Jewish Festivals and Days of Remembrance in Israel Jewish festivals, originating in antiquity, are observed in Israel intensively and in many ways. They are manifested in traditional and nontraditional customs and practice, and they leave their imprint on diverse aspects of national life. The Jewish festivals are the “landmarks” by which Israelis mark the passing of the year. They are very much a part of daily life: on the street, in the school system and in synagogues and homes around the country. Shabbat, (the Sabbath - the weekly day of rest) on Saturday, is marked in Israel with most people spending the day together with family and friends. Public transport is suspended, businesses are closed, essential services are at skeleton-staff strength, and leave is granted to as many soldiers as possible. The secular majority take advantage of their weekly day of rest for leisure time at the seashore, places of entertainment and excursions in outdoor Shabbat settings. The observant devote many hours to festive family feasts and services in synagogue, desist from All stamps reproduced courtesy of the travel, and refrain from working or using electrical Israel Philatelic Service appliances. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish new year. Its origin is Biblical (Lev. 23:23-25): “a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts [of the shofar, the ram’s horn].” The term Rosh Hashanah, “beginning of the year,” is rabbinical, as are the formidable themes of the festival: repentance, preparation for the day of Divine judgment, and prayer for a fruitful year. The two-day festival falls on 1-2 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, usually Rosh Hashanah September in the Gregorian calendar, and starts at sundown of the preceding evening, as do all Jewish observances. Major customs of Rosh Hashanah include the sounding of the shofar in the middle of a lengthy synagogue service that focuses on the festival themes, and elaborate meals at home to inaugurate the new year. The prayer liturgy is augmented with prayers of repentance. In many senses, Israel begins its year on Rosh Hashanah. Government correspondence, newspapers and most broadcasts carry the “Jewish date” first. Felicitations for the new year are generally tendered before Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur, eight days after Rosh Hashanah, is the day of atonement, of Divine judgment, and of “affliction of souls” (Lev. 23:26-32) so that the individual may be cleansed of sins. The only fast day decreed in the Bible, it is a time to enumerate one’s misdeeds and contemplate one’s faults. The Jew is expected, on this day, to pray for forgiveness for sins between man and God and correct his wrongful actions against his fellow man. The major Yom Kippur precepts of Yom Kippur - lengthy devotional services and a 25-hour fast - are observed even by much of the otherwise secular population. The level of public solemnity on Yom Kippur surpasses that of any other festival, including Rosh Hashanah. The country comes to a complete halt for 25 hours on this day; places of entertainment are closed, there are no television and radio broadcasts (not even the news), public transport is suspended, and even the roads are completely closed. Yom Kippur in Israel has special meaning due to memories of the 1973 war, a surprise attack launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel on that very day. Sukkot, described in the Bible (Lev.23:34) as the “Feast of Tabernacles” begins five days after Yom Kippur). Sukkot is one of the three festivals that were celebrated (until 70 CE) with mass pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem and are therefore known as the “pilgrimage festivals.” On Sukkot, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (c. 13th century BCE) and give thanks for a bountiful harvest. At some kibbutzim, Sukkot is celebrated Sukkot as Chag Ha’asif (the harvest festival), with the themes of the gathering of the second grain crop and the autumn fruit, the start of the agricultural year, and the first rains. In the five days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, tens of thousands of householders and businesses erect sukkot - booths for temporary dwelling, resembling the booths in which the Israelites lived in the desert, after their exodus from Egypt - and acquire the palm frond, citron, myrtle sprigs and willow branches with which the festive prayer rite is augmented. All around the country, sukkot line parking lots, balconies, rooftops, lawns, and public spaces. No army base lacks one. Some spend the festival and the next six days literally living in their sukkot, while most observers just eat their meals there. In Israel, the “holy day” portion of Sukkot (and the other two pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Shavuot) is celebrated for one day. Diaspora communities celebrate it for two days, commemorating the time in antiquity when calendation was performed at the Temple and its results reported to the Diaspora using a tenuous network of signal fires and couriers. The prayer liturgy is augmented