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Jewish Festivals and Remembrance

_______________________________________


All holidays begin at sundown on the evening before the date specified in the calendar.
For example, if the dates for Rosh Hashana were listed as Sep 19-20,
then the holiday begins at sundown on Sep 18 and ends at nightfall on Sep 20.


For the Gregorian dates of Jewish holidays, see Jewish and Israeli Holidays 2000–2050.


(1)  OVERVIEW

Candles are lit on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath ("Shabbat") and Jewish holidays.

Jewish holidays, also known as Jewish festivals or Yamim Tovim (ימים טובים, "Good Days", or singular יום טוב Yom Tov, in transliterated Hebrew [English /ˈjɔːm ˈtɔːv, joʊm ˈtoʊv/]), are holidays observed in Judaism and by Jews throughout the Hebrew calendar and include religious, cultural and national elements, derived from three sources: Biblical mitzvot ("commandments"); rabbinic mandates; Jewish history and the history of the State of Israel.

GROUPINGS

The Hebrew-language term Yom Tov (יום טוב) usually refers to the six Biblically-mandated festival dates on which all activities prohibited on Shabbat are prohibited, except for some related to food preparation. These include the first and seventh days of Passover, [first day of] Shavuot, both days of Rosh Hashanah, first day of Sukkot, and [first day of] Shemini Atzeret. By extension, outside the Land of Israel, the second-day holidays known under the rubric Yom tov sheni shel galuyot (literally, "Second Yom Tov of the Diaspora") are also included in this grouping. Colloquially, Yom Kippur, a Biblically-mandated date on which even food preparation is prohibited, is often included in this grouping.

The English-language term High Holy Days (or High Holidays) refers to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur collectively. Its Hebrew analogue, Yamim Nora'im (ימים נוראים), "Days of Awe”, is more flexible: it can refer just to those holidays, or to the Ten Days of Repentance, or to the entire penitential period, starting as early as the beginning of Elul.

The term Three Pilgrimage Festivals (שלוש רגלים, shalosh regalim) refers to Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Within this grouping Sukkot normally includes Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

TERMINOLOGY USED TO DESCRIBE HOLIDAYS

Certain terminology is used in referring to different categories of holidays, depending on their source and their nature:

Shabbat (שבת) (Ashkenazi pron. from Yiddish shabbos), or Sabbath, is referred to by that name exclusively. Similarly, Rosh Chodesh (ראש חודש) is referred to by that name exclusively.

Yom tov (יום טוב) (Ashkenazi pron. from Yid. yontif) (lit., "good day"): See "Groupings" above.

Moed (מועד) ("festive season"), plural moadim (מועדים), refers to any of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. When used in comparison to Yom Tov, it refers to Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.

Ḥag or chag (חג) ("festival"), plural chagim (חגים), can be used whenever yom tov or moed is. It is also used to describe Hanukkah and Purim, as well as Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).

Ta'anit (תענית), or, less commonly, tzom (צום), refers to a fast. These terms are generally used to describe the rabbinic fasts, although tzom is used liturgically to refer to Yom Kippur as well.

"WORK" ON SABBATH AND BIBLICAL HOLIDAYS

The most notable common feature of Shabbat and the Biblical festivals is the requirement to refrain from melacha on these days.  Melacha is most commonly translated as "work"; perhaps a better translation is "creative-constructive work". Strictly speaking, Melacha is defined in Jewish law (halacha) by 39 categories of labor that were used in constructing the Tabernacle while the Jews wandered in the desert. As understood traditionally and in Orthodox Judaism:

On Shabbat and Yom Kippur all melacha is prohibited.

On a Yom Tov (other than Yom Kippur) which falls on a weekday, not Shabbat, most melacha is prohibited. Some melacha related to preparation of food is permitted.

On weekdays during Chol HaMoed, melacha is not prohibited per se. However, melacha should be limited to that required either to enhance the enjoyment of the remainder of the festival or to avoid great financial loss.

On other days, there are no restrictions on melacha.

In principle, Conservative Judaism understands the requirement to refrain from melacha in the same way as Orthodox Judaism. In practice, Conservative rabbis frequently rule on prohibitions around melacha differently from Orthodox authorities.  Still, there are a number of Conservative/Masorti communities around the world where Sabbath and Festival observance fairly closely resembles Orthodox observance.

