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An Introduction to Jewish Festivals

A introduction to Jewish festivals.  All Jewish festivals begin at sunset the day before and end at sunset on the day itself.


TISHREI FESTIVALS - the collective term for the festivals that occur in the Hebrew month of Tishrei. Find out more about Hebrew Festivals.


HIGH HOLYDAYS - refers to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These holidays are preceded by a month of reflection: the Hebrew month of Elul. During this time, morning worship includes special penitential prayers and concludes with the blowing of the shofar as a reminder of the approaching season of atonement. In some communities, this is also a time to visit the graves of loved ones.


ROSH HASHANAH - (literally, "Head of the Year") is the celebration of the Jewish New Year, observed on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance, culminating on the fast day of Yom Kippur. Customs include the sounding of the shofar, using round challah (bread), and eating apples and honey for a sweet new year.

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KOL NIDRE - the evening before Yom Kippur (the start of the festival).


YOM KIPPUR -  the "Day of Atonement", is the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance, considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  Fasting for 25 hours is seen as fulfilling this biblical commandment (sunset to sunset). It is customary in the days before Yom Kippur for Jews to seek out friends and family whom they have wronged and personally ask for their forgiveness.

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SUCCOT -  meaning "booths" or "huts," refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the autumn harvest, as well as the commemoration of the forty years of Jewish wandering in the desert after Sinai. Sukkot is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of Tishrei and is marked by several distinct traditions. One tradition, which takes the commandment to "dwell in booths" literally, is to build a sukkah, a booth or hut. A sukkah is often erected by Jews during this festival, and it is common practice for some to eat and even live in these temporary dwellings during Sukkot.

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SIMCHAT TORAH - Hebrew for "rejoicing in the Law", celebrates the completion of the annual reading of the Torah. Simchat Torah is a joyous festival, in which we affirm our view of the Torah as a tree of life and demonstrate a living example of never-ending, lifelong study. Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times. During the Torah service, the concluding section of Deuteronomy is read and is immediately followed by reading the opening section of Genesis.

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CHANUKAH - "dedication" in Hebrew, refers to the eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and "re-dedication" of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Chanukah centres around the lighting of the chanukiah, a special menorah (candlestick) for Chanukah, unique foods, latkes and doughnuts, and special songs and games.

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TU BISHVAT - Tu B'Shevat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. The word "Tu" is not really a word; it is the number 15 in Hebrew.  Tu B'Shevat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing.  One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, often as part of a Tu Bishvat Seder, or to eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) described in the Bible as being abundant in the land of Israel. The Shivat Haminim are: wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey).   Many people plant a tree on Tu Bishvat.  

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Tu Bishvat fruit meals



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