The Jewish day of rest begins at sundown on Friday evening and ends at twilight on Saturday evening. It is a time to enjoy spiritual contemplation, the company of family members, nature, and relaxation. It is an opportunity to feel renewed and ready for the coming week. Proper greeting: "Shabbat Shalom".
The Jewish New Year begins the 10-day period known as the High Holidays, the Days of Awe. We use this time to think about the past year and resolve to improve what needs improvement in the coming year. The blowing of the shofar (ram's horn) serves as a wake-up call to begin the process. Proper greeting: "L'Shana Tova".
The Day of Atonement occurs on the 10th (last) day of the High Holidays. It is a day of fasting, prayer, inner contemplation, and a collective confession of sins. It is also a day of optimism, full of the promise of forgiveness and improvement of our behavior in the coming year. Proper greeting: "L'Shanah Tovah" or "Have a Safe and Easy Fast".
Preparations for Sukkot begin right after Yom Kippur with the building of the sukkah, a temporary booth made of branches of wood. This harvest holiday emphasizes the values of hospitality, the rewards of work and our trust in G-d. It reminds us of the period of time the Jews wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt. Proper greeting: "Chag Samayach".
The eighth day of Sukkot, a day of solemn assembly, is a holiday on which prayers for rain are recited. A memorial service is also held.
Simchat Torah is associated with Sukkot, but is an independent, joyous holiday. On Simchat Torah, the cycle of reading from the Torah ends and begins again. In each synagogue, the Torah scrolls are taken out and carried around in processions.
Literally "lots," Purim is a holiday that comes in the middle of the Hebrew month of Adar. On Purim, we read the Scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther, often referred to as the Megillah), which tells the story of how the intervention of Queen Esther and Mordechai saved the Jewish communities of ancient Persia from certain annihilation. We celebrate this rescue with high-spirited revelry, including wearing costumes of the main characters in the Megillah, exchanging gifts of food, giving charity (Tzedakah) to those in need, and baking and eating Purim pastries called Hamantaschen. We attend Purim carnivals where the whole family can enjoy this holiday together.
The Passover Seder recreates the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Many customs and rituals are associated with Passover. The Haggadah is used to tell the story of the exodus, everyone drinks four cups of wine, and a festive meal follows the Seder. Chametz, leavened products derived from wheat, barley, oat, spelt or rye, is forbidden throughout the holiday of Passover. All fruits and vegetables, as well as all kosher cuts of meat and kosher fish, are allowed during Passover as they are kosher for Passover. Proper greeting: "A Zisen Pesach"
Shavuot, which means the "Festival of Weeks," occurs seven weeks after Passover. It is a three-fold celebration that commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the harvesting of wheat in the land of Israel, and the ripening of the first fruits in Jerusalem. On Shavuot the slaves who left Egypt were made into free people by the receiving of the Ten Commandments.