However, many, if not most, lay members of Conservative congregations in North America do not consider themselves Sabbath-observant, even by Conservative standards. At the same time, adherents of Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism do not accept halacha, and therefore restrictions on melacha, as binding at all. Jews fitting any of these descriptions refrain from melacha in practice only as they personally see fit.

Saving a life. Shabbat and holiday work restrictions are always put aside in cases of pikuach nefesh, which is saving a human life. At the most fundamental level, if there is any possibility whatsoever that action must be taken to save a life, Shabbat restrictions are violated immediately, and without reservation.  Where the danger to life is present but less immediate, there is some preference to minimize violation of Shabbat work restrictions where possible. The laws in this area are complex.

SECOND DAY OF BIBLICAL FESTIVALS  (Yom tov sheni shel galuyot)

The Torah specifies a single date on the Jewish calendar for observance of holidays. Nevertheless, festivals of Biblical origin other than Shabbat and Yom Kippur are observed for two days outside of the land of Israel, and Rosh Hashanah is observed for two days even inside the land of Israel.

Dates for holidays on the Jewish calendar are expressed in the Torah as "day x of month y." Accordingly, the beginning of month y needs to be determined before the proper date of the holiday on day x can be fixed. Months in the Jewish calendar are lunar, and originally could only be proclaimed by the Sanhedrin based on the testimony of witnesses saying they saw the new crescent moon. The Sanhedrin would then have to inform Jewish communities away from its meeting place that it had proclaimed the new moon. The practice of observing a second festival day stemmed from delays in disseminating that information.

Rosh Hashanah. Because of holiday restrictions on travel, messengers could not even leave the seat of the Sanhedrin until the holiday was over. Inherently, there was no possible way for anyone living away from the seat of the Sanhedrin to receive news of the proclamation of the new month until messengers arrived after the fact. Accordingly, the practice emerged that Rosh Hashanah was observed on both possible days, as calculated from the previous month's start, everywhere in the world.

Three Pilgrimage Festivals. Sukkot and Passover fall on the 15th day of their respective months. This gave messengers two weeks to inform communities about the proclamation of the new month. Normally, they would reach most communities within the land of Israel within that time, but they might fail to reach communities farther away (such as those in Babylonia or overseas). Consequently, the practice developed that these holidays be observed for one day within Israel, but for two days (both possible days as calculated from the previous month's start) outside of Israel. This practice is known as yom tov sheni shel galuyot, "second day of festivals in exile communities".

For Shavuot, calculated as the fiftieth day from Passover, the above issue did not pertain directly, as the "correct" date for Passover would be known by then. Nevertheless, the Talmud applies the same rule to Shavuot, and to the Seventh Day of Passover and Shemini Atzeret, for consistency.

Yom Kippur is not observed for two days anywhere because of the difficulty of maintaining a fast over two days.[Note 10]

Shabbat is not observed based on a calendar date, but simply at intervals of seven days. Accordingly, there is never a doubt of the date of Shabbat, and it need never be observed for two days.[Note 11]

Adherents of Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally do not observe the second day of festivals, although some do observe two days of Rosh Hashanah.

(2)  FESTIVALS
From Jewish Virtual Library

SHABBAT   (Sabbath - Day of Rest)

The weekly day of rest, on Saturday, is marked in Israel with most spending the day together with family and friends. Public transport around the majority of the country is suspended, businesses are closed, essential services are at skeleton­ staff strength, and furlough is granted to as many soldiers as possible. The secular majority take advantage of their weekly day of rest for leisure time at the seashore, places of entertainment and excursions in outdoor settings. The observant devote many hours to festive family meals and services in synagogue, desist from travel and refrain from working or using appliances.

