Holidays

A little under the weather today *stupid snow* so I decided to cover the holidays.
Most Jewish holiday begin the night before at sundown, which is because Jewish days begin and end at sundown not at midnight.

Rosh Hashanah — The Jewish New Year
According to oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, day of memorial and the day of judgment, in which God judges each person individually according to their deeds, and makes a decree for the following year. The holiday is characterized by the special mitzvah of blowing the shofar. According to the Torah, however, this is the first day of the seventh month of the calendar year that marks the beginning of a ten day count to Yom Kippur.

* For a variable number of days before Rosh Hashanah among Ashkenazim, and the entire month of Elul among Sephardim, special additional morning prayers are added known as Selichot.

* Erev Rosh Hashanah (evening of the first day) — 29 Elul

* Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה‎) 1 – 2 – Tishrei

Rosh Hashanah is set aside by the Mishna as the new year for calculating calendar years, shmita and jubilee years, vegetable tithes, and tree-planting (determining the age of a tree). Example of Jewish Calendar.

According to an opinion in Jewish oral tradition, the creation of the world was completed on Rosh Hashanah. The recitation of Tashlikh occurs during the afternoon of the first day. Officially North American Reform Judaism celebrates two days of Rosh Hashanah, but a significant number of Reform congregations and members celebrate only one day; the non-Reform branches of Judaism celebrate it as a two-day holiday, both inside and outside the boundaries of Israel. The two days are considered together to be a yoma arichta, a single “long day”.

Aseret Yemei Teshuva — Ten Days of Repentance

The first ten days of seventh month of the Jewish year (from the beginning of Rosh Hashana until the end of Yom Kippur) are known as the Aseret Yemei Teshuva. During this time it is “exceedingly appropriate” for Jews to practice “Teshuvah”, which is examining one’s deeds and repenting for sins committed against both God and one’s fellow man in anticipation of Yom Kippur. This repentance can take the form of additional supplications, confessing one’s deeds before God, fasting, and self-reflection. On the third day, the Fast of Gedalia is celebrated.

Yom Kippur — Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for most Jews (Karaite Jews regard Passover as the holiest day of the year, as do Samaritans). Its central theme is atonement and reconciliation. This is accomplished through prayer and complete fasting – including abstinence from all food and drink (including water), unless fasting is prohibited for medical reasons (e.g., Jewish law does not permit fasting by nursing mothers, diabetics, people with anorexia nervosa, etc.). Bathing, wearing of perfume or cologne, wearing of leather shoes, and sexual relations are some of the other prohibitions on Yom Kippur – all them designed to ensure one’s attention is completely and absolutely focused on the quest for atonement with God. The fast and other prohibitions commence on 10 Tishri at sunset – sunset being the beginning of the day in Jewish tradition.

A traditional Aramaic prayer called Kol Nidre (“All Vows”) is traditionally recited just before sunset. Although often regarded as the start of the Yom Kippur evening service – to such a degree that Erev Yom Kippur (“Yom Kippur Evening”) is often called “Kol Nidre” (also spelled “Kol Nidrei”) – it is technically a separate tradition. This is especially so because, being recited before sunset, it is actually recited on 9 Tishri, which is the day before Yom Kippur; it is not recited on Yom Kippur itself (on 10 Tishri, which begins after the sun sets).

The words of Kol Nidre differ slightly between Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions. In both, the supplicant prays to be released from all personal vows made to God during the year, so that any unfulfilled promises made to God will be annulled and, thus, forgiven. In Ashkenazi tradition, the reference is to the coming year; in Sephardic tradition, the reference is to the year just ended. Only vows between the supplicant and God are relevant. Vows made between the supplicant and other people remain perfectly valid, since they are unaffected by the prayer.

A Tallit (four-cornered prayer shawl) is donned for evening prayers; the only evening service of the year in which this is done. The Ne’ilah service is a special service held only on the day of Yom Kippur, and deals with the closing of the holiday. Yom Kippur comes to an end with the blowing of the shofar, which marks the conclusion of the fast. It is always observed as a one-day holiday, both inside and outside the boundaries of the land of Israel.

