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Jewish Home - Sukkot & Simchat Torah

Celebrate Sukkot: Living in cities and suburbs we forget about the moon. Rosh Hashana is on the first day of the month of Tishrei. It is on a new moon, a moon we cannot really see. Sukkot is on the fifteenth day of the month. It is on a moon that is full, a harvest moon.

A sukkah is a booth (sometimes called a “tabernacle”). Sukkot means booths. It is a hut-like structure that we “dwell” in during the festival of Sukkot. There are three different stories that explain Sukkot:

  • The families of Israel camped in booths (and tents) during their forty years in the wilderness. Sukkot helps us remember the time between Egypt and Israel.
  • The farmers of ancient Israel camped in booths during the harvest season. Sukkot helps us remember to thank God for the food that comes from the earth.
  • The families of Israel camped in booths when they came up to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage. Three times a year Jews came to Jerusalem to bring part of their crops to the Temple. Sukkot helps us remember that all Jews used to go annually to Jerusalem to give their thanks to God.

By means of the sukkah, Judaism teaches the Jew symbolically to look beyond the present into the future. Though the present may be perplexing, seemingly insurmountable difficulties can be overcome. One need only look to see the stars to find the source for inspiration and encouragement.


Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing with the Torah,” and is one of the happiest holidays of the year and it comes at the end of Sukkot. On Simchat Torah we celebrate because we are completing the year’s cycle of reading the Torah and are happy to begin the cycle once again.

On the eve of Simchat Torah (Friday, October 8, 2001), all of the Torah scrolls are taken out from the ark and are carried around the Synagogue in a series of processions – Hakafot – accompanied by singing and children with flags. Following the Hakafot we read the last verses of the Torah immediately followed by reading the first verses of the Torah.


Jewish Home - High Holidays

Rosh Hashana, the New Year (literally “head of the year”), the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, is solemn yet joyful.  It is known by several names, including: Yom Harat Olam, the birthday of the world, Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance, Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Shofar, and Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement.

One grand lesson of Rosh Hashanah is that we are, and can continue to be, very good. It is sufficient if we strive to achieve our potential. It is only when we fail to be the fullness of who we are that we are held accountable. Rabbi Zusya said, "In the world to come, they will not ask me, 'Why were you not Moses?' They will ask me, 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

Self-Assessment: Even those of us who wonder about the nature and the existence of God can find a place for ourselves in the rhythms and the texture of Rosh Hashanah. For it is not only God who judges us. In private moments of contemplation, often without prompting, we judge ourselves-when we lie in bed at night, unable to sleep; when we drive long distances with little to distract us; on vacation. It is good to capture those moments, to harness them and channel them into more than passing speculation or the regrets of "if only." Those moments of awareness can mark turning points in our lives. Such is the gift of Rosh Hashanah. Safe in a community busy with self-assessment and turning, we are encouraged to make an honest assessment, too.

When we look carefully, we often find that the texture of our lives is an enlarged pattern of the little things: the times we lost our temper and the times we held our peace, the times our friends could count on us and the times we weren't there, the times we did what was right in our workplace and the times we looked away. We recall the times we took too much, drank too much, spent too much, cared too little; the times we acquiesced when we should have fought back, when we fought hard but for the wrong reason.

When we fail in our task as the partners of God, which we all do at times, we can seek God's forgiveness. But when we hurt others, we must seek them out for forgiveness. God can forgive us only after we seek the forgiveness of those we wronged. They own the hurt. They deserve and are owed the first apology.

Rosh Hashana Seder: Since many families will be at home on erev Rosh Hashana, make it a special evening. There are many resources available to create a Rosh Hashana Seder. There are many resources available - click here.

Symbolic New Year Foods: There is a tradition of eating foods at Rosh Hashana with symbolic values. Click here for a PJLibrary Family Guide.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. The erroneous perception of Yom Kippur as a day of sadness is due in large measure to it being a fast day. The holiday’s goal, however, is not self mortification but rather to bring about reconciliation between people,  and between individuals and God.

Another popular myth about Yom Kippur is that attending services at Temple, accompanied by earnest praying, wins forgiveness from God for all sins. In fact, the only sins forgiven on Yom Kippur are those committed against God. As for offenses committed against other people, the Mishna writes, “Yom Kippur does not atone until [one] appeases his neighbors” (Mishna Yoma 8:9).

Yom Kippur is the only fast day mandated in the Torah (Leviticus 23:27; the verse specifically speaks of “afflicting your souls”). The fast commences an hour before the holiday begins, and concludes twenty-five hours later.

