Jewish Holy Days
* © By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman

Yamim Noraim
Rosh Hashanah
Tzom Gedalia
Yom Kippur
Shemini Atzeret
Simchat Torah
Yud-Tes Kislev
(Ana beKo'ach)
Asarah B'Tevet
Tu B'Shevat
The Omer Count
Lag B'Omer
Tisha B'Av
Tu B'Av
Rosh Chodesh

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Shabbat: (Shabbos, The Sabbath, The Seventh Day):

The importance of Shabbat: In Four Parts:
Part One: Shabbat: Our Hope
Part Two: What Shabbat is not
Part Three: Preparing for Shabbat
Part Four: Observing Shabbat
Various Studies:
Shabbat Shema Israel
A Shema Secret
The Shabbat Amida
Overview of Shabbat
Greetings: Shabbat Shalom, Good Sabbath, Good Shabbos.
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Yamim Noraim: The High Holy Days:
The Jewish High Holy Days are: Rosh Hashanah, Tzom Gedalia, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah

The seventh Hebrew month of Tishrei contains the New Year for several purposes. The best known being Yamim Noraim (the Ten Days of Awe, aka the Days of Repentance) the High Holy Days. During this period we celebrate the main Jewish New Year Day (Rosh Hashananah). Yamim Noraim begins and concludes the Hebrew civil calendar as well as being the new year for the cycle of seasons. Tishrei is an autumn month comprising 30 days, usually occurring in September or October of the western calendar.

During this period one should do serious introspection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement. One should especially practice the following kinds of actions to demonstrate ones repentance to HaShem as He prepares the "books" of our lives:
    Teshuvah: repentance
    Tefilah: prayer
    Tzedakah: good deeds (usually, charity but any act of kindness).
The "books" metaphorically kept by HaShem are sealed on Yom Kippur for the following year. Sins that have not been repented of may have negative impacts in the upcoming year (II Chronicles 7:14).
Here are a few useful videos about these important observances:
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Introduction to the Month of Elul

Introduction to Rosh Hashanah

Introduction to the Fast of Gedalia and Yom Kippur

Elul and the Jewish High Holidays For Noahidim:


Simchat Torah

Rosh Hashanah

When: 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
Various Studies:

Greetings: L'shanah tovah ("Have a good year") or "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" ("May you be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year.")

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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. Various Studies:
The Fast of Gedalia
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Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement

When: Tishri 10
Instituted at Leviticus 23:26

    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.
Greetings: G'mar Hatimah Tovah or "May You Be Sealed for a Good Year (in the Book of Life).

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Sukkot—Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles)

When: Sukkot begins on Tishrei 15

    Sukkot 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. See Leviticus 23:33.
Various Studies:
Greetings: Chag Sameach: joyous festival
Jews sharing Sukkot with ushpizin (guests)

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Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

When: 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 parsha) 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.
Various Studies:

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Yud-Tes Kislev:

When: 19 Kislev, 5781.
    This Shabbat is known as Yud-Tes Kislev - "Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism" - because of the yartzeit of Rabbi DovBer, known as "The Maggid of Mezeritch." He was the disciple of, and successor to, the founder of Chassidut, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi DovBer led the Chassidic movement from 1761 until his passing on Kislev 19, 1772.
Various Studies:
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Chanukah: Festival of lights:

When: Eight days beginning on Kislev 25
Remembers the re-dedication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greek
Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Two groups opposed Antiochus, the (Hasmonean) Maccabees and a group known as the Chassidim (no relation to the present Chassidic movements), from whom the P'rushim (Pharisees and modern Rabbis) emerged. Chanukah (Hanukkah) recalls the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (I Maccabees 4:56-59).
Various Studies:

The Book of John records the following Chanukah account:

John 10:22,23: Then came Chanukah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, 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 kosher oil left to keep the Temple menorah lit as required for the redidication; there was only enough oil left for single day. Miraculously the 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 Lights or Chanukah. This miraculous account does not appear in the Book of Maccabees however it is consistent with is known and recorded. Each night a flame is lit in memory following a traditional lighting pattern.

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Asarah B'Tevet:

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 religious 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.

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Tu B'Shevat:

When:Shevat 15
Instituted at: Leviticus 19:23
The "new year" for calculating the age of trees
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When: Adar 14,15
Instituted at: Esther 9:20,21: Purim is the Festival of Lots
Mordecai the Jew recorded the events found in the Megillah of Esther. There we learn that 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. Jews observe the day as a time of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

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!"

