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PassoverWith information from
What Is Passover?
The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”), because G d passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve.
The Passover Story in a Nutshell
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, G d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed G d’s command. G d then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.
At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G d visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, G d spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G d’s chosen people.
In ancient times the Passover observance included the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was roasted and eaten at the Seder on the first night of the holiday. This was the case until Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the 1st century.
Orthodox Passover Observances
Passover is divided into two parts:
The first two days and last two days (the latter commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea) are full-fledged holidays.
Holiday candles are lit at night, and kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and days. We don’t go to work, drive, write, or switch on or off electric devices. We are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors.
The middle four days are called Chol Hamoed, semi-festive “intermediate days,” when most forms of work are permitted.
To commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, we don’t eat—or even retain in our possession—any chametz from midday of the day before Passover until the conclusion of the holiday. Chametz means leavened grain—any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn’t guarded from leavening or fermentation. This includes bread, cake, cookies, cereal, pasta, and most alcoholic beverages. Moreover, almost any processed food or drink can be assumed to be chametz unless certified otherwise.
Ridding our homes of chametz is an intensive process. It involves a full-out spring-cleaning search-and-destroy mission during the weeks before Passover, and culminates with a ceremonial search for chametz on the night before Passover, and then a burning of the chametz ceremony on the morning before the holiday. Chametz that cannot be disposed of can be sold to a non-Jew (and bought back after the holiday).
Instead of chametz, we eat matzah—flat unleavened bread. It is a mitzvah to partake of matzah on the two Seder nights, and during the rest of the holiday it is optional.
It is ideal to use handmade shmurah matzah, which has been zealously guarded against moisture from the moment of the harvest.
|Purim||Holiday Index||coming soon|
About Chanukah - (Hanukkah)The Hebrew word chanukah means "dedication" and marks an eight day winter celebration (from Kislev 25 - Tevet 3) that commemorates
the rededication of the Second Temple after a small group of Jewish believers defeated the forces of assimilation at work in their world.
As such, Chanukah represents the victory of faith over the ways of speculative reason, and demonstrates the power of the miracle in the
face of mere humanism.
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful 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 G‑d.
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.
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.
On Chanukah, 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.
Purim Feastwith Information from
The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).
The Story in a Nutshell
The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality.
Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.
At Interfaith we can read the following entry.
The Purim Story In All Its PG-13 Glory
February 11, 2013
Drunken revelry, debauchery, sex, intrigue, family secrets, power struggles... Not a blurb for the upcoming episode of the TV series Revenge, but a close look at the story of Purim.
The holiday of Purim, traditionally celebrated with parades, carnivals, masks, hamantashen, and giving gifts to the poor, has a gritty underbelly to its story. It reads like a screenplay for a program on the CW Network.
So how did this story end up in our canon?
Let's take a few minutes to take a closer look.
The story takes place in ancient Persia, what is now modern day Iran. Achashveros was a capricious king, who issued edicts and decrees based on others' whims and fancies. He ruled over a enormous swath of land covering India to Ethiopia — 127 provinces, according to the story. He loved a good party and, as the story opens, he is holding a feast for his administration that lasted 180 days, and then opened it up to his subjects in the city of Shushan for another week. The lavish descriptions of his party and palace bespeak a man who loved to live in excess. The rule for drinking was "no restrictions;" commands were given to his stewards to "comply with each man's wishes" (Esther 1:8).
The text goes on to tell us that his lovely Queen Vashti was having her own banquet, just for the women of the kingdom. In the midst of their revelry, Vashti was summoned by the King's courtiers to come to the King's party wearing her crown. (Some commentators focus on that line, conjecturing that perhaps that was all she was requested to wear?) After Vashti refuses, the King gets advice from his trusted advisors that something needs to be done to punish this Queen, lest all their wives look to Vashti as a role model and begin to disobey them. She needs to be made an example of! We need to show the women who is in charge! So they told King A to issue an edict to send Vashti away never to return. And for good measure, included in that edict was a provision for every man to "wield authority in his home" (1:22). That'll show ‘em!
