Birth and Naming
Eight days after a boy’s birth, a Brit Milah (circumcision) is performed. Reform mohalim, who are also physicians, perform this ritual. Call Jaye at the Temple office (ext. 108) for information and referrals.
When a child is born, if they have a Jewish mother, they are Jewish. If they do not have a Jewish mother but have a Jewish father, they can be converted. In either case, they are part of the Covenant God made with the Jewish people four thousand years ago, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. All Jewish boys are circumcised. In Judaism, this is for strictly religious practice and not for health reasons. In Gen. 17, God tells Abraham. “Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days, every male among you throughout the generations shall be circumcised, even the homeborn slave…An uncircumcised male…has broken my covenant.”–In Hebrew, circumcision is called Milah. Abraham was 99, Ishmael 13, and Isaac was 8 days old. In the book of Exodus, Moses is almost killed for not circumcising his son Gerhshom–that is how important this ritual is.
The ceremony is held on the eighth day after birth, with the only exception being for health concerns. It is usually celebrated in the home or the synagogue and generally in the morning. A minyan of ten adult Jews is desirable, but not required. Traditionally, the father is obliged to circumcise his son, but the mohel is the agent. After the circumcision itself, the child is given his Hebrew name.
Brit Bat/Brit Chayim
In Reform congregations, girls are given equal status. Therefore, some parents choose to hold a special ceremony (which can be held at eight days or thirty days). In the ceremony, their daughter’s entrance into the covenant with God is marked and she is given a Hebrew name.
It is a Mitzvah to give a Jewish child a Hebrew name. They will use the name at every significant Jewish life cycle event in their lives. The name is announced and the child blessed in the synagogue, usually at a Shabbat service with parents, family and friends in attendance. If you wish to book one to be held in the synagogue, please speak to Jay at ext. 108. At Temple Har Zion, we name children and grandchildren of members at our Shabbat services.
Consecration– Religious school begins with a Consecration ceremony where each child receives a small Torah as a celebration and symbol of his or her commitment to lifelong Jewish learning. This ceremony is traditionally held on Erev Simchat Torah, when we celebrate the reading of the Torah. The children sing a song and receive sweets from the congregation and the Rabbi blesses them.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah (literally “son/daughter of the Commandment) marks the point where a person assumes responsibility for his or her Jewish observance. This achievement is the result of study of Judaism and the ability to read and chant in Hebrew. Traditionally, a ceremony takes place at age thirteen in which the celebrant participates in the service and reads a Torah and Haftarah portion.
At Temple Har Zion, children aged thirteen who meet the educational requirements of a minimum of five years of attendance at our school may be called to the Torah as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Our Cantorial Soloist (or another tutor, when required) works with the students to prepare them to chant their Torah and Haftarah portions, relevant blessings and the prayers they will lead during the service. Rabbi Weiss helps them to prepare their Divrei Torah (commentary on their Torah portion).
Approximately a year after Bar/ Bat Mitzvah, we encourage students to chant from the Torah again. This is a way for the young person to reaffirm his/her commitment to Judaism and once again use the skills they acquired to prepare for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Confirmation and post-confirmation classes provide the foundation for a lifetime of Jewish learning. Celebrated in a communal manner as a class, it is traditionally held on Shavu’ot, the festival in which we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The 10 commandments are chanted, and the book of Ruth is read. As she accepted the Torah, the class does as well.
The final year of Beit No’ar, grade 10, is a special year at Temple Har Zion because it is the year of Confirmation. Due to their increased maturity, students have the opportunity to study issues at a deeper level. They are taught by rabbis and educators both from Temple Har Zion and other institutions. In addition to their studies, these students show a commitment to their community by fulfilling a community service requirement in one of the areas of Torah, Avodah or G’milut Chasadim. Many choose to volunteer in our Religious School, and some eventually become members of our school staff.
The year begins with a weekend Retreat and ends with a Confirmation Service on Erev Shavuot. The entire year’s experience is a memorable culmination of the students’ Religious School education, and frequently lifelong friendships are cemented.
Adult B’nai Mitzvah
The Temple provides opportunities for adults who never celebrated a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at age thirteen to study and participate in this experience. It is a two-year long commitment to study and culminates in a special service led by the participants. (I have asked Fran Isaacs and Paulette Volgyesi to prepare something for this section.)
A beautiful and meaningful Reform ceremony combines tradition with equality, binding the bride and the groom in the promises of marriage. When the rings are exchanged, the wine tasted, the blessings bestowed, and the glass broken, you become a family in Israel. Rabbi Weiss will perform wedding ceremonies, along with Cantorial Soloist Tara Abrams, for Jewish couples at home, in temple or at an appropriate event facility.
Please contact Jaye at the temple office (Ext. 108) to set up a meeting with Rabbi Weiss if you are interested in booking a wedding. When you meet with the Rabbi the first time, he will give you a copy of Temple Har Zion’s Wedding Manual. BE SURE TO BOOK THE RABBI BEFORE THE VENUE!
In the Wedding Manual, the following are among the topics covered:
A ketubah is required for all Jewish weddings. The temple will provide one or you may purchase your own. The wording in the ketubah must reflect that which is established by the authority of the Reform Beit Din – the Rabbinical Court – of Toronto.
The wedding ceremony contains B’ruchm Haba’im – Welcome; Birkat Erusin – a Betrothan Blessing; a ring ceremony; recitation of the Cheva B’rachot – the Seven Blessings; and the breaking of the glass.
It is customary for bride and groom to be called to the Torah on a Shabbat morning preceding the wedding. Bride and/or groom are invited to read/chant Torah and/or Haftarah, or to recite the Torah blessings. The Rabbi will then offer a blessing to bride and groom.
Those who wish to divorce who had a Jewish wedding ceremony and a ketubah must obtain a Get. Gittin may be obtained through the auspices of the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto. For further information, please speak to Jaye at ext. 108.
Death and Mourning
If there is an emergency or has been a death in your family, please contact the Temple office and press ‘0’. If it is after office hours, on Shabbat, Sunday or Statutory or Jewish holidays, please press 111. Rabbi Weiss and Tara Abrams, Cantorial Soloist, perform funeral and burial services for members and their family members.
The Temple provides shiva service leaders and prayer books when required. Our Mitzvah Committee volunteers come to your home for 8:00 p.m. services.
For those who wish to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Kaddish daily for their loved ones, or to observe a Yahrzeit, Morning Services are held at the temple 7:15 a.m. on weekdays and 9:15 a.m. on Sundays and Statutory Holidays. These services are lead by dedicated volunteers from our synagogue. For Shabbat, please see the schedule
Rabbi Weiss and Tara Abrams, Cantorial Soloist, have prepared a manual to assist those whom have lost loved ones.
Temple Har Zion has plots available at several Jewish cemeteries with some plots available for interfaith couples. Please contact Barbara Barnarrt at extension 107 for more information on cemetery plots.
GTA Jewish Funeral Homes:
Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel
2401 Steeles Avenue West
Toronto, Ontario M3J 2P1
Steeles Memorial Chapel
350 Steeles Avenue West
Thornhill Ontario L4J 1A1
Hebrew Basic Burial
3429 Bathurst Street