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Jewish festivals

The Ancient And Modern Jewish Festivals

Table of Contents

Introduction for Jewish festivals

An ethnic-religious group, Jewish people or Jews have existed since the second millennium BCE. They are by far one of the oldest races on earth with their homeland found in Israel. Jewish religion, ethnicity, and nationhood are interrelated. Jewish life is then measured with the help of a Hebrew calendar that is created based on a solar year. Several festivals are celebrated throughout the year, out of which most hold special significance.

Most Jewish holidays come with religious connotations and are celebrated with pomp and delight even to this date. On that note, here’s a look at all the festivals Jews celebrate throughout the year. This includes their origination, the rules, traditions, customs and frequently answered questions related to Jewish holidays and festivals. 

Jewish Festivals and their meaning

If you are wondering how many Jewish festivals are there, let’s begin by saying that there are three Jewish festivals called The Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot that get the highest level of importance. After this comes other small occasions such as Yom Kippur, Jewish New Year and Hanukkah. In this section, we will discuss all Jewish holidays and festivals in brief. 

Elul

Jewish people strongly believe in repenting for their mistakes and seeing God for His mercy so that all their sins are forgiven. This is why the month of Elul is taken very seriously. It is celebrated during the last and 12th month that falls within the Jewish calendar. It is a connection of the previous year to the year that is coming and it is a time when you can reflect on when you stand and where you should be going.

According to the Torah, The Jews had sinned against God but because of Moses, God showed them mercy and showed his forgiveness. But forgiveness did not happen just like that. The Jews were told to repent and ask for forgiveness so that they are set free.

It is only after this that the month of Elul became highly significant among the Jews, because this month Because the month of Elul is used to account for actions we have done in the past year and so it is called the month of mercy and forgiveness. Immediately after him come Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two holidays that are the culmination of the soul-searching and the request of forgiveness from God.

Rosh Hashanah

In simple words, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. This is celebrated in fall during the month of Tishrei and is considered to be one of the Jewish major festivals. It is considered to be a time of introspection, reflection, and celebration at the same time. Rosh Hashanah originally falls on the seventh month of the year, although rabbis decided later that it will be done at the beginning of the year itself.

Traditional bread called challah that stands as a symbol of ‘lifecycle’ is eaten. It is then dipped in honey that symbolizes the sweet hope of having a great New Year. Apples are dipped in honey and eaten to celebrate the same. However, some people do avoid eating nuts, as well as sin, come with the same kind of numerical value. In 2019, Rosh Hashanah started on 29th September 2019 and ended on Oct 1st, 2019. 

Jewish festivals food
Pomegranate signifies the desire that we have many good deeds in the new year, apple in honey signifies a good and sweet new year

Different customs followed during Rosh Hashanah

Greetings

The greeting is done within the first day of Rosh Hashanah itself. Men and women both have different ways of greeting and wishing each other. “L’shana tovah tikatevee v’taihatem” is generally how women prefer to greet others. It means “May you be written and sealed for a good and happy year.”

Jewish festivals bible
Postcard from Austria, with a painting from 1905 showing a group of Galicia Hasidim at a holiday meal and the caption "Leshana Tova Tikatevu"
Tashlich

A ceremony is performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah where people go into rivers, ponds, seas or oceans to dip themselves in water. This procedure is believed to remove all sins from the body by dissolving them in water. This traditionally also evokes a verse from the Torah that says that all sins shall be cast into the depths of the sea. A short prayer and service are also held sometimes alongside. 

Jewish festivals and feasts
Tashlich ceremony at 1942
Candles

Candles are also a special part of Rosh Hashanah. Girls and women light candles almost every evening and say special prayers and blessings. It is also recommended for all Jews to always think about the clothes they are wearing or a fruit they will eat when they say the prayers from the second day. 

Jewish festival Rosh Hashana
A boy is practicing for blowing the shofar (Shoaf is used during the holiday's prayers)

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is seen as a day of atonement. The holiest and the most important holiday celebrated among Jews, it generally falls between September and October.

It lasts for 10 days and is again a stage of repentance and reflection. Right after this, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated which is New Year for the Jews.

Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast and is taken seriously among Jews. On the evening of Yom Kippur, family and friends get together for a feast. But before the Jewish feast days, a Yom Kippur service is held where comfort foods such as noodle pudding, baked goods, and blintzes are eaten.

