Important Jewish Holidays Everyone Should Know
So, your Jewish co-worker is absent from work...again.
Have you ever wondered why your Jewish co-workers and friends miss so much work? Living in a nation that primarily only grants us all one religious holiday every year (ie, Christmas), it may seem unfathomable that the Jewish faith permits so many additional holidays on which a person is not permitted work. After all, doesn't the Christian faith stem from Judaism? How come they don't have so many holidays? We at The Sitch have wondered the same thing, so today we're breaking down the important Jewish holidays everyone should know.
How Many Jewish Holidays Are There?
In the Jewish faith, there are close to 20 "holidays," not including special Sabbaths, fasts, or feasts. All of these holidays are written down in the Torah, which is the religious book for Judaism (it is also the first five books of the Christian Bible). However, some holidays carry more religious weight than others, so we are going to be focusing on the Jewish holidays that do not allow any work - but we'll also throw in a couple of bonus holidays that are also just good to know.
Jewish Holidays You Should Know
1. Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. In 2018, Rosh Hashanah will take place on September 9-10, but the holiday itself moves around. Rosh Hashanah is considered to be the beginning of the universe, the day that God created Adam and Eve (the first humans). Rosh Hashanah begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the first month of the civil and seventh of the religious year, usually coinciding with parts of September and October.
Rosh Hashanah is typically celebrated by lighting candles and saying prayers of peace and prosperity for the upcoming Jewish year. There is also a sounding of the "shofar," which is a horn and people also dip apples in honey which symbolizes casting away sin (the first sin was when Eve took a bite of a forbidden fruit, which is often referred to as an apple).
Bonus points: Tell your Jewish coworker, "L'shanah tovah" which means "for a good year!"
2. Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement." Atonement is a fancy way of saying that you repair the wrong (sin) you've done. Yom Kippur will take place from the evening of September 18 through the evening of September 19, 2018 but also moves around each year (always on the 10th day of Tishrei).
Yom Kippur is typically observed by fasting (no food or drink) for 25 hours and spending the day in prayer (usually done at the Synagogue). It is also customary to wear white to symbolize the purity that you receive once you have atoned for your sins.
Sukkot is the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles and lasts for 7 days. Work is not permitted on the first day of Sukkot, but Jews can work the other 6 days (however, the holiday can also be a weeklong pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem). Sukkot begins at sundown on the 15th day of Tishrei (5 days after Yom Kippur) and will be observed from September 23-30, 2018.
Sukkot refers to the booths or tabernacles in which the Jewish people lived while they were in the wilderness for 40 years in the Torah. To celebrate and honor the booths, Jewish people today are supposed to build and live (or at least pray) in a "booth" for the week and wave branches and a fruit during the religious services.
4. Shemini Atzeret
Shemini Atzeret is two holidays in one. It is the "Eighth Day of Assembly" and "Simchat Torah" which is an annual reading of the Torah. Shemini Atzeret is the first two days after Sukkot. In 2018, Shemini Atzeret will be observed on October 1-2. The holiday represents the Jewish people's relationship with their Creator God. God is like a "host" who has invited all of us to a party (life), but when the party ends, special guests are invited to stay for an extra day (Jewish people are often referred to as the chosen ones).
Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah is celebrated by dancing and celebrating the Torah.
Chanukah is probably the most well known Jewish holiday, even though it isn't even mentioned in the Torah! It is celebrated starting on the 25th day of Kislev, which is the third month of the civil and ninth of the religious year, usually coinciding with parts of November and December. In 2018, Chanukah will take place December 2-10. Jews are permitted to work during Chanukah; however, they also must observe the candle lighting and fasting that goes along with the holiday.
Chanukah (aka Festival of Lights) celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Maccabean revolt. The menorah in the temple was supposed to be constantly burning (to represent that the spirit of the Lord is always with them), but during the revolt, oil was running low. Somehow, even though there was barely enough oil for one day, the oil burned for eight days!
Chanukah is celebrated by lighting the menorah (one candle each day), eating fried foods, and playing with a dreidel. Jews also often celebrate by giving gifts to one another (one per day) because the holiday coincides so closely with the Christian holiday of Christmas.
Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction under the wrath of King Haman, who wanted to destroy the Jewish Faith. The story is found in the book of Esther in the Torah. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. In 2018, Purim will took place from the evening of February 28 through the evening of March 1.
Purim is celebrated by dressing up in costumes (much like Halloween), drinking, and eat fruit filled cookies.
Jews are permitted to work on Purim, but they are also called to celebrate (ie, wear your costume to work?).
7. Pesach (Passover)
Pesach, also known as Passover, is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Pesach is the commemoration of how the Lord freed the Israelites from the Egyptians (you might recall hearing about a guy named Moses). The story tells that the Lord had the Jews (aka Israelites) place the blood of a lamb on their door one night while the Lord's spirit came down and took the life of the first born child of each of the Egyptians, but He "passed over" each of the doors with the lamb's blood on it. He did this in order to convince the Pharaoh in Egypt to let the Israelites go back to their homeland and be freed from slavery. Pesach is also referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread because Jews were not permitted to eat anything with yeast in it during this time.
Technically Jews are not supposed to work during Passover; however some do. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which is also refereed to as the Month of Spring. Passover in 2018 took place from March 30 through April 7.
Passover is celebrated by avoiding any food containing yeast and retelling the story from Exodus.
Shavu'ot is a holiday celebrating the day that God met Moses on a mountain and gave him the Torah (which was actually two stone tablets with the 10 commandments on them). Shavu'ot took place on June 8, 2018. Jews do not work on Shavu'ot, but the holiday is also typically celebrated on a Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath, so there is already no work on that day.
Shavu'ot is celebrated by reading the Torah and eating foods containing dairy.
9. Tish'a B'Av
Tish'a B'Av commemorates misfortune and destruction that the Jews have faced. Specifically, it refers to the destruction of the temple (which was then re-built and re-destroyed). Tish'a B'Av occurs on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, in 2018 Tish'a B'Av will begin at sundown on July 21. However, Tish'a B'Av is never observed on a Sabbath (Saturday), so they honor it the day after.
Tish'a B'Av is not a celebration, but a mourning and remembrance done by fasting for 25 hours and reading the book of Lamentations in the Torah. Additionally, the Torah is often draped in black.
The Jewish faith is filled with crazy stories of perseverance, destruction, sin, and grace. We at The Sitch think it's pretty cool that these stories and honored and celebrated every year by Jews around the world. Shalom!
Are there other Jewish holidays you would like for us to explain? Feel free to ask about them, and leave any other kind of note for us, in the comments section below. Also don't forget to sign up for our newsletter for more entertaining and informative reads.