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Jewish Festivals

Jewish Festivals

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Jewish Festivals

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  1. Jewish Festivals RELIG 210: Lecture 13

  2. Lecture Goals • Provide a basic overview of the structure of Jewish holidays and festivals • Discuss the historical sources and religious significance of major festivals • Illustrate key ritual objects and practices associate with festivals

  3. Torah Reading • Weekly cycle of reading • Why make Torah part of the liturgy?

  4. Shabbat and Jewish Time • History vs. Memory • Prayer, Ritual and Halakhah construct Jewish time • Shabbat is most central time-marker • Major theme: Recognizing Creation

  5. Observing Shabbat • Actions imbued with liturgical significance • All acts of labor are prohibited • God rested, so should the Jews • Cannot bring anything into existence • Any action used in building Tent of Meeting is forbidden • Creating distinctions in time • Liturgy goes beyond communal prayer into daily life

  6. Shabbat Rituals

  7. The Jewish Calendar 29.5 Day Cycle 12 months of (29 or 30 Days) 354 Days in a year Leap Month Day begins at Sunset

  8. Holidays and Ritual Occasions • Pilgrimage Festivals • New Year Cycle • Commemorative Celebrations and Fasts

  9. Pilgrimage Festivals • Origins of the Festivals • Agricultural holidays • Rabbis add layers • Tied to national/theological narrative • Temple sacrifice • Ritual Reenactment • Passover - Leave Egypt (8 Days) • Shavuot - Receive Torah (2 Days) • Sukkot - Enter the Promised Land (8 Days)

  10. Pesah (Passover) • Biblical Roots: Spring harvest festival • Commemorates liberation from Egyptian slavery • “You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.” (Exodus 12: 17-18)

  11. The Seder • The Haggadah • Commanded to retell Exodus narrative • Ritual reenactment-Imagine personal deliverance from slavery • Symbols • Matzah - Unleavened bread • Maror - Bitter herbs • Haroset- Sweet mix

  12. Roasted Egg-Festival Offering Roasted Bone-Paschal Lamb Haroset Maror

  13. The Passover Seder Meal

  14. Shavuot (“Feast of Weeks”) • Biblical Source: “You shall observe Shavuot, of first fruits of the wheat harvest.” (Exodus 34:21) • Rabbinic Reading: Commemorates giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai • Fewer home rituals than Passover or Sukkot • All night studying

  15. Sukkot- Biblical Sources • Biblical Source: • Exodus: “the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in the result of your work from the field.” (Exodus 23:16) • Leviticus:“You shall live in booths (sukkot) seven days…in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:40) • Sukkah- Temporary structures for harvest

  16. Sukkot-Rabbinic Significance • Significance • Experience of wandering and exile • Liberation and God’s protection • Fragility vs. God’s presence • Ritual • Commandment to be happy • Live in the Sukkah (temporary structure) • Four Species-lulav and etrog

  17. 19th Century German Sukkah

  18. A Sukkah

  19. Lulav and Etrog “On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees (traditionally identified as the etrog/citron tree), branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Leviticus 23:40)

  20. Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah • Eight Day of Assembly-last day of Sukkot • Simhat Torah-Rejoicing in the Torah • Completion of the Torah reading cycle • Dancing and celebration

  21. The New Year Cycle • High Holidays or Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) • Rosh Hashannah (New Year’s Day) • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) • Sukkot (Tabernacles)

  22. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) • “You shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.” (Leviticus 23:24) • Anniversary of Creation-New Year • Theme of repentance and self-examination • Trial Metaphor • “May you be inscribed” • Tip the scales of divine judgment • 10 day period until Yom Kippur

  23. Yom Kippur-Biblical Origins • “Mark the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring a gift to the lord…For it is a day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:27) • High priest performs rite to expiate people’s sins

  24. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) • Rabbis call it “Day of Judgment” • Climax of trial • God decides fate of individual and Israel • Excellent replacement for Temple • Clean slate every year • Focus on spiritual concerns • Abstention from food, drink, luxury, sexual activity • Imagery of Death

  25. Commemorative Celebrations • Mythic narrative remains central in yearly calendar • Commemorate great moments and tragedies through rituals

  26. Chanukah (Dedication) • No reference in Hebrew Bible • Victory of Maccabees over Syrian domination in 135BCE • Rededicate the Temple • Miracle of jar of oil added in Talmud

  27. Menorah Latke-Fried Potato Pancake Dreidel

  28. Tu Bishvat • Birthday of the Trees • Mystical Significance • Zionist Symbolism • Environmental Holiday-Jewish Earth Day

  29. Purim (Lots, Raffle) • Book of Esther • Jews of Persia saved from destruction • Draws lots to determine day to kill Jews • Diaspora story • No mention of God • Ritual • Read Scroll of Esther • Rowdy celebration

  30. Commemorative Fasts • 4 minor fast days • Daylight and full-day • 3 connected to catastrophe of Temple’s destruction • Tisha B’Av-saddest day on the calendar

  31. New Holidays • Israel Independence Day • Holocaust Memorial Day