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In Hebrew, minhag. A practice which, though not based on biblical or Talmudic law, has become, through long observance, as sacred and binding as a religious law. Customs have played an important part in the development of Halakhah, or Jewish religious law. The rabbis, seeking to achieve unanimity of practice and usage, established many customs of different times and places as laws. Many biblical laws, such as circumcision, began as customs before they became law. “The custom of Israel is law,” from Tosafot, is a familiar comment. Customs may vary from place to place, and the rabbis maintain that one must follow the local custom, and that sometimes a custom may even override a law. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews vary in many customs, such as Hebrew pronunciation, the text of some prayers, and holiday observances. Reform Jews have instituted new customs, such as the confirmation ceremony on Shavuot.

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