Becoming barmtizvah 14/8/02

Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah
United Synagogue Agency for Jewish Education Publications 2006
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programme of Studies and Test [j}u oh4r7c0S] ":h(bh5g ih5C ,-p7y-y)k Uh7v)u :9s&h k6g ,It)k o7<0r6wGU"
"And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as ornaments between your eyes." Becoming Bar Mitzvah
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programme of Studies and Test "Who has made us holy with His commandments and has commanded us to light the Shabbat light." Becoming Bat Mitzvah
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Becoming Bnei Mitzvah
Dear Bar Mitzvah… Dear Bat Mitzvah… Bnei Mitzvah Programme of Studies
Section One: The Written Test
Section Two: Judaism and Me
Section Three: Practical Activities
Section Four: Oral and Practical Test
Shabbat: A Day of Holiness, Rest and Delight
Special Events Throughout Our Lives Writing a Sefer Torah The Outward Signs The Tribe of Levi Recommended Jewish Book List Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Dear Bar Mitzvah…
Dear Bar Mitzvah It gives us great pleasure to wish you and your family Mazal Tov on yourforthcoming Bar Mitzvah.We sincerely hope that all the preparations gowell so that when the great day finally arrives, everything will runsmoothly.The weeks and months ahead are certainly going to be verybusy and exciting for all your family as you plan for this great event inyour life. We are sure you will be relieved to know that a number of importantdetails will be done on your behalf.Therefore, you will probably nothave to worry about booking a hall and caterer,or choosing the printerto produce the invitations. But of course, there are some importantaspects regarding your Bar Mitzvah that will be your responsibilityalone. Firstly, you will surely want to be word perfect when you arecalled up to the Torah so you will of course, need to practise regularly.
But there is an even more important aspect, which we would like youto think about.You are fortunate to be a member of a great and proudpeople - the Jewish people.Therefore,all the studies you undertake nowwill be a basis on which to build for your future as a responsible andknowledgeable Jewish adult.
The good news is that your Bar Mitzvah is not an event that willhappen for just one day or weekend and then be over and forgotten,because once you become a Bar Mitzvah, you remain a Bar Mitzvahfor the rest of your life. We wish you a very happy and successful future and I pray that youwill take your place as an active and committed member of yourcommunity. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Dear Bat Mitzvah…
Dear Bat Mitzvah Becoming Bat Mitzvah is a very special time in your life. It is a time to lookback with satisfaction at past achievements. It is a time to look forward withexcitement and anticipation to a future filled with happiness and success.
Most of all, it is a time to express your gratitude to Hashem and yourappreciation to your parents for enabling you to reach this importantmilestone in your life.
Becoming Bat Mitzvah signifies that you are now of an age when you take uponyourself the obligation and responsibility to be a part of our Jewish nation. As a Bat Mitzvah, you are a precious link in the chain of our heritage.Younow have the opportunity to continue a legacy which has kept the Jewishpeople alive throughout the centuries. As you embark upon this road to adulthood, draw on the strengths and valuesof our Matriarchs as your role models: the faith of Sarah who together withher husband Avraham taught the world to believe in the Oneness of G-d; theloving kindness of Rivkah who demonstrated her concern for the welfare ofboth humans and animals; the self sacrifice of Rachel who motivated bycompassion shared the secret signals with her sister; the gratitude of Leahwho saw the wonders of Hashem in seemingly natural events.These womenhave charted the course upon which you will travel to become a proud andconfident daughter of Israel - a Bat Yisrael - faithful to the privileges andresponsibilities of our Jewish heritage and its traditions. Becoming Bat Mitzvah is a time for celebration. It is a celebration in whichyour parents and family share their joy that you are now able to perform themitzvot as an adult. But it is also a celebration, significant enough to leaveyou with a lasting spiritual impression long after your party is over. Wih warmest good wishes for a happy and successful future in which you willbecome a valued and valuable member of your community. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Section One
The Written Test
Hebrew writing may be in block or script and should be without vowels. Jewish Education
The aim of this section is to highlight the importance of Jewish
education as an ongoing experience. Ideally, it begins from earliest
childhood. However, Rabbi Akiva was forty years of age when he
began to study.Therefore, we are never too old to begin our
Jewish learning and certainly never old enough to stop learning.
You should be aware of the vital role that Jewish educationhas played in ensuring the survival of the Jewish people.
General Knowledge
• Your Jewish name spelled correctly in Hebrew
• The Hebrew Alef Bet in the correct order and the
numerical value of each letter • (For boys only)The name of your sidrah spelled correctly in Hebrew• Any Jewish date in Hebrew including the year.
The answers to the following questions may be written in Hebrew or English.
There will be no penalty for incorrect Hebrew spelling or transliteration.
• The Hebrew names of the three sections of the L" b0<
(Tenach) in order • The Hebrew names of the five books of the w7nUj (Chumash) in order
• The Hebrew names of the four books of the oh$bIwt4r oh4th4c)b (Nevi'im Rishonim) in order
• The Hebrew names of the ,IK$d0n w5n7j (Five Megillot)
• The Hebrew names of the three daily services in order
• The Hebrew name of the additional service for special days
• The Hebrew names of the Jewish months in order
• The Hebrew main occasions in each month (see pages 14-19) ,7C6w (Shabbat) – A Day of Holiness, Rest and Delight
The Jewish Wayby Rabbi Arye Forta – • The origin of Shabbat; its prayers, laws and customs • Preparation for Shabbat (United Synagogue • The concept of v7ft7k0n (Melachah)
Agency for JewishwUSJ (Kiddush);v(b0w4n o9j9k (Lechem Mishneh);
Education Publications) Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test ,Irh4n)z (Zemirot); iIz7N6v , F0r4C (Birkat Hamazon)
• Shabbat in the synagogue including: the role of the Rabbi, Chazan and wardens • Special events: Naming a Baby; Bar Mitzvah;Aufruf;
,h4wh$k0w v7S8g0x (Seudah Shlishit); v&k7S0c6v (Havdalah)
(See pages 19-21)
,9x(b)F6v ,h5C (The Synagogue)
You should be able to explain the following:
w9s-Ä6v iIr1t (Aron HaKodesh)
(Sh'liach Tzibbur) v7th4rG k6g C (Ba'al Keri'ah)
(See pages 22-24) g6n0w (Shema) and v7sh4n1g (Amidah)
(See pages 25-26)
,Ur0w F (Kashrut)
You should be aware of the major importance of kashrut inJewish living and how its observance has played such a vitalrole in Jewish survival.
• The r5w&F (kasher) butcher
• Characteristics of permitted animals, birds and fish
v7yh4j0w (Shechitah)
• The laws of kashering meat and liver • The kasher kitchen – its design and equipment; meat and The Jewish Way milk; inspection of fruit and vegetables; eggs; by Rabbi Arye Forta – oh$k%F , kh4c0y (tevilat kelim)
• Eating out -kashrut away from home.
(United Synagogue (See pages 26-28) Agency for JewishEducation Publications) Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Special Events Throughout Our Lives
v7kh4n ,h4r)C
i5C6v iIh0s4P
(Seder Zeved Habat) • v&u0m4n r C
v&u0m4n , C
• Jewish Marriage(See pages 29-31) v7rI< r(p5x (Sefer Torah)
Its sanctity; how it is written; its laws and customs(See pages 31-35) The Outward Signs
ih$K4p0< (Tefillin)
v&zUz0n (Mezuzah)
(See pages 36-37)o5t&u c7t sUC$F (Kibbud Av Va'em) – Honouring Parents
oh4j0rIt ,6x&b0f6v (Hachnassat Orchim) – Hospitality
(Tzedakah) – Charity • oh$kIj rUÄ4C (Bikkur Cholim) – Visiting the Sick
v&K F ,6x&b0f6v (Hachnassat Kalah) – Providing for a Poor Bride
,5N6v , h&u)k6v (Halvayat Hamet) – Accompanying the Dead
Ir5c1j k o7s7t ih5C oIk7w ,6t7c1v
(Hava'at Shalom Bein Adam Lachavero)–Making Peace Between One and Another • o5W6v wUSJ
(Kiddush Hashem) – Sanctifying Hashem's Name • o5W6v kUK4j
(Chillul Hashem) – Profaning Hashem's Name (See pages 37-40) Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test k5t7r0q$h , bh4s0n (Medinat Yisrael)
You should be familiar with the following: Personalities and events leading up to the establishment of the State ofIsrael, including: • Theodor Herzl• The Zionist Congress• The Balfour Declaration• Chaim Weizmann• The Second World War• The Effect of the Holocaust• Illegal Immigration• The Declaration of Independence Israel from May 1948 onwards, including: • The Israeli Flag• The War of Independence• The Knesset• The Sinai Campaign• The Six Day War• The Camp David Accords• Intifada• The Search for Peace Everyday life in Israel, including: • Eliezer Ben Yehudah and the Hebrew Language• Religious Life • Jewish Holy Places • Agricultural Settlements – the Kibbutz and Moshav (second edition)(United Synagogue • The Arab Boycott Agency for Jewish • The Geography and Climate of Israel Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Section Two
Judaism and Me
This section presents opportunities for pupils to express their thoughts,feelings, opinions and ideas through a range of creative options. Pupils may choose one topic from any of the
following three sections:

i) Project
• Shabbat• Chagim• Kashrut• Tefillin• My Favourite Biblical Personality• Israel• Jewish Life in Eastern Europe• My Family History* * This project is • A History of My Synagogue devised by the Jewish • A Visitor's Handbook for My Synagogue of Great Britain and ii) Creative Writing
project material (which includes a • How becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can change my life copy of the book) • What it means to be responsible for my actions should be obtained • Report of an interview with either my Rabbi, Chazan or Warden • Description of a mitzvah that I have been, or would like to be involved in PO Box 180, St Albans, • A memorable Jewish experience of mine Herts AL2 3WH • What Shabbat* means to me for £7.25 *(you may, if you wish, choose any festival in place of Shabbat) including postage • The Jewish things I value most (cheques made payable to the Jewish iii)Design & Technology
of Great Britain) • Challah cloth• Etrog box• Chanukiah• Tefillin bag• Afikoman bag Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The chosen topic should be produced under the guidance of
the tutor.