ROSH HASHANAH    (Jewish New Year)

Marking the beginning of the Jewish new year, the origins of Rosh Hashanah is Biblical (Lev. 23:23­25): "a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts [of the shofar]." The term Rosh Hashanah, "beginning of the year," is rabbinical, as are the formidable themes of the festival: repentance, preparation for the day of Divine judgment and prayer for a fruitful year. Major customs of Rosh Hashanah include the sounding of the shofar in the middle of a lengthy service that focuses on the festival themes, and elaborate meals at home to inaugurate the new year. The prayer liturgy is augmented with prayers of repentance and the Hallel, a collection of blessings and psalms recited on Rosh Hashanah, at the beginning of each new month, on the three pilgrimage festivals, and on occasions of public deliverance. In many senses, Israel begins its year on Rosh Hashanah. Government correspondence, newspapers, and most broadcasting, to give only three examples, carry the "Jewish date" first. Felicitations for the new year are generally tendered before Rosh Hashanah, not in late December.

YOM KIPPUR   (The Day of Atonement, of Divine judgment),

Eight days after Rosh Ha-Shana, is the day of atonement, of Divine judgment, and of "self­denial" (Lev. 23­27) so that the individual may be cleansed of sins. The only fast day decreed in the Bible, it is a time to enumerate one's misdeeds and contemplate one's faults. The Jew is expected, on this day, to pray for forgiveness for sins between man and God and correct his wrongful actions for sins between man and his fellow man. The major precepts of Yom Kippur ­ lengthy devotional services and a 25­ hour fast ­ are observed even by many of the otherwise secular. The level of public solemnity on Yom Kippur surpasses that of any other festival, including Rosh Hashanah. The country comes to a complete halt for 25 hours on this day; places of entertainment are closed; there are no television and radio broadcasts ­ not even the news; public transport is suspended; and even the roads are completely closed. It is reinforced in Israel by memories of the 1973 war, a surprise attack launched on Yom Kippur by Egypt and Syria against Israel.

SUKKOT (Feast of Tabernacles)

Described in the Bible (Lev. 23:34) as the "Feast of Tabernacles," Sukkot is one of the three festivals that were celebrated until 70 CE with mass pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem and are therefore known as the "pilgrimage festivals." On Sukkot, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (c.13th century BCE) and give thanks for a bountiful harvest. At some kibbutzim, Sukkot is celebrated as Chag Ha'asif (the harvest festival), with the themes of the gathering of the second grain crop and the autumn fruit, the start of the agricultural year, and the first rains. In the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, tens of thousands of householders and businesses erect Sukkot - booths for temporary dwelling, resembling the booths in which the Israelites lived in the desert, after their exodus from Egypt - and acquire the palm frond, citron, myrtle sprigs, and willow branches with which the festive prayer rite is augmented. All around the country, Sukkot line parking lots, rooftops, lawns, and public spaces. No army base lacks one. Some Israelis spend the festival and the next six days literally living in their Sukkot.

In Israel, the "holy day" portion of Sukkot (and the other two pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Shavu'ot) is celebrated for one day. Diaspora communities celebrate it for two days, commemorating the time in antiquity when calendation was performed at the Temple and its results reported to the Diaspora using a tenuous network of signal fires and couriers. After the festive day, Sukkot continues at a lesser level of sanctity, as mandated by the Torah (Lev. 23:36). During this intermediate week-half festival, half ordinary-schools are closed and many workplaces shut down or shorten their hours. Most secular Israelis spend the interim days of Sukkot and Passover at recreation sites throughout the country.

The intermediate week of Sukkot and the holiday season end on the "sacred occasion of the eighth day" (Lev. 23:36). Celebration of Shemini Atseret/Simhat Torah focuses on the Torah ­ the Five Books of Moses ­ and is noted for public dancing with a Torah scroll in one's arms and with recitation of the concluding and beginning chapters of the Torah, renewing the yearly cycle of Torah reading. After dark, many communities sponsor further festivities, often outdoors, that are not limited by the ritual restrictions that apply on the holy day itself.

CHANNUKAH (Festival of Lights)

Beginning on 25 Kislev (usually in December), Channukah commemorates the triumph of the Jews led by the Maccabees over the Greek rulers (164 BCE): the physical victory of the small Jewish nation against mighty Greece and the spiritual victory of the Jewish faith against the Hellenism of the Greeks. Its sanctity derives from this spiritual aspect of the victory, and the miracle of the flask of oil, when a portion of sacramental olive oil meant to keep the Temple candelabrum lit for one day lasted for eight as the Temple was being rededicated. Channukah is observed in Israel, as in the Diaspora, for eight days. The central feature of this holiday is the lighting of candles each evening ­ one on the first night, two on the second, and so on ­ in commemoration of the miracle at the Temple. The Channukah message in Israel focuses strongly on aspects of restored sovereignty; customs widely practiced in the Diaspora, such as gift­giving and the dreidl (spinning top), are also in evidence. The dreidl's sides are marked with Hebrew initials representing the message "A great miracle occurred here"; in the Diaspora, the initials stand for "A great miracle occurred there." Schools are closed during this week; workplaces are not.

