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What are the different holidays?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


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A. The (major) Jewish holidays number a total of eight. They divide into two categories: the Torah-mandated, and the ones mandated by The Rabbis. The Torah-mandated holidays are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, SukkotShmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, Pesach, and Shavuot. The ones mandated by The Rabbis are Chanukah and Purim. (Please see links below to learn more).

B. The purpose of the holidays is to commemorate particular events in Jewish history, to clear some time in your life to work on various aspects of your life, or both.

C. Each holiday is briefly but fully described throughout AskMoses. Click around to learn more about each.

When are the holidays celebrated?

1. Tishrei, the Month of Holidays

No month in the Jewish calendar has more holidays than Tishrei (pronounced TISH-ray), the first month of the Jewish year—it contains five: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah and Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. You may want to try the following links: "What is Rosh Hashanah?", "What is Yom Kippur?", "What is Sukkot?", "What is Hoshanah Rabba?""What is Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah?"

The purpose of the holidays is to commemorate particular events in Jewish history... to work on various aspects of your life...
2. Light up Winter with Joy

Chanukah is the first of the two non-Torah-mentioned holidays, beginning on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev (pronounced KISS-lehv) and extending for eight days until the third of Teves (pronounced TAY-vess). Read more on "What is Chanukah?". The other is Purim. Follow this link for more: "What is Purim?". Kislev, and hence, Chanukah, usually corresponds to December, while Purim falls on the fourteenth of Adar, which usually corresponds to February.

3. Celebrate Springtime’s Bounty

Both Pesach and Shavuot double as celebrations of the good earth and its bountiful harvest. Pesach, which usually falls in March or April, is also known as Chag Ha’asif (pronounced Khahg Ha-AH-seef), or Holiday of Gathering, marking the beginning of the harvest season. Read more on "What is Pesach?". Likewise, Shavuot, which falls seven weeks after Pesach, usually late May or early June, celebrates the harvest of the first fruits of the orchard in addition to the giving of the Torah. Please read more on "What is Shavuot?".


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Holidays » General Information » Holiday Information

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Simchat Torah
An extremely joyous one-day autumn festival following the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel it is the eighth day of Sukkot, outside of Israel it is celebrated the next day, the day after Shmini Atzeret. Every Sabbath we read a portion of the Torah. On this holiday we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle.
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Shmini Atzeret
A joyous one-day autumn festival immediately following the holiday of Sukkot. Outside Israel this holiday is celebrated for two days, the second day is known as Simchat Torah.
The ninth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to November-December. The holiday of Chanukah starts on the 25th of this month.
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.