Projects and creative writing should contain the pupil's
personal thoughts, feelings and experiences.Where
appropriate, reference should be made to the Biblical sources,
and its laws and customs.
The completed work should be sent to the United Synagogue
Agency for Jewish Education for assessment, clearly marked
with the pupil's name and address, to be received at least
two months before the date of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Please ensure that design and technology items are carefullypackaged so as to avoid being damaged in transit.
All work will be returned after assessment.
In awarding a grade, the following criteria will be taken intoaccount as applicable: Comprehensiveness • Factual Accuracy • OriginalityPresentation • Neatness and General Appearance Attendance and participation at the Bnei Mitzvah weekendorganised by Tribe.
In addition, the following should be strongly encouraged: i) Participation in appropriate programmes provided within
the pupil's local community ii) Contribution to the local community in the form of
community or social service, e.g. assisting at children's services; visiting the sick or elderly; etc.
iii) For girls, a visit to a mikvah, accompanied by an
appropriate adult.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Section Four
Oral and Practical Test
(Conducted locally by the Rabbi) Hebrew Reading - prepared and unprepared texts.
Prepared texts:
wUSJ (Kiddush) for Friday night
• First paragraph of iIz7N6v , F0r4C (Grace after meals)
• First paragraph of g6n0w (Shema)
• Topography of the Siddur
You should know the following ,If7r)C (blessings) by heart
and when they are said:
o$h7s&h , kh4y)b and th4mIN6v
,4mh4m (for boys)

The contents of your sidrah (for boys)
Comprehension of the portion you will be reading from the Torah
• The connection between your sidrah and haftarah or between the haftarah and the occasion on which it is read.
• Ability to put on your Tefillin, reciting the appropriate blessings by heart.
For Kohanim and Levi'im
If you are a Kohen or Levi, you will be asked questions on
your special role and responsibilities concerning the following:
• Being called up to the Torah
o$h P F ,6th4q)b (Nesi'at Kappayim)
• Marriage
i5C6v iIh0s4P (Pidyon HaBen)
• Visiting a cemetery
(See pages 40-44)
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The Jewish Year
The following information refers to the last item under the heading‘General Knowledge' (see page 4).You should be familiar with theHebrew names and terms and know what they mean in English. w9s-j wt-r (Rosh Chodesh)
A Jewish month has either 29 or 30 days.A Jewish leap year has
13 months.The thirteenth month is called h$b5w r7s1t (Adar
Sheni).There are 7 Jewish leap years in every cycle of 19 years.
On Rosh Chodesh, we add t-c&h)u v(k1g h (Ya'aleh Veyavo) in the
Amidah and Birkat Hamazon.We recite k5K6v h4m1j (Chatzi Hallel)
and a special Amidah for Musaf.
The Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh is called oh$f0r7c0n ,7C6w
(Shabbat Mevarachim). On this Shabbat, we recite a special
prayer called w9s-j6v , F0r4C (Birkat Hachodesh) during which
the name of the new month is announced plus the day(s) on
which it will occur during the coming week.
Notes on the Jewish Calendar
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, which means it
depends on the moon. Nevertheless, as will be explained shortly,
the Jewish year must be regulated according to the solar year.
2. There are normally 12 months in the Jewish year and the
length of each month is based on the time taken by the moon
to orbit the earth, which is approximately twenty-nine and a
half days. As we cannot have a month with twenty-nine and a
half days, a Jewish month has either 29 or 30 days, never
more or less.
3. The first and thirtieth days are called Rosh Chodesh.The
twenty ninth of every month is always Erev Rosh Chodesh
because the following day will either be the thirtieth of that
month or the first of the new month.
4. If the month has 30 days, there are two days Rosh Chodesh.
They are the thirtieth, which is the first day Rosh Chodesh,
and the first of the new month, which is the second day Rosh
Chodesh. If the month has only 29 days, then there is only one
day Rosh Chodesh, which is on the first of the new month.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test 5. The Jewish (lunar) year is usually 11 days shorter than the
solar year.Therefore, after three years it will be 33 days
shorter.This means that as the years go by, Pesach would not
occur in spring as the Torah commands. Shavuot therefore,
would not occur in summer or Succot in autumn.We cannot
allow that to happen, so to solve the problem, we insert an
extra month of thirty days every two or three years to
lengthen the Jewish year.These years are called leap years.
6. In a Jewish leap year, the twelfth month is called iIwt4r r7s1t
(Adar Rishon) and the thirteenth month is h$b5w r7s1t (Adar
Sheni).The extra month is in fact Adar Rishon and not, as
mistakenly thought, Adar Sheni.
oh4rIf)C ,h$b1g6< (Ta'anit Bechorim) Fast of the Firstborn is on the 14th.
j6x(P (Pesach) commences on the 15th and lasts for 8 days. It
is the first of the oh$k&d0r w-k7w (Shalosh Regalim).
Pesach is also called ,IM6N6v d6j (Chag Hamatzot) and Ub5,Ur5j i6n)z
(Zeman Cherutenu).
The following activities are essential to ensure that the home is readyfor Pesach.You should know what these terms mean and when andhow they are performed..5n7j ,Ah4s)C (Bedikat Chametz)
.5n7j rUg4C
.5n7j ,6rh$f0n (Mechirat Chametz)
The r9s5x (Seder): v7s&D6v (Hagadah); the four questions; the items
on the Seder plate including their significance and how they are
used; the four cups; the three matzot; salt water; Cup of Elijah.
The i7nIeh4p1t (afikoman) is the larger part of the broken
middle matzah, which is wrapped up and put aside to be
eaten at the end of the meal. Nothing should be eaten after
the afikoman. It is eaten as a reminder of the Pesach offering.
There is a custom to hide the afikoman during the Seder.
We commence r9n-g7v ,6rh4p0x (Sefirat Ha'Omer) on the second
night and count 49 days (7 weeks) until ,Ig8c7w (Shavuot).
The middle days of Pesach are called s5gIN6v kIj (Chol HaMoed).
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test ,Ut7n)m6g7v oIh (Yom Ha'atzma'ut) is on the 5th.The State of
Israel was established in 1948.The capital city is Jerusalem.
Israel's parliament is called the Knesset.
You should be able to draw or describe the flag of Israel.
You should know the name of the current Prime Minister andPresident of Israel.
r9n-g7C d"k (Lag Ba'Omer), the 33rd day of the Omer is on the
18th.The plague affecting Rabbi Akiva's students ceased.
Weddings do not take place during this month except onRosh Chodesh and Lag Ba'Omer.
o$h k7wUr)h oIh (Yom Yerushalayim) is on the 28th.The Old City
including the Western Wall was recaptured by the Israel
Defence Forces during the Six Day War in 1967.
,Ig8c7w (Shavuot) on the 6th and 7th. It is the second of the
Shalosh Regalim.
Shavuot is also called oh4rUF4C6v oIh (Yom HaBikkurim) and
Ub5,7rI< i6<6n i6n)z (Zeman Matan Toratenu).
,Ur , K$d0n (Megillat Ruth) is read because it describes how Ruth
accepted the Torah as the Jewish people did at Mount Sinai.
It is a custom to decorate the synagogue with flowers, to eat
milky foods and to take part in a ,Ig8c7w kh%k iUÄ4< (staying up
on the first night to study Torah).
Fast day on 17th. Commences three sad weeks leading to the Fastof Av. Commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalemthat led to the destruction of the two Temples.The walls werebreached by the Babylonians during the time of the first Templeand by the Romans during the time of the second Temple.
As a sign of mourning during the three weeks, we do notcelebrate weddings.We should also avoid listening to musicand having a haircut.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test c7t)C v7g0w4< (9th of Av).This fast day, which begins on the preceding
evening, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples. It is
the saddest day in the Jewish year.
We recite v7fh5t , K$d0n (Megillat Echah) which contains an eye-
witness account of the destruction of the first Temple.
We avoid wearing leather shoes.We also avoid eating meat and
drinking wine from Rosh Chodesh until after Tish'ah B'Av
with the exception of Shabbat.
The r7pIw (shofar) is blown each weekday morning throughout
the month except on the last day v&b7W6v wt-r c9r9g (erev Rosh
Hashanah).Towards the end of the month, we recite special
prayers for forgiveness called ,Ijh$k0x (Selichot).
Rosh Hashanah is on the 1st and 2nd. Beginning of v&cUw0, h5n)h ,9r9q1g
(Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah).
Rosh Hashanah is also called ih4S6v oIh (Yom HaDin) and
v7gUr0< oIh (Yom Teruah).