with additional prayers, including the Hallel, a collection of blessings and psalms, recited on Rosh Hodesh (the beginning of each lunar month) and on the pilgrimage festivals. After the festive day, Sukkot continues at a lesser level of sanctity, as mandated by the Torah (Lev. 23:36). During this intermediate week - half festival, half ordinary - schools are closed and many workplaces shut down or shorten their hours. Most Israelis spend the interim days of Sukkot and Passover at recreation sites throughout the country. The intermediate week and the holiday season end on Shemini Atseret, the “sacred occasion of the eighth day” (Lev. 23:36), with which Simhat Torah is combined. Celebration of Shemini Atseret/Simhat Torah focuses on the Torah and is noted for public dancing with a Torah scroll in one’s arms and with recitation of the concluding and beginning chapters of the Torah, renewing the yearly cycle of Torah reading. After dark, many communities sponsor further festivities, often outdoors, that are not limited by the ritual restrictions that apply on the holy day itself. Hanukkah, beginning on 25 Kislev (usually in December), commemorates the triumph of the Jews, under the Maccabees, over the Greek rulers (164 BCE) - both the physical victory of the small Jewish nation against mighty Greece and the spiritual victory of the Jewish faith against the Hellenism of the Greeks. Its sanctity derives from this spiritual aspect of the victory, and the miracle of the flask Hanukkah of oil, when a portion of sacramental olive oil meant to keep the Temple candelabrum lit for one day lasted for eight days, the time it took for the Temple to be rededicated. Hanukkah is observed in Israel, as in the Diaspora, for eight days. The central feature of this holiday is the lighting of candles each evening - one on the first night, two on the second, and so on - in commemoration of the miracle at the Temple. The Hanukkah message in Israel focuses strongly on aspects of restored sovereignty; customs widely practiced in the Diaspora, such as giftgiving and the dreidl (spinning top - sevivon in Hebrew), are also in evidence. The dreidl’s sides are marked with Hebrew initials representing the message “A great miracle occurred here”; in the Diaspora, the initials stand for “A great miracle occurred there.” Schools are closed during this week; workplaces are not. Tu B'Shevat, the fifteenth of Shevat (January-February), cited in rabbinical sources as the new year of fruit trees for sabbatical, tithing, and other purposes, has almost no ritual impact. But it has acquired secular connotations as a day when trees are planted by individuals, especially by schoolchildren and it serves as the time when intensive afforestation is undertaken by the Jewish National Fund and local authorities. During this month, although it is still cold, the fruit trees begin to flower, starting with the almond tree. Purim, another rabbinical festival in early spring, occurs on 14 Adar (15 Adar in walled cities), commemorating the deliverance of beleaguered Jewry in the Persian Empire under Artaxerxes, as recounted in the Scroll of Esther. This festival compensates for the solemnity of many other Jewish observances by mandating merriment. Schools are closed, public festivities abound, newspapers run hoax items reminiscent of April Fools’ Day, children (and adults) don costumes, and a festive reading of the Scroll of Esther is marked by noisemakers sounded whenever the villain Haman’s name is recited. The Orthodox indulge in inebriation, within limits, and carry out an exacting list of Purim duties: giving of alms, evening and morning readings of the Scroll of Esther, exchange of delicacies and a full- fledged holiday feast. Passover (Pessah), is celebrated in the spring, beginning on 15 Nisan. Passover is the festival celebrating the Exodus from Egypt (c. 13th century BCE) and liberation from bondage. Freedom is, indeed, the festival’s dominant theme. The rites of Passover begin long before the festival, as families and businesses cleanse their premises of hametz - leaven and anything containing it - as Passover (Pessah) prescribed in the Bible (Ex. 12:15-20). The day before the festival is devoted to preparatory rituals including ceremonial burning of the forbidden foodstuff. On the holiday evening, the seder is recited: an elaborate retelling of the enslavement and redemption. At this festive meal, the extended family gathers to read the Haggadah and enjoy traditional foods, particularly matza (unleavened bread). The following day’s observances resemble those of the other pilgrimage festivals. Passover is probably second only to Yom Kippur in traditional observance by the generally nonobservant. In addition, a secular Passover rite based on the festival’s agricultural connotations is practiced in some kibbutzim. It serves as a spring festival, a festival of freedom, and the date of the harvesting of the first ripe grain. Passover also includes the second “intermediate” week - five half-sacred, half-ordinary days devoted to extended prayer and leisure - and it concludes with another festival