Orthodox Judaism/Feasts/Festivals

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Question
Could you please give a brief explanation or overview about how each of the major annual feasts and festivals below are observed today? I am interested in observing these starting in the new year.

Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread
Feast of Firstfruits
Feast of Weeks
Festival of Trumpets
Day of Atonement
Feast of Tabernacles

Thank you,

Craig

Answer
Hi Craig,

Each of the Jewish Holidays come with a host of laws to be studied however I will just tell you briefly how they are practiced today in the Orthodox community.

Passover:Basically, the entire house is cleaned from top to bottom making sure all bread products are removed down to the last crumb. The "Matzah" unleavened bread, is purchased - enough to last for the 8 day period of Passover. There is a Seder night where the ordeal and miracles of the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt is recited and discussed. And of course, like every festival there are special daily prayers to recite in the synagogue as well as a festive meal and various laws pertaining to refraining from halachic work related activities.

Feast of First fruits:IS not currently observed. This is dependent on the Temple being erected and functional. Something that the Jewish people have not yet merited to rebuild.

Feast of Weeks:"Shavous". This is a festival which has no major ritual associated with it, other than the usual Jewish Festival Law which include refraining from certain halachic "work", daily prayers and a festive meal. Traditionally, the Orthodox community attempts to stay awake all night to study Torah, as this date is the anniversary of the Torah-Giving on Mount Sinai.

Festival of Trumpets:I assume you mean Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. This is a day steeped in prayer and reflection. A day when intense introspection leads to taking upon oneself new resolutions to become a better human being. It is accompanied by the blowing of the shofar horn in the synagogue. Again, the usual Jewish Festival Law which include refraining from certain halachic "work", daily prayers and a festive meal.

Day of Atonement: Yom Kippur. This is a day of fasting and prayer. Typically the Orthodox community spends the entire day in synagogue reciting prayers and beseeching G-d to forgive them for any sins that they may have.

Feast of Tabernacles:Succos. This 7 day period is spent in special halachic huts erected prior to that. Eating, drinking and for many people even sleeping are all done in this festively decorated hut for the duration of the 7 days. This too commemorates the exodus of Egypt where the Jewish people traveled through the desert for 40 years and needed to dwell in similar huts for the duration. In addition to that there are the four species that have to be waved every day. The willow, citron, myrtle and palm. Again, the usual Jewish Festival Law which include refraining from certain halachic "work", daily prayers and a festive meal.

Craig, all the above is really an abbreviated description of the Jewish festivals. There is a lot of study required to perform them correctly. The best way to learn about them is to associate yourself with an Orthodox family and observe their customs and how they perform all the above. Of course going to a local Jewish book store and buying a book or two will go a long way.
Good luck!

Tzvi

Orthodox Judaism

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Tzvi Frank

Expertise

As a scholar of Judaic Studies & Ethics for close to 25 years, I am happy to answer any of your questions regarding Jewish Law and its meaning as well as general Jewish philosophy. Thousands of years of Jewish religious scholarship teaches us to always ask questions. From the Talmud to this very day, scholars have been consistently questioning premises and concepts that exist in Jewish thought. Never be afraid to ask! The answer may change your life. I will not answer questions pertaining to Christianity or Jesus.

Experience

I have been a scholar of Jewish Studies & Ethics for close to 25 years and I have been responding to online questions for close to 10 years.

Publications
Have been published in numerous (Hebrew) Academic publications.

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Judaica Studies and Ethics.

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