It is customary for Jews to wear white as it stands as a sign of purity. Some men also wear kittles that is a white shroud. It stands as a sign of repentance.

Yom Kippur is also seen as that time of the year where you can seek the forgiveness of God. That is why many Jews volunteer and make donations. A common custom also involves swinging a chicken or even a bundle of coins over your head while you recite a prayer. It is then donated to the underprivileged.

Jewish feast days
Maurycy Gottlieb - Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Facts You Should Know About Yom Kippur

Candles

On Yom Kippur it is customary to light candles in memory of deceased parents and family members. The candles are called soul candles and lit for more than 24 hours. These candles must not be used, and fire must not be transferred to other candles.

Blessings

Next, it is common to bless children when the festival of Yom Kippur begins. Elders bless their sons by saying that God will bless them like Menashe and Ephraim whereas daughters are blessed with the saying that she will be blessed by God just like Leah, Rachel, Rebecca, and Sarah were blessed. Children also have a special blessing said to them. As they are the children of Israel, elders pray that their lives will be guarded and filled with peace and the grace of God.

Kol Nidrei

Koi Nidre is generally seen as a prayer said on the first day when in reality it is the release and declaration of vows. Jews release their vows and pray to God to reciprocate to them in kind. This prayer, on the eve of Yom Kippur, is considered the opening prayer of Yom Kippur. The synagogues are packed with crowds of people coming to this prayer. Many people who do not visit a synagogue even once a year only come for this prayer.

Day of forgiveness

These are the 10 days between the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashana) and Yom Kippur. Over three thousand years ago, the Jews sinned against God.

They created a golden calf and worshiped it as God. Moses then came down from Mt. Sinai and then revealed the Ten Commandments that were engraved on the tablets.

The commandments were given by God. After this, Moses stayed up on the mountain for 40 days. He came down with another set of tablets on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei.

After that, Yom Kippur is seen as a day of mercy and forgiveness. The day is devoted to asking God for forgiveness for all things that may have gone wrong. 

A day without cars. The roads are completely empty.
Pure White

It is customary to wear everything white during the festival of Yom Kippur. The color white is seen as a symbol of the pristine and holy angels who Jews compare themselves to on all sacred days. 

Sukkot

The Jewish festival Sukkot is celebrated 4 days into Yom Kippur. Sukkot means hut in Hebrew. It is the significance of the booths in which Jews dwelled when they had escaped Egypt after 400 years of slavery. Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, Regalim in Hebrew (Sukkot,  Passover, Shavuot),  a pilgrimage festival in the Jewish calendar and is given high importance among the religious ones. 

Jewish festivals old testament
Sukkot at Ultraorthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem

How is Sukkot celebrated?

It is celebrated by building a sukkah. This is also that time of the year when Jews reside in small huts and eat inside it for 8 days. The sukkah is well decorated and is considered holy. On the first day of the celebration, no sort of work is entertained. Four plants that have been mentioned in the Bible before such as Hadas, Lulav, Aravah, Etrog are used during the festival. There is also a waving ceremony that takes place in the synagogue. Jews also circle the room several times and special prayers are also recited.

Jewish festivals Sukkot
Etrog (the yellow fruit), Haddas and Arava

What types of foods are eaten?

Although there are no Sukkot foods, there is something special called stuffed dumplings that are cooked at this time. It is eaten along with vegetables and fruits and other organic ingredients that are harvest related. Apart from that, chicken soup and kugels are served. 

Facts you should know about Sukkot

  • The holiday falls on the night of the month of Tishrei. This is when the moon reaches its zenith. It also continues for 7 days before it goes into the holiday of Simchat Torah
  • It is known for shelters and booths. The emphasis on letting the generations know that it was only God who helped the children of Israel escape from the tyranny of Egyptians.  The shelters stand for the clouds of glory that covered Israel during the trek that lasted for 40 years in the Sinai desert.
  • On Sukkot, greens made of palm fronds, myrtles and willows are taken and blessed together and then waved towards six different directions. There is also another ceremony where the Torah scroll is circled while prayers are chanted for salvation. 
  • Apart from that a blessing in which God sanctifies his people with his commandments and commands them to dwell within the sukkah. 

