A holiday on the Hebrew calendar is a holy day because it interrupts the daily flow of our unexamined lives with messages and reminders that we need to make life worth living. A map is a guide for people traveling in space (as in cars and planes); holidays are the signposts for people traveling through time (events). Judaism has long recognized the special nature of time and it teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of each year.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”(Ecclesiastes 3:1-ff) These words declare an important truth that many of us forget: it is profoundly important to feel and express a full spectrum of emotions in order to be truly human. Judaism has a tradition that insists that real strength comes from feeling a wide range of emotions- even the negative which many of us try to avoid by distracting ourselves with “happy activities” or frivolous pursuits. We are instructed to embrace joy and incorporate enjoyment in our daily lives. The Talmud states that “in the future world every person will have to give an accounting for all the good things created on earth that he or she denied him or herself from enjoying.” ‘Ever see the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier reef, the Alps, or any of the scenic wonders of the world? G-d decorated His house so magnificantly and Judaism believes He takes it personally if you don’t share His excitement and joy in everything He has put on earth.
The real distinction between the holidays that are recognized by a Torah based faith is the difference between biblical and rabbinic festivals. Of the days that are commanded to be observed in the first five books of Moses (Torah) – the two personal holy days of introspection and repentance, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as the three commemorations of national historic moments, Passover (Pesach),Shavuot, and Sukkot – are clearly the most meaningful. G-d Himself ordained them. These will be highlighted in bold print. But there are more than these five festivals and each of them teaches something so significant that it is imperative to reflect on these lessons annually on the anniversary of their occurrance.
Following are the Hebrew months and corresponding Gregorian months:
Tishrei September and October Cheshvan October and November Kislev November and December Tevet December and January Shvat January and February Adar February and March Adar Sheni (second Adar) (the leap month 7 years out of 19) Nissan March and April Iyar April and May Sivan May and June Tammuz June and July Av July and August Elul August and September
Every month has its own special day(s) with the exception of Cheshvan – October and November. Some holidays are happy, some sad. Time forces us to remember, to commemorate, and to feast or fast, to rejoice or weep. We will explain the significance of each of these. Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 list the holidays and ordinances or holy convocations (the appointed seasons given to Moses along with the Ten Principles or Ten Commandments) which we will post and encourage each of us to celebrate with guidelines and options for observing each Holy Day.
These Torah-based holidays are available to all humankind whether literally or symbolically observed. The Hebrew calendar is lunar with each month beginning on the new moon and is tied to the moons cycles rather than the suns. Hebrew holidays start the evening (at sundown) before the day on your secular calendar. There is an extensive list of holidays observed and celebrated by the Jewish people from around the world but we will confine our seasonal listings to those which are more common to our American culture. We intend to explain the practices and purposes for each holiday and its connection to the New Testament writings. There will be instructions for observing the holidays and the degree to which you wish to practice the observance will be up to you. Observing and practicing the holy days is an excellent teaching tool and a way to involve your family, neighbors, and communities in a learning experience that is entertaining as well. Recipes for each holiday will be included. As a matter of record, the observation of and participation in these holidays in no way implies that anyone is Jewish. Only Jews are able to observe and practice the holidays as Jews but those of us who seek Truth and are willing to learn ongoing will profit from these opportinities. The following list incorporates both the holiday and the dates observed for the secular year September, 2011 through August, 2012.
*Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday) shabbat (Hebrew for Sabbath) is celebrated every week from sundown on Friday night until sundown on Saturday and is considered to be holier than any of the yearly holidays. The festive Friday night meal usually includes a beautifully set table with candles, a wine (or grape juice) goblet and bread. Candles are lit during prayers (usually by women) before the meal. Prayers may be recited for the wine/grape juice and the bread (the fruit of the vine and the grain of the field) in thanks for the bounty provided by G-d. Blessings are recited at the end of the meal (usually by men).
* Tishah B’av (A fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 7/29/2012
* Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) 9/17-18/2012
* Yom Kippur (Jewish day of atonement) 9/26/2012
* Sukkot (festival of booths) 10/13-19/2011
* Simcha Torah (celebration of the completion of the annual cycle of Bible reading 10/21/2011
* Chanukkah (festival of lights) 12/21-28/2011
* Tu B’Shevat (Jewish Arbor Day) 2/8/2012
* Purim (fast of Esther) 3/8/2012
* Pesach (Passover) 4/7-14/2012
* Lag B’Omer (counting of the omer – sheaves of wheat) 5/10/2012
* Shavuot (commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai) 5/27-28/2012
* Tisha B’av (a fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 7/29/2012
Four to six weeks prior to each holiday, information will be posted relating to that particular celebration including the purpose and its connections between Torah and the New Testament writings, customs, practical instructions for observing the event as well as recipes with significance to the holiday. This time frame will allow us to include our family members, our neighbors, and even our communities to join with us in our recognition of these ancient, holy days. It is our sincere hope that you will find this information useful and that it will open dialogue and pique interest in those who are seeking Truth. Please feel free to advise us on how we can expand or enhance these instructions for observance of the Hebrew calendar.
Prepared by Rebecca A. Buntyn
Acknowledgements: Phrases, idioms, and partial quotations were extracted from the Chabad website, Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Rabbi Allen Schwartz, David Blatner’s texts, and the website of Judaism 101.