THE PASSOVER 2020 (April 8-16, 2020)
The Pesach (Passover) of adonai occurred once, many years ago. Every Pesach (Passover) since has been a memorial to Adonai (Lord) in which the God of Yis'rael redeemed His people from the bondage of slavery. It is through this Moadim (Appointed Times) of Adonai that Yeshua Ha Maschiach would redeem Yis'rael and the nations from the bondage of our transgression that led to separation from our creator.
The word Shavuot (or Shavuos) means “weeks.” It celebrates the completion of the seven-week Omer counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
The Torah was given by Yahweh God to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of God’s gift, and God “re-gives” the Torah.
What: It is the birthday of the universe, the day G‑d created Adam and Eve, and it’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year.
When: The first two days of the Jewish new year, Tishrei 1 and 2, beginning at sundown on the eve of Tishrei 1. Rosh Hashanah 2019 begins at sundown on September 29 and continues through nightfall on October 1.
How: Candle lighting in the evenings, festive meals with sweet delicacies during the night and day, prayer services that include the sounding of the ram’s horn (shofar) on both mornings, and desisting from creative work.
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah actually means “Head of the Year.” Just like the head controls the body, our actions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year.
As we read in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, each year on this day “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die ... who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.”
It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity and blessing. But it is also a joyous day when we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.
The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, on both days of the holiday (except if the first day is Shabbat, in which case we blow the shofar only on the second day).
The first 30 blasts of the shofar are blown following the Torah reading during morning services, and as many as 70 additional are blown during (and immediately after) the Musaf service, adding up to 100 blasts over the course of the Rosh Hashanah morning services (some communities sound another round of 30 blasts after services as well).
The shofar blowing contains a series of three types of blasts: tekiah, a long sob-like blast; shevarim, a series of three short wails; and teruah, at least nine piercing staccato bursts.
The blowing of the shofar represents the trumpet blast that is sounded at a king’s coronation. Its plaintive cry also serves as a call to repentance. The shofar itself recalls the Binding of Isaac, an event that occurred on Rosh Hashanah in which a ram took Isaac’s place as an offering to God.
Yom Kippur 2020 (the Day of Atonement): September 27–28
What: Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year—the day on which we are closest to G‑d and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30).
For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset on Sept. 27 to after nightfall on Sept 28—we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to God and to the essence of our souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God.”
When: On the tenth day of the month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar, in 2020, from several minutes before sunset on Tuesday, September 27, until after nightfall on Wednesday, September 28), coming on the heels of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which is on the first and second days of Tishrei).
How: For nearly 26 hours we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or apply lotions or creams, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations. Instead, we spend the day in synagogue, praying for forgiveness.
Just months after the people of Israel left Egypt in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), they sinned by worshiping a golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and prayed to G‑d to forgive them. After two 40-day stints on the mountain, full Divine favor was obtained. The day Moses came down the mountain (the 10th of Tishrei) was to be known forevermore as the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.
That year, the people built the Tabernacle, a portable home for God. The Tabernacle was a center for prayers and sacrificial offerings. The service in the Tabernacle climaxed on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest would perform a specially prescribed service. Highlights of this service included offering incense in the Holy of Holies (where the ark was housed) and the lottery with two goats—one of which was brought as a sacrifice, the other being sent out to the wilderness (Azazel).
Forty days before Yom Kippur, on the first of Elul, we begin blowing the shofar every morning and reciting Psalm 27 after the morning and afternoon prayers. In Sepharadic communities, it is customary to begin saying Selichot early every morning (Ashkenazim begin just a few days before Rosh Hashanah)—building an atmosphere of reverence, repentance and awe leading up to Yom Kippur.
For the week before Yom Kippur (known as the 10 Days of Repentance), special additions are made to prayers, and people are particularly careful with their mitzvah observance.
In 2020, Sukkot begins at sundown on Friday, Oct. 2 and ends at sundown on Friday, Oct. 9. The conclusion of Sukkot marks the beginning of the separate holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
What is Sukkot?
Sukkot is known as the “Festival of Tabernacles” and the “Feast of Booths.” It is one of Judaism’s three central pilgrimage festivals, along with Passover and Shavuot.
It is traditional to build a sukkah, a temporary hut to dwell in during the holiday.
It is the custom to buy a lulav and etrog and shake them daily throughout the festival.
In the times of the Temple, Sukkot was also the time of a water-drawing ceremony, a wonderfully joyous and upbeat celebration.
When Is Chanukah?
Chanukah begins on the eve of Kislev 25 and continues for eight days. On the civil calendar, it generally coincides with the month of December. Chanukah 2020 runs from Dec. 10-18, 2020.
Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (as you’ll read below). Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucid's (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in God. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.
When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.
At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, we light just one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are kindled.
Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit, and traditional songs are sung afterward.
A menorah is lit in every household (or even by each individual within the household) and placed in a doorway or window. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places. In recent years, thousands of jumbo menorahs have cropped up in front of city halls and legislative buildings, and in malls and parks all over the world.
We recite the special Hallel prayer daily, and add V’Al HaNissim in our daily prayers and in the Grace After Meals, to offer praise and thanksgiving to G‑d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few ... the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”
Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil. The Eastern-European classic is the potato latke (pancake) garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and the reigning Israeli favorite is the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut).
Dreidel: the Chanukah Game
On Hanukkah, it is customary to play with a “dreidel” (a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters, nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”). The game is usually played for a pot of coins, nuts, or other stuff, which is won or lost based on which letter the dreidel lands when it is spun.
In today’s consumer-driven society, people tend to place great importance on giving Chanukah gifts. However, the tradition is actually to give Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children. In addition to rewarding positive behavior and devotion to Torah study, the cash gifts give the children the opportunity to give tzedakah (charity). This has also spawned the phenomenon of foil-covered “chocolate gelt.”