Kol Nidre:  On the first night, the service is inaugurated with a haunting prayer called the Kol Nidre (All Vows). In this prayer, one asks to be released in advance from any vows made and not kept. While the origins of the prayer are uncertain, during the Middle Ages and subsequently, Jews were often forced to vow allegiance to Christianity, but continued to practice Judaism in secret. Through this prayer they begged God to forgive them from those vows which were made under duress.  Today, the Kol Nidre prayer remains a part of the liturgy because of its historical association, its inspirational melody and it great beauty.

Teshuvah:  Teshuvah is a Hebrew word which means “turning back.” Doing teshuvah is a process that involves: recognizing how we have fallen short of our expectations (and God’s expectations for us); apologizing and making amends for doing hurtful things; and resolving not to repeat them. When we do teshuvah, we are trying to turn back to the time before we did them.

Teshuvah is hard work – simply saying you are sorry is not enough.  Teshuvah is doing everything we can to make sure that we never make the same mistake again. Teshuvah is wanting with all your heart and strength to be the best person you can be.

Jewish Home - Passover

Passover is the pre-eminent Jewish home holiday (although going to synagogue the first and last day is also traditional). Passover is the holiday that commemorates our redemption from slavery and our exodus from Egypt. Moses the shepherd is chosen by God to approach Pharaoh and demand freedom for the Israelites. Pharaoh refuses. After 10 famous plagues, the Israelites are allowed to go. They leave in haste and arrive at the banks of the Red Sea as Pharaoh changes his mind again. The final showdown ends dramatically when the sea splits in two, the Israelites walk through the sea-bed to safety, and the Egyptian army drowns as they attempt to follow the Israelites through the suspended waters. The ritual most observed by American Jews, according to surveys, is not lighting Hanukkah candles or fasting on Yom Kippur, but attending a Seder--a festive spring meal full of symbolism and good food--on Passover. The Passover Seder has endured and evolved, carrying with it some ancient symbols, ethnic foods, and bold universalistic declarations wrapped in the particulars of the Jewish experience. It also has remained in the mind's eye of most Jews as the nostalgic centerpiece of warm and crazy memories of Jewish family gatherings.Perhaps the leading factor for Passover's super-status is--what else--food. In Passover, more than any Jewish holiday, we have the complete melding of food, ritual and symbolism, and thus of body and soul.


Seder nights are magic. They both transcend and unite history. They are also an ideal learning environment. They provide for all different learning styles. The Seder combines reading, singing, tasting, acting - a little of everything. Seder night also connects us to generations past, present and future. As we sit at the Seder table, Jews around the world sit with their families, singing the same songs, retelling the same story, dipping the same karpas and, hopefully, enjoying a magical time with their families.

As your family sits down to relive the Exodus from Egypt at the Seder, create your own Seder memories. Each of us has wonderful Seder memories from our childhood. Whether it was the first time you were able to ask the Four questions or the first time your child was able to ask them - they are memories that will last a lifetime.

As you prepare for your Seder, remember to involve your children in the process - add songs, stories, special activities. Families have shared stories of the special “Seder Memories” that they have, be sure to create your own. The goal of the Seder is for “every person to see him/herself as if he/she personally went out from Egypt,” (from the Haggadah).

The Passover Haggadah: There are many different Passover Haggadot available - new ones arrive every year. There's the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, The Thirty Minute Seder, The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah,  the new Haggadah of the Reform Movement, Sharing the Journey, and the The New Haggadah, Celebrating Freedom, created by Rabbis Rick and Susan Rheins. The list goes on and on. A wonderful resource to create your own Haggadah is Their simple platform allows you to create a custom Passover Haggadah, with access to unique content contributed by the community. Find artwork, family activities, translations and songs in their library to enliven your Seder experience.

PJ Library has made their Haggadah available for download - CLICK HERE.

The Story of Passover: The Story of Passover is quite simple. “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, but Adonai our God brought us forth with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm.” On Seder night, our national experience becomes part of the story of our family history. Passover provides children with the opportunity to again ask their parents, “Tell us the story of when we were slaves in Egypt.” The Passover celebration gives us ownership of the Jewish story and its messages, for it is our story - the one that we tell to our children in our own way just as our parents told us in theirs. That is why the two-part essence of the Passover celebration is 1) for “Every person to see her/himself as if he/she personally went out from Egypt” (from the Haggadah) and 2) “You shall tell your is because of what Adonai our God did for me that I went free from Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8).


CLICK HERE to view Passover Webinar from March 29.
CLICK HERE for Passover Preparation Questions
CLICK HERE for Bedikat Chametz (the Search for Leaven)
CLICK HERE for Pesach Songs

Jewish Home - Purim

Jewish Home - Tu Bi'Shevat

Jewish Home - Chanukah

Chanukah Resources (Links)

Chanukah Home Service: A one page print out of the blessings for lighting the Chanukah candles.
Chanukah Videos: There are so many different Chanukah videos available on YouTube. Here is a selection to add to your Chanukah celebration.
Chanukah Values: Choose a value to incorporate into each night of Chanukah.
Chanukah Song Sheet: A collection of Chanukah songs to enhance your familie's celebration.
8 Days of Happiness: A wonderful resource that focuses on a theme for each night of Chanukah with games, activities and discussions.


