May 21, 2024 /

Lifecycle Events

The following explanations were derived from Congregation Neveh Shalom’s (Portland, Oregon) website.

Bris/Baby Naming

Are you celebrating a birth?

Jewish tradition has beautiful ways to commemorate life cycle events, starting from the very beginning of life. Our clergy and staff are here to help with the details to create a beautiful ceremony for you and your (newly expanded) family.

Brit Milah/Bris

brit milah, often called a bris, is the traditional 8th-day circumcision for boys. The bris can be held at a home or in the synagogue. The professional who performs the circumcision is called a mohel.

Simchat Bat/Baby Naming

Usually called a simchat bat (“rejoicing in the daughter”), a baby naming for a girl can take on the form and timing that’s best for the family. Since there’s not a prescribed tradition for a girl’s baby naming, the choices are wide open. Talk with our clergy and staff to determine the details.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Beth El Temple

Bar Mitzvah at Beth El TempleThe bar/bat mitzvah year is an amazing milestone for our youth and their families. We offer planning support and prepare students to lead prayers with confidence and comprehension. Our year-long b’nai mitzvah tutoring program provides each child with the chance to work one-on-one with a professional tutor and our clergy works with students and families throughout the year to create a ceremony that is personally and communally meaningful.

The bar/bat mitzvah will lead some of the Friday service and most of the Saturday service (in Hebrew), as well as chant from the Torah and Haftarah (a section from the Prophets). He or she will give a short “d’var Torah” (literally “a word of Torah”) explaining those passages and their relevance today.

 Friday night

Friday evening the bar/bat mitzvah will help lead the service starting at 6:00.  All are welcome for this service, but most of what the student will lead happens Saturday morning. The Friday evening service lasts approximately an hour, and the bar/bat mitzvah usually leads a few prayers.

Saturday morning

The Saturday service typically starts at 9:00 a.m. Friends and family members who have an honor during the service (see below) should arrive no later than 9:15 am and sit in the front section so that they can be easily identified. Other guests do not need to arrive before 9:45.

This service has several parts, including the morning service, the Torah service, the d’var Torah (an explanation of the Torah portion and its personal relevance by the bar/bat mitzvah), and the ending service. The service concludes around noon, and it is customary that the bar/bat mitzvah family hosts a luncheon for their guests and congregants following the service.

Wedding Traditions/Symbolism

Like all Jewish celebrations, each element of a traditional wedding has a symbolic history all its own. If you’re attending a Jewish wedding for the first time, the explanations listed below may help you understand each component a little better. Please note that some of the descriptions may refer to a “bride” or “groom.” This is simply to explain the traditions and terms used. At Beth El, weddings of same-sex couples can include all of the same traditional components in whatever way is most suitable to the couple.


Typically, guests join together as the couple, along with the clergy and four witnesses, sign their Jewish marriage contract. Although there are standard texts for the document, the size, shape, and design can be chosen by the couple.


The openness of the wedding canopy, under which the ceremony usually takes place, symbolizes the welcoming and inviting home which the couple will build together. Sometimes the material used for the chuppah is an old tablecloth or tallit that has been handed down or borrowed for the occasion.


Hakafot – Hebrew for “circling” – can refer to the holiday of Simchat Torah when we dance seven times around with the Torah. At a wedding it holds special, but similar significance. Originally the bride would circle the groom seven times. Many couples now choose a modern interpretation in which each person circles the other a certain number of times, or they circle each other at the same time. The number seven occurs often in Jewish tradition and text, including the days of creation, the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, and the seven circles marched around Jericho before the walls tumbled.


This is the betrothal portion of the ceremony, which used to occur separately from the Nissuin. Erusin includes a blessing over wine and the exchanging of rings. Traditionally, the couple places a solid gold ring on each other’s right index finger, which is thought to be a direct line to the heart. The officiant will then usually read the ketubah.


The second part of the ceremony includes reciting the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) over a second cup of wine. These blessings are about the creation of the world and humankind and the joy of marriage between two people.

Breaking the Glass

Probably the best-known Jewish wedding custom, breaking a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony has several meanings. Just as the glass cannot be returned to its original state, the new bond we have formed is everlasting, and the hope is that in as many pieces as the glass is shattered, so may the couple’s happiness be multiplied. When the glass breaks, it is customary to shout “Mazel tov!”


Before the couple greets their guests afterward or joins the reception, they will typically enjoy a few minutes of alone time (literally, “seclusion”) as a brand new married couple in a room “guarded”

Do you need to make funeral arrangements?

Your Beth El Temple Rabbi and community are here to comfort you in life’s most difficult moments. From walking with you as your loved one reaches the end of their life by supporting you through a year of mourning, we are here to help you grieve and move forward. For burial, plot and cemetery information please see the information below.

When a death occurs, please call the synagogue office at 717 232-0556 so that we may inform the rabbis and assist you directly. After business hours, on weekends or holidays, contact Bill Walter at 717-586-5379 or Bob Leiberman 717 979 – 1634. If you are requesting tahara for your loved one (respectful preparation for burial according to ancient Jewish tradition) you may request it from Hetrick-Bitner Funural Home at 717 545 – 3774. The funeral home will then notify the chevra kadisha (individuals who help with the burial process).

Are you attending a funeral?

Beth El Temple Cemetery and Chapel is located at 1100 South Progress Avenue, Harrisburg PA.