- The Three Weeks
- The Nine Days
- Tisha B’Av
- Rosh Hashanah
- Yom Kippur
- The Tenth of Teves
The 17th of Tammuz is mentioned in Nevi’im (Prophets) – as “the fast of the fourth month” (Zechariah 8:19). The Mishnah (Taanit 4:8) lists five calamities that befell the Jewish people on this date:
- Moses broke the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai;
- The daily tamid offering ceased to be brought;
- The walls of Jerusalem were breached (proceeding to the destruction of the Temple);
- Prior to Bar Kokhba’s revolt, Roman military leader Apostomus burned a Torah scroll;
- An idol was erected in the Temple.
The Babylonian Talmud (Taanit 28b) places the second and fifth tragedies in the First Temple, while dating the third tragedy (breach of Jerusalem) to the Second Temple period. Jerusalem of the First Temple, on the other hand, was breached on the 9th of Tammuz (cf. Jeremiah 52.6-7).
The Three Weeks or Bein ha-Metzarim (Hebrew: בין המצרים, “Between the Straits” or “In Dire Straits”) is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples. The Three Weeks start on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz – the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz – and end on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av – the fast of Tisha B’Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel. According to conventional chronology, the destruction of the first Temple, by Nebuchadrezzar II, occurred in 586 BCE, and the second, by the Romans, in 70 CE. Jewish chronology, however, traditionally places the first destruction at about 421 BCE.
Jewish law forbids during this time:
- taking a haircut
- listening to music
- as well, no Jewish marriages are allowed during the Three Weeks, since the joy of such an event would conflict with the expected mood of mourning during this time.
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- One should not purchase an object of joy that will be available after Tisha B’Av for the same price.
- Building for beauty or pleasure not required for dwelling should be suspended.
- Building for a mitzvah like a synagogue, place of Torah study, or a mikva is permitted.
- Painting, wallpapering and general home decoration should not be done.
- Similarly, one should not plant for pleasure.
Eating Meat and Drinking Wine
- The custom is to refrain from eating meat and poultry or drinking wine and grape juice during the nine days. This also pertains to children.
- The prohibition of meat includes foods cooked with meat or meat fat. However, foods cooked in a clean vessel used for meat may be eaten.
- Eating meat and drinking wine is permitted for Shabbos. Even one who has ushered in the Shabbos on Friday afternoon before sunset, or extends the third meal of Shabbos into Saturday night may also eat meat and drink wine at those times.
- Similarly, one may drink the wine of Havdallah. Some have the custom to give the wine to a child of 6-9 years old, or to use beer for Havdallah.
- Meat and wine are also permitted at a meal in honor of a mitzvah like bris milah, redemption of the first born, and completing a tractate or other books.
- A person who requires meat because of weakness or illness, including small children and pregnant or nursing women who have difficulty eating dairy, may eat meat. However, whenever possible poultry is preferable to meat.
- Laundering is prohibited even for use after Tisha B’Av. One may not even give clothing to a non-Jewish cleaner. (Although one may give it to him before the 1st of Av, even though he’ll wash during the nine days.)
- The prohibition of laundering includes linens, tablecloths, and towels.
A person who has no clean clothes may wash what he needs until the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av.
- Children’s diapers and clothing that constantly get dirty may be washed by need even during the week of Tisha B’Av, in private.
- Laundering for the purpose of a mitzvah is permitted.
- One may polish shoes with liquid or wax polish, but should avoid shining shoes.
Wearing Freshly Laundered Clothing
- It is forbidden to wear freshly laundered clothing during the nine days. This includes all clothing except that which is worn to absorb perspiration.
- Therefore, one must prepare before the nine days by wearing freshly laundered suits, pants, shirts, dresses, blouses and the like for a short time so that they may be worn during the nine days. Socks, undershirts and underwear need not be prepared.
- Here too, the prohibition of using freshly laundered items applies to linens, tablecloths, and towels.
- One may wear freshly laundered Shabbos clothing, as well as use clean tablecloths and towels. Changing bed linen though is prohibited.
- Since one may wear freshly laundered garments on Shabbos, if one forgot or was unable to prepare enough garments before the nine days, he may change for Friday night and then change again on Shabbos morning. These garments may then be worn during the week.
This will apply only to clothing that is suitable to wear on Shabbos, since wearing a garment on Shabbos for the sole purpose of wearing it during the week is forbidden.
- Fresh garments and Shabbos clothing may be worn in honor of a mitzvah for example at a brit milah for the parents, mohel, and sandek.
