The Orthodox Lifestyle

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


From the Cradle to the Kever (Grave):  The Orthodox Jew


From the first sound that emanates from the throat of the little boy (or girl) there is little doubt about the religious life  that he will lead. When he is eight days old he will be circumcised by a “Rabbi” (teacher) who is also a Mohel (a man with the skills and appropriate rituals to perform the surgical procedure for the removal of the foreskin of the penis).  Now the little person belongs to his and the larger community of his Jewish brethren.  At thirteen he will become a “man” through the Bar Mitzwah ceremony.  The boy, now man, recites a portion of the Torah on the Bimah before a congregation when the Torah scrolls are lifted out of the closet in the synagogue.  Mostly this ceremony occurs on a Schabbat but can also be done on a Tuesday or Thursday.  A Yarmulke  (head covering) is worn to differentiate and respect Hashem (G’d) from the vulnerable human. The boy child must lay tefilllin while saying the appropriate prayers  in the morning shortly after arising.  Prayers are also said by both genders morning and evening.  There are the blessings before the meal and after the meal to thank Hashem.  The prayers for particular foods have their own special text.  There are blessings or short prayers for lightning and all types of other natural phenomenon or occurrences (Mode Ani is the morning prayer and Krishma is for nights).  There are different prayers for the Sabbath, for various holidays and for weekdays. There is a blessing for fruit and vegetables that come from the earth and ones that come from trees.  There is the blessing over bread and another for wine, etc.

There are forbidden foods like pork or shellfish (fish must have fins and scales to be kosher [ritually clean]). Edible and acceptable animals must be slaughtered in a specified fashion with a sharp knife to create as little pain as possible to the designated chicken, cow, etc.  All blood must be drained from the animal and bathed in salt and water to remove any possible remnant of the red liquid.  Meat and dairy dishes may not be served at the same meal and a number of hours must be waited  (three and six) between dairy and meat products.  “The lamb or calf may not be cooked in the milk of its mother”.  There is strict supervision in the handling, killing and serving of food by an individual who himself is orthodox and is qualified for this undertaking. Only flawless and healthy animals may be eaten.

Separate silverware and dishes must be used for dairy meals and for meat meals. There are four separate sets of the above in the orthodox home .  They must be washed in different vessels.  The four separate sets of utensils are for meat, for dairy, for Passover milk and for Passover dairy meals. Cleansing of all utensils has strict guidelines.

Marriage must be between orthodox Jews who will follow as much of the Karyagim Mitzwot (613 blessings) as possible together with all of the rules and regulations thus described.  The female  must cleanse herself in a Mikvah (a ritual bath once a month after her period) before she is permitted to engage in intercourse.  During her menstrual period she is considered “tomeh” (unclean).  Her major reason for intercourse should be to conceive offspring.  Thus the act for this purpose is considered a blessing.  In the synagogue men and women must sit separately.  The men are downstairs and the women upstairs, or there is a Mechitzah (curtain) between them to keep the genders apart so they cannot sin and be physically carried away by the attraction of male and female for one another.

On the Sabbath no work is to be performed.  Attending synagogue, praying, eating, resting and enjoying and appreciating the goodness of life without the daily hassles is the menu for the day.  No auto may be used, no cooking may be done (often there is a small fire left in the gas stove with which to warm the food or a non-Jewish person comes to perform the menial tasks that are necessary to light the house or turn on the stove).

When a person has moved on to his or her eternity, the person must be buried as soon as possible.  The body must be watched over so that no animal will come near it.  He or she must be cleansed and prayers must be said over him or her.  He must be buried in Tachrichim (garb/linens made to specified proportions); the eyes of the deceased must be closed before burial.  No public viewing is permitted.

What is described above is only a small glimpse to describe what it is like to be a truly orthodox Jewish person.  The individuals thus described know who they are, know what they must do and have a firm, established guideline for their existence, for their very being! 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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