You should know the meaning and significance of
vE7s0m v&K4p0< v7cUw0< (Teshuvah,Tefillah and Tzedakah).
A festival prayer book is called a rIz0j6n (machzor).
The significance of white in the synagogue e.g. ,(f-r7P (Parochet);
mantles on the Sifrei Torah; cover on the reading desk; kittel.
You should know: the names of the shofar notes; the number
blown each day; the story of e7j0m$h ,6sR1g (Akedat Yitzchak) and
its connection with the shofar.
It is a custom to eat apple dipped in honey and to perform the
ceremony of Lh$k0w6< (Tashlich) on the first day, or on the
second day if the first is Shabbat.
v&h)k6s)D oIm (Tzom Gedaliah).The Fast of Gedaliah is on the 3rd.
(If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on a Thursday, the Fast of
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Gedaliah is observed on the following Sunday which is the 4th).
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and rUP4F oIh (Yom Kippur)
is called v7cUw ,7C6w (Shabbat Shuvah).
Yom Kippur on the 10th.A fast day which begins on the preceding day.
The names of the five services in order.
The Haftarah reading during the Minchah service is the story
of v&bIh (Yonah).You should know its relevance to Yom Kippur.
You should know which verse in the Shema, usually said
quietly, is said aloud and the reason why we avoid wearing
leather shoes.
,IF8x (Succot) commences on the 15th and lasts for 7 days. It
is the third of the Shalosh Regalim.The seventh day, which is
the 21st, is called t7C6r t&b0g6wIv (Hoshana Raba).
Succot is also called Ub5,7j0n4q i6n)z (Zeman Simchatenu).
You should know: why we live in a succah and what sechach
is; the berachah for sitting in a succah.
You should know the Hebrew or English names for the
oh$bh4n v7g7C0r6t (Arba'ah Minim) and the berachah said for them.
On each morning of Succot except on Shabbat, we walk
around the bimah once whilst holding the arba'ah minim and
say special prayers called ‘Hoshanot'. On Hoshana Raba, we
walk round seven times.
The middle days of Succot are called s5gIN6v kIj (Chol HaMoed).
,9r(m1g h$bh4n0w (Shemini Atzeret) is a special festival on the 22nd.
v7rI< ,6j0n4q (Simchat Torah) is on the 23rd.We celebrate the
completion of the Reading of the Torah.
Two men are chosen for the special honour of being
v7rI< i6,1j (Chatan Torah) and ,h4wt5r0C i6,1j (Chatan Bereshit).
v7F*b1j (Chanukah) commences on the 25th and lasts for 8 days.
You should know the story of Chanukah and the procedure for
kindling the lights.
On the first night, we add Ub&h3j9v9w (Shehecheyanu).
There is an extra light called a w7N6w (shamash) because we are
forbidden to make use of the Chanukah lights.
We add oh4X$B6v k6g (Al Hanissim) in the Amidah and Birkat Hamazon.
You should know about the customs associated with Chanukah.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Fast day on the 10th.The siege of Jerusalem began on this day,
which was the beginning of the tragedies leading to the destruction
of the Temple.
y7c0w4C u"y (Tu BiShevat), the New Year for Trees on the 15th.
It is a custom to plant trees in Israel and eat a variety of fruits
grown in Israel.
You should know the following benefits we derive from trees:
• they give us food and timber
• they prevent soil erosion
• they provide shade
• they enable us to observe mitzvot e.g. sechach for the succah and
• they provide the wood for the rollers around which the parchment of a Sefer Torah is attached h$b5w r7s1t
Adar Sheni
The Shabbat before oh4rUP (Purim) is called rIf&z ,7C6w (Shabbat Zachor).
r5<0x9t ,h$b1g6< (The Fast of Esther) is on the 13th.
Purim is on the 14th and Shushan Purim is on on the 15th.
In a Jewish leap year, the above events are observed in Adar Sheni.
You should know the story of Purim and the four special mitzvotperformed on Purim in Hebrew or English.
We add Al Hanissim in the Amidah and Birkat Hamazon.
You should know about the customs associated with Purim.
Shabbat.A day of Holiness, Rest and Delight
The laws of Shabbat are given in the fourth commandment of the
,Ir0C4S6v ,9r9q1g (Aseret Hadibrot).
In Shemot 20:8, the following is written:
Iw0SA)k ,7C6W6v oIh ,9t rIf&z (Zachor et yom haShabbat l'kadsho)
Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy.
In Devarim 5:12, we read:
Iw0SA)k ,7C6W6v oIh ,9t rIn7w (Shamor et yom haShabbat l'kadsho)
Observe the Shabbat day to keep it holy.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Our Rabbis explain that Zachor Remember – refers to the positive
mitzvot of Shabbat such as Kiddush, the Shabbat prayers and our
enjoyment of Shabbat by eating three meals, wearing our best clothes etc.
Shamor Observe – refers to the acts of v7ft&k0n (Melachah) –
activity, which we must avoid so that we are able to appreciate and
enjoy Shabbat as a day of delight.
There is another important difference between these two sectionsof the Torah. In Shemot, the reason given for the mitzvah of Shabbatis because Hashem created the world in six days and rested on theseventh.Therefore, by doing the same, we declare our belief inHashem as the Creator of the Universe.
In Devarim, the reason given is to remember that we were once slavesin Egypt and were unable to rest until Hashem brought us out tofreedom. Shabbat, therefore, represents freedom from slavery.This isparticularly relevant nowadays. Just stop to think of the many modern-day items to which we have become ‘enslaved'! Television, Internet,telephone, and fax machine are just a few examples.These are inaddition to the many other pressures we have during the working week.
Shabbat is therefore, very precious to the Jewish people. By observing itas Hashem has commanded, we remember the two great events in ourhistory, the creation of the world and the departure from Egypt.
Preparing for Shabbat reflects the way we honour Shabbat.
Preparations include:• preparing and cooking enough food for three meals• boiling water in a Shabbat urn• tidying the house• preparing clean Shabbat clothes• setting the Shabbat table with a white tablecloth and best tableware• setting time switches for heating and lighting You should know the blessing and procedure for lighting the Shabbat candles.
At least two candles are lit.They symbolise ,$h C oIk7w (Shalom
Bayit) – peace and harmony in the Jewish home.
oh$b7C6v , F0r4C (Birkat Habannim). It is a custom for parents to bless
their children on Friday night before Kiddush.
Kiddush is recited to fulfil the mitzvah of remembering the Shabbatday to make it holy.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test We have two complete ,IK6j (challot) at each of the three Shabbat
meals.The two challot are referred to as v(b0w4n o9j(k (Lechem
Mishneh).They remind us of the double portion of manna, which
fell in the desert on Friday.This was sufficient for Friday and
Shabbat, as no manna fell on Shabbat.
The white tablecloth and the challah cover remind us of the layersof dew above and beneath the manna.
We eat three meals in honour of Shabbat.The third meal is referred to as ,h4wh$k0w v7S*g0x (Se'udah Shelishit).
We sing ,Irh4n)z (zemirot), special songs during each meal.The
singing of these songs in praise of Hashem and Shabbat creates an
atmosphere of holiness and joy at the Shabbat table.
When Shabbat goes out, we perform the ceremony of v&k7S0c6v
(Havdalah).The word means ‘separation' or ‘division' and marks the
separation between the holiness of Shabbat and the ordinary
working week.The ceremony consists of four blessings.
• the first is over a full cup of wine
• the second is over spices
• the third is over the flames of a special plaited Havdalah candle
• the fourth refers to the separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week
The Torah contains the following phrase within the mitzvah relating
to Shabbat:
You may not do any form of v7ft&k0n (melachah).
To understand the term ‘melachah', we have to think about the 39
activities that were necessary for the construction of the Sanctuary
in the desert. Each of these melachot – activities, required the
Jewish people to exercise their intelligence and skill. On Shabbat,
these 39 melachot were forbidden even though the construction of
the Sanctuary was one of the holiest tasks given to the Jewish
people.We see therefore, that the holiness of Shabbat is even
greater, as the work of the Sanctuary had to stop on Shabbat.
In order to prevent us from performing a melachah on Shabbat
unintentionally, our Rabbis instituted the laws of v(mG8n (Muktzeh).
This means that we must not handle an object that could be used to
perform a melachah. For example, writing is a melachah, therefore
a pen is muktzeh on Shabbat. By not handling a pen, we will not
accidentally write with it.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test This is the Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls are kept in the BetK'nesset. It reminds us of the holiest part of the Sanctuary that theJewish people built in the desert, and later, of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Ner Tamid
It is the everlasting light that suspends from the ceiling in front ofthe Aron Kodesh.This light, which remains on permanently remindsus of the Menorah which was kept burning in the Sanctuary and inthe Temple. It also symbolises the Shechinah – Divine Presence ofHashem that dwells amongst the Jewish people.
Mizrach which means ‘east', is the direction we face in the BetK'nesset when we say the Amidah.This is the direction of the AronKodesh.When we face Mizrach, we are turning towards the HolyCity of Jerusalem where the Temple once stood. In some countries,for example Australia and parts of Israel, we would face in differentdirections in order to turn towards Jerusalem.
The Bimah is the platform in the Bet K'nesset on which the Torahand Haftarah are read. In many synagogues, the entire service isconducted on the Bimah.
