September 20 – 22, 2017
Rosh Hashanah falls on the 1st day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Rosh Hashanah marks the first of the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), during which Jews repent for their sins against God or against their fellow human beings. During the two days of Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue service includes an extended repetition of the Amidah prayer, both for Shaharit and for Musaf. At several intervals during Musaf, the Shofar, or ram’s horn, is blown to awaken Jews symbolically from their spiritual slumber. The Mishnah states during the blowing of the shofar, that ten verses should be recited referring to kingship, remembrance, and the shofar. In addition, medieval penitential prayers, called piyyutim, should be recited with themes of repentance.
September 29 – 30, 2017
Falling on the 10th day of Tishri, Yom Kippur is the climax of the Jewish High Holy Days. Also known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is observed through 25 hours of repentance, atonement, prayer, and fasting. On the day prior to Yom Kippur, known as Erev Yom Kippur, acts of charity and visits to others are performed to seek or give forgiveness. Yom Kippur prayer services begin with the Kol Nidre recited prior to sunset, followed by Ma’ariv evening prayers featuring an extended Selihot service. These Selihot prayers for forgiveness also precede the morning prayer. Shaharit prayers are followed by Musaf, an added holiday prayer and the Minha afternoon prayer including a Haftarah reading from the Book of Jonah. The clergy and some Jews traditionally wear a kittel, the special white robe, during all of these services. The Haftarah reading shows God’s willingness to forgive those who repent. To conclude the service, the congregation recites the Ne’ilah prayer, followed by the Shema and blowing of the shofar.
October 4 – October 11, 2017
One of the three pilgrimage festivals, Sukkot, like Pesah and Shavuot, has both historical and agricultural significance. Falling on the 15th day of Tishri, five days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot commemorates the ancient Jews’ 40 years of desert wandering and of living in temporary shelters and the agricultural harvest. Sukkot means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings in which Jews must live for seven days to remind us of the years of wandering. The sukkah must have at least two and one-half walls and a roof, made from sekhakh-natural materials such as twigs that were cut from growth in the ground. Jews customarily decorate the inside of a sukkah with autumn fruits and vegetables in honor of the harvest. According to Leviticus, during the holiday of Sukkot, Jews attend synagogue and use Four Species in prayer: a citron (etrog), a palm branch (lulav), two willow branches (aravot), and three myrtle branches (hadassim).
October 11 – 12, 2017
Celebrated on the 22nd day of Tishri, Shemini Atzeret means “the Eighth (day) of Assembly,” and it follows the seventh day of Sukkot. The sukkah is no longer needed for this holiday, so during the cantor’s repetition of the Musaf Amidah, the Geshem prayer is recited with a request for rain. On Shemini Atzeret, like Passover, Shavuot, and Yom Kippur, Jews recite the Yizkor memorial prayers and if Shabbat does not fall during Sukkot’s intermediate days, the book of Ecclesiastes is also chanted. Generally, the cantor wears a kittel, or the special white robe, as a symbol of piety.
October 12 – 13, 2017
Observed on the 23rd day of Tishri outside of Israel, Simhat Torah marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the start of a new cycle. Translated as “rejoicing with the Torah,” Simhat Torah involves joyous processions in which all the Torah scrolls are carried around the synagogue in seven symbolic circuits or hakafot. Simhat Torah features the only evening service in which the Torah is read. During this service, our congregation’s children are often given small Israeli flags, candies and other treats. The morning service includes the Hallel, the holiday Amidah and a holiday Musaf. Once again, when the Torah scroll is removed for reading, the congregation repeats the seven hakafot and associated prayers.
December 12 – 20, 2017
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is observed for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev. “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew for “dedication” or “consecration,” referring to the Second Temple’s rededication in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt of the second century B.C.E. against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Talmud states that when the Temple was being rededicated, the Jews found only enough consecrated olive oil to light the Temple’s Eternal Flame for one day. Miraculously, that oil burned for eight full days, allowing time to prepare new oil. In celebration of Hanukkah, Jews light eight candles on the Hanukkiah for each night of the holiday. The shamash (“servant”), is usually located higher or lower on the Hanukkiah and is lit each night to adhere to the Talmudic injunction of using the Hanukkah lights to publicize the holiday and place the candles in the window. Traditions include preparation of latkes and sufganiyot (doughnuts), which are both fried with oil. Children play with dreidels marked with Hebrew letters for the acronym, “A great miracle happened there.”
