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September 7, 2010September 7, 2010  0 comments  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 Songs (2:3), King Solomon's ode to God where he refers to the people of Israel as being just as precious as the "rare" apple. However, while that explains the apple, why the honey?

 

But Why Honey?

 

We were more curious however, since we are discussing honey, why honey is considered so central. Why not some other sweet thing? Maybe sugar water or fruit syrup? Well, besides the fact that honey is a traditional part of the Land of Israel (i.e. a land flowing with milk and honey), we found an interesting reference in a book called Right and Reason. This is a book which explains Jewish customs and they refer us to a passage in the Book of Psalms, 81:17 (which it just so happens is read in Orthodox synagogues on Rosh Hashanah) "And they shall feed him the best of the wheat and with honey from the rock will I satisfy you." It seems that the whole fixation on honey is more than just about it being sweet. It's actually a reminder of the miracle God is said to have performed for His people in the desert, i.e. drawing water from a rock.

 

Where to See it All in Action

 

Since this is a travel blog, we thought you might be interested in learning more about honey production in the Holy Land. It turns out that 60% of all honey in Israel is produced in a small kibbutz (a collective farm) called Yad Mordechai. The kibbutz, located near Ashkelon in southern Israel is named for Mordechai Anielwicz, a Jewish partisan who fought the Nazis during World War II and is home to the Bee and Honey House, one of the few places in Israel where one can go to actually see production of honey from real bees and taste the different varieties of honey created in this country (they boast at least half a dozen different varieties, including bee honey, date honey, sunflower honey and orange blossom honey to name just a few).

The kibbutz offers tours on a seasonal basis (call for details and hours) which include a display of a live bee hive, a video about honey production and a display dedicated to the details of how honey is made. You can also purchase various gift baskets to bring home to friends and relatives.

 

Another place to try is Galil Honey Products, a smaller farm where demonstrations of bee production and silk making are offered to the public. Located at Kibbutz Shamir on the edge of the Golan Heights, the kibbutz features live bee demonstrations and of course offers the various gift baskets of locally produced honey and other products.

 

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and sweet New Year.

Warm regards,

Elisa

Happy New Year from Travelujah

 

Galil Honey Products

Kibbutz Shamir

Tel: 06-694-7826

Directions: Moshav Shdemot Devora at the foot of Mount Tavor off route 767.

Tel: 06-676-9598; 06-676-7459

Bee and Honey House

Yad Mordechai

Phone Number: 08-672-0559

Directions: Eight kilometers south of Ashkelon Junction on Route 4.

Tags: honey rosh hashanah 

September 22, 2011September 22, 2011  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

Preparations for the Jewish New Year

 
The period preceding the Jewish New Year is marked by special penitential prayers, recited before the regular morning prayers, and the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar in Hebrew) after the morning prayer service.  Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin began to recite these special prayers on 1 September; Jews of European origin will begin to recite them on 24/25 September).  These special prayers are said daily (except on the New Year holiday itself and the Sabbath) until the day before Yom Kippur (7 September).

 
 
Rosh Hashanah

 
Rosh Hashanah (the two-day Jewish new year), whose observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:23-25, will begin at sunset on Wednesday, 28 September and conclude at nightfall on Friday, 30 September.  Both days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings.

 
The centerpiece of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar during morning prayers.  (The shofar is not sounded on the Sabbath should either of the two days fall on Saturday.)  Both days are full public holidays and, as on the Sabbath, there will be no public transportation or newspapers.  In addition, many businesses, museums and other institutions, which are normally open on the Sabbath, will be closed over the holiday.  The GPO will be closed on Wednesday-Saturday, 28 September - 1 October, inclusive.

 
Rosh Hashanah is also characterized by two special customs.  The first is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope that the coming year will be "sweet."  The second involves going to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring), reading a selection of scriptural verses and casting pieces of bread into the water - to symbolize the "casting off" of the previous year's sins; this practice derives from Micah 7:19 ("...and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.")  This ceremony takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (or on the second, if the first day falls on the Sabbath).

 

pomegranates 

Israeli Pomegranates - a traditional 'first fruit' of the Jewish New year

 

The Period Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

 
The ten days between New Year and Yom Kippur (inclusive) are known as "The Ten Days of Repentance".  Jewish tradition maintains that this is a time of judgment when all people and nations are called to account for their deeds of the past year, and when their particular fates for the coming year are decided.
 

The day after the New Year holiday is a day of fasting known as The Fast of Gedaliah, and commemorates the murder of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor of Judea, who was appointed by the Babylonians after they captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE; the episode is recounted in II Kings 25:22-25.  When the day after Rosh Hashanah is a Saturday, as it is this year, the fast is postponed by one day.  Accordingly, the fast will extend from sunrise on Sunday, 2 October this year, until nightfall the same day.  Special scriptural readings are recited, but the day is not a public holiday.

