Festivals

(note: most festivals commence at sundown on the previous day)

 

Selichot
Not a festival but a beautiful preparatory Service, held on the Saturday evening a week before Rosh Hashanah, which helps us to prepare for the forthcoming Festivals.

Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year

Fast of Gedalliah
A rabbinical fast that was created in memory of the assassination of Gedalliah Ben Achikam, the governor of Israel during the days of Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylonia. As a result of Gedalliah’s death, many thousands of Jews were killed, and the remaining Jews were driven into final exile. The fast is observed on the day immediately following Rosh Hashanah.

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement
The most solemn day of the Jewish year.
During 25 hours of contemplation we can review our past year and look forward to the oncoming year, remember our departed dear ones and recall precious memories.

Succot or The Feast of Tabernacles
Commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land, and celebrates the way in which God took special care of them under impossible conditions.

Shemini Atzeret
Can be translated as “the assembly of the eighth (day).” In Israel the festival is combined with Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah
means “Rejoicing in the Torah”. This holiday marks the completion of the yearly cycle of weekly Torah readings.

Chanukah
is the Festival of Lights and marks the restoration of the temple by the Maccabees in 164 BCE. Chanukah is celebrated at roughly the same time as Christmas, but there is no connection at all between the festivals.

National Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January)
The UK Holocaust Memorial Day was first held in January 2001. The date was chosen as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Tu B’Shevat
The Jewish New Year for trees – For religious accounting purposes all trees have their anniversaries on this festival, regardless of when they were planted.

Purim
commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther.

Pesach  (Passover)
The commemoration of the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

Yom Ha’Shoah
The Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day. The date is chosen as the closest date (in the Jewish calendar) to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Yom Ha’atzmaut
The anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel

Lag B’Omer
The 50-day period between Passover and Shavuot (referred to as the Counting of the Omer) is meant to be a time of joy and happiness, as we have just celebrated the Jews getting their freedom from slavery. However, we instead observe it as a period of semi mourning.
The reason, we are told, is that during this period, Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students, died from a strange plague. Weddings, music and haircuts are not allowed.
Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day because on that day the plague ended and Rabbi Akiva’s students stopped dying. Lag B’Omer, the one day when our mourning is halted.

Shavuot
marks the time when the first harvest was taken to the Temple. Also known as the Festival of Weeks.
It falls 50 days after Pesach, when Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Dairy foods, espceially cheeec

17th Tammuz

A fast to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen our people on this day.

  1. Moses descended Mount Sinai on this day and, upon seeing the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf, he proceeded to break the first set of Tablets carrying the Ten Commandments. Moses proceeded to destroy the Golden Calf and ascended back up Mount Sinai for the second time, where he spent another 40 days.
  2. The First Temple: The priests in the First Temple stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day (Taanit 28b).
  3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached in the year 3184 (586 BCE) after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces.
  4. In the time of the Roman persecution, Apostomos, leader of the enemy forces, publicly burned the Torah.
  5. Titus, King of Rome, breached the walls of Jerusalem in 3760 (70 CE).
  6. Pope Gregory IX ordered the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud in 4999 (1239).
  7. In 1391, more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Spain.
  8. In 4319, the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.
  9. The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944).

This day is the beginning of the Three Weeks, an annual period of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

Tisha B’Av
This day allows us to reflect on the destruction of the two Temples.
The first was built by King Solomon, and was destroyed in war by the Babylonians, and the resulting exile lasted for 70 years. The reason for its destruction was the relentless pursuit of immorality – whether idol worship or sexual impropriety.
The Second Temple was destroyed for one reason only, “Sinat Chinam”, or causeless hatred.
The Jewish people at the time simply hated one another for no reason, and had absolutely no compassion for each other.

What happens on this day? Traditionally, one fasts from sunset to sunset, 25 hours in total. In the synagogue we read the book of Lamentations (Eichah), which details the destruction of the First Temple. In addition, we abstain from activities such as listening to music, sitting on comfortable chairs and sexual relations.

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