Google is getting a workout as new fans of Jewish Matchmaking get a crash course in common Hebrew words. Jewish Matchmaking is quickly establishing itself as a definitive and authentic Jewish experience. No doubt it will help Netflix’s worldwide audience understand the often misunderstood Jewish community a lot better. However, there are quite a few terms that need explainers, and we won’t stop until they are all clear for gentile viewers. The episodes that track the short-lived relationship between the devout Fay Brezler and Shaya Rosenberg yield a ton of new words and concepts. This was understandable given that Fay and Shaya live and work in a fairly closed-off religious neighborhood in Brooklyn. We’ll go through these concepts one by one and explain some more context around them. Let’s explain some terminology from Jewish Matchmaking: Minyan/daven Maariv, mezuzah, and tfillin explained.
Jewish Matchmaking: Minyan/Daven Maariv – Three Times A Day
Let’s start with two concepts that are very close together: minyans and to daven maariv. Minyan is pronounced “min-yaan”, similar to “minion”, like the little yellow guys who assist Gru in Despicable Me. A minyan is a group of ten men that gather together to perform a prayer service. While you can pray on your own in Judaism, there are parts of some religious services that you can only do in a group. So, the more careful you are about prayer, the more you’ll want to pray in a minyan. If you noticed that we said a minyan is 10 men (above the age of 13, who have gone through their Bar Mitzvah) you might realize why Shaya found praying three times a day to be difficult.
It’s easier for Fay to pray three times a day because she is a woman and doesn’t need a minyan. Not only wouldn’t she count towards a minyan, but religious men wouldn’t let her join. If you’ve ever been to an Orthodox synagogue you will know men and women pray separately. To daven maariv means to pray the evening service. Daven means pray, and Maariv is the name of the evening service. This would be one of three main times religious Jews pray. The other two times include Shacharit, which are morning prayers, and Minchah, which are afternoon prayers. You can do these alone if you don’t have a minyan handy like Jewish Matchmaking cast member Noah Dreyfuss, but if you live in Brooklyn you will definitely be on the hunt for one.
Jewish Matchmaking: Minyan/Daven Maariv, Mezuzah, Tfillin: Doorstep Postings
Dani Bergman’s friend Isabella asks how big one of Dani’s boyfriend’s mezuzah is at one point. Presumably she wasn’t talking literally about the marker that is placed on the doorstep of every Jewish home. If you look closely you can see that Aleeza Ben Shalom touches the mezuzah whenever she enters a home. This posting is usually on an angle, and contains a few verses of the Old Testament inside. A mezuzah literally means “doorstep” and it’s affixed to a Jewish home’s door because of Deuteromony 6:9. In Jewish Matchmaking we even see someone kiss a mezuzah.
This verse reads, “You shall write them upon the doorposts of thy house and upon thy gates.” The verses contained inside the mezuzah include this verse and a few others immediately preceding it. Part of the verses inside the mezuzah include these words: Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our God, the Eternal alone. You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead.
They also contain Deuteronomy 11:13-21, which repeats these verses and adds, If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Eternal your God and serving [God] with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil—I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle—and thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the Eternal’s anger will flare up against you, shutting up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Eternal is assigning to you. Pretty intense!
Jewish Matchmaking: Tfillin – A Sign of Prayer
Remember the verse that talks about binding the words as a sign on your hand and on your forehead? Well, there’s a commandment in Judaism to do that as well. Early in the show, when we meet Aleeza’s family, we see that her husband Gershom and some of her sons are wearing black leather straps. These straps are located on their arms and foreheads. When we see Noah Dreyfuss praying, he is wearing these black straps too. These are tfillin, which are also spelled tefillin, and they are these literal reminders. They contain small boxes which contain, again, verses of the Torah. We won’t include all the words of the verses here, but they are: Exodus 13:1–16, Deuteronomy 6:4–9, and Deuteronomy 11:13–21. The content is very similar to the verses in the mezuzah.
Jewish Matchmaking fans can find out about Judaism’s High Holidays, shabbat, and kosher here. Also, here are the main differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews.
This isn’t the end of our explanation of Jewish Matchmaking terms. Keep watching for more!