Things to Ponder:

    Purim Katan
    Fast of Esther
    Purim and Shushan
    Purim Spiels
    And more.
Various Studies:
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Pesach (Passover), Feast of Unleavened Bread::

When: 8 days beginning on Abib/Nisan 15 (sunset 14th)
"Why is this night different from all other nights?"
Instituted at Exodus 12:14
Celebrates the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, however much more importantly Pesach remembers (reminds us of) the Exodus from Egypt.
    The Passover history is recorded in Exodus Chapters 1-15. Many of the specific Pesach observances are instituted in Chapters 12-15, other aspects come from diverse Jewish 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. Everything regarded as chametz is removed from the home in memory of the fact that the Israelites fled Egypt in a hurry -- not leaving time to even let their 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 realizing that in a moment our lives could be drastically overturned by circumstances beyond our control. Our only hope is in HaShem alone. In His alone we place our emunah (motivating faith).
Various Studies:

Greetings:Chag Sameach: joyous festival
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Counting the Omer:

When: Connects Pesach (exodus from slavery) to Shavu'ot (freedom from slavery throught theTorah).
Instituted at Leviticus 23:15
Various Studies:
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Lag B'Omer

When: Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the omer count (see "Counting the Omer" above).
      Lag B'Omer is the heart of the Omer Count connecting 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 (the Counting of the Omer, see above entry). On Lag B'Omer the various period rules are suspended for a single day of joy and the rememberance of the great Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (aka "Rashbi").
Various Studies:
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Shavu'ot: Pentecost: (the Festival of Weeks, Hag ha-Bikkurim - the Festival of First Fruits), Hag Matan Torateinu - Festival of the Giving of Torah).

When: 2 days beginning with the conclusion of 49 days or 7 full weeks, as calculated from the second day of Pesach (Passover) until the day before Shavu'ot, when he Counting of the Omer concludes. Pesach reminds us of the slavery the Jews left with the Exodus and Shavu'ot reminds us of the freedom received by the giving of Torah.
    It is an ancient tradition to stay up all night on the first night of Shavu'ot and give oneself to Torah and Talmud study. As the morning dawns one should be engaged in Torah and prayer. It is also a tradition to read the Book of Ruth during the night. Dairy meals are also part of the traditional observance. Work is not permitted on Shavu'ot.

Instituted at Leviticus 23:15

Various Studies:
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The Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av: the Fast of the Ninth of Av

When: Av 9, for 25 hours
Instituted at Zechariah 7:3, II Kings 25:8-9, Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6, etc.
    A day for remembering diverse major Israelite tragedies, although Tisha B'Av primarily (especially) commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples (both were destroyed on the ninth of Av: the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.). On this day the Torah cabinets are draped in black cloth.
    Begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (commemorating the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed. During this period worldly pleasures are increasingly avoided, parties, cutting of the hair etc are not permitted. From the first to the ninth of Av tradition says to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on Shabbat) and from wearing new clothing.

Various Studies:
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Tu B'Av: the fifteenth of Av, the holiday of love (Ḥag HaAhava)

When: Av 15
    According to the Mishna, Tu B'Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest. Yom Kippur marked the end of the grape harvest. Unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white garments, and went out to dance in the vineyards. That same section in the Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. The holiday celebrated the wood-offering brought in the Temple (see Nehemiah 13:31). Josephus refers to it as the Feast of Xylophory ("Wood-bearing").
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Elul: The Month When G-d 'Walks' Among Us: August-September

When: The entire month

    Jewish Tradition reserves the month of Elul for 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.

Various Studies:

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Rosh Chodesh: "Head of the Month"

When: Monthly on the sighting the New Moon
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, from peace and prosperity to success in business, good health, and 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.
    Some Jewish women still 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 1Chodesh. (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 45)
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The Calendar HaShem Gave The World

HaShem's Day

Day of the Week

Pagan Days

Yom Rishon First DaySunday: Day to worship Sol Invictus (sun gods)
Yom Sheini Second Day Monday: Day to worship the Moon (moon gods)
Yom Shlishi Third DayTuesday: Day to worship Tiew (Mars)
Yom R'vi'i Fourth Day Wednesday: Day to worship Wodan (Mercury)
Yom Chamishi Fifth Day Thursday: Day to worship Thor (Jupiter)
Yom Shishi Sixth Day Friday: Day to worship Fria (Venus)
Yom Shabbat Sabbath DaySaturday: Day of Saturn:

HaShem's Months Month Number Month Length Pagan Months
Nissan 1 30 days March-April: Months to honor of Mars and Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and sexuality.
Iyar 2 29 days April-May: Months to honor Aphrodite and Maia, Italic goddess of spring
Sivan 3 30 days May-June: Months to honor Maia and Juno, Roman goddess of marriage and queen of the gods
Tammuz 4 29 days June-July: Months to honor Juno and Julius Caesar
Av 5 30 days July-August: Months to honor Julius and Augustus Caesar
Elul 6 29 days August-September: Months to honor Augustus Caesar / Septem: seventh
Tishri 7 30 days September-October: September: seventh and Octor: eighth
Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November: Octo: eighth and Novem: ninth
Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December: Novem: nine and Decem: ten
Tevet 10 29 days December-January: Decem: ten and Janus, Roman god of beginnings
Shevat 11 30 days January-February: Months to honor Janus and Februus, an old-Italian god
Adar I (leap years only) 12 30 days February-March: Months to honor Februus and Mars, Roman god of war
Adar (called Adar Beit in leap years) 12 (13 in leap years) 29 days February-March: Months to honor Februus and Mars, Roman god of war

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John of AllFaith

* By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman (John of AllFaith), © December 29, 2010 (last updated 12.07.2023)

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