 
A single Sabbath, known as the "Sabbath of Repentance", always occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  This Sabbath (1 October this year) is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, beginning with, "Return, Israel, unto the Lord your God."
 
 
Yom Kippur

 
Yom Kippur (Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement") begins at sunset on Friday, 7 October, and concludes at nightfall on Saturday, 8 October.  Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32.  The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is the day on which, according to Jewish tradition, our fates for the coming year are sealed.  Synagogue services - centering on the penitential prayers - will continue for most of the day and include special scriptural readings (including the Book of Jonah in the afternoon).  Memorial prayers for the deceased, said four times a year, are recited on Yom Kippur.  At nightfall, the shofar is sounded once to mark the end of Yom Kippur.

 

Yom Kippur is a full public holiday in Israel and almost all establishments, including the GPO, will be closed (The GPO will be closed Friday-Saturday, 7-8 October). There will be no radio or television broadcasts. Since Yom Kippur is a day of introspection, completely separate from the normal course of daily life - the physical aspects of our lives are sublimated while we concentrate on our spiritual concerns - the day is marked by a full (sunset to sunset) fast. The wearing of leather, the use of cosmetics, bathing and marital relations are likewise forbidden.

 

Shofar Blowing at the Feast of Tabernacles 
Shofar blowing at the annual Feast of Tabernacles  Photo Courtesty: International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

   
 
Sukkot
 
The seven-day Sukkot festival, mandated by Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Wednesday, 12 October and concludes at nightfall on Wednesday, 19  October.  The first day, from sunset on Wednesday, 12 October, until nightfall on Thursday, 13 October, is a full public holiday.  All seven days of the holiday are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings - including the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read on Saturday, 15 October.  Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday, which follows - and provides a contrast to - the somber, introspective and private character of Yom Kippur.  Many businesses and institutions will either close or operate on a reduced basis.  The GPO will be closed from 12-22 October, inclusive, and will reopen on Sunday, 23 October.

 
Sukkot is characterized by two main practices.  Jews are enjoined to build, take all of their meals in, and (if possible) sleep in, temporary huts topped with thatch or palm fronds during the festival.  These huts (sukkot in Hebrew) commemorate the temporary, portable dwellings in which the Jewish people lived during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that followed their liberation from slavery in Egypt.  The second main Sukkot observance is the special bouquet - consisting of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch - that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days (except the Sabbath); its origins derive from Leviticus 23:40, many traditional explanations of its symbolism have been cited.
 

 
Shemini Atzeret (Simhat Torah)

 
The Shemini Atzeret (literally "The Eighth Day of Assembly" in Hebrew) holiday immediately follows the last day of Sukkot, beginning at sunset on Wednesday, 19 October and concluding at nightfall on Thursday, 20 October.  Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:36.  It is a full public holiday.  (Even though it follows the seven-day Sukkot festival and is often considered part of Sukkot, it is, in fact, a separate holiday.  The special bouquet is not used and the obligation to sit in the sukkot no longer applies.)  The day\'s prayer services include the memorial prayers for the deceased, as well as the prayer for plentiful rainfall during the coming winter.

Celebrating with the Torah 
Dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah  

 

Shemini Atzeret, however, centers around its special scriptural readings.  On Shemini Atzeret, the yearly cycle of Torah (the first five books of the Bible, i.e. Genesis to Deuteronomy, one section of which is read on each Sabbath during the year) readings is both completed and begun anew.  This event is accompanied by dancing and singing, sometimes continuing for several hours; in religious neighborhoods, these celebrations often spill out into the streets.  Thus, the holiday is also referred to as Simhat Torah ("Rejoicing of the Torah" in Hebrew).

 Happy New Year from Travelujah

For more information on  Feasts of Israel click here.

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September 11, 2012September 11, 2012  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

One of the most significant feasts of Israel, Rosh Hashanah, will begin at sundown, September 16, 2012 marking the beginning of the Jewish high holiday season - which will continue until October 8, 2012. What is the meaning of the several Jewish holidays that will be taking place this year during this period?

Preparing for the Jewish New Year -Repentence

The period preceding the Jewish New Year is marked by special penitential prayers, recited before the regular morning prayers, and the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar in Hebrew) after the morning prayer service. Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin began to recite these special prayers on 20 August; Jews of European origin began to recite them on 8/9 September). These special prayers are said daily (except on the New Year holiday itself and the Sabbath) until the day before Yom Kippur (25 September).


Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah (the two-day Jewish new year), whose observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:23-25, will begin at sunset on Sunday, 16 September and conclude at nightfall on Tuesday, 18 September. Both days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings.