In order to get a new queen, the King's servants suggested bringing beautiful women from all over the kingdom to spend time in his harem. Not exactly the beauty pageant we see in our Hebrew school Purim plays. Each young woman spent 12 months in the harem and the king "tried them out." Chapter 2 verse 14 tell us "she would go in the evening and leave in the morning for a second harem..." This verse implies much more than your standard fashion show/beauty pageant.
When the king finally decided that Esther pleases him the most, we then learn of the next sub-plot in our story. (Cue the Dark Shadows theme...)
Esther has a deep secret and her cousin Mordechai does not want her to divulge it: Esther is a Jew.
Meanwhile, her cousin Mordechai overhears a plot by the palace guards to assassinate the King. Morcechai tells Esther, who then tells the King, and the guards are executed.
Were we watching the story unfold on the CW Network, the episode would end here and we would have to wait until the next week to see what happens.
We keep going, and are introduced to the villain, Haman. As a high-placed minister in the court of the King, Haman believes that the subjects of the city of Shushan should bow down to him. Haman meets Mordechai, who refuses to bow, as it is against his Jewish religion to bow down to anyone other than his one true God. As a result of Mordechai's apparent snubbing of Haman, Haman's ire is fanned and he asks the King to issue another edict to get rid of all the Jews. Haman capitalized on the impulsive nature of an erratic king as his seething anger toward Mordechai and his people grew into a hatred of all the Jews in the kingdom.
The edict was issued, and the king's courtiers were instructed to deliver it to all of the provinces. In it were directions to massacre all the Jews, young and old, women and children (3:13). The day of the massacre was chosen as a result of the drawing of lots — Purim is Hebrew for "lots."
The rest of the story is filled with plot twists and turns as well as plenty of gore and blood. Haman is uncovered as the evil anti-Semite that he is, Esther reveals her true identity, Mordechai gets rewarded for the previous uncovering of the assassination plot. King Achasverous issues yet another edict allowing Jews to defend themselves, thereby killing thousands, including Haman and Haman's family. The Jews survive, Mordechai gets promoted in the kingdom, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Although the story has an exaggeratory edge to it, there is a lot that we ultimately learn from the story of Purim, and how we should experience our lives.
Nowhere in the ten chapters of the text do we see God's name, or even God's presence, mentioned. An interesting omission, considering this ancient text is found in our Bible. The term hester panim, meaning God hidden face, is used to describe the story of Purim. If you look closely at the root of the word "hester" you may see something very interesting. Does it sound like anyone's name? Hmm.... This is the only book in our Bible where there is no mention of God. On the surface, it may not be that important, judging from the tone of the story. However, in Judaism, there is always more than just what is on the surface. The beauty of Judaism is that we can look at a text and see many layers of meaning.
There are many things in the story of Purim that considered to be topsy turvy — turned upside down, "v'nahafoch hu" in Hebrew. The term "God is in the details" can aptly fit here. Throughout the entire Torah as well as the many books of the prophets, God is front and center. In the Book of Esther, God is in the details. Sorrow is turned into joy, devastation is turned into gladness. God is actually present behind the scenes, and like the mask worn by the actor in a dramatic performance, once it is taken off, we are able to see the source behind the brilliance and creativity.
Why Is It Called Purim?
Purim means “lots” in ancient Persian. The holiday was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme. You can pronounce this name many ways. In Eastern tradition, it is called poo-REEM. Among Westerners, it is often called PUH-rim. Some Central-European communities even call it PEE-rim. (WARNING: Calling this holiday PYOO-rim—as English speakers are sometimes wont to do—is a surefire newbie cover-blower.)
The Significance of Purim
In addition to the miracle of Jewish survival despite the efforts of our enemies, Purim celebrates G d’s intimate involvement in every aspect of this world. Even though there were no overt miracles recorded in the Megillah—indeed, His name is not even mentioned once—G d was actively “pulling the strings” to care for His nation.