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah is a Jewish festival that marks the ending of all public Torah readings. It occurs right after the holy festival of Sukkot in September-October comes to an end. The celebrations occur within the synagogue. There are morning and evening services held. This is that time of the year when the scrolls are read at night after being removed from the ark.

Some passages from Genesis and Deuteronomy are read. Once the ark has been opened, worshipers leave all their seats and dance and sing with all the scrolls in a celebration that is joyous for many hours. The service is also characterized by calling all members from the crowd one by one to read the Torah. There is one for kids, especially girls and boys under 13.

Hanukkah

The festival of Rededication, also known as the Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah celebrates the commission of the Temple of Jerusalem for a second time after it was defined by the Syrians thousands of years ago, before the birth of Christ. Even though it is an addition that came much later to the Jewish calendar, it is celebrated with great pomp and delight. Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and has become one of the most joyous and beloved festivals. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights and occurs in December. 

jewish festivals calendar
Eight days light candles, start on the first day with one candle and end on the eighth day with eight candles

How Hanukkah is celebrated?

Hanukkah is generally celebrated at home. It starts by lighting up the candelabrum. One candle is added every night of the holiday until eight candles have been added. Along with that, deep-fried foods are eaten. Some of the most popular Jewish festival foods eaten during Hanukkah are latkes, jelly donuts, potato pancakes, and sufganiyot. This tradition was developed within Europe where small chunks of money along with raisins and nuts are given to kids.  

Jewish festivals in bible
Typical Hanukkah dish, fried potato pancakes

How is Hanukkah celebrated within the community?

The Jewish festival Hanukkah is not a result of biblical rules, although the festival has become a popular one. It is a beloved festival and a great opportunity for families to come together. Because of this, the community aspect of this has become visible. Jews from across the world gather for this celebration with candle lighting. Apart from that Hanukkah songs are sing and games are played too. 

Special food of Hanukkah

One of the favorite dishes of Chanukah, are jam-filled donuts. The donuts, fried white dough with jam inside, are an obviously unhealthy culinary delicacy.

Over the years, the simple donuts have evolved and are now a competition scene among the best confectioners in Israel. It has long been not just jam, but various types of sophisticated donuts with fillings, coatings and straws designed to enhance culinary delight. Lucky for us, the donuts only appear for a short time a year, a few weeks before the holiday to the end.

Jewish holidays food
About 700 calories per one...

Tu Bishvat

This festival is celebrated during the month of Shevat, on day 15. It is known as the New Year For Trees among Jews and holds special significance. The word Tu is nothing but number 15. Even though the holiday has no mention in the Torah, it is celebrated for the reason of calculating the age of trees that are needed for tithing.

The Torah says that fruits from all the trees are not supposed to be consumed during the first couple of years. After that, it can be taken. On Tu Bishvat, special significance is attached to trees because according to the Bible, man is seen as the tree of the field. Jews consider it as important to establish roots such as commitment and strong faith so that they can produce many fruits and give glory to God with their service. 

In recent years the holiday has been identified with the theme of environmental protection and conservation of the earth. The schools devote the holiday period to increased awareness of environmental issues.

Jewish festivals and holidays
Typical food for To Bishvat

Customs and Traditions

There are several customs related to followed during this time. Many people in Israel plant trees. Communities collect money so that they can plant new trees every year. Jewish festival foods such as grapes, figs, dates, olives, and pomegranates are eaten. Several people also prefer to have vegetarian pilaf made with barley and wheat berries. They are topped with figs, pomegranates, and raisins. 

Purim

Purim is celebrated in the Jewish month Adar and in the Georgian month March. Purim is celebrated the heroic act of Queen Esther who appears both in the Old Testament. Esther was a girl from a simple home, who grew up in the Persian empire, won the King’s (Achashverosh) heart and went on to become the queen. And not just that, with her wisdom and knowledge, she also saved the Jews from being slaughtered and killed by the enemies. The story of Purim is also a known Jewish festival in the Bible.

The Jewish festival of Purim is celebrated as one of the most exciting and joyous holidays on the Jewish festivals calendar. Purim celebration begins in the synagogue with reading of of the The Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther). All children and large portion of adults come with customs for prayer. The day after is celebrated with colorful parades in most of the cities of Israel, where people wear customs.

