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14 March, 201114 March, 2011 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

If you are in Israel during the holiday of Purim, you might think Israelis had confused the spring holiday with Halloween.

Purim is supposed to be a joyful holiday and, as such, costumes and parties are the order of the day. From babies in daycare to school children to adults attending parties, nearly everyone in the country gets in on the action. Though Purim lasts only one day, or two if you are outside a walled city, costumes can be worn for a week before and after the actual date, which this year is March 19 to 20.


The Book of Esther and her miraculous positioning as Queen of Persia is the source of the holiday. The jubilation and merriment of the holiday is based on Esther 8:17: "In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them." Interestingly, God does not appear at all in the Scroll of Esther.


The word Purim originate from the Persian word pur, which means "lot." The holiday was named for the lots cast by Haman, who sought the annihilation of the Jewish people exiled in Persia and refers to Haman's plt to kill all the Jews. Esther, the beautiful Jewish wife of King Ahashverus risked her life to save the Jewish people from Haman's plot by revealing he

28 September, 201028 September, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

The Book of Leviticus in chapter 19 opens with God issuing the lofty commandment to all of the Jewish people, to each and every member of the God's covenant: You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses and the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20), God made a covenant with the Jewish people collectively, challenging them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But what is holiness? How does a people become holy and mirror God's presence on earth? By isolating oneself and separating from the dirty politics and mundane work of society? By engaging solely in spiritual meditation or religious ritual? It is only in these sections of Leviticus that God gives the Jewish people specific commandments and direction for achieving holy lives. The quest after holiness is the theme that unites Leviticus 19-27. We will see that according to the Torah, we become holy through everything we do: how we talk, how we farm, how we spend our money, how we celebrate holidays, how we eat, how we exercise our power and run society-but most of all, how we behave toward other people, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. These chapters are one of the most important sections of the Torah, which led the classical Rabbis to proclaim, "The main substance of the Torah is contained there." <

TagsTags: leviticus sukkot 
20 September, 201020 September, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

Sukkot: It's a Party, Israeli Style!

Israel is a country that loves to celebrate. A popular Hebrew saying is "You don't need a reason to have a party!" And Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles, tops the list as one of the happiest times of the year. In fact, one of the Biblical names given to Sukkot is "The Time of Our Joy." After the solemnity of the High Holy Days, especially after the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur, everyone is ready to celebrate!

Sukkot is a two-pronged holiday. Historically, it commemorates the Israelites' sojourn in the desert, when they lived in sukkot (huts); agriculturally, it celebrates the harvest and ushers in the rainy season. Jews give up the modern-day comforts of home to live in a sukkah (singular of sukkot) for the week.

Sukkot (also spelled "Sukkoth" or "Succoth") usually falls around September or October. This year, it starts on the eve of September 22nd and ends at sunset on September 30th. The first and last days (both Thursdays this year) are a holiday, during which no work can be done, similar to the Sabbath. During the intermediate days, however, the country is overflowing with people enjoying hikes, museums, parks, or simply reveling in the sights of a country celebrating.  


The Feast of Tabernacles - A Week of Prayer and Celebration

For the Christian tourist in

19 September, 201019 September, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

After 30 years, the Feast of Tabernacles celebration hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) has become an icon of Christian love and support for the Jewish state.


This year, the theme of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles is "Jerusalem: A Praise in the Earth," which harkens back to the founding principle of the ministry - to support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.


"The Feast theme of 'Jerusalem: A Praise in the Earth' is meant to emphasize the original mandate of our ministry at our founding, which was to stand in solidarity with Israel in its 3000 year-old claim and connection to Jerusalem," ICEJ

16 September, 201016 September, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays


For Jews there is no more solemn and holy day on the calendar than Yom Kippur, the biblical Day of Atonement. While God required the children of Israel to individually repent and make atonement for their sins on a regular basis, Yom Kippur was the one time every year when the entire nation came together as one to corporately ask for forgiveness.


Whereas our modern society focuses on the individual, biblical society was far more focused on the community. A person could be doing just fine in their own walk with God, but if the rest of the community was astray, it was still cause for mourning and collective repentance.

TagsTags: yom kippur 
7 September, 20107 September, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

Honey. It's sweet and sticky and these days, everywhere you look in the Holy Land, it seems to be available in more varieties than one can count. So what is this fascination with honey anyway? Why is it that every September there seems to be a beehive of activity surrounding the sweet and sticky paste?


