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Sukkot

Following the Exodus from Egypt, Israel traversed the Sinai Desert for forty years. Ever since, we remember the miracales by dwelling in a sukkah, a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches, for seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home.

Another Sukkot observance is the taking of the Four Kinds: a Lulav(palm frond), an etrog (citron), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs). On each day of Sukkut (excepting Shabbat), we take the Four Kinds, recite a blessing over them, bring them together in our hands and wave them in all six directions. The Four Kinds represent the various types and personalities that comprise the Jewish community, whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshaana Rabbah ("Great Salvation") and closes the period of Judgment days that begun on Rosh Hashanah.

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Purim

Purim is one of the most favorite holidays. On Purim we celebrate how Queen Esther saved the Jews of Persia from annihilation: The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther's cousin) defied the king's orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G?d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.

On Purim we read the Ester Megillah twice, when Haman's name is mentioned is is customary to make noise with noisemakers (Raashanim). We also send food baskets to friends, we eat Hamantashen cookies (oznay haman) we have a festive meal (seudat purim) and we wear customs.

 

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Passover

 

Passover on the 15th of Nissan we celebrate our freedom as Jews. God redeemed our ancestors from bitter slavery in Egypt.

After 210 years of slavery in Egypt, Moses told Pharaoh that he must "Let My People Go." Each time Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites, God brought another plague upon the Egyptians. The tenth and final plague was the death of firstborn children. In executing this plague, God passed through the land of Egypt, but "passed over" Jewish homes.

Every Passover, we are commanded to read the "Hagada" – (a special book with the Passover story) during the Passover Seder.

Seder means organization and the Passover Seder means the organized way to perform the Passover commandments. The Torah commands Jews on Passover to tell the story of the Exodus and to eat matzah. We also must eat bitter herbs (to remind us of the suffering in Egypt), eat extra matzah called afikoman (to remind us of the Passover sacrifice), sing and praise God, drink four cups of wine.

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Passover - Seder plate

Preparing the Seder plate requires several hours of work. It is advisable to get other members of the house to help so that the work will be completed before the Seder begins. It is best to prepare all the seder foods before the onset of the Holiday in order to avoid halachic questions.

Three Matzot are placed on top of each other on a plate or napkin and then covered.

The Matzot are symbolic of the three castes of Jews: Priests, Levites and Israelites. They also commemorate the three measures of fine flour that Abraham told Sarah to bake into Matzah when they were visited by the three angels.

On a practical level, three Matzot are needed so that when we break the middle Matzah, we are still left with two whole ones to pronounce the Hamotzi (as required on Shabbat and Holidays).

On a cloth or plate placed above the three Matzot we place the following items:

§ The Shankbone

§ The Egg

§ The Bitter Herbs

§ The Mixture

§ The Vegetable

§ The Bitter Herbs

The special foods we eat on Passover are also food for thought. Every item on the Seder plate abounds in meaning and allusion. Following are a description of each of the Seder plate foods listed above with the reason each is included, the method of preparing it, and its role in the Seder meal

The Shank Bone

 

A piece of roasted meat represents the lamb that was the special Paschal Sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt. The Paschal Sacrifice was brought in the afternoon before Passover in the time of the Holy Temple.

Preparation: Roast neck on all sides over an open fire on the stove. Afterwards, some have the custom to remove for the majority of the meat of the neck.

Role in the Seder: The shank bone is not eaten. After the meal it is refrigerated and used a second

time on the Seder plate the following night.

 

The Egg


A hard boiled egg represents the Holiday Offering in the days of the Holy Temple. The meat of this animal constituted the main part of the Passover meal.

Preparation: Boil one egg per Seder plate and possibly more for use during the meal.

Role in the Seder: Place one egg on each plate. As soon as the actual meal is about to begin, remove the egg from the Seder plate and use during the meal.

A popular way of eating these eggs is to chop and mix them with the salt water which was set on the table. The eggs prepared this way are then served as an appetizer before the fish.

 

The Bitter Herbs


Bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of the slavery of our forefathers in Egypt. Fresh horseradish, romaine lettuce and endive are the most common choices.

The greens must be washed extremely well before the Holiday begins and care must be taken to check for insects. Afterwards, they are dried very well.

Preparation: This must be done before the Holiday begins. Peel the raw horseradish roots and rinse them off well.

Note: Dry the roots very carefully, since they will be eaten with the matzah later on for the "matzah and maror sandwich" and not even a drop of water should be left on the horseradish, to avoid gebrokts.

Next, grate the horseradish with a hand grater or electric grinder.

NOTE: Whoever will be grating the horseradish will begin to shed copious tears or cough a lot. Covering the face with a cloth from the eyes downwards helps prevent inhalation of the strong, bitter odor.

The marror is placed on the Seder plate on top of a few cleaned, dried leaves of romaine lettuce (which is also maror).

Role in the Seder: After the recital of most of the Haggadah comes the ritual hand washing. Then matzah is eaten followed by some marror folded in one or two romaine lettuce leaves, followed in turn by a sandwich of matzah, marror, and romaine lettuce leaves.