day. On Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, less than a week after Passover, the people of Israel commune with the memory of the six million martyrs of the Jewish people who perished at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Modern rites of public bereavement and special ceremonies are held. On this day a siren is sounded at 10 a.m., as the nation observes two minutes of silence, pledging “to remember, and to Holocaust Remembrance remind others never to forget.” Day Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars is commemorated a week later, as a day honoring those who fell in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel and in its defense. At 8 p.m. on the eve of Remembrance Day and at 11 a.m. on the following morning, two minutes of silence, as a siren sounds, give the entire nation the opportunity to remember its debt and express its eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country’s Remembrance independence and its continued existence. Day Independence Day (5 Iyar) directly follows Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and is held on the anniversary of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948). While this is not a centuries-old celebration, it is a day that means a lot to many citizens who have physically and actively participated in the creation of a new state and its struggle for survival, and have witnessed the enormous changes that have taken place since 1948. On the eve of Independence Independence Day municipalities sponsor public Day 2003 celebrations, loud-speakers broadcast popular music and multitudes go “downtown” to participate in the holiday spirit. Many synagogues also hold special services of thanksgiving, where Hallel is recited marking Israel’s national deliverance. On Independence Day, many citizens get to know the countryside by travelling to battlefields of the War of Independence, visit the memorials to the fallen, go on nature hikes and, in general, spend the day outdoors picnicking and having barbecues. Israel Prizes for distinction in literary, artistic and scientific endeavor are presented and the International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth is held. Army bases are opened to the public and air force fly-bys, as well as naval displays, take place. Lag B'Omer (18 Iyar), the thirty-third day in the counting of the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, has become a children’s celebration featuring massive bonfires. It commemorates events at the time of the Bar- Kochba uprising against Rome (132-135 CE). Jerusalem Day is celebrated on 28 Iyar, about a week before Shavuot, and commemorates the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, after it had been divided by concrete walls and barbed wire for 19 years. On this day, we are reminded that Jerusalem is “the focal point of Jewish history, the symbol of ancient glory, spiritual fulfillment and modern renewal.” Hallel is recited in some synagogues. Shavuot, the last of the pilgrimage festivals, when enumerated from the beginning of the Jewish year, falls seven weeks after Passover (6 Sivan), at the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The Bible (Deut. 16:10) describes this occasion as the festival of weeks (Heb. shavuot), for so is it counted from Passover, and as the occasion on which new grain and new fruits are offered to the priests in the Temple. Its Shavuot additional definition - the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai - is of rabbinical origin. Shavuot is observed among the Orthodox with marathon religious study and, in Jerusalem, with a mass convocation of festive worship at the Western Wall. In the kibbutzim, it marks the peak of the new grain harvest and the ripening of the first fruits, including the seven species mentioned in the Bible (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates). The Ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av, falling in July or early August), commemorates the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. On the day itself, numerous rules of bereavement and the Yom Kippur measures of “self-denial,” including a full-day fast, are in effect. Other Celebrations Ethnic communities observe additional rites and celebrations of their own. Some better-known celebrations include the Mimouna, unique to Moroccan Jewry, on the day after Passover, celebrating the renewal of nature and its blessings; and the Saharana of Kurdish Jewry, after Sukkot, which was the national holiday of the Jews in Kurdistan. Another event is the Sigd holiday of the Ethiopian Jewish community, in mid-November, a celebration which began in Ethiopia, expressing their yearning for Zion, and continues in Israel today as an expression of their thankfulness. Thus, with its diverse population and multiple lifestyles and attitudes, Israel celebrates the cycle of Jewish festivals and observances in a public manner that underscores the country’s Jewishness and its centrality to Judaism. Calendar of Jewish holidays Hebrew Gregorian Name of Festival Date Date 5772 2011 Rosh Hashanah 1-2 Tishre 