T’u Bshvat is the Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It is also called Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot, literally ‘New Year of the Trees’. In contemporary Israel, the day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day, and trees are planted in celebration.
The holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).
Passover, is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel and commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. Its name comes from the miracle in which God “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth plague. Centered on the family or communal celebration of the seder (ritual meal), Passover is one of the most beloved of all Jewish holidays.
Yom HaShoah The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah“– literally the “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan (a weeks after the 7th day of Passover).
Yom HaZikaron The fourth of Iyar, the day preceding Israel’s Independence Day, was declared by the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to be a Memorial Day for those who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and for all military personnel who were killed while in active duty in Israel’s armed forces.
Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on the fifth day of the month of Iyar, which is the Hebrew date of the formal establishment of the State of Israel, when members of the “provisional government” read and signed a Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv. The original date corresponded to May 14, 1948.
Shavuot is a major Jewish Holiday that commemorates when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai after the exodus from Egypt. Traditionally, those that observe study Jewish texts throughout the night and have festive meals heavily focused on dairy during the Holiday. While it is unclear where the custom to eat dairy originated, one explanation suggests it symbolizes “The land flowing with Milk and Honey” (Exodus 3:8). It is also one of the 3 Festival Holidays where Yizkor, the memorial service to remember those who have passed, is recited. Tisha B’av
Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the month of Av, is a day of mourning for Jews. It is the day Jews remember the destruction of both Temples that once stood in Jerusalem as well as a number of other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the course of history.
Rosh Hashana, is the Jewish New Year, a major Jewish Holiday that occurs every year during the Hebrew month of Tishrei and is celebrated over a two day period. Traditionally it is both a time of celebration and of serious introspection, a time to rejoice the completion of another year while also taking stock of one’s life. It is the time of year when we can atone for both our individual as well as communal wrongdoings, and look for a new start.
Traditional worship in a Synagogue includes reciting prayers from a special book called a Machzor (translated to cycle, from the Hebrew root “to return”).1 The Machzor contains basic liturgy as well as poetic liturgy, special for the holiday. During the service a Shofar (Ram’s Horn) is blown to symbolically awaken the listeners in the congregation and inspire them to atone and rejoice before the Judgement Day of Yom Kippur, the next upcoming Jewish Holiday.
Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, is the Jewish Holiday that occurs 10 days after Rosh Hashana. Between the two holidays, Jews observe the 10 Days of Repentance, a time where those who practice are able to reflect on the opportunity for change in the coming year. It is a time to make amends with those you have wronged and ask for forgiveness.
Traditionally, Yom Kippur starts in the evening with a service called Kol Nidre. During this service a prayer is recited as a declaration annulling any vows made before God. During the 25 hour observance of the entire Yom Kippur Holiday, a customary Fast occurs. The practice of fasting is intended to allow a person to be in a state of self-denial and really reflect and repent rather than indulge.
The Yom Kippur Holiday ends with a profound and powerfully moving service called Neilah in which congregants stand before the open doors of the ark and ask for the final opportunity of forgiveness, the open doors of the ark symbolizing the open gates of heaven. A long blast from the Shofar (Ram’s Horn) signifies the end of the holiday, and thus the closing of the gates and the inscription in the Book of Life for the coming year.
Sukkot Beginning five days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot is named after the booths or huts (sukkot in Hebrew) in which Jews are supposed to dwell during this week-long celebration. According to rabbinic tradition, these flimsy sukkot represent the huts in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt. The festival of Sukkot is one of the three great pilgrimage festivals of the Jewish year.
Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah
Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah Coming at the conclusion of Sukkot are the two holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah . Shemini Atzeret means the “Eighth Day of Assembly,” while Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in Torah.” While Shemini Atzeret’s significance is somewhat unclear, Simchat Torah conveys a clear message about the centrality of Torah in Jewish life. It is both a source of Jewish identity and a precious gift from God.
Simchat Torah is the day on which the whole community gathers to come into direct contact with the Torah and to express our joy in having received it.
Hanukkah, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE. The eight-day festival of Hanukkah has become a beloved and joyous holiday. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and usually takes place in December, at the time of year when the days are shortest in the northern hemisphere.