Rosh HaShanah (literally, “Head of the Year) is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance called the “Days of Awe”. Besides joining together for services, our congregation celebrates with a special oneg after the Rosh Hashanah evening service. In hopes of being blessed with a sweet new year, we dip apples in honey. You’ll hear people wishing each other a “Shana Tova”, Happy Year!
Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. Part of the High Holidays, which also includes Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. The shofar, pictured to the left, is a ram’s horn. It is sounded like a trumpet and is used throughout the High Holiday services. At the culmination of the Concluding Service, the congregation joins together in the social hall for Break the Fast sponsored by Sisterhood.
Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts,” refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. One tradition we oberserve is to erect a sukkah, a small, temporary hut outside on our lawn. Services, dinner and Religious School classes are held in the sukkah.
Simchat Torah celebrates the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirms Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives. As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and unrolled around the sanctuary with congregants holding the parchment. Consecration is also held at this time. Consecration marks the beginning of formal Jewish study for our kindergarten students.
Hanukkah, meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Friday evening during Hanukkah, our congregation comes together for a potluck dinner before services. We bring our chanukiyah, a special menorah for Hanukkah, and say the blessings and light the candles together. On Sunday, after Religious School, the Social Action Committee sponsors a Hanukkah Carnival. Youth Group members run the games while Brotherhood cooks latkes.
Tu BiSh’vat picture
Tu BiSh’vat or the “New Year of the Trees” is Jewish Arbor Day. Scholars believe that originally Tu BiSh’vat was an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. Our Religious School students celebrate by holding a Tu BiSh’vat seder. We also plant trees in Israel in honor or memory of loved ones and friends.
Purim is celebrated with a reading of the Book of Esther (Megillah Esther), which tells the story of the holiday. Under the rule of King Ahashverosh, Haman, the king’s prime minister, plots to exterminate all of the Jews of Persia. His plan is foiled by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai, who ultimately save the Jews of Persia from destruction. Purim is a fun-filled rowdy celebration. Our students come to Religious School dressed in costume. We join together in the sanctuary for the reading of the Megillah, where booing and noise-making happens when Haman’s name is read aloud. Youth Group sponsors a carnival after the reading.
Pesach, known as Passover in English, is a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The ritual observance of this holiday centers around a special home service called the seder (meaning “order”) and a festive meal; the prohibition of chamentz (leaven); and the eating of matzah (an unleavened bread). On the second night of Passover, the Sisterhood sponsors a congregational seder. We read from the hagaddah, meaning “telling,” which contains the order of prayers, rituals, readings and songs for the Passover seder.
Yom HaShoah, is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew, refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II. This is a memorial day for those who died in the Shoah. The entire Jewish community of Lexington comes together to obeserve this day. The Religious Schools of Temple Adath Israel and Ohavay Zion Synagogue combine for special programming.
Yom HaZikaron is a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battles for the state of Israel.
Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Our Religious School students celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut with an Israeli street fair. The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass sponsors programming for the Jewish community.
Shavuot is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Confirmation is celebrated during this holiday. The Confirmation ceremony celebrates a class of student’s graduation from high school Jewish studies and begins their approach to adulthood.