The custom started in the 13th century and is carried out to date. The carnival is so beautiful that people from different cultures come together just to see out. Americans have also started celebrating Purim because of this. 

Jewish festivals Purim
Typical coocie for Purim, Oznei Haman, the ears of evil Haman
Another great version of Oznei Haman

Facts you should know about Purim

It is the happiest festivals of all
  • Purim is known as the still the jolliest festival of the Jews. It is celebrated each year during the fourteenth Hebrew month. As described before, it celebrates Queen Esther who saved the Jews from being killed and destroyed by evil Haman. 
  • Because the holiday is so happy and loved by the children, for many years the Israeli schools have been celebrating it for a whole week before it really starts. Kids dress up every day for different custom, by theme. One day everyone is dressed in pajamas, another day boys dress up for girls and vice versa, and so on.
  • Since Purim celebrates Jewish people escaping the tyranny of Haman, it is mandatory to eat hamantaschen. This tradition in Europe and as been derived from the words mohn and taschen which means poppy seeds and pockets. These Germany parties have been a part of the tradition for years and are considered important till today. 
  • A festival meal is held during the afternoon. This is when the entire family gets together to celebrate the festival with good food. Some of the common foods include coconut cheesecake, poppy seeds pockets, candy infused vodka and desserts like Debla. 
  • It is also encouraged to create a racket at the synagogue on this day. When the scroll of Esther is read, listeners make noises. They hiss, boo or stamp their foot every time Hamman’s name is mentioned. This drowns the name of Hamman out. 
Jewish festival Purim
Kids enjoying Purim
Purim is not a Jewish word

Contrary to what most people might think and believe, the Jewish festival of Purim is not a Jewish word. It is Purim and means a lot. It is pronounced as poo-reem and can be called PUH-rim in some parts of Eastern Europe. Others also refer to Purim as Pee-RIM. 

Passover (Pesach)

The Jewish festival of Passover is celebrated for eight days, especially during spring. In 2019, it was celebrated between April 19 to April 27. Passover is celebrated to remember the time when the Israelites were able to escape the slavery that occurred in ancient Egypt. During the first two days, friends and families come together for a feast known as Cedar.

During this time, the Biblical chapter of Exodus is told. Along with that, many rituals are followed. One of them includes dipping vegetables in saltwater.

Second, a plate of goods is put at the table’s center. This contains all the important Passover foods such as bitter herbs, lamb shank bone, fruit, nuts, and wine mixtures are spread. The second menu includes a type of apple pudding called matzo kugel, chicken soup made with matzo balls and fish patties that are poached. Kids participate in the seder where they participate in several customers. The youngest kid also recites four important questions that help differentiate this night from the others.

Important facts you should know about the Passover

Passover is also considered as a time of cleaning

Several Jewish homes and communities prefer to get their homes neat, clean and tidy during the season of Passover. They scrub their homes to remove any extra dirt, crumbs or stuff that could be lingering in the corners. Not just that, any sort of chametz is removed from the house. Chametz includes wheat, oats, rye, barley. 

The length can vary

Although Passover is known to be a seven day holiday, it can also continue for eight long days. The only reason why the holiday is extended sometimes is that the dates of Passover are based on the calendar followed during Babylonian times. Here, people would depend on the moon and its phases to declare the commencement of a new month. This also made it quite challenging to determine when some of the Jewish festivals and feasts can begin. 

Several names

There are several names for the Passover. Some like to call it the festival of unleavened bread while some call the festival of spring, festival or freedom, etc.

Families keep dinnerware exclusively for Passovers

Several families also keep a set of glasses, dishes, and silverware separately for the Passover season. This is not to be used until the festival arrives. Also, families ensure the crockery never comes in contact with food that is made with leaven. 

Jewish festivals exodus
Matza preparation in a traditional way
The Passover dinner is known as a seder

A seder is what makes the Passover such a special and joyous occasion. Every table decorates their homes with food that holds significance and is related to the difficulties the Israelites faced when they were captured as slaves in Egypt. 

Gefilte Fish, very popular European jewish fish cutlet
Typical central plate of Lel Haseder, Passover dinner. Each of the items symbolizing somthing.
Jewish holiday Pesach
Passover dinner (Lel Haseder) of the Jewish community of Poland
Special prayer books are also used

Prayer books known as the Haggadah are also distributed. It is seen as a commandment for the Jews to pass down the stories of their heroic ancestors to the newer generation. The Haggadah contains the story of the Exodus with stories, interpretations and poems. Each family reads the Haggadah together and thus, for thousands of years, pass on the story of the Exodus from generation to generation.