The man who leads the service in the Bet K'nesset is called theSh'liach Tzibbur or the Chazan. A Sh'liach Tzibbur, meaning‘representative of the congregation', can be any adult malecongregant who is chosen to conduct the service on a particularoccasion. A chazan is usually an employee of the Bet K'nesset andbesides conducting services regularly on Shabbat and festivals, oftenperforms other duties such as teaching religious studies and visitingthe sick.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Petichah means ‘opening' and refers to the honour of opening theArk during the service.The man chosen to perform this mitzvahusually goes up to the Ark with one of the wardens. After openingthe Ark, he takes out a Sefer Torah and hands it to the Sh'liachTzibbur.The Ark is also opened for the recital of certain prayers, forexample An'im Zemirot, when the Sefer Torah is not removed. OnRosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many such prayers are recited andthe Ark is therefore opened frequently.
The word ‘aliyah' comes from the Hebrew root meaning ‘to go up'and refers to the mitzvah of ‘being called up' to the Torah.Thehonour of being called up first to the Torah is given to a Kohen andthe second to a Levi.The number of Aliyot varies according to theoccasion. For example, three men are called up on Monday andThursday mornings, four on Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed, fiveon festivals except Yom Kippur, six on Yom Kippur and seven onShabbat morning.
v7th4rG k6g C
Ba'al Keriah
The Ba'al Keriah is the title given to the man who reads the Torah inthe Bet K'nesset.This could be the Rabbi, Sh'liach Tzibbur, or anycompetent male congregant. A boy celebrating his Bar Mitzvahusually acts as the Ba'al Keriah by reading a section from his sidrah,and in some cases, the entire sidrah. As there are no vowels,punctuation or musical notes in the Sefer Torah, the Ba'al Keriahmust prepare the reading thoroughly, as he must be careful not tomake any mistakes.
On Shabbat and festivals, there is an extra Aliyah called Maftir,which may be given to a Kohen, Levi or Yisrael.
On Shabbat, the reading for the Maftir is usually the repetition ofthe last few verses of the weekly sidrah. On festivals, there is anadditional reading, and this is read from a second Sefer Torah.
On Simchat Torah, the Maftir is read from a third Sefer Torah.
The man called up for Maftir is referred to as the Ba'al Maftir.
This honour is often given to a boy celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test On Shabbat and festival mornings, a section from the Book ofProphets is read by the Ba'al Maftir after the reading from theTorah.This reading is referred to as the Haftarah, which means‘conclusion'.The theme of the Haftarah usually has a connectionwith the weekly sidrah, but sometimes, the theme is connected withthe occasion on which it is read.
v7v7C)d6v and v&kh$k)D
Hagbahah and Gelilah
After the Torah has been read, two men are called up for the
important mitzvot of Hagbahah and Gelilah. Hagbahah means ‘raising
up' and the one chosen for this mitzvah opens the Sefer Torah and
raises it up from the reading desk. He turns around so that everyone
in the Bet K'nesset can see it as they sing V'zot HaTorah – And
this is the Torah that Moshe set before the Children of
Israel, according to the command of Hashem, by the hand
of Moshe
. He then sits down still holding the Sefer Torah.
Gelilah means ‘rolling', and the second man rolls the Sefer Torahtogether ensuring that the roller on the right of the Sefer Torah isplaced above the one on the left. He then secures the binder aroundthe Sefer Torah and finally, he replaces the velvet mantle and the silver ornaments.
Minyan means ‘number' and refers to the minimum number of tenmen required to conduct a full service. Saying prayers with aminyan is far more desirable than praying on one's own as it helpsto unite Jews as members of one people. Certain parts of theservice can only be said if a minyan is present.These include:Kaddish, Kedushah and the reading of the Torah.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The three paragraphs of the Shema are recited twice every day atShacharit and at Ma'ariv.
First Paragraph: Devarim 6: 4-9
The opening verse s7j9t 'v UbhR-k3t 'v k5t7r0q$h g6n0w is the most
important declaration of our faith, for in it, we recognise that Hashem is One.
The first paragraph contains seven mitzvot.They are:• to know of the Oneness of Hashem• to love Hashem• to learn and teach Torah• to recite the Shema twice every day• to bind Tefillin on our arm• to put Tefillin on our head• to fix a Mezuzah Second Paragraph: Devarim 11: 13-21
This paragraph deals with reward and punishment. If we obey Hashem,
He will send rain for the land so that crops will grow for our food.
Third Paragraph: Bamidbar 15: 37-41
This paragraph deals with the mitzvah of ,4mh4m (tzitzit), which we
wear to remind us of all the mitzvot in the Torah.
The last verse refers to o$h6r0m4n ,6th4m)h (Yetziat Mitzrayim).
We must constantly be aware of our debt of gratitude to Hashem for
delivering us from slavery.We therefore recite this paragraph twice each
day to fulfil the mitzvah of remembering the departure from Egypt.
The name Amidah comes from the root meaning ‘to stand', because
the prayer is said standing, with feet together facing Mizrach.
Another name for the Amidah is v5r0q(g v(bIn0w (Shemoneh Esreh) which
means ‘eighteen'.This refers to the number of blessings it originally contained.
However, the name used in the Mishnah is simply v&K4p0< (Tefillah) – Prayer.
This name reminds us that the Amidah is the central part of each service.
The Amidah is recited silently at every service. It is then repeatedaloud by the Sh'liach Tzibbur at every service except Ma'ariv.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The first three blessings and the last three blessings are a feature ofevery Amidah.The middle part varies according to the occasion.
The middle part of the weekday Amidah contains thirteen blessingsmaking nineteen in total.
The Amidah said on Shabbat, festivals, and the Musaf of RoshChodesh contain one central blessing dealing with the holiness ofthe day, making seven in total.There is one exception to this rule.
On Rosh Hashanah, there are three central blessings in the Musafservice, making nine in total.
The Torah states that the reason for the laws of Kashrut is to enable us
to attain the ideal of holiness. In addition, these laws distinguish us
from other nations, thereby preventing us from becoming assimilated.
Characteristics of Permitted Animals, Birds and Fish
- Four-legged animals that have cloven hoofs and chew
the cud may be eaten provided they have been killed according to
Jewish law by a qualified shochet. Animals that have only one of
these two characteristics are forbidden.
Birds - The Torah lists twenty-four species of forbidden birds.These
include all birds of prey. Permitted birds include domestic fowl such
as chicken, duck, goose and turkey.
Fish –The Torah states that fish that have fins and scales are permitted.
Fish that have only one of these two characteristics are forbidden.
Meat and Milk
The prohibition to mix meat and milk is written three times in the
Torah.This teaches us three rules.
• it is forbidden to cook a mixture of meat and milk
• it is forbidden to eat a mixture of meat and milk
• it is forbidden to derive any benefit from a mixture of meat and milk
The Kasher Butcher
Fresh meat and fowl may be purchased only from a butcher licensed
by a recognised orthodox rabbinical authority. Pre-packed meat and
fowl, such as frozen chicken, may be purchased in any supermarket,
providing it is sealed and bears the label of a recognised orthodox
rabbinical authority.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Shechitah is the act of slaughtering a permitted animal or fowl accordingto the laws of the Torah.This is performed by a shochet who must belicensed by a recognised orthodox rabbinical authority.The shochet is alearned and observant Jew, highly skilled in the complex laws of shechitah.
Kashering Meat and Liver
The Torah strictly forbids us to eat the blood of animals and fowl.
Therefore, the blood must be removed from the raw meat by a
process referred to as ‘kashering'.
Nowadays, many kasher butchers perform the task of kashering themeat before it is offered for sale, and kasher pre-packed andprocessed meat products will certainly have been kashered.Thereshould be a label to indicate this and it is most important to checkthe label before purchasing.
The process of kashering is carried out in three stages.The first stage issoaking.The meat or fowl is soaked in a bucket of cold water for half anhour. It is then placed on a slanting board and after the water has drainedaway, it is sprinkled all over with medium coarse salt. It is important thatthe salt is sprinkled on all sides paying particular attention to anyfolds and cuts. It is left on the slanting board for one hour to allow theblood to drain away. Finally, it is rinsed thoroughly under runningwater to ensure that all the remaining blood is washed away.Theutensils used for kashering must be kept especially for this purpose.
Liver cannot be kashered by this method because of its high bloodcontent. It must therefore be roasted over an open flame or placedunder a grill in a special container.
Eggs must be inspected in a glass container for blood spots before
using. If an egg is found to have a blood spot, the entire egg must be
discarded, and the utensil rinsed out immediately.
Inspection of Fruit and Vegetables
The Torah forbids us to eat insects.Therefore, any fruit or vegetables,
which are likely to contain insects or worms, must be inspected
before cooking or eating. Any insects or worms that are found must
be carefully removed or washed away and the food may then be
eaten. Foods that need checking include stoned fruit, soft fruit, leafy
vegetables, peas, pulses and nuts. Foodstuffs such as flour must also
be checked as they may contain mites if stored for a long time.
The Kasher Kitchen
In order to ensure that meat and milk are kept apart, it is essential to have
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test separate utensils, dishes and cutlery.These should be easily distinguishableand kept in separate cupboards and drawers. Separate washing-up facilitiessuch as dishwashers, bowls, dishcloths and tea towels are also necessary.
