Description of Jewish Holy Days and Festivals
Shabbat or Sabbath
The most important of all Holy Days; the traditional day of prayer and rest when Jews refrain from normal weekday activities.
The Jewish New Year. The first of the High Holy Days marked by solemn religious observance.
The Day of Atonement. The most solemn of Jewish Holy Days, devoted to prayer, fasting and repentance.
The Festival of Tabernacles. Also a harvest festival of thanksgiving. It derives its name from the fragile booths in which the Israelites lived after their deliverance from Egypt. The pilgrims used it as a model for the American Thanksgiving.
The reading of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) is concluded and begun anew in the synagogue.
The Festival of Lights. It is an eight-day festival observing the first recorded battle for religious liberty, and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees. Candle lighting and family gatherings mark the holiday.
The fifteenth of Shevat, the New Year for Trees. A festival that marks the date from which to count the age of a tree for reasons of tithe and fruit maturation. In modern times it has become a form of Arbor Day and is observed with a seder.
A festival of merry-making, commemorating the defeat of the Persian tyrant Haman who sought to secure power by making scapegoats of the Jews. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue. Gifts are exchanged and distributed to the poor.
Pesach or Passover
The Festival of Freedom. It celebrates Israelite deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The festival lasts eight days during which matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten in place of bread products. The traditional seder ceremony commemorates the historical ideal of freedom. The traditional seder ceremony is held in homes the first two evenings. We have a community seder the second evening.
Commemorates ancient Israel’s acceptance of the Law (Torah) and the covenant established between God and Israel on Mt. Sinai. It also celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments.