LearnEmunah.com Holiday Guide

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Shabbat—The Sabbath
"The importance of Shabbat," by Shlomo Phillips: Shabbat (From: AISH.com)

Rosh Chodesh—The New Month

When: Monthly on sighting the New Moon.
Biblical: Instituted at: Exodus 12:1,2, Numbers 10:10, Psalm 81:3, etc.

Rosh Chodesh marks the first day of any new month. In biblical times this was a significant holiday that included the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn). Today observance mainly consists of slight changes in the daily prayer recitations such as the recitation of the birkat ha-hodesh, a special prayer for the month to come, for peace, prosperity, and success, for good health, and renewed piety. One should not fast on Rosh Chodesh. It is good to eat well (with bread) on this day. No cutting of hair, nails etc. Many Chassidic men go to the mikveh. Some Jewish women take the day off in memory of their refusal to participate in the incident of the Golden Calf:

"And Aaron said: Take the earrings from your wives, sons and daughters, and bring them to me" (Exodus 32:2). The women heard and refused to give their jewelry to their husbands, but said: "You want to make a calf with no power to save? We will not listen to you." God gave them reward in this world that they keep Rosh Chodesh more than men, and in the next world they merit to renew themselves like Rosh Chodesh. (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 45).


Pesach (Passover), Feast of Unleavened Bread: Month of Nissan: March–April

When: Eight days beginning on Abib/Nisan 15 (sunset 14th).
Biblical: Feast day established at Shemot (Exodus) 13:6. "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The observance of Pesach is instituted at:
Exodus 12:14-17 "This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. 15 "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 You shall celebrate a sacred occasion on the first day, and a sacred occasion on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them; only what every person is to eat, that alone may be prepared for you. 17 You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread [matzah], for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.
Celebrates the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, however much more importantly Pesach reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt and our freedom from all forms of slavery. This holiday empowers our declaration that "Never Again" will we sit by as our enemies abuse us.
Our Exodus history is recorded in Shemot (Exodus) Chapters 1-15. Many of the specific Pesach observances are instituted in Chapters 12-15, other aspects come from diverse Jewish/Rabbinic Tradition. During Pesach all chametz (leaven: anything made from the five major grains -- wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt) -- are removed from the home and strictly avoided. Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews also consider rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes (beans) to be of this category by their tradition. We Sephardi Jews do not consider these to be chametz and so may eat them. Everything regarded as chametz is removed from the home in memory of the fact we fled Egypt in a hurry, not leaving time to even let bread rise. This tradition is also symbolic of our desire to remove the puffiness of arrogance and pride from our souls. This is a time to take stock of what really matters in life, a reminder that in a moment our lives could be drastically overturned by circumstances beyond our control. Our only hope and certainty is HaShem. In His pleasure alone we place our emunah (active faith).

A fun retelling of the story of Passover with Rabbi Shlomo Nachman and friends: A Pesach Tale

Ta’anit Bekhorim: The Fast of the First Born.

Sefirat HaOmer—Counting of the Omer: Pesach - Shavuot

When: From the second night of Pesach (Passover) until the day before Shavuot, 49 days.
Biblical: "Counting the Omer" is Torah Mitzvah 127 according to the count esstablished by Rambam and generally accepted: To count forty-nine days from the time of the cutting of the Omer (i.e. the first sheaves of the barley harvest).
Sefirat HaOmer, What is an Omer and Why Do We Keep Counting It?

How to Count the Omer: Sefirat HaOmer: The Nightly Count.

Lag B'Omer: Month of Iyar: April-May

When: Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the omer count.
Chassidic: It connects Pesach (Exodus from slavery) to Shavu'ot (freedom from slavery through the revelation of HaTorah). The Torah commands counting the days from Pesach to Shavuot. This period is known as Sefirat HaOmer. There are several traditions surrounding this period of partial mourning (weddings, celebrations, parties etc. are forbidden as are haircuts and other optional elements of grooming). On Lag B'Omer the rules are suspended for a single day of joy.

For more, see my study: Lag B'Omer

Shavuot—Festival of Weeks: Month of Sivan: May-June

When: The two days immediately following the conclusion of Sefirat HaOmer.
Biblical: Instituted at:

Leviticus 23:15 And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering — the day after the sabbath — you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete:
16 you must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD.
21 On that same day you shall hold a celebration; it shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall not work at your occupations. This is a law for all time in all your settlements, throughout the ages.

Also known as the Festival of Weeks, Hag ha-Bikkurim (i.e. the Festival of First Fruits), and the Festival of the Giving of Torah at Mount Sinai.

Shavuot is two days beginning with the conclusion of the 49 days (or 7 full weeks), as calculated from the second day of Pesach (Passover) according to Sefirat HaOmer (the Counting of the Omer). Pesach remembers our deliverance from Egyptian slavery through the exodus. Shavuot reminds us of the freedom subsequently received through the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai.

There is a popular ancient tradition of staying up all night on the first night of Shavuot in order to give oneself fully to Torah and Talmud study. As the morning dawns one should be engaged in Torah and prayer. One enters the mikveh followed by the morning Shacharit prayers. It is also our tradition to read the Book of Ruth during this night of study. Dairy meals are also part of the traditional observance. Work is not permitted on Shavuot.

For see my study:HERE

Tikun Leil Shavuot OutLine: The Shavuot All-Nighter as suggested by Shlomo Phillips

Tisha B'Av: the Seventeenth of Tammuz, A Time Of Mourning For Jerusalem: June-July/July-August

When: The Seventeenth of Tammuz
Biblical: Includes:

Rabbi Shlomo Nachman reading Eichah (Lamentations) for Tisha B'av:

Rabbi Shlomo nachman discussing Teshuvah in honor of Tisha B'Av, recorded September 08, 2015:

Elul: The Month When G-d 'Walks' Among Us: August-September

When: The entire month
Jewish Tradition in preparation for the High Holy Days:

The 1st of Elul is the New Year's Day for the tithing of cattle. When the Temple is standing the tithe for cattle is made from cattle born in the same fiscal year, i.e. between the 1st of Elul one year to the next.

Elul is, more importantly, the month of preparation for the High Holy Days. It is said that during this month HaShem leaves His Holy Place to walk among us looking for souls to forgive and restore. Elul is therefore the month of teshuvah or repentance. It is a time for intensive introspection and soul correction. During Elul we are encouraged to clarify our goals and plans for the upcoming year and beyond. More importantly however, this is the time for renewed spiritual communion and for coming closer to G-d with devekut (attachment) through increasing our emunah (active faith). Elul is a time for realizing ones purpose in life. During Elul ones attention forsakes sense gratification and turns to spiritual pursuits. We are more aware that we will soon stand before the Judge of all judges and we prepare our cases by seeking to correct all uncorrected wrongs.

The shofar is sounded each day of Elul. Some Poskim rule one is to begin to blow the Shofar from the first day of the Elul Rosh Chodesh (being the 30th of Av) while other Poskim rule the blowing of the Shofar begins the second day of the Rosh Chodesh (being the first of Elul).

Our sages explain that the four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words אֲנִ֤י לְדוֹדִי֙ וְדוֹדִ֣י לִ֔י הָרֹעֶ֖ה בַּשׁוֹשַׁנִּֽים׃ (ס) — "I am my beloveds" and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3). During the month of Elul HaShem abides with His people in special intimacy.

Rabbi Shlomo Nachman's Introduction to the Month of Elul:   

An Odd Dream For Elul!

For more see: The Month of Elul

"Shofar Love" with Rabbi Shlomo Nachman (on Youtube)

Yamim Noraim: The High Holy Days:

Yamim Noraim: The Days of Awe or Final Days of Repentance:
The seventh Hebrew month of Tishrei serves as the New Year for several purposes. The best known being Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe or Days of Repentance) the High Holy Days. It is the main Jewish New Year Day as it includes the civil calendar as well the new year for the seasons. Tishrei is an autumn month comprising 30 days, usually occurring in September or October of the western calendar.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is observed on the first and second of Tishrei. The name means "Head of the Year." Its Biblical names are Yom HaZikkaron (the day of remembrance) and Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the Shofar, which is usually a ram's horn but can come from any kosher animal except the cow). The observance is instituted in Leviticus 23:23-25
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
24 Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud [shofar] blasts.
25 You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD.
For more: Rosh Hashana

Tzom Gedalia—Fast of Gedalia

Tzom Gedaliah (the Fast of Gedaliah) is an annual fast day instituted by the Jewish Sages to commemorate the assassination of Gedaliah Ben Achikam, the Governor of Israel during the days of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylonia. As a result of Gedaliah’s death the final vestiges of Judean autonomy after the Babylonian conquest were destroyed, many thousands of Jews were slain, and the remaining Jews were driven into final exile. The fast is observed on the day immediately following Rosh Hashanah, the third of Tishrei. In the Prophetic Writings this fast is called 'The Fast of the Seventh' in allusion to Tishrei, the seventh month.

Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement

Instituted at Leviticus 23:26
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
27 Mark, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD;
28 you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the LORD your God.
29 Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin;
30 and whoever does any work throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people.
31 Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements.
32 It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.
This is arguably the most important day of the year (excluding the weekly Shabbat). One should refrain from all work and all pleasures. One should do a full fast (health permitting), seek forgiveness for wrongs done, concluding the repentance of Yamim Noraim.