The Barcelona Haggada, 14th century
Charoset is also served

A special dessert called charoset is also served. It is made of cinnamon, apples, sweet wine and nuts. It stands as a symbol of the brick and mortar that was used by the Israelites to build pyramids in Egypt. 

Eggs and bones served also have significance

Bones and eggs are also served during Passover dinners. The chicken bone stands as a symbol of sacrifice made at Jerusalem and the egg represents grief and mourning. Many also say that the egg and bone represent Aaron and Moses who helped get the Jews out of Egypt.

Independence day of Israel

The independence day of Israel is celebrated during the month of Iyar on the fifth day. This is a Hebrew date that declares the formal establishment of Israel as a state. This is also the date when the government read and signed the declaration of Independence in the capital of Tel Aviv. The real date was 14th May 1948.

Unlike other holidays, Independence Day is a very new holiday and was born together with the establishment of the State of Israel. Because it was a new holiday, it took on a different character from the other holidays. Independence Day is less family related to the ancient Jewish holidays.

It is celebrated in several ways. On the eve of the holiday, a festive state ceremony will be attended by the President of the State of Israel, the Prime Minister, a solemn prayer, beacon lighting and the army flag procession. Only Israeli films are shown on television. In all cities large venues are set up for performances by singers and local bands. Hordes of people walk around the street enjoying the hustle, food, music, carnival atmosphere and a spectacular fireworks show in every city. The next day, crowds of people go out to parks, gardens and woods to eat outside and for barbecue.

Independence day
F15 aircrafts in Independence Day demonstration

Lag B'omer (in Israel)

Bonfires everywhere

When it comes to outdoor celebrations, nothing beats the famous Lag Ba’omer. This festival is happening 33 days after the Second evening of Passover (Jewish calendar month – Iyar, Georgian month – June). It’s between Passover and Shavuot. The time in between is seen as a time of learning and mourning of all the tragic incidents that occurred in Biblical times.

Lag Baomer starts with bonfires that stand as a sign of flames that started within the 2nd century. Hundred of thousands of pilgrimages come together to Mount Meron for festival of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai who lived and die in this area about 2000 years ago. Many bonfires and parties also take places to mark this festival. You could also visit Israel around this time to see how it is celebrated. Today, because of greater awareness of the environment, in many places, people light one bonfire instead of many bonfires as it used to.

There are several customs related to followed during this time. Many people in Israel plant trees. Communities collect money so that they can plant new trees every year. Jewish festival foods such as grapes, figs, dates, olives, and pomegranates are eaten. Several people also prefer to have vegetarian pilaf made with barley and wheat berries. They are topped with figs, pomegranates, and raisins. 

Shavuot

The Jewish festival Shavuot is celebrated for two days. It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, Regalim in Hebrew (Sukkot,  Passover, Shavuot). It lasts for two days although the word Shavuot means several weeks. It is a celebration of the counting period that occurs between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot. According the Jewish tradition, the Torah (Jewish Holy Book) was handed over by God to the Jews on Mount Sinai in the mountains, on the same day, thousands of years ago. 

Shavuot is celebrated with women lighting up candles. This is seen as the beginning of the holiday season. It is also mandatory to stay up on the night of learning Torah. All women, men, and children visit the synagogue right on the first day. On Shavuot evening,  a festival meal is eaten. It is also important to eat dairy foods during this time. The menus include casseroles, quiches, and blintzes.

On the second day, a memorial service was held. The book of Ruth and the book of David is read by several communities. Many also choose to decorate their synagogues with plants right ahead of Shavuot. 

Jewish festivals crossword
It is common to eat dairy foods
Torah scroll
According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was given to the Jewish people on that day

Facts you didn’t know about Shavuot

It’s a springtime festival

Shavuot is a Jewish festival in spring. It is that time of the year when the earth comes to full bloom. Jewish literature also suggests that Mount Sinai was bursting with flowers and plants around this time. Farmers were also offering God with their freshest of crops and fruits as an offering to God. For several reasons, several synagogues also decorated all the sanctuaries with green plants and flowers. Rabbis, however, felt that this is becoming similar to Christian traditions, so they suggested paper cuttings called Shavuot instead. 

