Symbols in the Home

A Jewish home has many religious objects in it. These objects are very important in a Jew’s life and they all have a meaning. Here are some of the objects you may find in a Jewish home:

mezuzahMezuzah

  • This is the scroll that we attach to the doorposts of Jewish homes.
  • We nail the mezuzah to the right hand doorpost as a person enters the room.
  • The scroll is placed in a protective container which is often decorated to make it attractive and show how much we value the mitzvah of placing mezuzot (the plural ofmezuzah) on our doorposts.
  • Having a mezuzah on our doorposts lets everyone know we are Jewish.
  • We are supposed to have a mezuzah only because we love God and want to obey Him, and not as a good luck charm.

CANDLESTICKS

  • candlesticks_130pxCandlesticks are used on a regular basis at the beginning of Shabbat and most Jewish festivals.
  • Many candlesticks are made of silver, or silver plate, but they can be made of any material, such as glass, brass, bronze and so on.
  • Many young Jewish girls have their own candlesticks which they use for lighting Shabbat and festival candles. The custom is for a girl who is not yet married to light only one candle, but a married woman lights two or more.
  • Candlesticks are a popular Bat Miztvah and/or wedding present for Jewish women.

chanukiah2_150pxCHANUKIAH

  • The chanukiah is used during the festival of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days.
  • Jewish children often make or at least own their own chanukiot, which they use to light the candles of the eight nights of the festival.
  • The chanukiah is sometimes also called a Chanukah menorah. It is different from a ‘regular’ menorah because it has nine branches, not seven.

MIZRACH

  • mizrach02This is like a sign or plaque that can be made from wood, cloth, ceramic or collage and is there for decoration.
  • It is used to remind us which way to face when we pray. (Jews face towards Jerusalem in Israel when they pray, but may become confused about which direction that is without the mizrach).
  • The word mizrach means ‘east’ because the custom of using one started in Europe where Jews face east towards Jerusalem when they pray. These days, when Jews live in many countries outside Europe, the mizrach is placed in which ever direction is towards Israel (or towards Jerusalem if you are already in Israel).

SHIVTI

  • shivtiThis is a sign or plaque very similar to a mizrach and is usually found in a synagogue, but some homes also have one.
  • The shivti reminds us that God is always present and knows what we do.
  • The shivti consists of a well-known and appropriate phrase such as ‘Know before whom you stand’ from the Talmud.
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