Wearing, Buying and Making New Clothes, Repairing Garments
- While wearing new clothing that doesn’t require the blessing “sh’hecheyanu” is permitted until the 1st of Av, during the nine days it is prohibited even on Shabbos.
- One may not buy new clothes or shoes even for use after Tisha B’Av, except in a case of great necessity, for example for one’s wedding.
- If one forgot or was unable to buy special shoes needed for Tisha B’Av, he may do so during the nine days.
- Making new garments or shoes for a Jew is permitted until the Sunday before Tisha B’Av. Afterwards it is permitted only for a non-Jew.
- Repairing torn garments or shoes is permitted.
Bathing and Swimming
- The custom is not to bathe for pleasure even in cold water.
- Bathing in cold water for medical reasons or to remove dirt or perspiration is permitted. (Where cold water is required, hot water may be added to cold water as long as the mixture is not comfortably warm.)
- Soaping or shampooing and washing with hot or warm water are prohibited – unless it is required for medical reasons or to remove the dirt and perspiration.
- Swimming is prohibited except for medical reasons. Similarly, one may take a quick dip in a pool to remove dirt or sweat.
- Bathing for a mitzvah is permitted, for example, a woman who needs to bathe for her immersion.
A man who immerses in a mikva every Friday may do so in cold water during The Nine Days. But one who omits immersing occasionally because he is too busy or because of the cold may not.
- One who bathes every Friday in honor of Shabbos with hot water, soap and shampoo may do so on the Friday before Tisha B’Av.
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- If a bris or redemption of the first-born occurs on the day before Tisha B’Av, if meat is being served the meal must be held before noon.
- Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, from noon some people refrain from learning topics other than what is relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning. However, many people learn all topics of Torah until sunset.
- Since Tisha B’Av is called a moed (holiday or appointed day, Lamentations 1:15), no tachanun is said at mincha in the afternoon before Tisha B’Av (nor on Tisha B’Av itself).
- The custom is to eat a final meal after mincha and before sunset, consisting of bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water. The meal is eaten while seated on the ground, a portion of the bread should be dipped in ashes and eaten, and no mezumen is said in the blessing after the meal.
- After the meal, one may sit normally until sunset. Shoes may be worn all day until sunset.
Eating and Drinking
- All eating and drinking is forbidden. This includes rinsing the mouth and brushing teeth, except in a case of great distress.
- Swallowing capsules or bitter tablets or liquid medicine without water is permitted.
- The ill or elderly as well as pregnant and nursing women are required to fast even if it is difficult, unless a doctor says that fasting may injure health, in which case a competent rabbi should be consulted.
- A woman within seven days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days should not fast.
- Boys under thirteen years old and girls under twelve years old are not allowed to fast even part of the day.
- Those not required to fast should eat only what is needed to preserve their health.
Bathing and Washing
- All bathing for pleasure is prohibited even in cold water including the hands, face and feet.
- Ritual washing upon waking, after using the bathroom, touching covered parts of the body or before praying is permitted, but only up to the knuckles.
- One may wash dirty or sullied portions of the body (including cleaning the eyes of glutinous material), and if necessary may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or odor.
- Washing for cooking or for medical reasons is permitted.
- A woman may not immerse on Tisha B’Av since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.
- Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, soap, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc.
- Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor.
- Since cohabitation is prohibited, a husband and wife should not come in contact during the night of Tisha B’Av.
Wearing Leather Shoes
- Even shoes made partially of leather are prohibited. Shoes made of cloth, rubber or plastic are permitted.
- Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons.
- Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning.
- One may learn: Lamentations with its midrash and commentaries, portions of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the halachot of Tisha B’Av and mourning.
- One should deprive himself of some comfort in sleep. Some reduce the number of pillows, some sleep on the floor. Pregnant women, the elderly and the ill are exempt.
- Sitting on a normal chair is forbidden until midday. One may sit on a low bench or chair, or on a cushion on the floor.
- Greeting someone with “good morning” and the like is prohibited. One who is greeted should answer softly and, if possible, inform the person of the prohibition.
- One should not give a gift except to the needy.
- Things that divert one from mourning such as idle talk, reading the newspaper, taking a walk for pleasure, etc. are prohibited.
- Smoking is prohibited until afternoon, and then only for one who is compelled to and in private.
- The custom is to refrain until midday from any time-consuming work that diverts one from mourning. In a case of financial loss, consult the rabbi.
- Ashkenazim do not wear tefillin at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit. At Mincha, tefillin is worn and those who wear a tallit gadol make the blessing then.
