All in Jewish Holidays

Celebration and Remembrance

This is a time of holidays, celebrations and remembrance. As Jews, we are a people of passion and extremes. We remember our history as a people in repeating cycles of weeks, months and years. We always seem to be remembering something from our long history. Our memorials and celebrations are often framed by death, destruction, suffering and loss. We remember that deliverance comes at a cost.

Yom Kippur: Corporate Complicity and Collective Confession

Over the past few weeks, the sounds and prayers of the season summoned us to prepare our hearts and actions for the New Year (Rosh HaShana) as we heard the shofar blown across the country, which we witnessed with our presence or heard drifting through our windows from nearby synagogues. This period between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is called the Days of Awe and it is a time to remember our individual and collective callings and failings. [1] 

6 Women and Moses

Having just come through the Passover season, this year I’ve been thinking much about Moses and the women in his life. The story of the exodus from Egypt has six strong women, unsung heroes, without whom the story could never have happened. These women were all courageous. Some of them actively disobeyed the laws of the time, stood against the status quo, acted bravely, and were instruments of God’s will during a time of slavery and oppression. Two of these six women were not even Jews.

Spring: A Promise of Life from Death

Spring is always a season of promise as cold winter winds cease and brown lands become green. For me, green has always held the promise of new life growing out of the still brown deadness of earth. This year is no exception; but even as winter fades and spring emerges, the seasons themselves are overlapping in unusual ways. One day temperatures soar and on the next we have cold rain. While this is not unusual, it’s of longer duration this year. Is this a metaphor of delayed rebirth or is it simply the result of massive unsettled global weather patterns?

4 Daughters and 5 Questions

In many holidays, women play a secondary or supporting role and the gender balance is largely skewed in favor of patriarchy. Yet, if you look at the Passover story, one could very easily frame the holiday within the context of women’s heroism.  Think of Yocheved (the mother of Moses), Shiphrah and Puah (the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s order to kill the male Hebrew children), Miriam (Moses’ sister who cleverly arranged for Moses’ protection, and later a prophetess to her people), Tzipporah (who saved her husband Moses when God wanted to kill him on the way back to Egypt for not circumcising his son) and Pharaoh’s daughter (named Bithiah in Jewish tradition, who drew out Moses from the Nile, named him and fostered him).

3 Stories and the Revisionist Message of Hanukkah

As we enter this festive time of the year, it’s hard to feel light-hearted and happy. The lights are up in the city, twinkling in the early darkness of the season. Fragrant doughnuts are offered in every bakery in new, tempting flavors. Yet, the heaviness of threat and violence lurks in the back of my mind, and I feel unsettled even while I continue as if all is normal.

Yom Kippur and Eid-al- Adha: commonalities and differences

Jewish Israel has just passed through the season of the High Holidays. We’ve celebrated the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), which is not really the new year as it’s the beginning of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). These holidays, like the Moslem holidays, are both set according to the lunar calendar, but with differing dates. Israel’s Arab Moslem citizens have just celebrated, Eid-al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).

The Yom Kippur We All Need and Guilt We All Share

This year I have heard dozens of theories tossed around about the Jewish holiday season, replete with blood moons and shmitas and other “signs,” which may or may not be significant. But I think those things are mere distractions from what is really central to seeing the healing and refreshment that we so desire and often fast for, and the guilt we all share and need to repent from.

Repentance, Renewal and Rosh HaShana

The summer always comes to an end before I realize it. We get ready for a new school year, and then the holidays come in a rush one after the next, starting with Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. It, among other things, commemorates the traditional date of humanity’s creation. It is a time for increased introspection and self-examination as observant Jews gather before Rosh HaShana to recite prayers of penitence.Yet the Jewish New Year does not mark immediate physical or spiritual renewal. Instead, it is but the first day of a ten-day period, the Days of Awe, a time for collective and individual reflection, summoning us to national and personal change in direction, culminating in Yom Kippur -- The Day of Atonement.

An Israeli and Palestinian Dessert for Shavuot

Shavuot commemorates God’s giving of the Torah to the people of Israel. It is also the time when people would bring their first fruits to the Temple. People decorate their homes with greenery or flowers, read the book of Ruth in synagogues, eat a large dairy meal, and participate in all-night Torah study. In secular Israeli society, the holiday is celebrated with a meal of quiches, blintzes, lasagnas, and cheesecakes.