TU B'SHEVAT (New Year of Fruit Trees)

The fifteenth of Shevat (January­ February), cited in rabbinical sources as the new year of fruit trees for sabbatical, tithing, and other purposes, has almost no ritual impact. But it has acquired secular connotations as a day when trees are planted by individuals, especially by schoolchildren and it serves as the time when intensive reforestation is done by the Jewish National Fund and local authorities. During this month, the fruit trees begin to flower, starting with the almond tree, although it is still cold.

PURIM (Festival of Esther)

Another rabbinical festival, in early spring, occurs on 14 Adar (15 Adar in walled cities), commemorating the deliverance of beleaguered Jewry in the Persian Empire under Artaxerxes, as recounted in the Scroll of Esther. This festival compensates for the solemnity of most other Jewish observances by mandating merriment. Schools are closed, public festivities abound, newspapers run hoax items reminiscent of April Fools' Day, children (and adults) don costumes, and a festive reading of the Scroll of Esther is marked by noisemakers sounded whenever Haman's name is recited. The Orthodox indulge in inebriation, within limits, and carry out an exacting list of duties: giving of alms, evening and morning readings of the Scroll of Esther, recitation of Hallel to mark the national deliverance, exchange of delicacies and a full­ fledged holiday feast.

PASSOVER (Festival of the Exodus)

In the spring, beginning on 15 Nisan, is the festival of the Exodus and liberation from bondage. Freedom is, indeed, the dominant note of Passover. The rites of Passover begin long before the festival, as families and businesses cleanse their premises of hametz-(any food made of grain and water that has been allowed to ferment and "rise" such as bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, and beer and any cooking/eating utensils used for them) . The day before the festival is devoted to preparatory rituals including ceremonial burning of the forbidden foodstuff. On the holiday evening, the seder is recited: an elaborate retelling of the enslavement, redemption, and Exodus, modeled after the ritual of the paschal sacrifice at the Temple. At this festive meal, the extended family gathers to recite the seder and enjoy traditional foods, particularly the matza-unleavened bread. The following day's observances resemble those of the other pilgrimage festivals.

Passover is probably second only to Yom Kippur in traditional observance by the generally non­observant. In addition, a secular Passover rite based on the festival's agricultural connotations is practiced in some kibbutzim. It serves as a spring festival, a festival of freedom, and the date of the harvesting of the first ripe grain. Passover also includes the second "intermediate" week ­ five half­ sacred, half­ ordinary days devoted to extended prayer and leisure and it concludes with another festival day.

YOM HASHOAH (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Traditional rites of public bereavement are in evidence on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, less than a week after Passover, when the people of Israel commune with the memory of the six million martyrs of the Jewish people who perished at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust. On this day, a siren is sounded at 10 A.M., as the nation observes two minutes of silence, pledging "to remember, and to remind others never to forget."

YOM HAZIKARON (Remembrance Day)

Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars is commemorated a week later, as a day of remembrance for those who fell in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel and in its defense. At 8 P.M. and 11 A.M., two minutes of silence, as a siren sounds, give the entire nation the opportunity to remember its debt and express its eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.

YOM HAATZMAUT (Independence Day)

It is directly followed by Independence Day (5 Iyar), the anniversary of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948. This is not a centuries old celebration, but a day that means a lot to many citizens who have physically and actively participated in the creation of a new state and have witnessed the enormous changes that have taken place since 1948.

On the eve of Independence Day municipalities sponsor public celebrations, loud­speakers broadcast popular music and multitudes go "downtown" to participate in the holiday spirit.  On Independence Day many citizens get to know the countryside by travelling to battlefields of the War of Independence, visit the memorials to the fallen, go on nature hikes and, in general, spend the day outdoors picnicking and preparing barbecues.  Israel Prizes for distinction in literary, artistic and scientific endeavor are presented and the International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth is held. Army bases are opened to the public and air force fly­bys, as well as naval displays take place.