- At Mincha, the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Shmonah Esrei during the blessing “Veliyerushalayim” and “Shma Koleinu” respectively. “Sim Shalom” is said in place of “Shalom Rav.” If one forgot them and completed that bracha, he need not repeat the prayer.
The Day After Tisha B’Av
- The limitations of the “Three Weeks” and the “Nine Days” continue until midday of the 10th of Av. This includes the prohibition of music, haircuts, meat and wine, laundering and bathing.
- The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B’Av, preferably after having eaten something.
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- There are two beginnings to the Jewish calendar year, Nissan and Tishrei – reflecting the dual nature of Jewish calendar – lunar and solar, respectively. Nissan is the month of the Exodus from Egypt and Tishrei is the month of the Creation.
- All the months follow the phases of the moon, and the years are adjusted so that the festivals stay in their appropriate seasons.
- There is a specific harmony and rhythm to the Festivals, which serve to blend the physical and spiritual worlds, and to join nature with the human life-cycle.
- The festival of Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days, even in Israel where all other festivals are only one day.
- Prohibition of Melacha (certain types of work). Exceptions – food preparation, carrying, transferring or increasing fire.
- The obligations to honor and enjoy the Festival are fulfilled by preparations like bathing, haircuts, special (new) clothing and cleaning the house. A husband must buy new clothing or jewelry for his wife. Treats are given to the children.
- The woman of the household lights candles before sunset of the first night and a half hour after sunset on the second night of Rosh Hashanah and recites blessings over the candles.
- The festival is sanctified in words (Kiddush) over wine at the night and also during the day, before the meals.
- Foods representing joy and blessing are eaten at the night meals, and prayers are recited for a good year using puns based on the names and nature of the foods (simanim) – fish head, carrots, pomegranate, lettuce, raisin, celery (Let us have a raise in salary).
- Two festive meals each day. Maimonides says, “One who celebrates but closes his door to the less fortunate is engaged in joy of the stomach and not joy of a mitzvah.”
- Special Greeting for the first night of Rosh Hashanah:
- “Be inscribed and sealed for a good year!”
- To a man – “Leshana tova tikateiv v’techateim!”
- To a woman – “Leshana tova tikateivi vetichatemi!”
- The Silent Prayer (Amidah) of Rosh Hashanah has three essential components:
- Kingship (Majesty)
- Memories (Judgment)
- Shofar (Torah / Sinai)
- There are ten verses for each component – three each from Torah, Prophets and Writings, plus one additional verse from the Torah.
Laws of Shofar Blowing
- The commandment to hear the shofar blowing requires concsious intent to fulfill the mitzvah.
- The shofar blower recites two blessings; the community must listen to the blessings and respond “Amen” to each one. (One should not say “Baruch hu uvaruch sh’mo” to these blessings.)
- One should stand during the recitation of the blessings and for all of the shofar blasts.
It is forbidden to speak from the beginning of the first blessing until after the final shofar blast (at the end of Mussaf).
- We make the blessing over wine and the concluding paragraph of “Hamavdil.”
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Yom Kippur, יוֹם כִּפּוּר, is the Jewish holiday of the Day of Atonement. It falls on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, the seventh of the Religious Calendar. (Leviticus 23:27-28) The Torah calls the day Yom HaKippurim (“Day of the Atonements”). Another way to interpret the name is as Yom K-Purim, a day like Purim. It is one of the Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe”). The day is commemorated with a 25-hour fast and intensive prayer.
It is customary to perform the rite of Kapparos (symbolic “atonement”) on the day preceding Yom Kippur. Preferably, kapparos should be done in the early pre-dawn hours of the day before Yom Kippur. (If it is not possible to do so then, the rite may be performed earlier).
The custom of kapparos is an ancient one, and was established as a reminder of the goat that the High Priest recited confession over on behalf of the Jewish People. That goat was sent to Azazel. However, in order to ensure that the practice does not resemble a sacrifice in any way (since sacrifices are forbidden outside of the Holy Temple), a chicken is used – since chickens were not offered on the altar.
We ask G-d that if we were destined to be the recipients of harsh decrees in the new year, may they be transferred to this chicken in the merit of this charity. The rite consists of taking a chicken – a male takes a rooster and a female takes a hen – and waving it over one’s head three times while the appropriate text (found in the Siddur or Machzor) is recited. The fowl is then slaughtered in accordance with Halachic procedure. The monetary worth of the kapparot is given to the poor, or as is more popular today, the chicken itself is donated to a charitable cause.
