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My Holiday Guide

Also See My Holidays to Observe and Avoid

Shabbat—The Sabbath

"The importance of Shabbat," by Shlomo Phillips: Shabbat(From: AISH.com)

Rosh Chodesh—The New Month

When: Monthly on sighting the New Moon
Biblical: 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, for peace, prosperity, and success, for good health, and renewed 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 Chodesh. (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 45).


Pesach (Passover), Feast of Unleavened Bread: Month of Nissan: March–April

Eight days beginning on Abib/Nisan 15 (sunset 14th). Feast day established at Shemot (Exodus) 13:6. "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The observance of Pesach is instituted at:
Exodus 12:14-17 "This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. 15 "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 You shall celebrate a sacred occasion on the first day, and a sacred occasion on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them; only what every person is to eat, that alone may be prepared for you. jj 17 You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread [matzah], for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.
Celebrates the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, however much more importantly Pesach reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt and our freedom from all forms of slavery.
Our Exodus history is recorded in Shemot (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. We Sephardi Jews do not consider these to be chametz and so may eat them. Everything regarded as chametz is removed from the home in memory of the fact we fled Egypt in a hurry, not leaving time to even let 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, a reminder that in a moment our lives could be drastically overturned by circumstances beyond our control. Our only hope and certainty is HaShem. In His pleasure alone we place our emunah (active faith).

A fun retelling of the story of Passover with Shlomo and friends: A Pesach Tale

Shlomo discusses Ta’anit Bekhorim: The Fast of the First Born.

Sefirat HaOmer—Counting of the Omer: Pesach - Shavuot

My detailed study: Sefirat HaOmer, What is an Omer and Why Do We Keep Counting It?

How to Count the Omer: Sefirat HaOmer: The Nightly Count.

Lag B'Omer: Month of Iyar: April-May

Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the omer count. It connects 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. There are several traditions surrounding this period of partial mourning (weddings, celebrations, parties etc. are forbidden as are haircuts and other optional elements of grooming). On Lag B'Omer the rules are suspended.

For more, see my study: Lag B'Omer

Shavuot—Pentecost: Month of Sivan: May-June

Also known as the Festival of Weeks, Hag ha-Bikkurim (i.e. the Festival of First Fruits), and Hag Matan Torateinu (i.e. the Festival of the Giving of Torah).

Shavuot is two days beginning with the conclusion of the 49 days (or 7 full weeks), as calculated from the second day of Pesach (Passover) according to Sefirat HaOmer (the Counting of the Omer). Pesach remembers our deliverance from Egyptian slavery through the exodus. Shavuot reminds us of the freedom subsequently received through the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai.

There is a popular ancient tradition of staying up all night on the first night of Shavuot in order to give oneself fully to Torah and Talmud study. As the morning dawns one should be engaged in Torah and prayer, followed by the morning Shacharit prayers. It is also a tradition to read the Book of Ruth during this night of study. Dairy meals are also part of the traditional observance. Work is not permitted on Shavuot.

Shavuot was Instituted at:

Leviticus 23:15 And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering — the day after the sabbath — you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete:
16 you must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD.
21 On that same day you shall hold a celebration; it shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall not work at your occupations. This is a law for all time in all your settlements, throughout the ages.
For see my study:HERE

Mourning for Jerusalem: Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av: June-July/July-August

Includes:

Shlomo Reading Eichah (Lamentations) for Tisha B'av:

Shlomo Discussing Teshuvah in honor of Tisha B'Av— the Ninth of Av, recorded September 08, 2015:

Elul: The Month When G-d 'Walks' Among Us: August-September

The 1st of Elul is the New Year for the tithing of cattle. The tithe for cattle had to be made from cattle born in the same fiscal year, between 1st of Elul one year to the next.

It 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. 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 of coming closer to G-d. It is a time for realizing ones purpose in life. During Elul ones attention leaves sense gratification and turns to spiritual pursuits. We are aware that we will soon stand before the Judge of all judges and we prepare our cases by seeking to right 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 beloved’s And my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3). During the month of Elul HaShem abides with His people in special intimacy.

Shlomo's introduction to the month of Elul:   

My An Odd Dream For Elul!

