Festivals

In the Torah, specifically Deuteronomy 16:16, God commanded the Israelites to “appear before the Lord your God in the place that God will choose” three times a year. Those three occasions are Sukkot (the Festival of Booths), Passover (Pesach in Hebrew), and Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks).

These festivals, in ancient times, involved a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and offerings at The Temple, hence why they are called pilgrimage festivals. In modern times, these holy days are often celebrated as much at home as they are in the synagogue space.

Yet they remain major times of gathering for The Temple community, and we celebrate them as opportunities to reaffirm our communal commitment to Jewish life.

Sukkot & Simchat Torah


This festival, celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, commemorates the wandering of the Jewish people in the desert following their exodus from Egypt. At the conclusion of the week-long festival of Sukkot, we mark the holy days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, when we conclude the annual reading of the Torah and begin again at the beginning.

At home, many Jews construct a temporary dwelling, or sukkah, in their yards. There they eat and sleep together, and parents of young children have a wonderful time “camping” with their children. In The Temple, we construct several sukkot of varying sizes and hold special services and programs within them.

There are also special worship services at the beginning of Sukkot and on Simchat Torah.

Passover


The celebration of the exodus from Egypt and the freeing of Israel from slavery takes place in the spring. Pesach refers to the passing over of the Israelites during the tenth plague in Egypt. The highlight of this holy day is the seder, a ritual meal wherein we retell the story of the Exodus.

More Jews participate in a seder each year than in any other Jewish ritual, and many cite it as their favorite holiday. The Temple hosts a communal seder on the first night of Pesach, as well as one for young adults in their 20s and 30s on the second night.

The Temple also hosts a small worship service on the first day of Pesach and a yizkor (memorial) service on the final day of Pesach.

Shavuot


Seven weeks after Passover, we celebrate the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot. This holy day commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. As Shavuot focuses on the community receiving God’s commandments and teachings, it is the most communally-centered of the pilgrimage festivals. It is traditional to stay up all night studying Torah on this holy day, an action which often takes place in the synagogue.

Learn More

For more in-depth explorations of these and other holy days and festivals, we encourage you to avail yourself of the resources provided by the Union for Reform Judaism. They have dedicated sections on their website on each of the holy days, including Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot.

Additional educational sources are listed in the resources section of our website.

 

 

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