Water fights are common during this time

Shavuot is seen as a celebration of water too. In several cities, crowds get together and splash water on each other with the help of water balloons. Water guns are also used among social groups for the same reason. Some also like to go for long hikes along streams and rivers to make the most of this tradition. The reason why water is used during this festival is that the Torah emphasizes water and it’s life-giving properties and since the festival is all about nature and feeling its freshness, it makes perfect sense to frolic with friends with water. 

The holiday has no fixed date

The Jewish festival of Shavuot is always observed within seven weeks right after the sickle is kept firmly within the grain that is standing. During Babylonian times, Shavuot would always fell between the 5th of 6th day of the month of Sivan. Today it is only considered on the 6th day. Since the holiday begins after 7 fully counted weeks, the festival does not start until nightfall

Night ritual

Tikkun Leil Shavuot is a ritual followed during the festival of Shavuot where all sleep during the day and stay awake at night. This is because ancient Israelites had made a mistake of sleeping during the day when the Torah was given. To make up for this, Jews stay awake at night to study. In several synagogues, the studying session is followed by a small worship session during sunrise. 

National Holidays & Day Of Remembrance Among Jews

Now that we have covered the major Jewish festivals list, let’s take a look at some of the national holidays and popular cultural days celebrated in Jewish festivals today.

Holocaust Day

The Holocaust Day is celebrated in Israel and across the world generally in April or May (Between Passover and Independence day). This is done to remember more than 6 million Jews who murdered by the German Nazis and their aides in Poland, Ukraine, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and most other European countries, during the holocaust. It is a national memorial day that was first commenced in the year 1941, followed by 1959. 

On the Holocaust Day, state ceremonies are held throughout the State of Israel, and two official ceremonies of the State of Israel, attended by the leadership of the state of Israel, holocaust survivors still alive and their relatives. During the day, television programs about the Holocaust are broadcast, in addition there is a reading of names that lasts throughout the day.

Choosing a single day for the Holocaust was not so easy because the organized killings started in 1941 June and went on until 1945 in May at random intervals. However, after much study, research and consultation, April 19 is considered to be the Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

Choosing a single day for the Holocaust was not so easy because the organized killings started in 1941 June and went on until 1945 in May at random intervals. However, after much study, research and consultation, April 19 is considered to be the Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

Holocaust day
The crematorium in the death camp in Auschwitz, Poland

Gedaliah Fast

The Gedaliah Fast is a fast that begins from dawn and continues till dusk (after sunset). It is celebrated right after the day of Rosh Hashanah. The annual day fest is conducted by Jewish Sages to remember how Gedaloah Ben Achikam who was the governor of Israel was assassinated. After his death, his final vestiges were destroyed and several Jews were also slaughtered and killed and the rest who were left were sent to exile. The fast is generally held at the end of the year. This Jewish festival in 2019 was held on the 2nd of October. 

Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day is seen as the reunification of the land of Jerusalem that was divided from 1948 (Independence war) till 1967 (Six days war). It is celebrated six weeks after the Passover season is over (On May). 

The history behind Jerusalem Day goes back during 1000 BCE when Jerusalem was the capital city for the Jews. It was ruled by King David. Later it was conquered by the Romans. Jerusalem however, faced several years of exile although Jerusalem remained as a spiritual capital city for the Jews.

Even to this day, Jews turn their faces in the direction of Jerusalem whenever they have to pray. So far, there has not been a special day to commemorate the event. The war of Independence occurred in 1948 after which Jerusalem was divided. However, in 1967, Jerusalem came back under Jewish control. It also allowed Jews to access the holiest parts of the city. The Western Wall was one of them. 

Tisha Be'av

The Tisha B’Av is perceived as one of the saddest day on all Jewish calendars. This is that day when people fast and deprive themselves of good. They spend more time in prayer and reflection. Tisha B’av is seen as the culmination of all the three weeks. It is observed to remember the destruction of the Holy Temple in Israel. On this day, Jews do not eat nor drink. They do not wear any footwear made with leather. They don’t apply creams or ointments. They don’t engage in any kind of intimacy or apply creams and ointments. 