Sukkot—Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles)

Sukkot begins on Tishrei 15 and was one of the three annual pilgrimages to the Jerusalem Temple (Exodus 34:22). It marks the end of harvest time and thus of the agricultural year in the Land of Israel. Consider Leviticus 23:33:
33 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
34 Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days.
35 The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations;
36 seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.
37 Those are the set times of the LORD that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it—
38 apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD.
39 Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the LORD [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day.
40 On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 You shall observe it as a festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages.
42 You shall live in sukkot [booths} seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in sukkahs,
43 in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God.
44 So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the LORD.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Observed on the 22nd and 23rd day of Tishrei 22 (which is the eighth day after entering the sukkah). This is a Rabbinic Tradition derived from Torah. The festivals mark the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings (or parashot) and the beginning of the annual reading cycle (with Bereshit/Genesis 1:1). Two days of celebration with dancing and joy. Often viewed as part of Sukkot, but technically occuring on the days following it.

We now return to normal yearly cycle of our observances.

Chanukkah—Festival of Lights:

Historic and Apocrapaal
When: The month of Kislev or Tevet:, November or December

These are the eight days beginning on Kislev 25. Chanukkah remembers the re-dedication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greek Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This despot sacrificed a pig on the alter of the Holy Temple and persecuted the Jews without mercy! Two groups opposed Antiochus, the (Hasmonean) Maccabees and a group known as the Chassidim (no relation to the present Chassidic sects) from whom the Prushim (Pharisees and modern Rabbis) emerged as the leaders of our people. Chanukkah (aka Hanukkah) recalls their re-dedication of the Holy Temple as described at I Maccabees 4:56-59. The history of the modern Chanukkah observances comes from several sources and is referenced by others. For example, the Christian Gospel of John confirms its observance in the first century CE:
John 10:22 Then came Chanukah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, 23 and Yeshua [Jesus] was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo's Colonnade...
According to Jewish tradition (recorded in the Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 21b) at the time of Temple's re-dedication there was not enough oil left to keep the Temple menorah lit as required. There was only enough oil to burn for one more day. Miraculously this oil lasted for eight days (the time needed to prepare a fresh supply). To remember this miracle an eight day festival was declared known as the Festival of the Lights. This account does not appear in the Book of Maccabees but is described in the writings of the Rabbis. Based on this miracle, each night a flame is lit in a special menorah called a Hanukiah by Jews around the globe in memory and thanks following a traditional lighting pattern.
Asarah B'Tevet:

Historic and Apocrapaal
When: The tenth of Tevet

On Asarah B'Tevet, the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, in the year 3336 from Creation (i.e. 425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later, on the 9 Tammuz 3338, the walls of the Holy City were breached, and on the 9 Av the Holy Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for the next 70 years.

In memory of this tragedy Jews refrain from all food and drink from daybreak to nightfall (health permitting), and add selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. The fast ends at nightfall or as soon as three medium sized stars appear in the sky.

Tu Bishvat—New Year of the Trees:
Biblical: Leviticus 19:23
When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten.
24 In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD;
25 and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God.
When: The 15th of Shevat
Purim—Festival of Lots
Biblical: Esther 9:20, 21:
Mordecai recorded these events. And he sent dispatches to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far, charging them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, every year — the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.
When: The 14th and 15th of Adar

Purim remembers the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews of Persia (modern Iran). In a greater sense it reminds us of all the innumerable attempts to destroy us throughout our generations. It also reminds us of HaShem's constant protection. Purim is a day of great joy and hence has been called the Jewish Halloween due to the costumes, public celebrations, and considerable alcohol consumption. As we recite each year in the Pesach Haggadah, "In each and every generation the Gentiles rise up against us to destroy us. But the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands." On Purim we celebrate His continuing protection:

"They Tried To Kill Us. They Failed. Let's Eat!"

Purim is the 14th and 15 of Adar. It was instituted for observe at Esther 9:20, 21:

Mordecai recorded these events. And he sent dispatches to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far,
charging them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, every year—
the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

There is more About Purim here. Topics include:
    Purim Katan
    Ta'anit
    Fast of Esther
    Purim and Shushan
    Purim Spiels
    And more.

Israeli/Jewish National Holidays and Other Days of Remembrance

Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yom Hazikaron—Memorial Day
Yom Ha'atzmaut—Israel Independence Day
Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day
Yom HaAliyah—Aliyah Day
Day to commemorate the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands and Iran

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