29-30 Sept Fast of Gedaliah 4 Tishre 2 Oct Yom Kippur 10 Tishre 8 Oct Sukkot 15-21 13-19 Oct Tishre Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah 22 Tishre 20 Oct Hannukah 25 Kislev 21-28 Dec - 2 Tevet 2012 Tu B'Shevat 15 Shevat 8 Feb Fast of Esther 13 Adar 7 March recalling Queen Esther's three-day fast in her efforts to persuade Artaxerxes to rescind the genocidal designs of his advisor, the evil Haman (6th century BCE) Purim 14 or 15 8/9 March Adar B Passover 15-21 6-13 April Nisan Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance 27 Nisan 19 April Day Remembrance Day 3 Iyar 25 April Independence Day 4 Iyar 26 April Lag B'Omer 18 Iyar 10 May Jerusalem Day 28 Iyar 20 May Shavuot 6 Sivan 27 May 17th of Tammuz 17 8 July designating the occasion when the Babylonian Tammuz army (586 BCE) and later Roman forces (70 CE) breached the walls of Jerusalem, in preparation for the destruction of the First and later the Second Temple Ninth of Av 10 Av 29 July 5773 Rosh Hashanah 1-2 Tishre 17-18 Sept Fast of Gedaliah 4 Tishre 19 Sept Yom Kippur 10 Tishre 26 Sept Sukkot 15-21 2-7 Oct Tishre Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah 22 Tishre 8 Oct Hannukah 25 Kislev 9-16 Dec - 2 Tevet Jewish Festivals The Jewish calendar is full of festivals and special days, either commemorating a major event in Jewish history or celebrating a certain time of year (such as Jewish New Year). Festival days are known as Yom Tovim and many of these days are marked by Jews refraining from working - however, unlike the Sabbath cooking (for the day ahead only) and carrying items outside of the home are both permitted. Except where stated, all of the following festivals are guided by these laws. The main festivals are as follows: Purim (Festival of Lots) This one-day festival takes place four weeks before Passover and usually falls in February or early March. It recalls the story of Esther, a Queen who foiled a plot by one of her advisors, Haman, to kill all the Jews. As well as the story being read in synagogue in a book called the Megillah, it is a day for parties and celebrations, and fancy dress is traditional. Pastries called Hamentaschen are also eaten - these are triangular (the same shape as Haman's hat) and filled with poppy seeds, jam or fruit. Normal work and activities are permitted on Purim. Pesach (Passover) This takes place around March/April time, and commemorates Moses freeing the Israelites from their enslavement under the Pharaoh in Egypt. The festival lasts for eight days and during that time no 'leavened' food (i.e food containing wheat or any type of grain) may be consumed (including bread, cereals, whisky and beer) - Jews who come from the Middle East, known as Sephardi Jews, will eat rice and pulses, but European Jews won't. The reason for eating no leavened food is to remember when the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to prepare proper food for themselves - their bread did not rise in time and so was considered 'unleavened' and tasted more like crackers. This is symbolised on Pesach by eating Matzah - unleavened bread. On the first two nights, a service known as a Seder (order) is held at home - this tells the story of the Passover and the Jewish exodus from Egypt, chronicled in a book called the Haggadah. The service is traditionally a relaxed affair - it is customary for those attending to lean to their left to show that they are no longer bound by the restrictions of slavery imposed by the Pharaoh of Egypt and may sit however they please. Four cups of wine are also drunk during the service, and a celebratory meal is eaten. After the first two days, a four day period follows when normal work activities may be resumed, although leavened food is still forbidden. The final two days of the festival, like the first, are Yom Tovim. The festival finishes at sundown on the eighth day. A great deal of preparation is required for Passover as not only are Jews not allowed to eat leavened food (known as chametz), they are not allowed to own it either, and must clear their houses of it before the festival begins. These days, people will get a rabbi to sell on their chametz for a token sum of money to a non-Jew, which can be redeemed after the festival is over. It is also customary to use different crockery, cutlery and cookware, which has not been used to cook foods containing chametz, for the duration of the festival. Shavuot (Pentecost) Shavuot takes places seven weeks after Passover (usually around late May/early June) and commemorates Moses being given the Ten Commandments by God following the Exodus from Egypt. The festival lasts for two days and requires relatively little advance preparation compared to some of the other Yom Tovim; however, it is traditional to eat dairy products, as when the Jews were awaiting the arrival of their commandments and were unsure as to what their new dietary laws would be, they ate only dairy products and vegetables, to avoid eating the meat of any animals which might be forbidden. Cheesecake is a particular favourite at this time of year, and many people steer clear of meat altogether. The synagogue is decorated with flowers for the festival's duration in celebration of the giving of the commandments. There are few other customs associated with the festival, although some ultra-orthodox Jews often stay up all night on the first night to study the Bible. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) The Jewish New Year takes place around September/October, and is considered one of the most important and serious holidays (or High Holy Days) in the Jewish calendar. As well as being a time for celebration it is also a time for reflection and repentance for sins committed in the previous year. In synagogue, people pray to God to forgive them for their wrongdoings and to give them a good year - during the service a Shofar, or ram's horn, is blown, to alert congregants to the seriousness of the festival and the fact that God is deciding their fates for the coming year - which will be sealed on the Day Of Atonement ten days later. This period is known as The Ten Days Of Repentance and is traditionally a solemn time. However, Rosh Hashanah is also a time for celebration - other traditions include eating apples dipped in honey in the hope that this will lead to a sweet year. Yom Kippur (Day Of Atonement) The Ten Days Of Repentance end with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day Of Atonement, which is the day on which the fates of all Jews are sealed for the coming year. This High Holy Day is the most solemn and serious day in the Jewish calendar, which involves praying for forgiveness for sins and afflicting oneself as punishment for those committed in the past year. Jews fast (refraining from any food or drink) for 25 hours from sundown on the previous evening until sundown the next night, and are not allowed to work, bathe or wear leather shoes. The fast begins with a special evening service known as Kol Nidre (All Vows), and synagogue services last for the whole of the following day until the Fast ends. Although it is a solemn day, Yom Kippur is also thought of as a happy day because it is the time for Jews to cleanse themselves of wrongdoings and reach a spiritual high. Fasting is not only done as a means of affliction but also because nothing is supposed to detract congregants from their prayers on the day. However, children below Barmitzvah or Batmitzvah age, pregnant women and diabetics are discouraged from fasting, as is anybody whose health is likely to be seriously affected by the 25- hour abstinence. Succot (Tabernacles) This festival begins five days after the end of Yom Kippur and commemorates the booths the Israelites constructed in the wilderness and lived in after their exodus from Egypt. During the eight- day festival, Jews are supposed to live in a similar booth known as a Succah (dwelling) - the walls are made of wood and the ceiling of greenery to leave the stars visible. In countries such as Israel where the climate permits, many people sleep in the Succah, but elsewhere it is used mainly for meals only. In synagogue, each congregant says a blessing over four different species of plants - a palm branch (lulav), citron (esrog), myrtle branch and willow twig - which are representative of the four different types of Jewish person. The middle four days of the festival are regular working days - although the fourth of these, Hoshana Rabba (Save Us), is treated as one final chance to purge the soul of sins committed in the previous year. The eighth day of the festival is called The Eighth Day Of Solemn Assembly (Shemini Atzeret), when a prayer for rain is said during the synagogue service. Simchat Torah (Rejoicing Of The Law) Following immediately on from Succot is Simchat Torah, which celebrates the end of the reading of the Torah, in synagogue - and the fact that it can now be read from the beginning again. This is one of the happiest festivals in the Jewish calendar - it is celebrated by making seven circuits of the synagogue which are punctuated with dancing and singing of traditional Hebrew songs. Children are given flags to hold on the circuits, and many synagogues hold parties after the service. Chanukah (Festival of Lights) Another eight-day festival, which takes place in December. The story of Chanukah hails back to a period in history when, Jews were forbidden to follow their faith and many were forcibly converted or killed for not converting. Eventually a band of Jews called the Maccabees gathered an army and revolted against the Greeks and won the battle, although their temple and way of life was all but destroyed. This band of men sought to clean up the temple and restore the faith, but in order to light the temple the special seven-branch candleabra (Menorah) was needed, and only enough oil could be found to keep it alight for one day. However, a miracle occurred and the Menorah continued to remain alight for seven days on only one day's supply of oil until new oil could be made to keep the light going. Traditions of Chanukah include lighting candles on a Menorah every night for eight nights in the home, eating food cooked in oil (doughnuts, potato pancakes etc.), giving presents, holding parties and celebrations, and playing games with a dreidel, a traditional spinning top. As with Purim, normal work and activities are permitted on Chanukah. Judaism has about 13 million followers throughout the world, mostly in USA and Israel. 