A Sweet New Year


As those who are familiar with Jewish customs know, honey is used at the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah, which will be celebrated from Wednesday night, September 8 through Friday afternoon, September 10th this year. The holiday is said, according to Jewish tradition to represent the moment when Adam first had life breathed into him 5,771 years ago (It is interesting to note as an aside that the Jewish Kabalah states that this was the 6th day of creation but that we celebrate the creation of the world from the 6th day and not the first - the Kabalah states that the other days of creation\"are beyond human comprehension.").


The honey is meant to symbolize that we should have a sweet new year. Traditionally, the honey is used as a dip for various foods, especially an apple (though the challah bread commonly eaten on Jewish holidays is also dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah and some people like to dip things like pomegranate seeds and other kinds of fruit). The apple is chosen because of a passage in the Song of Son

TagsTags: honey rosh hashanah 
11 May, 201011 May, 2010 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays


What do cheesecake, wheat harvests, fruits and the Old Testament have in common? Don't worry if you don't know - it's actually confusing even to those who do know and I'll explain that in a minute. The answer is they are all related to the holiday of Shavuot  or the Pentecost as it's known in English.


Shavuot is actually one of the strangest holidays on the Jewish calendar. That's because it's a holiday which has undergone a dramatic transformation over the centuries. Back in the days before Jesus, when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Shavuot was primarily a harvest festival. It celebrated the end of the counting of the Omer, a festive time when the ancient Israelites would bring offerings from their fruit  harvests (known as the "First Fruits") to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Omer was a seven week period lasting from Passover to Shavuot and involved counting down the days until the end of the wheat harvest.


Fast forward a few hundred years and the harvest

22 February, 201022 February, 2010 2 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays


Visitors to the Holy Land around this time of year can be forgiven for wondering if the Jews are celebrating Halloween in February. After all, there are costumes galore and on one special day in late February or early March, the kids will be going from house to house dressed in costumes and carrying bags of goodies. However, if you look closely, you'll see something strange. Instead of demanding candy as in "Trick or Treat," the kids are actually offering packages of food to their neighbors. They may well receive something in return, however there is no requirement to get - only to give and to have a good time. The holiday they are celebrating is based on the ancient book of Esther from the Old Testament and it is called Purim.


There are lots of traditions surrounding the holiday, including a tradition to get drunk and to be merry (I know - it sounds like a cross between St. Patrick's Day and Halloween), but one of my favorite traditions isn't mentioned in the bible or even the Talmud. It's the giving of a small triangle shaped cookie known as a "Hamentashen" in Yiddish and "Ozen Haman" in Hebrew.


So what exactly is a hament

26 September, 200926 September, 2009 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

Many Christians do not realize that the seven feasts which God commanded in Leviticus 23 are still observed by their Jewish neighbors. The most important of the Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement begins at sundown Sunday.

The ten days of repentance and introspection lead into the most solemn day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It has become a time of fasting and prayer. It was the only time in Bible days when the high priest could enter the Hold of Holies. He went in before the Lord with the blood of a sacrificed animal to beg forgiveness for the sins of the people (Lev. 16,23 25: Num.29). Today there are no animal sacrifices because there is no Temple. The Jewish people rely on repentance and God's mercy for forgiveness of sins. Lev. 17:11 teaches that atonement is in the blood and Christians see the crucifixion of Jesus as a fulfillment of this atonement or covering. The Christian scriptures speak of the veil of the Temple being torn in two, signifying that the way had been opened into the Holy of Holies. Both Jews and Christians expect a great and final Day of Atonement prophesied in Ze

28 July, 200928 July, 2009 0 comments Jewish Holidays Jewish Holidays

For those of you who will in Israel on the 9th of Av, (beginning on the evening of July 29th and continuing for 24 hours), you might want to know how this unique holiday will be observed in the land of Israel. Perhaps the most prominent observance of the holiday can be noticed in Jerusalem where countless congregations begin their evening prayers at the Haas promenade in southern Jerusalem. From this unique location, you can see the old city, the Ottoman walls built in the mid 16th century, and a faint outline of the city of David created by King David and his son, King Solomon close to three thousand years ago. From this location, you will also be able to see remnants of the second temple built by Herod approximately two thousand years ago. The view, especially at night is breathtaking, dramatic and full of hope.


On the 9th of Av Jews observe the anniversaries of the destruction of the first and second temple, both of which resulted in exile, destruction and massive loss of life. It is one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar. It is not surprising then, that congregations like to go to the Haas promenade to look at the ancient city of Jerusalem and contemplate these terrible moments of destruction. As we gaze upon the flickering lights of the old city and the new city of Jerusalem, we read from the book of Lamentation

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