The term ‘parve' or ‘parev' refers to the category of food that isneither meaty nor milky. Foods in this category include fish, eggs,fruit, vegetables, rice and pasta. However, once parve food iscooked or mixed with meat or milk items, it too becomes meaty ormilky and no longer remains parve.
A typical kasher kitchen will have colour coding to identify themeat, milk and parve utensils.
oh$k5F , kh4c0y (Tevilat Kelim) – Immersion of Vessels
We have already learned that the reason for the laws of Kashrut is to
achieve the ideal of holiness. In fact, the observance of Kashrut does
not just begin with the purchase of food. It begins at an earlier stage
with the purchase of the utensils we use to cook and eat our food.
Jewish law requires that utensils made of metal, glass and glazed
earthenware must be immersed in a special ritual bath before being
used for the first time.The Hebrew term for a ritual bath is ‘mikveh'.
Many synagogues have a mikveh for vessels on their premises. As with
most mitzvot, a blessing is recited before performing the immersion.
Asking the Rabbi a v&k5t0w (She'elah) – A Religious Question
The occasional mishap may occur in the kitchen. For example, a
milky spoon gets washed up with the meaty dishes or the contents
of a milky saucepan spill on to a meaty surface.What should one do
if such a situation should occur? The answer is to ‘Ask your Rabbi!'
This is called ‘Asking a She'elah'. An important part of a rabbi's role
is to answer religious questions of this kind.
Shopping for Food
It is preferable, whenever possible, to buy food products under rabbinical
(The London Beth Din Kashrut Guide).
Many foods need rabbinical supervision to ensure that they do notcontain non-kasher ingredients. It is therefore essential to look for ahechsher on the packaging.A hechsher is a label or seal confirming thatthe product has been prepared under rabbinical supervision. Productswhich do not have a hechsher but are permitted, are listed in the ‘ReallyJewish Food Guide' published by United Synagogue Publications Ltd.
This most useful guide is readily available in Jewish bookshops.
Eating Out – Kashrut Away from Home
When eating out, one should ensure that the restaurant or takeaway,
including any vegetarian restaurant, is under the supervision of a
recognised orthodox rabbinical authority.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Special Events Throughout Our Lives
Brit Milah.The Covenant of Circumcision
The mitzvah of Brit Milah was first given to Abraham, and for thisreason, the ceremony is also referred to as ‘The Covenant of Abraham'.
Of all the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, Brit Milah is one of only three that are
referred to as ,It (ot) - a sign.The other two are Shabbat and Tefillin.
The ‘sign' of Brit Milah demonstrates that even though we are the creation
of Hashem, he wants us to do something in order to perfect ourselves.
Brit Milah must be performed on the eighth day, even if that dayshould be a Shabbat or festival. Only for medical reasons may BritMilah be postponed.
The chair on which the baby is placed before the Brit Milah isperformed is called ‘The Chair (or Throne) of Elijah'. According totradition, the Prophet Elijah is present at every Brit Milah ceremony.
The man who performs Brit Milah is called a ‘mohel'. A mohel is alearned and religious Jew who has undergone extensive study andtraining before being granted his certificate of qualification.
Immediately after the Brit Milah has been performed, the babyreceives his Jewish name.
Pidyon HaBen. Redemption of the Firstborn
One of the many beautiful teachings of the Torah is the duty todedicate the first of our produce to Hashem. For this reason, thefirstborn males were originally chosen to serve in the Temple.
Unfortunately, they forfeited their right when they took part in thesin of the Golden Calf, and instead, the privilege was given to theTribe of Levi, which was not involved in this sin. It was thereforenecessary for firstborn males to be redeemed.
The Pidyon HaBen ceremony takes place on the thirty-first day but ispostponed if that day falls on a Shabbat or festival. It is performed by aKohen who redeems the child for five silver shekalim (or their equivalentvalue) which is the redemption sum commanded in the Torah.
The mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen does not apply to all firstborn. Forexample, the ceremony is not required if the boy is a Kohen or Levi,or if the mother is the daughter of a Kohen or Levi. Nor is itrequired if the boy is born by Caesarean section.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test v&u0m4n r C
Bar Mitzvah
The Mishnah states ‘at thirteen for the fulfilment of mitzvot'.
Therefore, when a boy reaches his thirteenth Jewish birthday, hebecomes a Bar Mitzvah, which implies that from then on, he isregarded as a Jewish adult and is required to observe the mitzvot.
The first two mitzvot he will perform are those that he could not doas a minor. One is putting on his Tefillin every weekday morning,and the other is being called up to the Torah.
In recent times, it has become the custom in some families to hold lavish Bar Mitzvah parties.These are not really necessary according toJewish law. However, whilst they are very nice and enjoyable, thesignificance of becoming a Bar Mitzvah should not be forgotten. It isessential to remember that once a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah, heremains a Bar Mitzvah for the rest of his life.The real importance iswhat happens after the celebrations have taken place.Will the BarMitzvah remain a loyal member of the Jewish people? Will he treasurehis Tefillin by putting them on every weekday morning? Will he attendsynagogue regularly where he will be counted in a minyan? These arethe real issues concerning this major event in the life of a Jewish boy.
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Bat Mitzvah
A girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah on reaching her twelfth birthday. SinceJudaism recognises important differences in the respective roles ofmen and women, no formal ceremony is required to mark hertransition to Jewish womanhood. Nevertheless, the occasion ismarked in many communities nowadays, thereby highlighting theimportance of this major event in her life.
In the same way that a Bar Mitzvah should be aware of his importantnew status and obligations, so too, should a Bat Mitzvah realise thatshe will have a major role to play in her future life as a Jewishwoman, wife and mother.
The Hebrew term for the marriage service is Kiddushin, whichmeans ‘Holy'.This indicates that Judaism regards marriage as a holyact instituted by Hashem. In the second chapter of the Torah, weread how Hashem said that it was not good for man to be alone.
Therefore, He created a wife for Adam. Later in the Torah, we readhow Abraham was anxious that his son Isaac should not marry a non-Jewish woman, so he instructed his trusted servant to go to hisfamily in order to find a suitable wife for him.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The wedding ceremony takes place under a canopy called a ‘chupah'.
This symbolises the home the couple is about to set up.The chatan
(bridegroom) places the ring on his bride's finger and makes a solemn
declaration saying ‘Behold, you are consecrated to me by this
ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel'
.The marriage
contract, called a ketubah, is then read out and this is followed by the
singing of the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings).The ceremony
concludes with the chatan breaking a glass by stamping on it with his
foot.This custom is a reminder of the destruction of the Temple.This
teaches us that even at the joyous event of a wedding celebration, our
joy is incomplete as we recall the most tragic event in our history.
Sefer Torah
What is the Torah? The Torah is the greatest gift that the Jewish peoplereceived from Hashem.This major event in our history occurred atMount Sinai on Shavuot, which is why the festival is also referred toas Zeman Matan Toratenu –The Season of the Giving of our Torah.
Our Rabbis teach us that the Torah, which was handed to Moshe, waspassed down to Yehoshua, who then passed it down to the elders.
They, in turn, passed it down to the prophets, who passed it down tothe Men of the Great Assembly. In this way, the Torah has beenpassed down from generation to generation right down to us.
Imagine! The words written on every Sefer Torah, in every BetK'nesset throughout the world, are exactly the same words thatHashem spoke to Moshe, who wrote the very first Sefer Torah.
This is very important to bear in mind. Every single word in the Torah isDivine – that means it comes from Hashem, unlike the books of Nevi'imand Ketuvim, which were written by divinely inspired individuals.
Of course, the whole of Tenach is holy, as is also a Siddur, Mishnah
or any other religious book. However, there are degrees of holiness,
and the Sefer Torah has always been, and will always be the holiest
treasure in our possession
The Torah is not just a history book, nor is it just a book containing laws.
Certainly, history and laws are part of it, but it is so much more besides.
Have you ever wondered how it is that we, the Jewish people, a tinyminority of the world's population, have survived throughout history,in spite of the many enemies in each generation who have tried to Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test destroy us? Yet, mighty powers that once ruled the world, such as theGreek, Babylonian and Roman empires, have long disappeared fromthe face of the earth.
The story is told of the great Rabbi Akiva, who was asked by aRoman officer, ‘Why are you Jews so stubborn? Give up your Torahas we ask, and you can live in peace with us.' Rabbi Akiva answeredwith the following story.
A fox observing some fish in a lake asked them why they were scurrying to and fro in the water.The fish replied that they were tryingto avoid the nets of the fishermen trying to catch them.The fox thenasked the fish why they did not come out of the water where therewere no nets.The fish replied,‘You sly fox, we may well be in danger inthe water, but what chance do we have of surviving out of it?' ‘This is the situation with us Jews,' said Rabbi Akiva to the Roman.
‘We may well be in danger studying our holy Torah, but we certainlycould not survive if we neglect it.' This then is what the Torah means to us. It is the source of our very lifeand existence. Indeed, throughout our history, Jews have fought with theirlives to defend it, for without the Torah, there could be no Jewish life.
One of the unique things about the Torah is that the more it is studied,the more one realises how impossible it is to exhaust its contents. Nota single word or letter is without a Divine purpose.Throughout ourhistory, the greatest Jewish minds have dedicated themselves tostudying the Torah and living their lives according to its teachings.
But Torah study is not just for rabbis and sages. It is for all the Jewishpeople, whether they are young children learning to read Alef Bet, olderones like yourselves about to become Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or adults whohad little opportunity when they were younger. In each generationwe all have a responsibility to honour, study and observe the Torah,thereby ensuring our future survival as Am Kadosh – A Holy People.
