Overview of the Jewish Holidays
This is meant to be a transformational process as we engage in sincere self-reflection that goes beyond the recognition of mistakes to permanent changes in our lives and behavior.
The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the most intensive phase of this process and is referred to as “the ten days of repentance.”
During the Biblical period while the Temple still stood, people from throughout the Land of Israel traveled to Jerusalem and to the Temple to bring offerings and observe these festivals as a community in Jerusalem.
This conflict was triggered by anti-Jewish decrees enacted by the Seleucid ruler of Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes, who wanted to eradicate Judaism in favor of a more dominant and singular Greek culture and religion in the area.
Tu Bishvat, (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat), is known as the Jewish new year for the trees. When the Temple was standing in Jerusalem this day was declared as the birthday for all trees for the purpose of picking and tithing fruit.
The celebration of Purim is unique and illustrates the “upside down” nature of the holiday. The Purim story recounts a plot to destroy the Jewish community of Persia in ancient days that was prevented and brought about a complete reversal of fortune for the Jewish community.
One of the mitzvot/commandments of Pesach is that of telling this fundamental story of Exodus and liberation to our children. The Seder, a service centered in the home that recounts the story, provides this opportunity on Passover and is a major observance of the holiday.
Pesach is replete with rituals, customs and symbols that are meant to reflect the experience of slavery, freedom and redemption and continues to inform and provide meaning to the Jewish experience in every generation.
It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan–a week after the seventh day of Passover, and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers).
This year Yom HaShoah will begin on the evening of April 27th, continuing through the evening of Monday, April 28th.
The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.
The other two pilgrimage festivals are Sukkot and Pesach. All of these holidays have both agricultural as well as historical/religious significance. Shavuot marks the grain harvest of the early summer and the holiday is also known as z’man matan torateinu, the celebration of receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
This year Shavuot begins on Saturday evening June 11 and concludes on Monday evening June 13.
However, Sukkot customs and ideas linger and are evident in the observance and celebration of Shemini Atzeret. For example, it is appropriate to dwell in the sukkah, but the brachot/blessings that accompany sukkah dwelling during Sukkot are not said on Shemini Atzeret.