January 30 – 31, 2018
Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees, falls on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. Jewish tradition marks the 15th of Shevat as the day when the sap in the trees begins to rise, signaling the earth’s awakening from its winter slumber, and heralding the beginning of Spring. Tu B’Shevat is an essential “turn” from the season of darkness (winter/Hanukkah) to the season of light (spring/Passover); from the era of darkness (exile) to the era of light (redemption). Buds that will bring forth fragrant blossoms appear on the trees in Israel at Tu B’Shevat.
February 28 – March 1, 2018
Celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, Purim commemorates Persian Queen Esther’s rescue of the Jews from Haman’s plans to destroy them, as recounted in Megillat Esther. To observe Purim, Jews attend a synagogue recitation of the Book of Esther on Erev Purim and on the following morning. With the Megillah readings, the cantillation, or chant, differs from that used in other Torah readings. When Haman’s name is mentioned during Megillah readings, we shake groggers or noisemakers to blot out his name. Other traditions include giving gifts of food and drink to friends (mishloach manot), the giving of charity to the poor, and enjoyment of a festive meal. Hamantaschen baked especially for Purim are fruit-filled cookies shaped like Haman’s three-cornered hat.
March 30 – April 7, 2018
Passover (Pesah) is celebrated on the 15th day of Nisan and commemorates the Israelites’ escape from slavery and their exodus from Egypt. The term “Passover” refers to the lamb’s blood that the Israelites marked on their doorposts to alert God’s angel of death to pass over them when setting the tenth plague upon the Egyptians. Similarly, Passover is called the “Festival of Unleavened Bread” in part because of the Jews’ haste in leaving Egypt, requiring them to pack their dough before it had time to rise. As unleavened bread baked under special rules and rabbinic supervision, matzah became the symbol of Passover. In observance of this biblically mandated holiday, Jews are prohibited from eating any “hametz” – leavened, fermented, or yeast-containing products – for eight days. We carefully clean our homes and perform a special ceremony with blessings to mark the elimination of hametz. On the first two nights of Passover, Jewish people hold a seder, or special ritual, during which they read the Haggadah, detailing the story of the persecution of the Jewish people, God’s intervention, and our exodus from Egypt.
April 11 – 12, 2018
Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed on the 27th day of Nisan. It is also the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Har Zion holds a moving service and series of programs on that day. The Men’s Club distributes yellow candles to our families to light and place in the windows of their homes.
April 18 – 19, 2018
Yom Ha’atzmaut, is celebrated on the 5th day of Iyar. This festive holiday commemorates Israel’s declaration of independence by David Ben Gurion on May 14, 1948. Har Zion Temple celebrates this joyous day with a special service and festivities.
May 2 – 3, 2018
On the 18th day of Iyar, we celebrate Lag B’Omer to mark the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. This custom originated in Leviticus 23:15-16 of the Torah, which commands us to count seven full weeks from the day after Pesah to the 49th day, which is Shavuot. Some say the counting of the Omer originated when Moses told the Jewish people that they would receive the Torah 49 days after the exodus from Egypt.
May 19 – 21, 2018
On Shavuot we commemorate the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot falls seven complete weeks after Passover. The connection between both holidays suggests that freedom cannot exist unless there is law that rules that freedom. Shavuot is observed over two days in the Diaspora and only one day in Israel. Yizkor is recited on the second day. It is customary to eat diary meals during this holiday.
July 21 – 22, 2018
On the 9th day of Av, Jews fast and mourn to commemorate both the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Besides Yom Kippur, it is the only other 24-hour fast. Tisha B’Av marks the end of a three-week mourning period, beginning with the fast of the 17th day of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach in Jerusalem’s walls.