Jewish holidays

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Jewish holidays are the "holy days" observed according to the Judaism. They are cycled on a lunar calendar as opposed to Christian holidays which are cycled on the solar calendar. Unlike many lunar calendars such as the Islamic calendar the Jewish calendar has leap years to keep it aligned with the solar year.

The following are all the main holidays traditionally observed on the |Jewish calendar:

Biblical holidays

  • Rosh Hashanah - 1-2 Tishrei - Rosh Ha-Shanah is the Jewish new year and day of judgement, 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. The better people are "inscribed in the Book of Life."
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) - 10 Tishrei - Yom Kippur is considered by Jews to be the holiest and most solemn day of the year. Its central theme is atonement and reconciliation. Eating, drinking, bathing, anointing with oil, and marital relations are prohibited. Fasting begins at sundown, and ends after nightfall the following day. Yom Kippur services begin with the prayer known as "Kol Nidrei", which must be recited before sunset.
  • Sukkot - 15-21 Tishrei - Sukkot 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.
  • Simchat Torah - 22 (23) Tishrei - Simchat Torah 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.
  • Pesach (Passover) - 14-22 Nisan - Pesach (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.
  • Shavuot - 6, 7 Sivan - 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.
  • Shabbat (Shabbas) - Every seventh day - Jewish law accords the Sabbath the status of a holiday. Jews celebrate a Shabbat, a day of rest, 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 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 Jewish services treats the Sabbath as a bride and queen (along with God the groom).
  • The Torah reading on the Sabbath has more sections of 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 the Sabbath twice in a row.
    Additionally, Orthodox Jews observe 39 restrictions on the Sabbath. These include not cooking, lighting fires (includes using electricity), extinguishing fires, writing, cutting, etc.
  • Purim - 14 Adar (2 Adar leap year) - 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 (the antagonist)'s name. This is by far more fun than Hanukkah.

Non-Biblical holidays

  • Chanukah - 25 Kislev - 2, 3 Tevet - 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.
  • Tu Bishvat - 15 Shevat - 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.