267,000 people in the UK said that their religious identity was Jewish (2001 census). Judaism originated in the Middle East over 3500 years ago. Moses was the main founder of Judaism, but Jews can trace their history back as far as Abraham. 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in an attempt to wipe out Judaism. Beliefs Jews believe that there is only one God. Jews believe they have a special agreement or covenant with God. In exchange for all the good that God has done for them, Jewish people keep God's laws and try to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives. Judaism is a faith of action and Jews believe people should be judged not so much on what they believe as on the way they live their faith - by how much they contribute to the overall holiness of the world. Holy Books The most holy Jewish book is the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) which was revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai over 3,000 years ago. The Torah, together with the Talmud (commentary on the Torah), give the Jewish people rules for everyday life. Observing these rules is central to the Jewish religion. Worship Jews worship in Synagogues A Jewish Religious leader is called a Rabbi (literally 'teacher') Shabbat (The Sabbath) The family and community are very important within Jewish life. The most important day of the week is Shabbat (the Sabbath). It is the day on which Jews remember the seventh day of creation on which God rested. On Shabbat Jews stop working and make time for God and family life. Shabbat starts on Friday evening and ends at sunset on Saturday. Shabbat begins with the family sharing a meal. During Shabbat, services are held at the synagogue, often led by a Rabbi. Jewish festivals The most important Jewish festivals are: Pesach (Passover) Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights) Jewish symbols The emblem of the Jewish people is the Magen David (Shield of David), also known as the Star of David. More Judaism events and festivals Judaism - An Introduction Questions answered Passover Questions answered Classroom activities Worksheets Rosh Hashanah Questions answered Classroom activities Worksheets Yom Kippur Questions answered Classroom activities Worksheets Hanukkah Questions answered Classroom activities Worksheets by Kenneth Shouler, Ph.D. Orthodoxy in Judaism came into existence around 1795 and supported a belief in the dual Torah. The dual Torah was revealed at Sinai and is concerned with oral and written versions of the law. The argument was that the written law could never have stood alone and must have been accompanied by an oral tradition. For example, Exodus 12:15 says that the number of days during which unleavened bread must be eaten amounts to seven, whereas in Deuteronomy 16:8, it is six. Orthodox Jews rely on the oral Torah to account for the discrepancy. Orthodox Judaism is not a unified movement; it is many different movements adhering to a common principle. They believe the Torah — both written and oral — to be of divine origin and the exact work of God; the human element was not involved in its creation, so the words are immutably fixed and remain the sole norm of religious observance. Most of the movements have similar observances and beliefs; it's the details that vary. Beliefs and Practices While Orthodox Judaism adheres to the common Jewish principles, the following are some of the ways in which they are uncommon. In addition to the Sabbath, religious holidays include the three biblical pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). All holidays except the Day of Atonement are observed for two days. The first two days of Passover and last two days of Tabernacles are days on which work is forbidden, as it is on the Sabbath and other holidays. The preparation of food is prohibited only on the Sabbath and the Day of Atonement. Hanukkah and Purim are post- Biblical holidays and do not include a prohibition against work. Orthodox households have strict rules regarding the way foods and their utensils are used. Meat and dairy products may not be eaten together or at the same meal. A completely different set of utensils is used for the two types of food; there are different storage areas and the utensils should be washed separately. The law so affects Orthodox Jews that some find it virtually impossible to eat out, except in strict Kosher restaurants. There are no restrictions about medical treatment. Orthodox Jews consider physicians instruments through which God can effect a cure. When it comes to death, funeral, and burial requirements, the form is to follow the established way, but it prohibits cremation. Apart from very unusual circumstances, such as promoting justice, autopsies are not permitted because they break the prohibition against mutilation of the body and show disrespect for the dead. A rabbi should be