Holidays

2014 High Holy Day Information

2014 – 2015 Holiday Dates

Please visit our calendar for dates and times of holiday worship and celebrations.

Holiday celebrations and observances are the touchstones of Jewish life. Learn more about the Jewish Holidays by reading below.

Tu B’Shevat

Tu B’Shevat – the New Year for Trees – is a time when trees start drinking the New Year’s rainwater and the sun renews itself. More information »

Purim

Purim is a one-day, carnival-like festival, which takes place on the 14th of Adar (usually in late February or March in the secular calendar). The story of Purim is told in the book of Esther, which is read during the holiday. It is traditionally read from a scroll, a Megillah, which means “rolled.” The story is one about human actions and does not mention God even once. Indeed, it is an ancient tale of court intrigue, deception, miscommunication, drunken feasts, murder schemes, a foolish king, a defiant queen, villains, a strong hero and a beautiful heroine. In addition, there is an entire tractate of the Talmud called Megillah devoted to discussing various issues regarding the book of Esther. More information »

Purim Shireinu Service for Families with Special Needs – A Social Story

Passover

Pesach, known as Passover in English, is a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The ritual observance of this holiday centers around a special home service called the seder (meaning “order”) and a festive meal; the prohibition of chametz (leaven); and the eating of matzah (an unleavened bread). On the eve of the fifteenth day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, we read from a book called the hagaddah, meaning “telling,” which contains the order of prayers, rituals, readings and songs for the Pesach seder. The Pesach seder is the only ritual meal in the Jewish calendar year for which such an order is prescribed, hence its name.

Passover Shireinu Service for Families with Special Needs – A Social Story

Yom HaShoah

Day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust.

Join us before the reading of names to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust – a reminder that we have a responsibility to prevent history from repeating itself.

Yom HaZiKaron / Yom HaAtzmauat

As is done in Israel we mourn those who have given their lives for Israel’s freedom on Yom HaZikaron, and one day later, celebrate Israel’s independence and our hopes for her strong and peaceful future.

Shavuot

One of the three great agricultural festivals of ancient Israel, Shavuot is originally the feast of the first fruits. The holiday begins the day after our ancestors had finished the counting of the omer, a period of 49 days during which the grain ripened – marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest – 49 days of hope and anxiety, and counted from the night marking the second day of Pesach. The name Shavuot, “Weeks,” then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.

Rabbinic tradition however, connects this harvest festival with the giving of the Torah on Sinai. Thus, Shavuot is also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah. Leviticus 23:21 commands: “And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation…”.

Special customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Another tradition includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake to receive the Torah. Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the “land of milk and honey”.

Tishah B’Av

Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and fasting, primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE; the second by the Romans in 70 CE). In contrast to Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism has never assigned a central religious role to the ancient Temple. Therefore, mourning the destruction of the Temple in such an elaborate fashion did not seem meaningful. More recently, in Reform Judaism Tisha B’Av has been transformed into a day to remember many Jewish tragedies that have occurred throughout history, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Selichot

During the High Holy Days we have many opportunities to demonstrate to God that we have made sincere efforts to change our behavior from that which is hurtful or wrong to that which is constructive and healing. We also have many opportunities to reflect on our behavior and ask for God’s help to lead better lives.

Selichot, meaning forgiveness, refers to the penitential prayers recited by Jews prior to the onset of the High Holy Day season. It is a solemn and fitting preparation for ten days of reflection and self-examination. As the month of Elul draws to a close, the mood of repentance becomes more urgent. Many Jews prepare spiritually for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by attending the special Selichot service designed to help worshipers direct their hearts and minds to the process of teshuvah.

The Selichot service is traditionally held on a Saturday evening the week or two preceding Rosh Hashanah, in order to give people a chance to reflect on the changes of behavior that they wish to make. Worshipers begin to examine their deeds of the past year, seeking forgiveness from God, and promising to improve their behavior in the New Year.

A fundamental part of the Selichot service is the repeated recitation of the “Thirteen Attributes”, a list of God’s thirteen attributes of mercy that were revealed to Moses after the sin of the golden calf (Exodus 34:6-7): God [1], God [2], God [3], merciful [4], and gracious [5], long-suffering [6], abundant in goodness [7] and truth [8], keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation [9], forgiving iniquity [10] and transgression [11] and sin [12], who cleanses [13].

Some of the prayers and music for the Selichot service are taken from the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This provides a musical transition between the “old year” and the New Year.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh HaShanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) refers to the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The holiday is observed on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which usually falls in September or October, and marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance, which culminate on the fast day of Yom Kippur. These ten days are referred to as Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe or the High Holy Days.

Rosh Hashanah Shireinu Service for Families with Special Needs – A Social Story

A Special Shana Tovah Video from Rabbi Robert N. Levine

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement” and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. This is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In three separate passages in the Torah, the Jewish people are told, “the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial.” (Leviticus 23:27). Fasting is seen as fulfilling this biblical commandment. The Yom Kippur fast also enables us to put aside our physical desires and to concentrate on our spiritual needs through prayer, repentance and self-improvement. 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.

Sukkot

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts”, refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall 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.

Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

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 immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, or B’reishit as it is called in Hebrew, is read.

Chanukah

Chanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev and lasts for eight days. On each night of Chanukah, we light candles, which brighten the dark winter days. We also say the “Al Hanissim” prayer, a special prayer that begins:
We thank You also for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds and acts of salvation, wrought by You, as well as for the wars which You waged for our ancestors in days of old, at this season. More information »

Chanukah Shireinu Service for Families with Special Needs – A Social Story