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Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, takes place on the first two days of Tishrei. It is both a time of rejoicing and of serious reflection, a time to celebrate the completion of another year while also taking stock of one’s life. Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment, but only on Yom Kippur is the fate of each person sealed for the rest of the upcoming year. The two days of Rosh Hashanah usher in the Ten Days of Repentance (Aseret Yemei Teshuvah), also known as the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim), which culminate in the major fast day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a custom to wish people “Shanah Tovah” and “Gemar chatimah tovah” (“A good inscription and sealing [in the Book of Life]”) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah observances include candle lighting on both evenings, festive meals with sweet delicacies – the best known of which being an apple dipped in honey – during the night and day, prayer services that include the sounding of the Shofar on both mornings, and desisting from creative work.


Sukkot

The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing.

Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R'galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavuot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif, the Festival of Ingathering.

Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following the festival, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are separate holidays but are related to Sukkot and are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot.

The festival of Sukkot is instituted in Leviticus 23:33 et seq. No work is permitted on the first and second days of the holiday. Work is permitted on the remaining days. These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as Chol Hamoed, as are the intermediate days of Passover. 

The Sukkah

In honor of the holiday's historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The commandment to "dwell" in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one's meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one's health permit, one should live in the sukkah as much as possible, including sleeping in it.

A sukkah must have at least three walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh must be put on last.

The following blessing is recited when eating a meal in the sukkah:

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu leisheiv basukkah.

The Four Species

Another observance important to Sukkot involves the four species (arba minim). Jews are commanded to take four plants - etrog (a citrus fruit native to Israel); lulav (a palm branch); hadas (a branch from a myrtle tree); and, arava (a willow branch). Joined together, they are used to "rejoice before the Lord."

Every morning of Sukkot, except on Shabbat, it is the custom to hold the lulav in the right hand and the etrog in the left. Bringing them together (with the pitam, the stem of the etrog pointing downward), the following blessing is recited:

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al n'tilat lulav.

The four species are also held during the Hallel prayer in religious services, and are held during processions around the bimah each day during the holiday. These processions commemorate similar processions around the alter of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The processions are known as Hoshanahs, because while the procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, "Hosha na!" (please save us!). On the seventh day of Sukkot, seven circuits are made. For this reason, the seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshanah Rabbah (the great Hoshanah)

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Sukkot, 1998


 

Shemini Atzeret

The  day after the seventh day of Sukkot, Tishri 22, is the holiday Shemini Atzeret. 

Shemini Atzeret literally means "the assembly of the eighth (day)." Rabbinic literature explains the holiday this way: our Creator is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day. Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.

Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right and does not involve some of the special observances of Sukkot. We do not take up the lulav and etrog on these days, and our dwelling in the sukkah is more limited, and performed without reciting a blessing.

Shemini Atzeret is a day on which work is not permitted. 

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Shemini Atzeret, 1998 


Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah means "Rejoicing in the Torah." This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. Each week in synagogue we publicly read a few chapters from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working our way around to Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah, we read the last Torah portion, then proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration. There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing in the synagogue with the Torahs. Drinking is also common during this time; in fact, a traditional source recommends performing the priestly blessing earlier than usual in the service, to make sure the Kohanim are not drunk when the time comes! As many people as possible are given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah. In addition, as many people as possible are given the honour of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions. Children do not carry the scrolls (they are much too heavy!), but often follow the procession around the synagogue, sometimes carrying small toy Torahs (stuffed plush toys or paper scrolls).

Simchat Torah is a holiday on which work is not permitted. 

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Simchat Torah, 1998 


Tu B'Shvat

Tu B’Shvat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. The word "Tu" is not really a word; it is the number 15 in Hebrew.

Tu B’Shvat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. Lev. 19:23-25 states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for God, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shvat, so if you planted a tree on Shvat 14, it begins it second year the next day, but if you plant a tree two days later, on Shvat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B’Shvat.

There are few customs or observances related to this holiday. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day. Some people plant trees on this day. A lot of Jewish children go around collecting money for trees for Israel at this time of year. 

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Tu B'Shvat 1998 


Purim

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem, and he loved her more than his other women and made her queen. But the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her nationality.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer them.” The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went to the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the bible that does not contain the name of God. Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that it the closest the book comes to mentioning God. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that God often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 14th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews. In leap years, when there are two months of Adar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, so it is always one month before Passover. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, because the book of Esther says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the next day.

The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.

