Jewish Matchmaking hits you with a barrage of unfamiliar Jewish terminology and it can get confusing fast. The show does try to explain some of the tougher terms like shomer negiah. (That’s where couples try to abstain from physical touch until marriage. Harmonie Krieger couldn’t last more than a few seconds under those rules.) However, they don’t slow down and explain the simpler terms, because they have lots of love stories to get through. Luckily, we’ll be explaining the top terms that people are searching for, likely after hearing them for the first time. Not only that, but some of the terms mean different things to different show participants, based on their level of observance. Let’s explain some religious terms from Jewish Matchmaking: High Holidays, Shabbat, Kosher Explained.
Jewish Matchmaking: High Holidays, Shabbat, Kosher –– The Days Of Awe
These are the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, taking place around September or October of each year. Because Jews follow a lunar calendar, the dates of all yearly Jewish holidays shift, similar to the Chinese New Year. The first High Holiday, we have Jewish New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. This two-day festival involves family get-togethers, festive meals, and mornings spent in the synagogue. There is a signature food associated with Rosh Hashanah — apple slices dipped in honey. This sweet treat symbolizes the wish for a sweet new year, and sometimes Jews will wish each other Shana Tovah Umetukah. This means “Have a happy and sweet new year.”
After the sweetness of the new year comes an intense 25 hour fast known as Yom Kippur. Tougher than your average wellness cleanse, Yom Kippur — “The Day of Judgement” — begins 10 days after the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Pretty much nothing is allowed — eating, drinking, sex, bathing, smoking, even wearing leather shoes. Instead, you’re in synagogue most of the day and well into the night, praying and asking for forgiveness. After 25 hours of this you’ll be having a religious experience of some kind. That’s why religious Jews like Fay Brezel, Noah Dreyfuss, and Aleeza Ben Shalom look forward to Yom Kippur. Less religious Jews like Dani Bergman or Ori Basly might use it as a reason to see family, but they aren’t going anywhere near as hardcore.
There are other High Holidays, such as Sukkot, where Jews eat outside in wooden huts with branches for a roof. Sukkot happens less than a week after Yom Kippur. This isn’t quite Netflix’s Outlast, but it is meant to recall the time when the Jewish people were travelling through the desert after leaving Egypt in Biblical times. Then we have Shemini Atzeret, which is a short celebration to mark the end of Sukkot. Immediately after Shemini Atzeret we have the last of the High Holidays, Simchat Torah. This marks the end of the yearly cycle of weekly reading of sections from the Torah, which is the Jewish word for the Old Testament.
Jewish Matchmaking: Shabbat — The Saturday People
Church is on Sunday, and Shabbat is on Saturday for Jews. Obviously there are a few differences, with the weekly observance starting Friday night and lasting until Saturday night. The start time and end time varies with the sunset time changing throughout the year — later in the summer, earlier in the winter. When Friday night rolls around, it’s time to light the Shabbat candles and have the family Shabbat dinner, which is a typical weekend family meal. You can tell the two Shabbat candles by their tall height, white color, and special ornate candlesticks. But there’s a catch — on this holy day, there’s a prohibition against work, using electricity, and carrying money until sundown on Saturday.
There are ways to get around this prohibition. You can make money as a friendly non-Jewish person who performs tasks like turning on light switches. You can preheat the oven before the sun goes down, or preset your elevator so it automatically stops on every floor. Obviously many Jews are fine with just the candles and family meal. Not all of us can afford to take an enforced day off. But it’s common practice for more religious Jews like Shaya and Fay, who have their cute ice cream date while respecting the laws of Shabbat. There is plenty of time on Shabbat (the Hebrew word for Saturday) to socialize, reconnect with friends and family without using technology, and you’re even commanded to have sex with your spouse. But, you are supposed to spend time in the synagogue praying and reading the weekly section from the Torah, which we mentioned earlier.
Jewish Matchmaking: A Kosher Nosh
Discussing all the Kosher laws can, and has, taken up entire books. So, let’s review the basics. No pork products of any sort to start. No shellfish or crustaceans. Wild and gamy meats are off the table. This is why you will find staples like beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and very little in the way of exotic dishes in a Kosher restaurant. But there’s more, in a religious home like Aleeza’s, you’ll find two sets of cutlery, plates and glasses, one for dairy products, and one for meat products. Meals will not mix the two, and there is a waiting period in between going from one to the other. There is a third category, called “pareve”, which is neither meat nor dairy and can be eaten anytime. There are specific religious authorities, managed by rabbis that certify food as kosher and put special markings on the package. There are also rules for preparation of food- for example, animals and fish have to be slaughtered humanely and drained completely of blood.
Once again, many Jews don’t want to subject themselves to this or find compromises. Noah Del Monte talks about being Kosher in the home, and not so much without, because of his remote Colorado location. Others, like Dani, can’t refuse a plate of non-kosher seafood if it affects her job as a social media manager. The intensely religious neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Philadelphia we see on the show are built around the concept of keeping and staying kosher. However as is the case with Shabbat and the High Holidays, doing it the authentic way requires staying close to home — which is the point, basically.