From the richness of our High Holy Day services to the lightheartedness of our Purim festival, the Temple Beth Shalom community honors the traditions of our faith. See our calendar to find out when these holidays take place and how we will be celebrating them. Or use our date converter to find when any date falls on the Jewish calendar.
High Holy Days
The Jewish holidays that take place in the fall are the most solemn and sacred part of our year. In Hebrew, the 10 days that begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur are called The Yomin Nora’im, or The Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashanah, literally “Head of the Year,” is the Jewish New Year, marking the beginning of the 10-day period of prayer, self-examination, and repentance. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which, because of differences in the solar and lunar calendar, can fall in September or October on the secular calendar.
Yom Kippur, meaning “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. On Yom Kippur, we are both seekers and givers of pardon, acknowledging our sins and the pain we have caused others, but also being willing to forgive and let go of offenses that have been committed against us. We seek to set ourselves at right with God and people around us as the year begins.
There are many other holidays throughout the Jewish year, celebrated in different ways.
- Sukkot – celebrated 4 days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah.
- Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah – celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirm Torah as one of the pillars on which Jewish life is built.
- Hanukkah – an 8-day celebration commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over Syria in 165 BCE and the liberation and rededication of the Temple. The modern celebration of Hanukkah includes lighting of the hanukkiyah (Hanukkah menorah), and sharing special food, songs, and games.
- Tu B’Shevat – the New Year of the Trees, sometimes referred to as Jewish Arbor Day. Originally a springtime agricultural festival, Tu B’Shevat is often celebrated today by planting trees in honor or memory of loved ones.
- Purim – celebrating the story of the book of Esther, where Queen Esther foils Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews of Persia, Purim has become one of the most rowdy and joyous celebrations during the year.
- Passover – a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. Today, the observance of Passover centers around a home service called the seder and a festive meal.
- Lag B’Omer – Omer is the 49-day period between Passover and Shauvuot, and Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of that period. Sefirat Ha'omer, or “Counting of the Omer,” is based on the Levitical commandment to count seven weeks after Passover, which marked the season of the first fruits of the harvest.
- Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day, a memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, that recognizes and remembers the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during World War II.
- Yom HaZikaron, Yom HaAtzmaut, and Yom Yerushalayim –Yom HaAtzmaut is Israeli Independence Day, recognizing the establishment of the state of Israel, and Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, is celebrated the day before. Yom Yerushalayim is Jerusalem Day, commemorating the reunification and Israeli control of Jerusalem in 1967, answering the 2,000-year-old prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
- Shavuot – the festival commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which celebrates the Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.
- Tisha B’Av – the ninth day of the month of Av, a period of mourning to remember the destruction of the first and second Temples and God’s promise of renewal after tragedy
Yizkor is a special memorial prayer for those who have died. It is recited in the synagogue four times a year, following the Torah reading on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, on Shemini Atzeret, and on Yom Kippur.
In Hebrew, yizkor means “remember.” When we recite Yizkor, we implore God to remember the souls of those who have passed on, and we pledge to give charity in honor of the deceased—performing a positive physical deed in this world, something the departed can no longer do.