consulted before an autopsy is considered. Contraception is limited to women. A vasectomy or use of a condom by males is not permitted. Abortion is permitted if the continuation of the pregnancy presents grave physical or psychiatric dangers. The Essential Element The essential element of Orthodox Judaism is the complete and utter adherence to the established laws. Everything in the life of an Orthodox Jew is directly related to the affirmation of that ethic. There are even some communities that maintain holy Israel should live wholly apart from gentiles. Other, more moderate, members agree that integration with Western culture while maintaining the law of the Torah together with secular politics and general social affairs is preferable. It is estimated that only about 10 percent of the total Jewish population in America is Orthodox. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, which represents about 1,000 congregations, was founded in New York City in 1898. Religious Festivals and Holy Holidays Hasidic Judaism Related Articles Orthodox Judaism - World Religions Branches of Judaism - Orthodox Judaism Branches of Judaism - Denominations Humanistic Reconstructionist Refor... Orthodox Judaism Shavuot and Torah Read More Judaism o A Belief in One God o Origins and Development o Central Beliefs o Synagogues o Rituals and Customs o Religious Festivals and Holy Holidays o Orthodox Judaism o Hasidic Judaism o Conservative Judaism Reform JudaisOne God Judaism, the first and oldest of the three great monotheistic faiths, is the religion and way of life of the Jewish people. The basic laws and tenets of Judaism are derived from the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The most important teaching and tenet of Judaism is that there is one God, incorporeal and eternal, who wants all people to do what is just and merciful. All people are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. A Covenanted People The Jewish people serve God by study, prayer and by the observance of the commandments set forth in the Torah. This faithfulness to the biblical Covenant can be understood as the “vocation,” “witness” and “mission” of the Jewish people. Unlike some religions, Judaism does not believe that other peoples must adopt its own religious beliefs and practices in order to be redeemed. It is by deeds, not creed, that the world is judged; the righteous of all nations have a share in the “world to come.” For this reason, Judaism is not an active missionary religion. The community does accept converts, but this is at the decision of competent Jewish religious authorities. It is not simply a matter of personal self-identification. Sacred and Religious Writings The most important Jewish religious text is the Bible itself (what some Christians call the “Old Testament”), consisting of the books of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. Following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE, Jewish religious scholars in the Land of Israel compiled the six volumes of the Mishnah in order to record and preserve the canon of Jewish religious legislation, laws and customs. During the next five centuries, this was supplemented by the Gemara, recorded commentaries, discussions, and debates contributed by rabbinical scholars in the Land and in Babylon. Together these two texts comprise the Talmud which remains a living source of religious study, thought and commentary. Religious Life Much of Jewish religious observance is centered in the home. This includes daily prayers which are said three times each day - in the morning, the afternoon, and after sunset. Congregational prayers usually take place in a synagogue, a Jewish house of prayer and study. On Mondays, Thursdays, the Sabbath, festivals and High Holy Days, the synagogue service includes readings in Hebrew from the Torah and the Prophets. The synagogue service can be led by any knowledgeable member of the congregation. In most synagogues this function is performed by a cantor or by a rabbi, an ordained religious teacher, who has studied in a yeshiva, a Jewish religious seminary. Among his professional duties, a rabbi is expected to conduct weekly or daily study sessions for members of the congregation. The rabbi can also be called upon to give informed decisions concerning application of Jewish religious law and tradition to daily life. This may include adjudication of personal disputes. More serious matters, such as religious divorce, are referred to a beit din, a local Jewish religious court. Brit Milah Health permitting, all Jewish boys are circumcised on the eighth day after birth. Practiced since the days of Abraham, the Brit Milah is a physical sign of the Covenant. Bar and Bat Mitzvah When a Jewish girl is 12, and a Jewish boy is 13, they come of age in terms of their religious duties and responsibilities. On this occasion, the Bar Mitzvah boy is for the first time called up to read the Torah portion and the reading from the Prophets. In congregations where women participate in conducting the service, Bat Mitzvah girls are also called up to read from the Torah and the Prophets. Dietary