Bar Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah is celebrated when a Jewish boy in the house turns 13 years old. The words Bar Mitzvah itself mean son of the commandment. Once a boy is a teenager in a Jewish home, he will be given all the rights and obligations that an adult gets. This also includes all the Torah commandments.

He will be able to wear Tefillin every day. He will be able to participate in all the services of the synagogue. The bar mitzvah is celebrated within the synagogue. It is followed by a small party with friends and family. The celebration is automatic. Jewish customs also suggest that Bar Mitzvah is a way to welcome adulthood and initiate several responsibilities and opportunities among Jews.

The ceremony varies among several communities even though the basic component and idea are the same. There are customary practices that are carried out too. 

Bat Mitzva

Bat Mitzvah basically means daughter of the commandment. This occurs whenever a Jewish girl turns 12 years old. It is then she receives all the obligations and rights as a Jewish adult. She also gets to read all the commandments of the Torah. This takes place within the community. It is known as bat mizvah and is celebrated with meaningful gatherings, creative projects and parties. 

Jewish Wedding Rituals and Customs You Should Know About

Fast

Many couples see marriage and weddings as a sacred day. Because of this, they prefer to fast the entire day and then have their first meal at night after the wedding ceremony.

Bedeken

The ceremony begins with bedeken. This is where the groom comes to the bride for veiling. He gazes at her face first and then veils it. Bedeken stands as a symbol of love a husband shares for his wife. 

Ketubah

This is a prenuptial agreement followed in all Jewish weddings. It outlines all the responsibilities of the groom along with the framework if there is a case of divorce in the future. The signing of documents is not religious but they are a part of the civil law. God is not mentioned here. 

Chuppah

The chuppah is the altar where the vows are exchanged. The groom and his parents walk in first followed by the bride and her family. 

Walking in circles

Next, the couple walks in circles 3-7 times. This, according to Jewish beliefs, creates a protective veil over the couple from all evil spirits, spiritual influences, and temptations

Blessings

The seven blessings are read in English and Hebrew. It is shared among family and friends. The blessings are focused on love, joy, peace, and happiness. 

The Glass Breaking

To end the ceremony, the bride and groom shatter a glass by stepping on it. This holds several meanings. Not only does it stand as a representation of Jerusalem’s temple destruction but it also becomes a symbol of the institution of marriage that represents joy, sorrow, and commitment at the same time.

FAQ

Do Jews work during the holidays?

Jews don’t work during Jewish festivals today, especially on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, the first two days of Sukkot, on Simchat Torah, on Shavuot and during the first few and last days of Passover. Working is also not allowed on the day of Shabbat, including baking, cooking, transferring and carrying fire. The rest of the days are considered acceptable.

Whenever a holiday occurs during the season of Shabbat, all the restrictions will be observed. For those who work in a secular world, it can be a bit difficult to work on all days mentioned, although many do take 13 days of holiday and observe holidays. There is also more vacation time that many people consider. The Passover is also a major Jewish festival in the Bible. 

Who is the God of the Jews?

God is conceived in several ways among Jews. Traditionally, God is known as YHWH. Here God is seen as the God of Abraham, Isaac (son of Abraham) and Jacob (son of Isaac). He is seen as the national God of Israelites who rescued them from being used as slaves in Egypt and inscribed the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai. The Jewish Torah describes God as the absolute one, the one who is indivisible, incompatible and the sole reason for man’s existence. Others also see God as someone personal but also transcendent at the same time.  

How do Jews call non-Jews?

Jews refer to non-Jews as gentiles, which means ‘someone who is not a Jew’ in Latin. Many groups also suggest that the word Gentile is referred to someone who doesn’t come from within the community i.e outsiders. ‘Goy’ and ‘ethnos’ are the original Latin words the word gentile has been picked up from. It applies to those who are not from Israel in the Bible. 

What is the difference between Judaism and Christianity?

Judaism was the first monotheistic religion. The central principle of Jewish faith is the unity of God and being eternal and infinite. Judaism denies any and all form of God’s personification. The personification of God through statues in Judaism is regarded as idolatry which is strictly forbidden.

By contrast, Christianity perceives Jesus as the embodiment of God in flesh and blood. Jesus, for Christians, is God incarnated in the form of a living human being, taking on all human suffering that follows Since thus fulfilled its role towards humans. Christians see Jesus as God, the Messiah and their savior who died on the cross for their sins whereas Jews do not see Jesus as God or a divine being.