The centerpiece of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar during morning prayers. (The shofar is not sounded on the Sabbath should either of the two days fall on Saturday.) Both days are full public holidays and, as on the Sabbath, there will be no public transportation or newspapers. In addition, many businesses, museums and other institutions, which are normally open on the Sabbath, will be closed over the holiday. The GPO will be closed on Sunday-Tuesday, 16-18 September, inclusive.

Rosh Hashanah is also characterized by two special customs. The first is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope that the coming year will be "sweet." The second involves going to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring), reading a selection of scriptural verses and casting pieces of bread into the water - to symbolize the "casting off" of the previous year's sins; this practice derives from Micah 7:19 ("...and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.") This ceremony takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (or on the second, if the first day falls on the Sabbath).


The Period Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur


The ten days between New Year and Yom Kippur (inclusive) are known as "The Ten Days of Repentance". Jewish tradition maintains that this is a time of judgment when all people and nations are called to account for their deeds of the past year, and when their particular fates for the coming year are decided.

The day after the New Year holiday is a day of fasting known as The Fast of Gedaliah, and commemorates the murder of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor of Judea, who was appointed by the Babylonians after they captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE; the episode is recounted in II Kings 25:22-25. When the day after Rosh Hashanah is a Saturday, the fast is postponed by one day. Accordingly, the fast will extend from sunrise on Wednesday, 19 September this year, until nightfall the same day. Special scriptural readings are recited, but the day is not a public holiday.

A single Sabbath, known as the "Sabbath of Repentance", always occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This Sabbath (22 September this year) is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, beginning with, "Return, Israel, unto the Lord your God."


Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement") begins at sunset on Tuesday, 25 September, and concludes at nightfall on Wednesday, 26 September. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32. The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is the day on which, according to Jewish tradition, our fates for the coming year are sealed. Synagogue services - centering on the penitential prayers - will continue for most of the day and include special scriptural readings (including the Book of Jonah in the afternoon). Memorial prayers for the deceased, said four times a year, are recited on Yom Kippur. At nightfall, the shofar is sounded once to mark the end of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is a full public holiday in Israel and almost all establishments, including the GPO, will be closed (The GPO will be closed Tuesday-Wednesday, 25-26 September.) There will be no radio or television broadcasts. Since Yom Kippur is a day of introspection, completely separate from the normal course of daily life - the physical aspects of our lives are sublimated while we concentrate on our spiritual concerns - the day is marked by a full (sunset to sunset) fast. The wearing of leather, the use of cosmetics, bathing and marital relations are likewise forbidden.


Sukkot

The seven-day Sukkot festival, mandated by Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Sunday, 30 September and concludes at nightfall on Monday, 7 October. The first day, from sunset on Sunday, 30 September, until nightfall on Monday, 1 October, is a full public holiday. All seven days of the holiday are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings - including the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read on Saturday, 6 October. Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday, which follows - and provides a contrast to - the somber, introspective and private character of Yom Kippur. Many businesses and institutions will either close or operate on a reduced basis. The GPO will be closed from 30 September-8 October, inclusive, and will reopen on Monday, 9 October.

Sukkot is characterized by two main practices. Jews are enjoined to build, take all of their meals in, and (if possible) sleep in, temporary huts topped with thatch or palm fronds during the festival. These huts (sukkot in Hebrew) commemorate the temporary, portable dwellings in which the Jewish people lived during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that followed their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The second main Sukkot observance is the special bouquet - consisting of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch - that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days (except the Sabbath); its origins derive from Leviticus 23:40, many traditional explanations of its symbolism have been cited.


Shemini Atzeret (Simhat Torah)


The Shemini Atzeret (literally "The Eighth Day of Assembly" in Hebrew) holiday immediately follows the last day of Sukkot, beginning at sunset on Sunday, 7 October and concluding at nightfall on Monday, 8 October. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:36. It is a full public holiday. (Even though it follows the seven-day Sukkot festival and is often considered part of Sukkot, it is, in fact, a separate holiday. The special bouquet is not used and the obligation to sit in the sukkot no longer applies.) The day's prayer services include the memorial prayers for the deceased, as well as the prayer for plentiful rainfall during the coming winter.

Shemini Atzeret, however, centers around its special scriptural readings. On Shemini Atzeret, the yearly cycle of Torah (the first five books of the Bible, i.e. Genesis to Deuteronomy, one section of which is read on each Sabbath during the year) readings is both completed and begun anew. This event is accompanied by dancing and singing, sometimes continuing for several hours; in religious neighborhoods, these celebrations often spill out into the streets. Thus, the holiday is also referred to as Simhat Torah ("Rejoicing of the Torah" in Hebrew).

 

 


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