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Rituals and Worship



Sacred Time

Orthodox Jews celebrate the Sabbath and biblical festivals, and strictly observe its restrictions by refraining completely from any manner of labor or commerce. Unlike Reform and liberal Conservative Jews, the Orthodox also continue to sanctify the "exile days" added to all of the biblical pilgrimage festivals, and to observe the four fast days connected to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

Sacred Space

The Orthodox community centers on two religious institutions: the Shul (synagogue) and the Yeshiva (Torah study-house). In striking contrast to the ornate cathedral-like temples of classical Reform Judaism, Orthodox synagogues tend to be modest structures that contain absolutely no iconography. A small number of the world's largest modern Orthodox synagogues do have stained glass windows whose abstract art does not contain any human or animal images.

Rites and Ceremonies

Aside from daily worship, Orthodox Jews uphold hundreds of religious rites and ceremonies. All males keep their heads covered and wear fringes on their undergarments and phylacteries at morning services; women bathe in the mikvah, or ritual bath, after their monthly period; and the descendants of the biblical Cohanim (priests) still bless the congregations during festival services.

Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

Orthodox Jews pray three times daily, and are constantly praising and thanking God through a regimen of mandatory berachot, or blessings. There is no human experience that does not require a blessing. Through this constant recitation of benedictions, Orthodox Jews remain ever aware of, and thankful, to God.

Symbolism

Though it is vigilantly opposed to the use of any religious icons or artistic representations of the divine, symbols such as the Star (or shield) of David, the Tablets of Law containing the Ten Commandments, and images of Torah scrolls are common adornments in Orthodox synagogues.

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