What foods are Jews not allowed to eat?

Jews do not consume pork and shellfish. Those fish that have fins and scales are allowed. The rest is prohibited according to Jewish laws. Poultry and dairy are not allowed to eat together. Reptiles and amphibians are also not used for consumption. Dead animals or animals that have not been killed ritually by well-trained people are not allowed for consumption among Jews. 

Do Orthodox Jews drink alcohol?

Yes, it is normal for Jews to drink wine. However, the blessing only exists within the first glass and not for other glasses. Getting drunk is not allowed among Jews. Wine is considered traditional in every holiday, including Shabbat that occurs every week. If someone doesn’t have wine, grape juice or coffee will be considered as a substitute. Even wine is considered traditional. 

Can Jews eat pork?

In the Bible, there are only two animals that can be consumed. First, one that has split hooves and second, they must chew its cud. Animals that don’t have fins and scales are considered unclean and therefore unsafe to eat. Pigs fall under the category of an unclean animal because of which Jews avoid eating pork. However, secular Jews consume pork, though not very often since it’s not available in most of the big supermarkets in Israelץ 

However, it’s more then that. Pig has become one of the symbols of anti-Semitism. In the past, and to this day, when anti-Semites wanted to harm Jews abroad, one way was to throw a pig’s head into a Jewish compound, especially a synagogue. So, to date, many secular Jews who do not adhere to kosher laws will not eat pork.

Can Jews eat crawfish?

Jews avoid seafood that doesn’t contain fins and scales, therefore craw-fish is strictly avoided among Jews. Not just this, even shrimp and prawn are avoided. 

What do the Jews believe in?

Jewish people believe in the book of Torah, which is the law given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They also believe that they must follow the laws of God and govern them in daily life. Later legal books that were written by the rabbi determined the laws that apply in every new place as well as time. 

Do Jews believe in angels?

Angels are supernatural beings that exist throughout the Bible and Jewish literature. The word angel means a messenger who carries out specific information and acts as an intermediary between God and his people. Biblical sources to have revealed the existence of angels. Biblical characters like Jacob and Abraham also interacted with angels while communicating with God. 

Where do Jews worship?

A commonplace for worship for the Jews is called a synagogue. It also used to be a community center and a place to study at one time. Orthodox Jews also use the word shul to describe a synagogue. Synagogues are also known as temples in the USA. Hats and prayer shawls are a must among men in synagogues. Married women also wear hats to show their reverence towards God. 

How did the Jews get Israel?

The country that Jews always owned from the start was Israel. It was called Palestine in 135 AD by the Romans, as part of their war against the Jewish people. Naming the Land of Israel in the name of Palestine was meant to forget the name Israel. During the Ottoman and the British Empires the name Palestine was used as the name of a administrative geographical unit, which included the land of Israel. Jews living in Israel were recorded as Palestinians, by the both empires.

at 1921, at San Remo conference, the League of Nations recognized the connection Jews have with their land as well as the constitution of the Jews National Home right there. This was the first international decision of lawful validity on the territory of Israel.

This decision gave the Jews all of the land of historic Israel, which included the lands of Jordan that did not yet exist. Due to political considerations by the British during World War II, they decided to take from the Jews 75% of the area promised to them at the San Remo Conference and grant it in favor of establishing an artificial Arab state, as a prize for King Abdullah.

How many Jews are in the world?

According to recent estimates, the United States of America has the largest number of Jews in the world. The Jews are estimated to be 10 million people. Israel comes next as they have the biggest population of 6.8 million. Other countries also have Jews but they are much smaller in number. 

Are Jewish people a race?

In the 1980s, the Supreme Court in the United States concluded that Jews are a race just like the Italian and Negro race. However, many Jews were deeply offended by this rule. Common ancestry is not required to be a Jew although they do share genetic relations across the world. 

Are Jewish people circumcised?

Circumcision has been mentioned several times in the Bible. It is not only practiced among Jews but also other religions including Islam, Ethiopian, and Coptic Orthodox churches. Circumcision occurred for the first time in the Bible. It was enjoined by Abraham and became a symbol of an everlasting covenant between God and his people. 

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