Jewish ritual objects are also known as Judaica are beautifully crafted objects used in Jewish practice both at home and in the synagogue. The use of these special objects honors the concept of hiddur mitzvah, the beautification of the commandment or mitzvah. Most of the Jewish ritual objects can be found in Jewish homes. The Torah scroll, yad, and shofar are reserved for use in the synagogue.
The challah cover is a cloth used to cover the challah bread at the beginning of the Sabbath meal. Challah covers can be made of any type of fabric but must be opaque and large enough to cover two braided loaves in such a way that the bread cannot be seen through the sides or through the fabric. Challah covers are frequently made of velvet and decorated with embroidery and fringes of gold or silver thread. Store-bought challah covers are often inscribed with Hebrew phrases such as “To honor the holy Shabbat” or “To honor Shabbat and Yom Tov.”
The Shabbat meal begins with a blessing over the wine to sanctify the Shabbat. The challah is kept covered during this blessing, lest the bread be “shamed” by not having priority in the blessings as the Sages indicated in the hierarchy of blessings.
The two challah loaves are a symbolic reminder of the manna which the Israelites ate daily during the Exodus from Egypt. Manna fell every day of the week except on the Sabbath. On Friday, enough manna fell for two days so that the people would not have to work gathering manna on the Sabbath. The two challah loaves are symbolic of the double portion of manna.
A dreidel is the Yiddish name for a pointed, four-sided spinning top. The Hebrew word for dreidel is sevivon. On the holiday of Chanukah, it is customary to play dreidel games. Dreidels are usually made of wood or plastic. Fancy dreidels made of silver or glass are used for display and not play.
A Hebrew letter is embossed or written on each side of the dreidel. The letters are nun, gimmel, hay and shin. These letters are an acronym of the phrase nes gadol hayah sham which means a great miracle happened there referring to Israel. In Israel, the last word is changed to poh meaning here.
During the brutal and oppressive Greek-Syrian rule in the Holy Land, learning Torah was a crime punishable by death. Jewish children hid in caves to study. If a Greek person happened by, the children would pull out their tops and play. After the Maccabean revolt, the temple in Jerusalem was cleansed and the lamp lighted but there was only enough oil to last for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, the miracle of Chanukah! We also honor the brave children who continued to study Torah, even in the face of death.
The etrog is a citron and is part of the Four Kinds used during the celebration of Sukkot, the fall festival of booths. The etrog is bound to a lulav (date palm frond), hadassim (three myrtle twigs), and two aravot (willow twigs). During each day of Sukkot, the Four Kinds are brought together and waved in six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. The ancient sages inform us that the Four Kinds stand for the different personalities that make up the community of Israel whose unity is also emphasized on Sukkot.
The Havdalah candle along with the kiddush cup and spice box are ritual objects used during the beautiful ceremony of Havdalah which marks the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the new week. Havdalah means separation.
The wax of the candle is braided strands with multiple wicks. The light of this candle symbolizes the light of Shabbat. Some have interpreted the many strands are representing the many Jews spread throughout the world, yet one in their faith.
Havdalah began as a ceremony in the home. In Medieval Times, the custom developed to celebrate Havdalah in the synagogue as well.
The Hebrew word kiddush means to sanctify or set aside as holy. On Friday nights Jews follow the mitzvah (commandment) to declare Shabbat holy through prayers and by holding a cup of wine before beginning the evening meal. The declaration includes verses from the Torah describing the first Shabbat, blessing over the wine and thanksgiving for being a chosen nation and receiving the gift of Shabbat. Kiddush might also be recited over the wine before beginning the Shabbat daytime meal. Saturday morning services are followed by a reception in some synagogues. Since the blessing of the wine precedes the reception, this is also known as kiddush. Finally, a Shabbat morning kiddush may be offered in the synagogue, private home, or elsewhere to honor the birth of a baby girl.
Any cup can be used for kiddush. The cup must hold a significant amount of wine. Synagogues and individual families frequently have special cups reserved for kiddush. These kiddush cups are often made of silver or other precious metals.
Kippah (yarmulke in Yiddish) and sometimes referred to as a skullcap is a small hat or head covering. Covering one’s head is regarded as a sign of reverence for G_d. Opinions about who should wear kippah and under what circumstances varies widely.
In traditional Jewish communities, only men wear kippot (the plural of kippah) and they are worn at all times (except when sleeping and bathing). In non-Orthodox communities some women also wear kippot, and people have different customs about when to wear a kippah — when eating, praying, studying Jewish texts, or entering a sacred space such as a synagogue or cemetery. The Reform movement has historically been opposed to wearing kippot, but in recent years it has become more common and accepted for Reform men and women to cover their heads during prayer and Jewish study.
Keeping the head covered at all times has mystical significance, and for this reason, some people cover their heads twice — a hat over a kippah, or a tallit (prayer shawl) over a kippah —while praying.
Kippot can be made out of many materials. In traditional Orthodox communities, men wear black velvet or silk kippot, often under hats. In Modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform communities it is common to see men wearing leather or crocheted kippot.
Jewish law requires men to cover their heads as a sign of respect and reverence for G‑d when praying, studying Torah, saying a blessing or entering a synagogue.
This practice has its roots in biblical times when the priests in the Temple were instructed to cover their heads.
Traditionally, Jewish men and boys wear the kippah at all times, a symbol of their awareness of, and submission to, a “higher” entity.
Although it is not explicitly required by law, the practice is noted in the Talmud, and through the ages, this became an accepted Jewish custom to the point that according to the majority of halachic authorities, it is mandatory. One should, therefore, not walk or even sit, bareheaded. Small children should also be taught to cover their heads.
Shabbat Candles and Candle Holders
Yahrzeit or Yizkor Candle