What makes Judaism different from other religions? What are the biblical sources for enigmatic Jewish observances? What is the meaning of the Hebrew blessings recited during each ritual? What does it all symbolize?
Certain rituals, symbols, and practices have long been associated with the Jewish People, but few non-Jews actually understand their biblical origins and their continuing significance in modern times. "Seven Keys to Jewish Life" explores the seven pillars of Judaism to reveal the manner in which Jews still live to this very day and the meaning behind their way of life.
1. The Sabbath: Known as "Shabbat" in Hebrew and "Shabbos" in Yiddish, the Jewish Sabbath is observed every Friday evening from one hour before sundown until Saturday evening one hour after sundown. It is a day filled with prayer, Torah study, family, and peace that remembers the Seventh Day of Creation, on which Jews are bidden to imitate the Lord's own rest. It is an occasion for songs of freedom and social justice praising the Holy One for removing the Hebrew slaves from oppression in the Land of Egypt, and for abstaining from the 39 categories of "m'lacha", labor, which He describes in His Torah.
"Seven Keys to Jewish Life" invites you to spend a Sabbath with a Jewish family and to participate in the most important rituals this People has observed every week since the Exodus from Egypt.
2. What is kosher?: The video takes you into a Jewish kitchen to clearly explain which foods are kosher and which are not, the biblical sources for "kashrut" (the Jewish body of Law that regulates the diet), and the practical observance thereof in modern times.
Did you know that every religious Jewish kitchen contains at least two (and many up to 6!) full sets of dishes? Did you ever notice any myster- ious symbols on the packaging of popular foods you purchase at the supermarket? These are the modern-day signs that the Chosen People of God are still observing His "Mitzvot" (Command-
ments) even into the 21st century!
3. Chanuka: The "Festival of Lights" is an eight-day holiday that celebrates, as many know, a miracle of oil that occurred in ancient Temple times. Crucial to an understanding of the festiv- ities, though, is the history of the military victory of the Maccabees over the pagan Greek oppressors who had invaded the Holy Land.
An evening with a Jewish family elucidates the traditions, laws, songs, blessings of the lights and thanksgiving for victory and miracle... even which Jewish specialties are favorite Chanuka foods!
4. The Shofar: "Seven Keys to Jewish Life" takes you to a shofar-maker to see the step-by-step fashioning of a simple ram's horn into a majestic biblical instrument (the shofar) whose sound pleased the Lord and awakened the souls of His People to righteousness. Discussion of its biblical history and usage as well as its employment in rituals today is pierced by the sights and sounds of the blowing of the shofar in actual synagogue services.
5. Mezuzah: "...and write them (these, My Commandments) upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:9). This is the biblical source for those beautiful elongated boxes that grace every Jewish door- way. Inside are hand-written parchments of Torah passages that proclaim the Oneness and Majesty of God and this, His Commandment.
"Seven Keys to Jewish Life" opens up the mezuzah case to reveal its precious contents, travels to a traditional Jewish scribe to observe the writing thereof, and even stops in at a Jewish house-warming party, where a crowd of friends and family wait to enter until the blessing has been recited and the first mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of a new Jewish home.
6. Tefillin: "...Bind them as a sign upon your arm and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:8). This ritual, most often described as simply bizarre by outsiders, is perhaps one of the most intriguing and symbol-rich Commandments that Jewish men still observe every morning at prayer. The little black boxes, called "phylacteries" in English and "tefillin" in Hebrew, contain similar parchments to those housed by the mezuzah but are bound to the arms and foreheads of Jewish men as opposed to the doorposts of their homes.
Open up these little black boxes, read their parchments, witness their binding, watch step-by-step the long and tedious labor that produces a single set of phylacteries, discover the biblical source for the Commandment, and hear the same blessings and prayers recited for centuries every time a Jewish man donned his tefillin.
7. Tzedakah: Often translated as "charity", "tzedakah" actually comes from the Hebrew root that means "righteousness" and "justice". The Jewish concept of charity is two-fold: by observ- ing the Commandment to give, one comes closer to righteousness through performance of His Law, while the giving itself contributes to the restoration of social balance in a very unjust world.
Most people feel that all that really matters is that one gives. But the Rambam (Moshe ben Maimon, the greatest medieval Jewish rabbi and scholar) asserted that there are in fact Eight Degrees of Tzedaka, and that some are indeed better than others. "Seven Keys to Jewish Life" guides you up the Rambam's ladder of righteous- ness and gives vivid examples from the Jewish experience to illustrate how this Mitzvah (Com- mandment) has not only been an individual concern for each and every Jew, but a whole social organization and way of life for the entire Jewish People ever since their inception.
Rich with biblical references and sources for each of the seven pillars and clarified by the practice of real Jewish families, "Seven Keys to Jewish Life" solves the riddle of modern-day Jewish observance for the curious non-Jew. All of the blessings and prayers recited for each ritual are shown transliterated (with the Hebrew words in English letters) and translated in English on the screen as they are recited.