LAG B'OMER (The Hillula - Celebration, Interpreted by Some as Anniversary of the Death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai)

The thirty­ third day in the counting of the weeks between Passover and Shavu'ot, has become a children's celebration featuring massive bonfires, commemorating events at the time of the Bar­ Kochba uprising against Rome (132­ - 135 CE).

JERUSALEM DAY (Day commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem, capital of Israel, in 1967)

Celebrated on 28 Iyar, about a week before Shavu'ot, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem, capital of Israel in 1967.  it Had been divided by concrete walls and barbed wire for nineteen years. On one side it had been Israeli on the other, Jordanian. On this day, we are reminded that Jerusalem is "the focal point of Jewish history, the symbol of ancient glory, spiritual fulfillment and modern renewal."

SHAVU'OT (Festival of Weeks)

The last of the pilgrimage festivals, when enumerated from the beginning of the Jewish year, falls seven weeks after Passover (6 Sivan), at the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The Torah (Lev. 23:21) describes this occasion as the festival of weeks (Heb. shavuot), for so is it counted from Passover, and as the occasion on which new grain and new fruits are offered to the priests in the Temple. Its additional definition ­ the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai ­ is of rabbinical origin. Shavuot is observed among the Orthodox with marathon religious study and, in Jerusalem, with a mass convocation of festive worship at the Western Wall. In the kibbutzim, it marks the peak of the new grain harvest and the ripening of the first fruits, including the seven species mentioned in the Bible (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates).

TISHA B'AV (The Ninth of (the Month of) Av, the Anniversary of the Destruction of the First and Second Temples)

The lengthy summer until Rosh Ha-Shanah is punctuated by the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. On the day itself, numerous rules of bereavement and the Yom Kippur measures of "self­denial," including a full­day fast, are in effect.

ETHNIC CELEBRATIONS (Other Community Festivals)

Ethnic communities observe further rites and celebrations of their own. Some better­ known celebrations include the Mimouna, unique to Moroccan Jewry, on the day after Passover, celebrating the renewal of nature and its blessings; and the Saharana of Kurdish Jewry, after Sukkot, which was the national holiday of the Jews in Kurdistan.

Another event is the Sigd holiday of the Ethiopian Jewish community, which occurs on the 29th of Cheshvan (usually October or November). It is a celebration which began in Ethiopia, expressing their yearning for Zion, and continues in Israel today as an expression of their thankfulness. In July 2008, Sigd became a State holiday.

Thus, with its diverse population and multiple lifestyles and attitudes, Israel celebrates the cycle of Jewish festivals and observances in a public manner that underscores the country's Jewishness and its centrality to Judaism.

REFERENCES

(1) Wikipedia
(
2) Jewish Virtual Library

LIMKS

Jewish Holidays  Wikipedia

Hebrew Calendar   Wikipedia

Jewish and Israeli holidays 2000–2050    Wikipedia

Jewish Holidays and Festivals   Chabad

BBC Schools - Religion - Judaism

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OVERVIEW

Terminology

"Work" on
 Sabbath
 and biblical
 holidays

Second day
of Biblical
 festivals

SHABBAT
(Sabbath)

ROSH
HASHANAH

(New Year)

YOM KIPPUR
(Day of Atonement)
of Divine judgment)

SUKKOT
(Feast of Tabernacles)

CHANNUKAH
 (Festival of Lights)

TU B'SHEVAT
(New Year of Fruit Trees)

PURIM
(Festival of Esther)


PASSOVER
(Festival of the Exodus)

YOM
 HASHOAH

(Holocaust Remembrance Day)


YOM
HAZIKARON

(Remembrance Day)


YOM
 HAATZMAUT

(Independence Day)


LAG B'OMER
The Hillula - Celebration, Interpreted by Some as Anniversary of the Death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

JERUSALEM
DAY

SHAVU'OT
(Festival of Weeks)


TISHA B'AV
(The Ninth of (the Month
of
Av, the Anniversary of the Destruction of the First and Second Temples)

ETHNIC CELEBRATIONS
(Other Community Festivals)


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