Laws and Customs
Bearing in mind the immense importance and holiness of the Torah,
you will appreciate that it is necessary to treat it in an appropriate
manner.There are a number of important laws and customs to be
observed so that the Torah always receives its due honour and respect.
When not in use, the Sefer Torah is housed securely in the AronKodesh.The very first Aron Kodesh was made while the Jewishpeople were in the wilderness.They were commanded to build the‘Mishkan' (Sanctuary), a sort of portable Temple that could be Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test transported from place to place during their forty year journeytowards Eretz Yisrael.The Aron Kodesh was a magnificent exampleof craftsmanship (see Shemot 25).
Nowadays too, the Aron Kodesh is usually the most beautiful part of everyBet K'nesset, designed to create an immediate impression as one enters.
Respect and Honour
No doubt you are aware that whenever the Aron Kodesh is open,
the congregation stands.The ceremony of carrying the Sefer Torah
to and from the Aron Kodesh is a most impressive part of the
service. Many men leave their places in order to kiss the Sefer
Torah, while others bow respectfully.
Once the Sefer Torah has been placed on the reading desk, twomen, usually the synagogue wardens, stand on either side. In thisway, the Sefer Torah is not left unattended, in the same way as a VIPwould not be left alone.
The Sefer Torah is prepared for reading by removing the silverornaments and velvet mantle. However, during the times that it isnot actually being read, it is covered over with an embroideredcover.This is an example of the general rule that holy objects shouldremain covered while not in use.
It is most important to avoid touching the actual parchment of theSefer Torah. For this reason, the Ba'al Keriah (the one who reads theTorah aloud for the congregation) points as he reads using a ‘Yad'.
This is the pointer, usually of silver, with the design of a hand (‘yad'means hand).The person called up to the Torah should hold bothrollers whilst he recites the blessings before and after the reading.
During the actual reading, he should hold the right roller and followeach word carefully. Ideally, he should say the words quietly alongwith the Ba'al Keriah.
When the reading is completed, two more men are called up forHagbahah and Gelilah. (See page 21) The greatest possible care must be taken when the Sefer Torah isbeing raised or carried. If, Heaven forbid, it were accidentallydropped, the congregation would be required to fast, as such anevent would be regarded as a major calamity. In an emergency, suchas a fire for example, every effort must be made to rescue the SifreiTorah, provided of course, human life is not put at risk. It is evenrequired to override the laws of Shabbat to rescue a Sefer Torah,such is its importance and holiness.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Writing a Sefer Torah
The writing of a Sefer Torah is in itself a holy act. It is performed by
a r5pIx (sofer) - scribe who, besides being a pious and learned Jew,
must also possess artistic talent and immense patience as the work
requires precision and concentration.
The Materials Used by a Sofer
The basic materials required by a sofer are parchment, quill, ink,
stylus (sharp marker) and ruler.
The parchment must be prepared from the skin of a kasher animal.
A verbal declaration that the skin is being prepared for the holypurpose of writing a Sefer Torah must be made.
The feather of a large kasher bird, usually a turkey, is used as a quill.
The ink is made by boiling a mixture of gallnuts, gum arabic andcopper sulphate crystals.Vinegar and alcohol can also be added.
A Day in the Life of a Sofer
Before I begin to write, I immerse myself in a mikveh (ritual bath) so that I
can make myself aware of the holiness of the task and carry out this work in
a state of spiritual cleanliness.

I cut a new quill and prepare a fresh container of ink. I test these out bywriting the word ‘Amalek' and then erasing it. (Amalek attacked the Jewishpeople when they left Egypt. He did so in a most cowardly way by striking atthe weakest who were at the very back and unable to defend themselves.
Because of this unprovoked attack the Torah commands us to blot out thename of Amalek – see Shemot 17: 8-16 and Devarim 25: 17-19.)
I then make the following declaration:‘I am writing this Torah in the
name of its sanctity and the name of Hashem in its sanctity.'

When I write the name of Hashem, I declare: ‘I am writing the name
of Hashem for the holiness of His name.'

With a stylus and a ruler, I mark forty-three horizontal lines across theparchment plus two vertical lines on each side. I leave a margin of approxi-mately seven and a half centimetres at the top and bottom and a margin ofapproximately five centimetres between each column. I must ensure that eachline is long enough to contain thirty letters. I have a copy of the actual text of the Torah next to me and I read each versealoud before writing it in square script. I do not write the letters on the linebut beneath it as if the letters are hanging from the line. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test I am particularly careful when writing certain letters which are similar in
appearance such as a
s and r .
I am also very careful to remember the six places where a letter is writtensmaller than normal (there is one in Bereshit 2:4 – see if you can find somemore), and the eleven places where a letter is enlarged (there are two in avery well known verse in Devarim 6. Can you find more?) According to tradition, seven letters have a special crown design on the upperleft corner. There are two songs in the Torah, which I write in a special way to highlightthem.The first is in the sidrah of Beshalach and the second is in Ha'azinu. No doubt you are aware that there are no vowels, punctuation marks ormusical notes in a Sefer Torah. When I have completed the writing of the Torah, the sections of parchmentare sewn together using thread made from the tendon of a kasher animal.
The scroll is then joined to the wooden rollers.
I also write Mezuzot,Tefillin and Megillot. However, a lot of my time isspent checking old Sifrei Torah in order to correct mistakes or rewrite lettersthat have faded. Until these corrections have been made, a Sefer Torah is‘pasul' (unfit) and one may not recite the blessings over it. It would be of great benefit if you had the opportunity to observe these various pointsfrom an actual Sefer Torah.Perhaps your teacher or Rabbi could arrange this for you. A Torah Law
According to the Torah, everyone is obliged to write a Sefer Torah
for himself (see Devarim 31:19). One who purchases a Sefer Torah
or engages a sofer to write one on his behalf also fulfils the mitzvah.
However, most people are not in a position to do this.Therefore,our sages teach us that one who writes or corrects just one word,or even a single letter, is regarded as having fulfilled the mitzvah.
For this purpose, the custom has developed for a sofer to write justthe outlines of the letters in the first and last sections of the Torah.
The final writing is undertaken by others under the guidance of thesofer at a special ceremony called ‘Siyum HaTorah' (completion ofthe writing of a Sefer Torah). In this way, many more people havethe opportunity of participating in this unique mitzvah.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The Outward Signs
As your Bar Mitzvah draws near, you will no doubt receive manywonderful presents, which you will treasure.There is one specialpresent that you should treasure the most – your Tefillin.
What Are Tefillin?
Tefillin are square black boxes, which contain four sections of the
Torah.The words are written by hand on parchment by a sofer.Theparchment, as well as the boxes and straps, are made from the skinsof kasher animals specially selected for this holy purpose.
If you examine a pair of Tefillin, you will notice that one is
completely plain while the other is split into four compartments and
has the letter a on each side.The plain one is called ‘Shel Yad' which
means ‘for the hand' and the other is called ‘Shel Rosh' which means
‘for the head'. If you check the two letters a on each side of the
‘Shel Rosh' you will notice something unusual about one of them.
Why Do We Wear Tefillin?
The Torah tells us ‘And you shall bind them for a sign upon your
hand and they shall be as ornaments between your eyes'.
This well-known verse is written in the first and second paragraphsof the Shema.There are also two other places in the Torah, whichcommand us to observe this mitzvah.These four paragraphsreferring to the Tefillin are the ones that are placed inside everypair. In the ‘Shel Yad', the four paragraphs are written on one pieceof parchment, and in the ‘Shel Rosh', they are placed separately ineach of the four compartments.
Why Are Tefillin So Important?
The fact that the mitzvah is mentioned four times in the Torah
shows us how special it is.The Torah describes Tefillin as a ‘sign'.
This means that they are to remind us of our responsibilities as full
members of the Jewish people.We therefore wear our Tefillin as a
proud sign symbolising an attachment to Hashem, the Torah and the
Jewish people.The Tefillin link us with all the great people of the
past through each generation to the present day. In this way, we
ensure that we, the Jewish people, will continue into the future.
The Torah tells us ‘And you shall write them on the doorposts ofyour house and on your gates'.This mitzvah, like Tefillin, is writtenin the first and second paragraphs of the Shema.We observe themitzvah by fixing, on our doors, a small parchment scroll on which Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test the first two paragraphs of the Shema have been written by a sofer.
The entrance to every room in our house excluding the toilet andbathroom requires a Mezuzah. It should be fixed on the right-handpost as one enters, and placed about a third of the way down withthe top of the Mezuzah slanting towards the left.
In many Jewish homes, the Mezuzot are encased in ornatecontainers.This is commendable as it beautifies the performance ofthe mitzvah. However, it should be remembered that the contentsare far more important than the container. Unfortunately, someornate containers contain texts printed on paper, which are ofcourse, absolutely invalid. Even Mezuzot that were originally kashercan fade or deteriorate as time goes by.Therefore, it is necessary tohave one's Mezuzot checked regularly by a qualified sofer.
The Torah commands men to wear tzitzit so that we shall neverforget our duties towards Hashem. In the third paragraph of theShema, we are instructed to look at the tzitzit so that we shallremember the mitzvot in order to do them.The idea ofremembering the mitzvot by looking at them, is highlighted by thefact that the value of the Hebrew letters of the word ‘tzitzit', plusthe eight threads and five knots on each corner, add up to 613,which is equal to the number of mitzvot in the Torah.