Sukkot — Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles)

Sukkot (סוכות or סֻכּוֹת sukkōt) or Succoth is a 7-day festival, also known as the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, or just Tabernacles. It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Bible. The word sukkot is the plural of the Hebrew word sukkah, meaning booth. Jews are commanded to “dwell” in booths during the holiday. This generally means taking meals, but some sleep in the sukkah as well. There are specific rules for constructing a sukkah. The seventh day of the holiday is called Hoshanah Rabbah.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah (שמחת תורה) means “rejoicing with the Torah”. It actually refers to a special ceremony which takes place on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. This holiday immediately follows the conclusion of the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is one day long and includes the celebration of Simchat Torah. Outside Israel, Shemini Atzeret is two days long and Simchat Torah is observed on the second day, which is often referred to by the name of the ceremony.

The last portion of the Torah is read, completing the annual cycle, followed by the first chapter of Genesis. Services are especially joyous, and all attendees, young and old, are involved.

Hanukkah — Festival of Lights

The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees. These books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), they are apocryphal books instead. The miracle of the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days is first described in the Talmud.

Hanukkah marks the defeat of Seleucid Empire forces that had tried to prevent the people of Israel from practicing Judaism. Judah Maccabee and his brothers destroyed overwhelming forces, and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem. The eight-day festival is marked by the kindling of lights — one on the first night, two on the second, and so on — using a special candle holder called a Chanukkiyah, or a Hanukkah menorah.

There is a custom to give children money,also known as “gelt” on Hanukkah to commemorate the learning of Torah in guise of Jews gathering in what was perceived as gambling at that time since Torah was forbidden. Because of this, there is also the custom to play with the dreidel (called a sevivon in Hebrew).

Tenth of Tevet

This minor fast day marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem as outlined in 2 Kings 25:1

And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built forts against it round about.

As a minor fast day, fasting from dawn to dusk is required, but other laws of mourning are not observed. A Torah reading and Haftorah reading, and a special prayer in the Amidah, are added at both Shacharit and Mincha services.

Tu Bishvat — New Year of the Trees

Tu Bishvat is the new year for trees. According to the Mishnah, it marks the day from which fruit tithes are counted each year, and marks the timepoint from which the Biblical prohibition on eating the first three years of fruit and the requirement to bring the fourth year fruit to the Temple in Jerusalem were counted. In modern times, it is celebrated by eating various fruits and nuts associated with the Land of Israel. During the 17th century, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples created a short seder, called Hemdat ha‑Yamim, reminiscent of the seder that Jews observe on Passover, that explores the holiday’s Kabbalistic themes.

Traditionally, trees are planted on this day. Many children collect funds leading up to this day to plant trees in Israel. Trees are usually planted locally as well.

Purim — Festival of Lots

Purim commemorates the events that took place in the Book of Esther. It is celebrated by reading or acting out the story of Esther, and by making disparaging noises at every mention of Haman’s name. In Purim it is a tradition to masquerade around in costumes and to give Mishloakh Manot (care packages, i.e. gifts of food and drink) to the poor and the needy. In Israel it is also a tradition to arrange festive parades, known as Ad-D’lo-Yada, in the town’s main street. Sometimes the children dress up and act out the story of Esther for their parents.

New Year for Kings

Although Rosh Hashanah marks the change of the Jewish calendar year, Nisan is considered the first month of the Hebrew calendar. The Mishnah indicates that the year of the reign of Jewish kings was counted from Nisan in Biblical times. Nisan is also considered the beginning of the calendar year in terms of the order of the holidays.

In addition to this New Year, the Mishnah sets up three other legal New Years:

* 1st of Elul, New Year for animal tithes,

* 1st of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah), the New Year for the calendar year and for vegetable tithes

* 15th of Shevat (Tu B’Shevat), the New Year for Trees/fruit tithes

Pesach — Passover

Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelite slaves from Egypt. No leavened food is eaten during the week of Pesach, in commemoration of the fact that the Jews left Egypt so quickly that their bread did not have enough time to rise.

The first seder begins at sundown on the 15th of Nisan, and the second seder is held on the night of the 16th of Nisan. On the second night, Jews start counting the omer. The counting of the omer is a count of the days from the time they left Egypt until the time they arrived at Mount Sinai.

Sefirah — Counting of the Omer

Sefirah is the 49 day (“seven weeks”) period between Pesach and Shavuot; it is defined by the Torah as the period during which special offerings are to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. Judaism teaches that this makes physical the spiritual connection between Pesach and Shavuot.