 

The Paste


A mixture of apples, nuts and wine which resembles the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they toiled for Pharaoh.

Preparation: Peel walnuts and apples and chop finely. Mix together and add a small amount of wine.

Role in the Seder: This is used as a type of relish into which the marror is dipped (and then shaken off) before eating


The Vegetable


A non-bitter root vegetable alludes to the back-breaking work of the Jews as slaves. The Hebrew letters of karpas can be arranged to spell "Perach Samech".

Perach means backbreaking work and Samech is numerically equivalent to 60, referring to the 60 myriads (10,000), equaling 600,000, which was the number of Jewish males over 20 years of age who were enslaved in Egypt.

Preparation: Peel an onion or boiled potato. Cut off a slice and place on Seder plate. On the table, next to the Seder plate, place a small bowl of salted water.

Role in the Seder: After recital of Kiddush, the family goes to the sink and ritually washes hands, but without saying the usual blessing.

Then the head of the household cuts a small piece of the root vegetable used, dips it in salt water, and gives each person at the table a very small piece over which they say the appropriate blessing. Care should be taken that each person eats less than 17 grams ( 1/2 ounce).

The Lettuce


The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of our fathers in Egypt. The leaves of Romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter.

So it was with our enslavement in Egypt. At first the deceitful approach of Pharoah was soft and sensible and the work was done voluntarily and even for pay. Gradually, it evolved into forced and cruel labor.

Preparation: Romaine lettuce is often very sandy. Wash each of the leaves separately, checking very carefully for insects. (Pat gently with a towel and let sit until completely dry, so that there will be no moisture to come in contact with the matzah.)

Depending on how much romaine lettuce is needed, it can take several hours to prepare. This task should be completed before candle lighting time on the first night. Prepare enough leaves for both nights and store in the refrigerator. Soaking of the Romaine leaves may not be done on the Holiday.

Role in the Seder: the Lettuce is used in conjunction with horseradish. It is used when eating the marror and when eating the matzoh and maror sandwich.

Place the leaves in two piles on the Seder plate, one under the maror and one separately at the bottom.

Keep a stack of extra cleaned leaves handy in the refrigerator in case additional leaves are needed.

The content in this page is produced by Chabad.

 

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Shavuot

 
In the Bible, there is no fixed calendar date for celebrating Shavuot. Shavuot is defined as the day of celebration after the completion of the Omer Count: Seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. During the seven weeks we prepare ourselves for the giving of the Torah. 

Shavuot is a celebration of our acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai over 3,300 years ago. The word Shavuot means "weeks", It took the people of Israel seven weeks to reach Mount Sinai when they departed Egypt, they departed Egypt on the 15th of Nissan the first day of Passover.

Customs:

Decorating the Home with Greenery & Flowers

It is customary to eat dairy foods on the first day of Shavuot

In many synagogues the Book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot

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Tu B'Shevat

Tu B'Shevat the " New Year of Trees" on the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, This is the season in which earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Legally, the "New Year for Trees" relates to the various tithes that must be separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. These tithes differ from year to year in the seven-year Shemittah cycle; the point at which a budding fruit is considered to belong to the next year of the cycle is the 15th of Shevat.

On Tu B'Shevat we eat fruits, particularly from the "Seven Kinds" that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

 

 

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Rosh Hashana

 Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year.  "Rosh Hashana" means Head of the Year.. Rosh Hashana occurs on the first and second days of  Tishrei on the Jewish calendar (which usually falls sometime in September or October). 

On Rosh Hashanah, God opens the Books of Life and Death. Jews ask to be forgiven for their sins in the hope that God will give them a good signing in the Book of Life for the coming year. 
On Rosh Hashana, most of the day is spent praying in synagogue and the most important  mitzvah of Rosh Hashana is to hear the sounding of the the shofar, if Rosh Hashana falls on the Sabbath, the shofar is not blown. 
On Rosh Hashana we eat round challah, which symbolizes completion and apple dipped into honey to symbolize hope for a sweet new year. 
On Rosh Hashana we greed " Shana Tova " : Good Year and "Chatima Tova" : Good Signing in the Book of Life. 
Another  Rosh HaShana custom is the Tashlich:  Jews walk to flowing water, say a prayer, and symbolically throw their sins into the water. 
On Rosh HaShana, God signs one in the Book of Life and on Yom Kippur god seals the book. Therefore, during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur: "Ten Days of Repentance" we engage in intense introspection.

 

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Jewish Holidays Calendar

Central to the life style of the Jewish community is the Jewish calendar which marks important traditional events throughout the year.

Judaism is based on a lunar calendar which predates the standard Gregorian calendar by more the 3,700 years.

Months are marked by the appearance of the moon rather than using a fixed number of months each year.

The Jewish week begins on Sunday ending Saturday, the Sabbath and the Jewish day begins at sundown rather than midnight. The Sabbath lasts from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

Jewish Holidays Calendar 

 

 

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