Jewish Holidays


Shavuot

Shavuot is celebrated on the sixth day of Sivan, in late spring. This holiday is the Time of the Giving of Our Torah. We praise God for the gift of revelation. Shavuot is also the Festival of the First Fruits. We thank God for the end of the grain harvest in the Land of Israel and for the harvest of the first ripe summer fruits.

The Ten Commandments

1. I am Adonai your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt

2. You shall have no other Gods beside me

3. You shall not swear falsely by the name of God

4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy

5. Honor your Father and your Mother

6. You shall not murder

7. You shall not commit adultery

8. You shall not steal

9. You shall not testify falsely under oath

10. You shall not covet

Tisha Be'av

Literally means the ninth of Av, seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the summer, a day of mourning and fasting when we commemorate the destruction of both Temples (the first in 586 BCE and the second in 70 CD), the expulsion of the Jews of England (1290) and of Spain (1492). All these events are said to have occurred on the ninth of Av and so Tisha Be'av is a solemn day when we remember these times.

Hanukkah

In 167 B.C., the Syrian king Antiochus IV began to outlaw Jewish religious practices and forced Jews to adopt Greek rituals.  His men took control of the Jews' Holy Temple in Jerusalem, looted it and erected an idol of a Greek god there.  One Jewish family, the Hasmoneans (led by Mattityahu and his five sons), decided to take a stand against the persecution.  The Greek forces arrived in the town of Modiin, near Jerusalem.  It was here that after refusing to violate his own religion by praying to the Greek god Zeus, Mattityahu attacked the Greek soldiers.

This action began the Jewish rebellion. Mattityahu and his sons became known as the Maccabees, which means "men who are as strong as hammers" in Hebrew.  The small army, led by Mattityahu's most famous son, Judah Maccabee, fought sizeable Greek forces.  In 165 B.C., the Maccabees were triumphant. On the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev, the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple.

They decided to rededicate the temple -- the word "Hanukkah" means dedication.  The Jewish army was unable to find enough oil to light the Menorah, or candle holder, to be used in the service.  The Maccabees found only one bottle of oil, enough for only a single night.  Miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights, giving the Jews time to produce more oil.

The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates this miracle.  By lighting candles for eight nights, beginning every year on the 25th of Kislev (usually in December on the Western calendar, but not always), Jews celebrate the triumph of the Maccabees, the rededication of the Holy Temple and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days.

 

Our annual Tashlich ceremony on Rosh Hashanah

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