The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther, commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. Although there are five books of Jewish scripture that are properly referred to as megillahs,  this is the one people usually mean when the speak of The Megillah. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers; see illustration) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.”

We are also commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai,” though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is.

In addition, we are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manos (sending out portions). Among Ashkenazic Jews, a common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen (lHaman's pockets). These triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman's three-cornered hat.
Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Purim, 1998 

Past Events


Passover

Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. It is the first of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Shavu’ot and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it represents the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, but little attention is paid to this aspect of the holiday. The primary observances of Passover are related to the Exodus from Egypt after 400 years of slavery.

The name “Passover” refers to the fact that God “passed over” the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. The holiday is also referred to as Chag Ha-Aviv (the Spring Festival), Chag Ha-Matzoth (the Festival of Matzahs), and Zeman Herutenu (the Time of Our Freedom).

Probably the most significant observance related to Passover involves the removal of chametz (leavened bread) from our homes. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise.

Chametz includes anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt) that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after coming into contact with water. We may not eat chametz during Passover; we may not even own it or derive benefit from it. We may not even feed it to our pets or cattle. All chametz, including utensils used to cook chametz, must either be disposed of or sold to a non-Jew.

The process of cleaning the home of all chametz in preparation for Passover is an enormous task. To do it right, you must spend several days scrubbing everything down, going over the edges of your stove and fridge with a toothpick and a Q-Tip, covering all surfaces that come in contact with foil or shelf-liner, etc. After the cleaning is completed, the morning before the seder, a formal search of the house for chametz is undertaken, and any which remains is burned.

The grain product we eat during Passover is called matzah (unleavened bread, made simply from flour and water and cooked very quickly). This is the bread that the Jews made for their flight from Egypt.

The day before Passover is the fast of the firstborn, a minor Fast for all Firstborn males, commemorating the fact that the firstborn Jewish males in Egypt were not killed during the final plague.

On the first night of Passover (first two nights for traditional Jews outside Israel), we have a special family meal filled with ritual to remind us of the significance of the holiday. This meal is called a seder, from a Hebrew root word meaning “order.”  

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays: Passover, 1998 


Sale of Chametz Form

Each year you’re required to clean your house, car and all your belongings (including your cottage and the crawl space you’ve been avoiding for years) from any and all chametz. After we’re done throwing everything away that sparks joy, we sell our chametz to a non-Jew temporarily, to avoid owning any chametz during the 8 days of Pesach. Once Passover is over, the Chametz is returned to your possession and you are free eat all the carbs again!

Sounds complicated? Not really!

Just fill out the form here and Rabbi Flanraich will take care of the rest. Just make sure you don’t touch your chametz until after Passover.
Chag Sameach!

Sale of Chametz Passover 5780/2020

There are four ways we fulfill the Biblical mitzvah of ridding ourselves of chametz before Passover. We clean our homes. We burn any remaining crumbs. We verbally declare that any chametz in our possession is worthless and no longer owned by us. To ensure that there is no question about our intent to remove chametz from our possession, we sell our chametz to non-Jews who may own leavened products on Passover. Canned goods and liquor and other foods too valuable to throw out, may be sold in this way.

You have to do the cleaning, burning and nullification yourselves. We can assist you in the sale of chametz. If you are unable to personally arrange to sell your chametz, please send this form to the synagogue office no later than Monday, April 6 at 9:00 a.m.

I, (on behalf of my entire family), transfer authority to sell all chametz, mixtures and objects containing chametz to Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich of Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto, Ontario. As my agent, he should arrange for this sale prior to April 6.

I have placed my chametz and mixtures and objects containing chametz in specially designated storage areas within my home. 

Yom Hashoah

The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah”— literally the "Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism." It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the seventh day of Passover, and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers). It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. The full name became formal in a law that was enacted by the Knesset on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.

In the early 1950s, education about the Holocaust (Shoah, meaning catastrophe, in Hebrew) emphasized the suffering inflicted on millions of European Jews by the Nazis. Surveys conducted in the late 1950s indicated that young Israelis did not sympathize with the victims of the Holocaust, since they believed that European Jews were "led like sheep for slaughter." The Israeli educational curriculum began to shift the emphasis to documenting how Jews resisted their Nazi tormentors through "passive resistance" — retaining their human dignity in the most unbearable conditions — and by "active resistance," fighting the Nazis in the ghettos and joining underground partisans who fought the Third Reich in its occupied countries.

Since the early 1960s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown and once again at 11:00 am on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theatres, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.

