A Guide to the Jewish Year

Holidays & Festivals 5777-78

Jewish worship offers time to reflect, praise, ask and express gratitude. 

Click on each holiday listed in green for more information.

Preparing for the Yamim Noraim

At this time of year, Jews throughout the world prepare for a unique ten-day period of prayer, self-examination, fasting, and repentance. It is time for the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, the High Holy Days: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. These holidays are preceded by a month of reflection: the Hebrew month of Elul. During this time, morning worship includes special penitential prayers and concludes with the blowing of the shofar as a reminder of the approaching season of atonement. In some communities, this is also a time to visit the graves of loved ones.

S'lichot

S'lichot, a Hebrew word meaning "forgiveness," refers to the special penitential prayers recited by Jews during the High Holy Day season. The S’lichot liturgy contains some of the finest Jewish religious poetry ever composed.  S’lichot is observed on the Saturday night just prior to Rosh HaShanah, a solemn and fitting preparation for ten days of reflection and self-examination.

Rosh Hashanah

Observed on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the celebration of the Jewish new year and marks the beginning of the Yamin Noraim – a ten day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance, which culminates with the fast day of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (literally, “Day of Atonement”) is observed ten days after Rosh HaShanah with fasting, prayer, repentance: the sacred act of teshuvah. Yom Kippur is the holiest of all Jewish Festivals and holidays.

Sukkot

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts,” is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of Tishrei and is marked by several distinct traditions as we give thanks for both the fall harvest and commemorate the forty years of Israelite wandering in the desert after Sinai.

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah which literally means “rejoicing in Torah,” is exactly what Jews the world over do on this festive holiday. We complete the cycle of reading from the Torah (at the end of Deuteronomy) and immediately commence again (from the beginning of Genesis).  By doing so, we ensure "there is no time in Jewish life without Torah."

Chanukah

An eight day Celebration of Light.  We recall the rededication to the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after it had been defiled by the Seleucid Greeks (2nd century Before the Common Era).

Tu B'Shvat

Tu B'Shvat or the "New Year of the Trees" is a day to plant trees and celebrate nature, reminding oureselves again of our reliance upon it.

Purim

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated by the reading of the Scroll of Esther, known in Hebrew as the Megillat Esther, which tells a story of the Jewish people living in Persia threatened with extermination.

Pesach (Passover)

Pesach, known as Passover in English, is a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago.

Lag Ba'Omer

Lag Ba'Omer is the shorthand way of saying the thirty-third day of the omer. It is celebrated 33 days after Pesach.

Shavuot

Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning "weeks" and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.