Men and boys fulfil the mitzvah of tzitzit by wearing a four-cornered garment during the day called arba kanfot meaning ‘fourcorners'.This garment is also called tallit katan meaning ‘a smalltallit' in contrast to the larger tallit worn only at prayer.
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Kibbud Av Va'em. Honouring Parents
The duty to honour and respect one's parents is of majorimportance in Jewish law.The creation of every human being is dueto the partnership of Hashem and one's parents and, therefore, byhonouring parents, it is considered as though one has honouredHashem.There are special laws to be observed in the performanceof this mitzvah. For example, children should obey their parents andavoid interrupting or contradicting them. As a further mark ofrespect, they should not sit in their special seat. In later life, asparents grow old and are in need of help, children should look afterthem and take care of their needs.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Hachnassat Orchim. Hospitality
The Torah describes how Abraham and Sarah performed the mitzvahof Hachnassat Orchim when three travellers came towards theirtent.Their wonderful example has been the benchmark for Jewishpeople down the ages in ensuring that visitors are offered hospitalityin a warm and caring manner.
There is beautiful saying in the Mishnah that states: ‘Let your housebe open wide and treat the poor as members of your household'.
On the night of Pesach, as we sit at our Seder table, we declare atthe beginning of the ceremony: ‘Let anyone in need enter and eat'.
Hosting a guest for Shabbat is a particularly worthy deed. In manycommunities, Hachnassat Orchim is organised by a special committee inorder to ensure that visitors are not alone in a strange town over Shabbat.
The word ‘tzedakah' comes from the root meaning ‘righteousness'.
This teaches us that by helping the poor and needy, we areperforming an act of righteousness and mercy.We should rememberthat all our possessions come from Hashem.Therefore, we have aduty to share them with those less fortunate than ourselves.
The manner in which we give tzedakah is also very important. It canmake the recipients feel like a king or reduce them to the level of abeggar. One of our greatest sages who lived in the twelfth century,Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known as Rambam, taught that there areeight levels of giving tzedakah.The lowest level is giving it, resentful ofthe fact that one is obliged to give. A slightly higher level is to give lessthan one can afford but with grace. A much higher level is to givegenerously and in such a way so that neither the donor nor the recipientknows one another's identity.The very highest level of tzedakah ishelping the poor to become self-sufficient so that they no longer needto depend on charity. An example of this would be to help them findemployment or enable them to learn a skill or trade. Jewish lawrequires that at least one tenth of one's income be donated to tzedakah.
Bikkur Cholim.Visiting the Sick
Visiting the sick and taking care of their needs is regarded as suchan important mitzvah, that Bikkur Cholim societies exist inpractically every organised Jewish community.
The weekday Amidah contains a blessing in which we pray for thewelfare of the sick. In cases of serious illness, special additionalprayers are said on behalf of the patient.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test When visiting the sick, one must be sensitive to their needs. Oneshould never visit at an inconvenient time for the patient nor shouldone stay too long. A sick person who is in a lot of pain may find itdifficult to speak, and may therefore not wish to be engaged inconversation. Sometimes, it might be more appropriate totelephone or write rather than to visit.Wherever possible, oneshould first enquire from a member of the family.
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Hachnasset Kallah. Providing for a Poor Bride
Because of the importance Judaism attaches to marriage, it is agreat mitzvah to give financial assistance, when needed, bycontributing towards the wedding celebrations and the couple'sfuture home. One can perform this mitzvah by donating to theHachnassat Kallah fund that is organised in many communities.
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Halvayat Hamet. Accompanying the Dead
The mitzvah of accompanying the dead to their burial place is referred
to as ,9n3t k9w s9x9j (Chesed Shel Emet) - a true act of kindness.
There can be no expectation of receiving any reward for performing this
mitzvah, therefore it is considered an act of kindness in its highest form.
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Hava'at Shalom Bein Adam Lachavero.
Making Peace Between People
One should always strive to act in a friendly and peaceable manner,avoiding arguments and quarrels.The highest ideal is to emulateAaron the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) who was famous forinfluencing those who had fallen out, to settle their differences andbecome friends again.
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Kiddush Hashem. Sanctifying Hashem's Name
The highest form of Kiddush Hashem is a Jew's readiness to defendJudaism by standing up against enemies who wish to destroy it.
Throughout our history, there have been brave Jews who gave theirlives fighting for their religious beliefs.
On a day to day level, Kiddush Hashem refers to behaving in a way thatbrings credit and honour to Judaism and the Jewish people.The Talmud Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test relates the story of a Jew named Abba Oshia who performed a great actof Kiddush Hashem. He once found a precious jewel belonging tothe Queen.When he returned the article, the Queen, at first wouldnot accept it saying that he was entitled to keep it. Abba Oshiarefused, explaining that the Torah commands that one must returnlost articles.The Queen exclaimed: ‘Blessed be the God of the Jews'.
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Chillul Hashem. Profaning Hashem's Name
The opposite of Kiddush Hashem is Chillul Hashem.This is an actthat brings Judaism and the Jewish people into disrepute. Such anact is a grave sin and is very damaging because it causes non-Jews todespise Jewish people in general. Jews must remember that theyhave an important role to play in upholding Jewish values by theway they behave in their everyday lives.
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Shevet Levi.The Tribe of Levi
The Tribe of Levi, named after the third son of Ya'akov, was thesmallest of the tribes in the wilderness.
We read in the Torah (Shemot 32:26) that the L'viyim - (Levites) werenot involved in the sin of the golden calf, but remained loyal to Hashem.
Therefore, they were rewarded with privileges which would otherwisehave belonged to the firstborn of Israel (Bamidbar 3:41).These privilegeswere in connection with the Sanctuary, and later with the Temple.
While the Jewish people were in the wilderness, they worshippedHashem by means of the Sanctuary.The L'viyim were responsiblefor carrying the Sanctuary and all its furniture when travelling,taking it apart before starting a journey, and putting it togetheragain when encamping.The L'viyim served in the Sanctuary andwere privileged to pitch their tents around it (Bamidbar 1:53).
In Temple times, the L'viyim continued to serve as assistants to theKohanim.They were the musicians and singers who accompanied theKohanim as they offered up the sacrifices on behalf of the people.
Because of their special duties in the Temple, the L'viyim had notime to cultivate the land and were therefore not given their ownterritory when the country was divided among the tribes. In fact,they lived all over the country and took turns to go to Jerusalemtwice a year, for one week at a time, in order to perform theirduties in the Temple.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Another major function of the L'viyim, while they were not servingin the Temple, was to teach Torah to the people (Devarim 33:10). Itis for this reason that they were scattered all over the country andhad no time to engage in farming.
It is obvious that without land of their own, the L'viyim had nomeans of supporting themselves financially and therefore, the Torahcommands that they were to receive ma'aser, a tenth of the annualproduce known as tithes (Bamidbar 18:21).This was given as a kindof wage for performing their holy work on behalf of the people.
There is still a tradition nowadays for some pious and learned men todevote themselves fully to the study of the Torah.They receive supportfrom members of the community, many of whom, being unable to studyTorah themselves, at least fulfil the mitzvah by helping others to do so. Inthis way, the holy Torah will not be neglected.The college where thisstudy takes place is known as a ‘kollel'. Boys and girls also often spenda year or two, before university or work, studying our traditionaltexts in a yeshivah or seminary, either in Britain or, perhaps, Israel.
Nowadays, a privilege enjoyed by a Levi is to be the second man to be‘called up' to the Torah. Another privilege is that the L'viyim assist theKohanim with the washing of their hands before the ceremony ofNesiat Kappayim.This ceremony, also known as ‘Duchaning', refers tothe Priestly Blessing performed during the Musaph service on festivals.
Certain surnames usually, although not always, indicate that a man
is a Levi. For example, ‘Levy' and ‘Segal' which is an abbreviation
for the words ‘Segan LaKohen' (assistant to the Kohen).
Ever since the time of Aharon, the Kohanim have played a major role inthe religious life of the Jewish people. From Shemot 28:1, we see thatHashem chose Aharon from the Tribe of Levi to be the first Kohen, andall future Kohanim would likewise be descended from that family only.
The Torah, in the sidrah of Tetzaveh (Shemot 27:20), describes thespecial garments worn by the Kohanim, as well as the uniquegarments worn by the Kohen Gadol when performing their holyduties in the Sanctuary and Temple.The first part of the book ofVayikra describes in great detail the laws of the sacrifices performedby the Kohanim and for this reason, the earliest name of this book is‘Torat Kohanim' (the Law of the Priests).
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Urim VeTumim. Lights and Perfection
The Kohen Gadol had a very special relationship with Hashem. He wasable to communicate with Hashem in a unique and mysterious mannerin order to obtain guidance when presented with a difficult question towhich he did not know the answer.To help understand this, it is necessaryto describe briefly, two special items worn by the Kohen Gadol.Aroundhis body, he wore the ‘Ephod', an apron-like garment. On the Ephod, wasthe ‘Choshen Mishpat' (Breastplate of Judgement).The Ephod andChoshen Mishpat were woven from gold, blue wool, purple wool, scarletwool and linen.The Choshen Mishpat was so made that when it wasfolded over, it formed the shape of a square approximately 23cm x 23cm.