 While Yom Hashoah rituals are still in flux there is no question that this day holds great meaning for Jews worldwide. The overwhelming theme that runs through all observances is the importance of remembering — recalling the victims of this catastrophe, and insuring that such a tragedy never happen again. The Shoah (Holocaust) posed an enormous challenge to Judaism and raised many questions: Can one be a believing Jew after the Holocaust? Where was God? How can one have faith in humanity? Facing this recent event in history, does it really matter if one practices Judaism? Jewish theologians and laity have struggled with these questions for decades. The very fact that Jews still identify Jewishly, practice their religion — and have embraced the observance of Yom Hashoah answers some of the questions raised by the Holocaust.

 


Yom Ha'atzmaut

Most of the Jewish communities in the Western world have incorporated this modern holiday to celebrate Israel's independence on the fifth of Iyar, but sometimes moved slightly due to Shabbat.

Yom HaAtzma'ut in Israel is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron — Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers. The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence-and the very existence of the state to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.

The official "switch" from Yom Hazikaron to Yom HaAtzma'ut takes place a few minutes after sundown, with a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem in which the flag is raised from half staff (due to Memorial Day) to the top of the pole. The president of Israel delivers a speech of congratulations, and soldiers representing the army, navy, and air force parade with their flags. The evening parade is followed by a torch lighting ceremony, which marks the country's achievements in all spheres of life.

For North American Jews, celebrating Yom HaAtzma'ut has been a way to express solidarity with the state of Israel and to strengthen their alliance with it. In many communities, it is one of few occasions in which Jewish organizations and synagogues of different ideologies and denominations co-operate in forming a common celebration. In many North American congregations, the joint public celebration often is augmented by a religious service. In some cases, this would occur on the Shabbat closest to Yom HaAtzma'ut and would consist of additional readings added to the service and, usually, the singing of the Israeli national anthem.

There is not yet an accepted "tradition" of how to celebrate this holiday, and only time will tell whether certain customs, foods, prayers, and melodies will be linked in the Jewish mind as with holidays that emerged many centuries before Yom HaAtzma'ut. For Jews around the world, joining with Israelis celebrating Yom HaAtzma'ut has become a concrete link in the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays, Yom Hashoah 1998 

 


Yom Yerushalayim — Jerusalem Day 

The most recent addition to the Hebrew calendar. It commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty in 1967, which occurred on the third day of the Six Day War. It is celebrated on the 28th day of Iyar: six weeks after the Passover seder, one week before the eve of Shavuot.

The Jordanian occupation of eastern Jerusalem, including the old Jewish quarter and the Western Wall – the Kotel – between the War of Independence in 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967, was devastating for Jews around the world. The Western Wall and the Temple Mount are the last remnants of Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple), and the Kotel is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray. To this day, Jews face in the direction of Jerusalem and the Western Wall for prayer, and Jewish services are filled with references to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Day is a happy day, where we remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have our Old Jerusalem and our Holy sites, and that we must never take them for granted.


 

Shavuot

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah).

The period from Passover to Shavuot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or seven full weeks, hence the name of the festival. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality.

It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.

Work is not permitted during Shavuot. It is customary to stay up the entire first night of Shavuot and study Torah, then pray as early as possible in the morning. 

It is also customary to eat a dairy meal at least once during Shavuot. There are varying opinions as to why this is done. Some say it is a reminder of the promise regarding the land of Israel, a land flowing with "milk and honey." According to another view, it is because our ancestors had just received the Torah (and the dietary laws therein), and did not have both meat and dairy dishes available.

The book of Ruth is read at this time. Again, there are varying reasons given for this custom, and none seems to be definitive. 

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays, Shavuot 1998 


 Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av means "the ninth (day) of Av." It usually occurs during August. The Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av.

Tisha B'Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E .; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.).

Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Tisha B'Av is the culmination of a three week period of increasing mourning, beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed. During this three week period, weddings and other parties are not permitted, and people refrain from cutting their hair. From the first to the ninth of Av, it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) and from wearing new clothing.

The restrictions on Tisha B'Av are similar to those on Yom Kippur: to refrain from eating and drinking (even water); washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics; wearing leather shoes; engaging in sexual relations; and studying Torah. Work in the ordinary sense of the word is also restricted. People who are ill need not fast on this day. Many of the traditional mourning practices are observed: people refrain from smiles, laughter and idle conversation, and sit on low stools.

In synagogue, the book of Lamentations is read and mourning prayers are recited. 

Source: Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays, Tisha B'Av 1998

 

Fri, 7 August 2020 17 Av 5780