Additionally, Haman’s edict catalyzed a spiritual revival among the Jews. In a sense, this was even more significant than the Covenant at Sinai—an overwhelming spiritual experience that compelled the Jews to accept the Torah—since it occurred of their own volition, even as they were scattered among the Persian people and immersed in their culture. It was in the merit of this spiritual reawakening that G d orchestrated their salvation.
There is a spirit of liveliness and fun on Purim that is unparalleled on the Jewish calendar. If there were ever a day to “let loose” and just be Jewish, this is it!
It is also customary for children (and adults, if they desire) to dress up in costumes.
A traditional Purim food is hamantaschen (or oznay Haman), three-cornered pastries bursting with poppy seeds or another sweet filling.
On the day before Purim (or on the Thursday before, when Purim is on Sunday), it is customary to fast, commemorating Esther’s fasting and praying to G d that He save His people. .
The picture of the three-day resurrection is shown. Esther fasted for three days, and on the third day, she arose to go before the king.
The Christian New Life
The story of Esther is a depiction of a Christian’s walk in a new life. Exposing Haman is symbolic of exposing sin. The new decree triumphs. The old decree symbolizes Jesus triumphing over the law of sin and death. Once Haman (sin, flesh) was put to death, Mordecai (Holy Spirit) is given unlimited command.
The Jews were again delivered on the seventeenth of Nisan—Firstfruits—the same day that deliverance for the Israelites in Egypt began, and the same day Jesus arose!
|Tu B'Shvat||Holiday Index||Passover|
About Simchat TorahIs the last of the fall holidays, arriving at the end of Sukkot.
During Simchat Torah we can be filled with joy and love for God, for the Torah and for the Jewish community.
The name of this holiday means “Joy of the Torah,” and it marks the completion of the year long cycle of weekly Torah readings (parshiot ).
Since the Torah is continuously read throughout the year, when we get to the end of Deuteronomy 34 we immediately start over by reading the first verses of Genesis.
By doing that, we show the unending cycle of Torah study.
As the Torah reading concludes at the end of Deuteronomy, everyone rises and proclaims: Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen each other.
How is Simchat Torah CelebratedSimchat Torah is celebrated with singing, dancing, good food and drink at the synagogue. There is no set home observance.
At an evening service, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and paraded around the sanctuary in seven circles known as hakafot (Hebrew for “encirclement”).
In some synagogues, those who are in the seats close to the aisles touch their prayer book (siddur ) or the fringes of their
prayer shawl (tallit) to the Torah as it passes by. In others, congregants leave their seats, so they may dance alongside the Torahs as they make the circuits.
Many congregations liven up the celebration with music and dancing as they circle with the Torahs. Children participate in the dancing and singing; some may carry flags and miniature Torahs. Carrying the Torah during the procession is an honor, often shared by all who are present. Some synagogues unroll the entire scroll in a huge circle, with people carefully holding the parchment
Jesus and Simchat TorahSince Yeshua the Mashiach (Jesus Christ) is Torah Ha-Emet- the True Torah - we should likewise celebrate the Joy of Torah in our lives. Yeshua is the Living Torah, the Living Word, written upon our hearts so that we can truly dance and embrace the Truth given from God. Indeed, Yeshua did not come to destroy the Torah but rather to fulfill it in our lives (Matthew 5:17-20). As it is written in the Tanakh regarding the New Covenant:
"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant (B’rit Chadashah) with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law (Torah) in their inward parts, and write it (the Torah) in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
(Jeremiah 31:31-34) This very idea is clearly re-affirmed in the New Testament (see Hebrews 8:8-11). As Christians, then, we have the greater reason to celebrate Torah, since Yeshua (Jesus) is of course the Central Message of the Torah-- its inner meaning and incarnation. He is the Torah made flesh (John 1:14), the faithful Mediator of the New and Better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6), and He does what Moses and the Sinatic covenant could never do, namely, write the Torah within our inward parts and upon our hearts so that we might truly be the people of God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). By means of His sacrificial death, the righteous demands of Torah are fully satisfied, and the LORD is glorified as both just and merciful (i.e., the justifier of those who put their trust in Him).