Laws Traditional Jews observe the dietary laws derived from the Book of Leviticus. These laws include prohibitions against the eating of meat and dairy products at the same meal, humane ritual slaughter of animals, and total prohibition against the eating of blood, pork, shell-fish and other proscribed foods. Though the dietary laws may be of hygienic benefit, the principal motivation seems to have been a desire to instill morality, self-control and self-abnegation in the personal lives of a people expected to observe the laws of the Torah even in the worst of circumstances. However, in this, as in other matters of Jewish religious law and custom, the degree and manner of observance differs among the three major contemporary trends in Judaism - Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Festivals and Days of Remembrance The seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, a biblically ordained day of rest. No work is permitted, except that connected with worship or the preservation of life and health. Central to the observance of the Sabbath is the morning reading in synagogue of the week’s portion of the Torah. The High Holy Days (observed in September - October) are a time of prayer and solemn introspection. The two days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, mark the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe that end with the fast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The three major festivals of the Jewish religious year are also biblically ordained. Pesach (Passover) commemorates the biblical Passover and Exodus from Egypt: Shavuot (Pentecost, the “Festival of Weeks”) commemorates the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai; and Sukkot (Tabernacles) commemorates the Sojourn in the Wilderness. Today, as in ancient times, these three festivals are occasions of pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, with prayer at the Western Wall, a remnant of the outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount. The destruction of the Temple is mourned on the fast of Tisha B’av (the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av). Other Jewish holidays include Hanukkah, commemorating the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem; Purim, commemorating the rescue of the Jewish people in the days of Queen Esther; Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, honoring the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis; and Israel Independence Day, on which the restoration of Israel to national sovereignty is celebrated. Centrality of Israel The Land of Israel is central to the history, life, hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people. It is toward Jerusalem that observant Jews turn in prayer, and it is here, in the Land promised in the Bible, that Jewish custom and tradition, as well as the identity of the Jewish people, can be most fully realized. Messianic Age Traditionally, the Jewish people live in expectation of the coming of a Messianic Age in which universal peace will be established on earth according to the vision of the prophets of Israel. Orthodox Jews celebrate the Sabbath and biblical festivals, and strictly observe its restrictions by refraining completely from any manner of labor or commerce. Unlike Reform and liberal Conservative Jews, the Orthodox also continue to sanctify the "exile days" added to all of the biblical pilgrimage festivals, and to observe the four fast days, connected to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Orthodoxy Judaism Sacred Space The Orthodox community centers on two religious institutions: the Shul (synagogue) and the Yeshiva (Torah study-house). In striking contrast to the ornate cathedral-like temples of classical Reform Judaism, Orthodox synagogues tend to be modest structures that contain absolutely no iconography. A small number of the world's largest modern Orthodox synagogues do have stained glass windows whose abstract art does not contain any human or animal images. Orthodoxy Judaism Rites and Ceremonies Aside from daily worship, Orthodox Jews uphold hundreds of religious rites and ceremonies. All males keep their heads covered and wear fringes on their undergarments and phylacteries at morning services; women bathe in the mikvah, or ritual bath, after their monthly period; and the descendents of the biblical Cohanim (priests) still bless the congregations during festival services. Orthodoxy Judaism Worship and Devotion in Daily Life Orthodox Jews pray three times daily, and are constantly praising and thanking God through a regimen of mandatory berachot, or blessings. There is no human experience that does not require a blessings. Through this constant recitation of benedictions, Orthodox Jews remain ever aware of, and thankful, to God. Orthodoxy Judaism Symbolism Though it is vigilantly opposed to the use of any religious icons or artistic representations of the divine, symbols such as the Star (or shield) of David, the Tablets of Law containing the ten commandments, and images of Torah scrolls are common adornments in Orthodox synagogues.