“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit—said Adonai our God.”

(Zachariah 4:6). This phrase is part of the Haftarah for the Shabbat during Hanukah. The rabbis chose this as the haftarah to remind us that it was not by the might and power of the Macabees that the Temple was restored, but it was by the spirit and influence of God that these events occurred.

The Story of Hanukah: In 168 B.C.E., the Jews of Judea were ruled by a Syrian king named Antiochus. Antiochus and his soldiers were hellenized Syrians. More than 150 years before the Maccabees, Alexander the Great had conquered all the Near East. He and his successors influenced the culture of these conquered lands. This meant they shared, sometimes forcefully, their Greek habits, customs and beliefs. That is why the "enemies" in the retelling of the Hanukah story are sometimes called Syrians, sometimes called Greeks and sometimes called SyrianGreeks.

Antiochus wanted to hellenize Judea. His soldiers desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and he decreed that Judaism was abolished. Antiochus demanded that the Jewish people now worship Greek gods and sacrifice pigs. There were some Jews who wanted to hellenize and accept Greek ways, and other Jews who did not. One historian has suggested that the Maccabean revolt began as a civil war between these two factions.

The Syrian soldiers set up altars to the Greek gods throughout Judea. Slowly, a resistance movement began to grow, led by a priestly family known as the Hasmoneans or Maccabees. The head of the family was Matityahu (Mattithias). He and his five sons Judah, Yonatan, Eliezer, Yochanan and Simeon left Jerusalem and settled in the small village of Modi'in. When the soldiers arrived in Modi'in to set up the idols, they demanded that the Jews offer sacrifices. One Jew stepped forward to do this and Matityahu became so angry that he killed the man. His sons then began fighting the Syrian soldiers.

The Maccabees led the Jewish rebellion against Antiochus and his forces. Responding to their leader Judah’s rallying cry, "all for Adonai follow me," the Jewish fighters fled to the hills and from there carried out three years of guerilla warfare against the Syrians. The Jews were greatly outnumbered, but one of the miracles of the Hanukah story is that they prevailed. After several losses in battle, the Syrians admitted defeat. Hanukah became the victory of the few over the many. It was a victory for religious freedom for the Jews.

The Temple in Jerusalem was cleansed and a ceremony of rededication was held. The Hebrew word for dedication is Hanukah and thus the name of our eight day celebration.

The Story of Oil:  The "Miracle of Oil" story is found in the Babylonian Talmud.  Judah and his triumphant army marched to the Temple.  They ripped down the huge statue of Zeus that stood above the altar.  They began to clean the Temple, clearing away everything used for Greek worship.  It was time to re-dedicate the Temple, to proclaim that it was again a house for the worship of the One God.  The legend tells us that Judah and his followers could not find enough holy oil to keep the menorah in the Temple burning.  Only one tiny bottle of oil could be found with enough oil for only one day.

Then, a miracle happened.  Although there was hardly any oil in the menorah, its light did not go out.  The oil burned for eight days.

Although the "miracle of oil" story is among the most unlikely of the accounts found in historic sources, it is the one that forms the basis of our understanding of Hanukah.  As we begin to understand the victory of the Maccabees over Hellenism as the basis for the holiday, we know as we kindle the Hanukah lights that the miracle of oil is a poetic substitution for the miracle of Jewish survival.  The flames reflect the glow of religious freedom for which the Maccabees fought.

Since our earliest history, the Jews have identified light with holiness and the Divine Presence and have ritualized its use in the celebration of major holidays and events in the cycle of life.  Hanukah has meant more than simply rejoicing a military victory.  Lighting flames provides a suitable soul-stirring ritual to perpetuate the religious meaning of Hanukah, commemorating the Maccabean struggle for religious freedom.

Chanukah Resources (Links)

Chanukah Home Service: A one page print out of the blessings for lighting the Chanukah candles.
Chanukah Videos: There are so many different Chanukah videos available on YouTube. Here is a selection to add to your Chanukah celebration.
Chanukah Values: Choose a value to incorporate into each night of Chanukah.
Chanukah Song Sheet: A collection of Chanukah songs to enhance your familie's celebration.
8 Days of Happiness: A wonderful resource that focuses on a theme for each night of Chanukah with games, activities and discussions.

Sun, October 24 2021 18 Cheshvan 5782