The Orthodox Lifestyle

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


A Glimpse into Jewish Orthodoxy


Like all religious and decent people the Orthodox Jew observes the ten commandments.

The Karyagim Mitzwot  (613 blessings/ good deeds) are taken into consideration as much as possible.  Kashrut is observed.  Meat and milk products are not served at the same meal.  Three to six and more hours are to be elapsed between dairy and meat menus. The time situation depends upon the minhag (practices) of a particular area of the country. The animals consumed must be of a certain species and killed in the least painful way with a very sharp instrument, and cleansed from all blood in a special fashion (frequently soaked in a salt water solution to ascertain that all blood is removed) before they can be consumed . Fish must have fins and scales. No hard shellfish may be eaten.  On Passover, “Pessach,” there are separate dishes to be utilized.  These are a very special set for both dairy and meat dishes.  Only unleavened “bread,” called Matzot, may be eaten.  They are large cracker like squares that have not risen but are flat.  The house is cleaned from “top to bottom” so that no crumbs remain.  There are two Seders in which the Jewish people recite from a book called the Haggadah which deals with the exodus from Egypt, eons and eons of years ago.  It tells of the tale of Moses who led the Jews out of Egypt away from the wicked King Pharaoh who reigned at that time.  The Jewish people wandered through the desert for forty years before they reached Palestine (now known as Israel), the promised land.  The Matzoh eaten is a symbol for the bread that could not rise since they carried the dough on their backs as they escaped.  It was at that time that the ten commandments were given to the Jewish people through their leader Moses, who led them out of the desert.

 Adult male members of the family lay tefillin; they also attend services to ascertain that at least ten men are present to form a minyan.  The women must adhere to religious practices by praying upon arising. “Benschen” after meals is important for both genders, while never forgetting the various “broches” before eating and after the meal has been consumed (the hamotzi is one example when eating the first morsel of bread). There are many variations to the broches, including those for thunder and lightning and other phenomena. There is also the evening prayer (krischme leinen).

Both genders must attend synagogue but the female must definitely attend on  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; she must especially hear the sounds of the Shofar (ram’s horn.) Women must adhere to the sexual practices and not  have a physical relationship with her spouse when she is unclean (menstruating) and must go to a Mikvah (a special bath created for this purpose) before she can resume intercourse.

On the Schabbath and the majority of the Jewish holy days there may be no driving.  The participants must walk to the synagogue.  Therefore most religious/orthodox Jews live near a synagogue.  Men and women may not sit together in the synagogue and must sit either upstairs of the main Temple or behind a curtain so that the men can attend to their prayers and are not tempted by the women in the congregation. There must be no radio, telephone or television used during the holidays nor must heavy labor be performed.  The orthodox individual does not go to work on the Sabbath or the holidays, excluding a few like Chanukkah.  There are also certain fast days that are observed, the most important of which is Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  On that day in the fall, fasting begins a minimum of one hour before sundown and lasts until it is dark, approximately twenty-six hours later.  Fasting means that not even a drink of water is consumed. It teaches how it feels for people who are poor and starving.  It is also strongly urged that zedakah is given to help those who are poor!

On the Schabbath the hair is not combed, the beard is not shaved, and much more.  The light or the stove is not turned on.  There are some who leave a small flame on so that they can keep the “Shabbes” meal warm.  Others who are especially fortunate are able to hire a non Jew to turn the gas, electric appliances, etc. on for them.  All this is to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  The mind should be kept on spirituality rather than the everyday problems and tasks of life.

Marriage is sacred and there is to be no conversion between Gentile and Jew.  It is only under very special circumstances that conversions are tolerated.  They cannot take place merely because one or another of the prospective couple wants to be with a particular partner.  Conversion is accepted if an individual on his own, without any personal financial or other personal, private gain wants to be a Jew.  He  must be converted by an orthodox rabbi and must practice any and all aspects of what it is to be a Jew in the unadulterated orthodox fashion.  It takes time, faith, and an all consuming effort to be a Jew.  For men there is an extra dimension:  They must have a “Bris”.  The outer skin of the penis must be surgically removed by a Mohel – a man trained and skilled in this practice.  This “surgeon” must himself be practicing orthodoxy in order to perform this surgical / religious task.  It is performed in the presence of at least ten men to make a minyan and accept him as one of theirs in the community. 

As we know, it is not easy to be a Jew.  To be an orthodox Jewish person is NO EASY TASK!


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

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