For more, see my The Month of Elul

"Shofar Love", with Shlomo Phillips (on Youtube)

The High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, Yamim Noraim, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah: The Month of Tishrei: September-October

The seventh Hebrew month of Tishrei serves as the New Year for several purposes. The best known being Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe or Days of Repentance) the High Holy Days. It is also the new year for the civil calendar as well the new year for the seasons. Tishrei is an autumn month of 30 days, usually occurring in September or October of the western calendar.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is observed on the first and second of Tishrei 1,2. 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: usually a ram's horn). The observance is instituted in Leviticus 23:23-25
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
24 Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud [shofar] blasts.
25 You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD.

Yamim Noraim: Days of Awe or Days of Repentance:

These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Their extra-biblical observance is based on well established Jewish Tradition. During this period Jews do serious introspection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, see below). One should especially practice the following kinds of actions to demonstrate ones repentance to HaShem as He prepares judge according to the "books" of our lives:
  • Teshuvah: repentance
  • Tefilah: prayer
  • Tzedakah: good deeds (charity or any act of loving kindness)
These "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). As the books are closed man's dystiny for the next year is sealed. These judgements can only be mitigated through teshuvah.

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.

Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement

Instituted at Leviticus 23:26
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
27 Mark, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD;
28 you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the LORD your God.
29 Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin;
30 and whoever does any work throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people.
31 Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements.
32 It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.
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.

Sukkot—Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles)

Sukkot begins on Tishrei 15 and 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. Consider Leviticus 23:33:
33 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
34 Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the LORD, [to last] seven days.
35 The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations;
36 seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.
37 Those are the set times of the LORD that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it—
38 apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD.
39 Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the LORD [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day.
40 On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 You shall observe it as a festival of the LORD for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages.
42 You shall live in sukkot [booths} seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in sukkahs,
43 in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the LORD your God.
44 So Moses declared to the Israelites the set times of the LORD.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

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 parashot) and the beginning of their annual cycle (with Genesis 1:1). Two days of celebration with dancing and joy. Often viewed as part of Sukkot, but technically occurs on the days following it.

Chanukkah—Festival of Lights: Month of Kislev-Tevet: November—December

These are the eight days beginning on Kislev 25. Chanukkah remembers the re-dedication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greek Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This despot sacrificed a pig on the alter of the Temple and persecuted the Jews without mercy! Two groups opposed Antiochus, the (Hasmonean) Maccabees and a group known as the Chassidim (no relation to the present Chassidim sects) from whom the Prushim (Pharisees and modern Rabbis) emerged. Chanukkah (aka Hanukkah) recalls their re-dedication of the Holy Temple as described at I Maccabees 4:56-59. The traditions of Chanukkah comes from several sources. The Christian Gospel of John confirms its observance in the first century CE:
John 10:22 Then came Chanukah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, 23 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 oil left to keep the Temple menorah lit as required. There was only enough oil to burn for one 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. This account does not appear in the Book of Maccabees. Based on it, each night a flame is lit in a special menorah called a Hanukiah in memory following a traditional lighting pattern.

Asarah B'Tevet: Tenth of Tevet

On Asarah B'Tevet, the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, in the year 3336 from Creation (425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later, on the 9 Tammuz 3338, the city walls were breached, and on the 9 Av the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.

In memory, Jews refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. The fast ends at nightfall or as soon as you see three medium sized stars in the sky.

Tu Bishvat—New Year of the Trees: Month of Shevat: December-January

The 15th of Shevat is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. It in biblically instituted at Leviticus 19:23
When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten.
24 In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD;
25 and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God.

Purim—Festival of Lots: Month of Adar: February-March

Purim remembers the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews of Persia (Iran). In a greater sense it reminds us of all the attempts to destroy us throughout our generations and reminds us of HaShem's constant protection. Purim is day of great joy and hence has been called the Jewish Halloween due to the costumes, public celebrations, and 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. And 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!"

Purim is the 14th of Adar. It was instituted for observe at Esther 9:20, 21:

Mordecai recorded these events. And 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. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

For much more see my study and several videos On Purim

Israeli/Jewish national holidays and days of remembrance

     Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day
     Yom Hazikaron—Memorial Day
     Yom Ha'atzmaut—Israel Independence Day
     Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day
     Yom HaAliyah—Aliyah Day
     Day to commemorate the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands and Iran

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