Lag Ba’omer

Lag Ba’omer (ל”ג בעומר‎) is the 33rd day in the Omer count (ל”ג is the number 33 in Hebrew). The mourning restrictions on joyous activities during the Omer period are lifted on Lag Ba’Omer and there are often celebrations with picnics, bonfires and bow and arrow play by children. In Israel, youth can be seen gathering materials for bonfires.

Shavuot — Feast of Weeks — Yom HaBikurim

Shavuot, The Feast of Weeks is one of the three pilgrim festivals (Shalosh regalim) ordained in the Torah, Shavuot marks the end of the counting of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Ten Commandments were given on this day. During this holiday the Torah portion containing the Ten Commandments is read in the synagogue, and the biblical Book of Ruth is read as well. It is traditional to eat dairy meals during Shavuot.

Seventeenth of Tammuz

The 17th of Tammuz traditionally marks the first breach in the walls of the Second Temple during the Roman occupation.

As a minor fast day, fasting from dawn to dusk is required, but other laws of mourning are not observed. A Torah reading and Haftorah reading, and a special prayer in the Amidah, are added at both Shacharit and Mincha services.

The Three Weeks and the Nine Days

The days between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av are days of mourning, on account of the collapse of Jerusalem during the Roman occupation which occurred during this time framework. Weddings and other joyful occasions are traditionally not held during this period. A further element is added within the three weeks, during the nine days between the 1st and 9th day of Av — the pious refrain from eating meat and drinking wine, except on Shabbat or at a Seudat Mitzvah (a Mitzvah meal, such as a Pidyon Haben — the recognition of a firstborn male child — or the study completion of a religious text.) In addition, one’s hair is not cut during this period.

In Conservative Judaism, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has issued several responsa (legal rulings) which hold that the prohibitions against weddings in this timeframe are deeply held traditions, but should not be construed as binding law. Thus, Conservative Jewish practice would allow weddings during this time, except on the 9th of Av itself. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism hold that halakha (Jewish law) is no longer binding, and rabbis in those movements follow their individual consciences on such matters; some uphold the traditional prohibitions and some permit weddings on these days. Orthodox Judaism maintains the traditional prohibitions.

Tisha B’av — Ninth of Av

Tisha B’Av is a fast day that commemorates two of the saddest events in Jewish history that both occurred on the ninth of Av — the destruction in 586 BCE of the First Temple, originally built by King Solomon, and destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Other calamities throughout Jewish history are said to have taken place on Tisha B’Av, including King Edward I’s edict compelling the Jews to leave England (1290) and the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492.

Tithe of animals

This commemoration is no longer observed. This day was set up by the Mishna as the New Year for animal tithes, which is somewhat equivalent to a new year for taxes. (This notion is similar to the tax deadline in the United States of America on April 15.)

Rosh Chodesh — the New Month

The first day of each month and the thirtieth day of the preceding month, if it has thirty days, is (in modern times) a minor holiday known as Rosh Chodesh (head of the month). The one exception is the month of Tishrei, whose beginning is a major holiday, Rosh Hashanah. There are also special prayers said upon observing the new Moon for the first time each month.

Shabbat — The Sabbath

Jewish law accords Shabbat the status of a holiday, a day of rest celebrated on the seventh day of each week. Jewish law defines a day as ending at nightfall, which is when the next day then begins. Thus, Shabbat begins at sundown Friday night, and ends at nightfall Saturday night.

In many ways halakha (Jewish law) gives Shabbat the status of being the most important holy day in the Jewish calendar.

* It is the first holiday mentioned in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and God was the first one to observe it.

* The liturgy treats Shabbat as a bride and queen.

* The Torah reading on Shabbat has more sections of parshiot (Torah readings) than on Yom Kippur, the most of any Jewish holiday.

* There is a tradition that the Messiah will come if every Jew observes Shabbat perfectly twice in a row.

These come straight from Wikipedia because some of the other site were a little harder for me to understand :-S Judaism seems to be harder for me to understand…….I think it’s because I keep comparing it with my very limited knowledge of Christianity and not finding a lot of similarities?  Of course it is only 8 days in too……so that could be a factor as well 🙂

Blessings
Lucy

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