as one of the observances to be abolished at the Restoration. It was therefore one of the fasts that Shabbethai Zebi, as evidence of his Messiahship, ordered abolished. Reform Jews no longer observe this fast.


Ritual purification by washing. Required by Jewish law after rising from sleep, prior to praying and eating, before entering a holy place. Priests were commanded to wash their hands and feet before entering the sanctuary (Ex. xxx. 19). The washing of the whole body is most frequently directed in Scripture. Of the many ablutions that formed part of the ancient ritual, the washing before eating, the washing of the priests before the recital of the Blessing of the Kohanim, the immersion of females after menstruation, washing the dead, etc., still survive as orthodox practices.


"Divine Service", originally the sacrificial ritual of the Temple. The Term is now usually applied to the special feature in the Additional Service of the Day of Atonement which recites the Temple ritual according to Leviticus xvi and the details in the Mishnah. The only service in which Jews prostrate themselves. The recital is the most picturesque in language and melody of the Atonement service. The history of the traditional melody is not known. The service is well expressed by Solomon Ibn Gabirol in his poem "Happy who saw of old." The following stanza expresses the central theme of the Abodah:

Happy he who saw the crowd, That in adoration bowed
As they heard the priest proclaim: "One, Ineffable, the Name,"
And they answered, "Blessed be God the Lord Eternally,
He whom all created worlds extol." Happy he whose eyes
Saw at last the clouds of glory rise, But to hear it afficts our soul.
___Alice Lucas, translation.


Popular hymn, chanted during the Passover Seder service. It was introduced about the end of the 15th cent. Its tune is a 17th cent. composition.


The most familiar hymn in the Jewish liturgy, and used in all rituals. It is a metrical hymn, 10 lines in length in the Ashkenazi version, 12 in the Sephardic, and in some rituals 16 lines. It glorifies the supremacy of God. Though it has been credited to Solomon Ibn Gabirol its author is unknown, but it is presumed to have been composed in the 12th cent., and was inserted in the liturgies of the 15th cent. The following, by Jessie E. Sampter is a good paraphrase of the first stanza:

The everlasting Lord who reigned, Ere yet was formed or shape or thing,
When all was made as he decreed, Was even then acknowledged King. (22)

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