On the Choshen Mishpat, were twelve precious stones with the name of one tribe inscribed on each stone.This reminded theKohen Gadol that he served the entire people of Israel and that eachtribe was precious to Hashem.
Placed inside the Choshen Mishpat, were two mysterious objects onwhich were written the Divine name of Hashem.They were called‘Urim and Tumim' which translated means ‘Lights and Perfection'.
Whereas all the other garments were made by skilled craftsmenaccording to the specifications given in the Torah, there is no indication inthe Torah as to how the Urim and Tumim were to be made.This isbecause they were not made by man, but given secretly by Hashem toMoshe. It was Moshe who placed them in the fold of the ChoshenMishpat.The Kohen would carry these items for judgement and decisionmaking on his heart and would therefore know what should or shouldnot be done. Exactly how this was so, we do not understand. Our sageshave suggested various ideas. One view is that the Urim would cause theappropriate letters on the Choshen Mishpat to light up thereby givingthe answer. For example, if he wanted to know which tribe should bethe first to go up to battle, the answer might be ‘Yehudah ya'aleh'(Judah shall go up). In such a case, the appropriate letters would lightup. However, the letters would not be in the correct order.Therefore, thepurpose of the Tumim (meaning perfection) was to arrange the lettersperfectly. Perhaps the Choshen Mishpat was the original ‘text message'! oh$b1v-F , F0r4C
Birkat Kohanim. Priestly Blessing
One of the privileges given by Hashem to the Kohanim is to bless theJewish people using the beautiful formula from the Torah (Bamidbar6: 24-26).The fifteen words of this blessing are divided into threeverses containing three, five and seven words respectively. BirkatKohanim concludes with the word ‘Shalom' (peace) for without peace, Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test all other blessings cannot be fully appreciated.
Birkat Kohanim is recited by everyone each morning at the verybeginning of Shacharit even if there is no minyan. It is also recited bythe Sh'liach Tzibbur during the repetition of the Amidah at Shacharitand Musaph, as well as at Minchah on fast days.
However, we are concerned here with the Birkat Kohanim recited bythe Kohanim, in fulfilment of the mitzvah to bless the Jewish people ascommanded in the Torah (Bamidbar 6:23). In this context, BirkatKohanim is also known by the names ‘Aliyah Laduchan' and ‘NesiatKappayim'.‘Aliyah Laduchan' means ‘ascending the platform.'TheKohanim must first remove their shoes and then wash their hands,assisted by the L'viyim.The Kohanim then go up to the duchan(platform) in front of the Aron Kodesh to pronounce the Blessing.Thename ‘Aliyah Laduchan' is the source of the familiar term ‘Duchaning'.
‘Nesiat Kappayim' means ‘raising of the hands'. In Vayikra 9:22, weread that Aharon raised his hands to bless the people, and thispractice has continued to the present day.The hands are stretchedout at shoulder height with thumbs touching, and the first twofingers of each hand separated from the other two, forming a sortof fan.The head and hands are covered with a large tallit.
Before chanting each of the fifteen words one by one after the Sh'liach
Tzibbur, the Kohanim say a special blessing.The formula of this blessing
is unique, because instead of the usual words uh7,I)m4n)C Ub7w0SJ r9w1t
(Who sanctified us with His commandments), the wording is:
I,7W8sG4C Ub7w0SJ r9w1t o&kIg7v L(k9n UbhR-k3t 'v v7<6t LUr7C
v7c1v6t)C k5t7r0q$h IN6g ,9t L5r&c)k Ub&U4m)u i-r1v6t k9w
Blessed are You O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe,Who sanctified us with theholiness of Aharon, and has commanded us to bless His people Israel with love. Note how the blessing concludes.This is indeed very appropriate asAharon, throughout his lifetime, served the Jewish people withunselfish love.This is a quality that his descendants must try to emulate.
In Jerusalem, the ceremony of Nesiat Kappayim takes place every singleday. In other parts of Israel, customs vary. However, outside Israel, it is thecustom to perform the ceremony only during the Musaph on festivals.
Kohanim who sadly are in avelut (mourning) do not perform NesiatKappayim but should leave the Bet K'nesset before the ceremonycommences.
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Being Called up to the Torah
Another privilege belonging to the Kohanim is the honour of beingcalled up first to the Torah. If a Kohen is present but there is noLevi, then the Kohen says the blessings a second time in place of theabsent Levi. If however, there is no Kohen present but there is aLevi, the Levi may be called up in place of the absent Kohen but thisis not essential as a Yisrael may also be called.
It is also the custom to refer specifically to a Kohen if he is presentamong a group of three or more men (Mezuman) who have eatentogether, and are about to recite Grace After Meals (commencingwith Rabbotai Nevarech).
As has already been explained, to be a Kohen one must be a directdescendant of the family of Aharon. Just as there are privilegesassociated with the Kehunah (Priesthood), so there are also specialresponsibilities which are necessary to enable the Kohanim to reacha higher spiritual level than the rest of the Jewish people.
We shall now refer to some special laws relating to marriage anddeath that only apply to Kohanim.
1. A Kohen is forbidden to marry a divorcee.
2. A Kohen is forbidden to enter a building if he knows that there is a dead body there.This does not apply to his own close family i.e.
parents, child, brother, wife or unmarried sister.
3. If a Kohen attends a funeral, he must enter a special room in the cemetery, separated from the main hall where the coffin lies before burial.
4. A Kohen is forbidden to come within four cubits (approx 1.8 metres) of a grave. For this reason, a Kohen who dies, leaving priestly relations,is buried at the end of a row so that the relatives may visit his grave.
As with L'viyim, certain surnames usually, although not always,
indicate that a man is a Kohen. For example, Cohen, Cohn, Kahn
and Kaplan, as well as Kagan, as the Russian letter ‘g' is like our
letter ‘h'. In addition, the name Katz which is an abbreviation for
‘Kohen Tzedek (Righteous Priest).
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test Recommended Jewish Book List
The following books would make ideal Bar Mitzvah gifts
Love Your Neighbour Growth Through Torah Guard Your Tongue Mesorah Publications Ltd Mesorah Publications Ltd The World of Prayer The Book of Our Heritage The Thinking JewishTeenager's Guide to Life Torah:The Oral Tradition Noah Aminoah &Yoseph Nitzon Yacov Newman& Gavriel Sivan History of the Jews A New American Library Moral Issues in Judaism United Synagogue Agencyfor Jewish Education Atlas of Jewish History The Taryag Mitzvos Keser Torah Publications Jewish bookshops are happy to assist with further suggestions and most offer a Book List service for gifts. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Programme of Studies and Test The United Synagogue Agency for Jewish Educationgratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance of RabbiSholom Bloom, Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury, Rabbi EmanuelLevy, Rabbi Meir Salasnik and Shimon Pincus in the productionof this project.


Statin alternatives or just placebo

Chin Med J 2008;121(16):1588-1594 Review article Statin alternatives or just placebo: an objective review of omega-3, red yeast rice and garlic in cardiovascular therapeutics Hean Teik Ong and Jin Seng Cheah Keywords: statin; omega-3, red yeast rice; garlic; cardiovascular therapeutics Objective The aim of this review is to objectively access the trial evidence on the role of omega-3, red yeast rice and garlic in preventing clinical cardiovascular events. Given the large number of clinical trials favoring statin use in cardiovascular disease, it is important to see if evidence is available for these supplements and whether they could replace statin therapy. Data source A PubMed search was conducted using the keywords ‘trial, omega-3, red yeast rice, xuezhikang, garlic, cholesterol, cardiovascular, outcomes'; the resulting trials were reviewed together with the references quoted in the papers obtained. Study selection The studies selected are prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled studies with predefined clinical cardiovascular end-points recruiting at least 2000 patients, with a follow-up over 2 years. Results Modest dose omega-3 fatty acid has been shown in GISSI-P (11 324 patients, follow-up 3.5 years) to produce a reduction in sudden death of 45%, and in cardiac death of 35%, acting probably via an anti-arrhythmic effect. In JELIS (18 645 patients, follow-up 4.6 years), high dose omega-3 given to Japanese patients on a high fish diet and already on statin treatment produced further benefit with a 19% reduction of nonfatal cardiovascular outcomes; fatal cardiac events are not affected. CCSPS (4870 patients, follow-up 4 years), a secondary prevention trial using xuezhikang, a commercial red yeast rice preparation, produced a 46% reduction in nonfatal myocardial infarction and coronary death. There has been no trial to show that garlic reduces clinical cardiovascular outcomes. A rigorous trial with constant assessment of chemicals in the study material in 192 patients found that over a 6-month follow-up, raw garlic and 2 commercial preparations do not significantly affect lipid levels. Conclusions Omega-3 in modest doses reduces cardiac deaths, and in high doses reduces nonfatal cardiovascular events. Red yeast rice reduces adverse cardiac events to a similar degree as the statins. It is unlikely that garlic is useful in preventing cardiovascular disease.


PATHOLOGY ONCOLOGY RESEARCH Vol 7, No 1, 2001 10.1053.paor.2001.0308 available online at on The Role of Matrix Metalloproteinases in Tumor Angiogenesis and Tumor Metastasis Anitha JOHN,1 George TUSZYNSKI1,2 Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University School of Medicine Department of Pathology1 and Surgery2, Philadelphia, USA

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