If a chicken is unavailable, one may substitute other fowl or animals; many people use a Kosher live fish. Some give the actual fowl to the poor. Others perform the entire rite with money, reciting the prescribed verses and giving the money to charity. There is no prescribed dollar amount; the donation should be according to one’s financial abilities.
Though word kapparos means “atonement,” one should not think that kapparos itself serves as a source of atonement. Rather, we ask G-d that if we were destined to be the recipients of harsh decrees in the new year, may they be transferred to this chicken in the merit of this charity.
[Even children, who are devoid of sin, do kapparos, since they, too, are sometimes the recipients of harsh heavenly decrees.]
All men are required to immerse in the Mikvah on Erev Yom Kippur, preferably after chatzos, or mid-day, calculated based on shaos zmanios.
Festive Meal (Seudas HaMafsekes)
Jewish law requires one to eat a large and festive meal before Yom Kippur starts after the mincha prayer. Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast; in the case of Yom Kippur, since one cannot eat a festive meal on the day itself one therefore eats the festive meal on the afternoon prior to the fast. Traditional foods consumed during that meal include kreplach. Many others also have a custom to eat another meal before that, consuming fish. Also, men immerse themselves in a mikvah.
Blessing the Children
It is customary to bless one’s children after the meal, immediately before the fast. There is no required formula for this blessing, but it is customary to say (see machzor): “The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them: ‘May the Lord bless you and watch over you. May the Lord cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you. May the Lord raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.’They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
[For a son:] May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe.
[For a daughter:] May G-d make you like Sorah, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah.
We usher in this holy day with added light. Just before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur people who have experienced the loss of a parent light yahrtzeit candles; everyone lights a Ner Neshama (Soul Candle; and women light Holiday candles. The following blessings are then recited.
If Yom Kippur does not fall on Friday night:
Baruch atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha’olam asher kid-e-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav v’tzi-vanu li-had-lik ner shel Yom Ha-kee-Purim.
[Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Day of Atonement.]
If Yom Kippur Eve does fall on Friday night:
Baruch atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha’olam asher kid-e-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav v’tzi-vanu li-had-lik ner shel Shabbat v’Yom Ha-kee-purim.
[Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of Shabbat and the Day of Atonement.]
The Shehecheyanu blessing is then recited. The woman who recites the Shehecheyanu blessing while lighting the candles, omits this blessing from the conclusion of the Kol Nidrei prayer. The men recite this blessing in lieu of the Shehecheyanu normally recited during the holiday kiddush.
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the Jewish day of repentance. It is considered to be one of the holiest and most solemn days of the year. Its central theme is atonement from sins against both God and one’s fellow man. Five prohibitions are traditionally observed, as detailed in the Jewish oral tradition (Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:1):
- Eating and drinking
- Wearing leather shoes
- Anointing oneself with oil
- Marital relations
Total abstention from food and drink usually begins half-an-hour before sundown (called “tosefet Yom Kippur,” the “addition” of fasting part of the day before is required by Jewish law), and ends after nightfall the following day. Although the fast is required of all healthy adults, fasting may be forbidden in certain cases in which the observer would be harmed.
Men don a tallis (four-cornered prayer garment) for evening prayers, the only evening service of the year in which this is done. Married men also wear a kittel, or white shroud-like garment, which symbolizes inner purity. Prayer services begin with the prayer known as “Kol Nidre,” which must be recited before sunset, and follows with the evening prayers (ma’ariv), which include an extended Selichot service.
The morning prayer service is preceded by petitions of forgiveness called selichot; on Yom Kippur, many selichot are woven into the liturgy. The morning prayers are followed by an added prayer (musaf) as on all other holidays, followed by mincha (the afternoon prayer) and the added ne’ilah prayer specifically for Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur comes to an end with a recitation of Shema Yisrael and the blowing of the shofar, which marks the conclusion of the fast.
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Succos (Hebrew: סוכות or סֻכּוֹת, sukkōs ; “booths.”) and also known as the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, Tabernacles, or the Feast of Ingathering, is a festival that occurs in autumn on the 15th day of the month of Tishri (early- to late-October). In Judaism it is one of the three major holidays known collectively as the Shalosh Regalim (three pilgrim festivals), when historically the Jewish populace traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The word Succos is the plural of the Hebrew word succah, meaning booth or hut. During this holiday, we are instructed to construct a temporary structure in which to eat their meals, entertain guests, relax, and even sleep. The succah is reminiscent of the type of huts in which the Jews dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt, and is intended to reflect God’s benevolence in providing for all the Jews’ needs in the desert.
Duration in Israel and in the Diaspora
In Israel Succos is a 7-day holiday, with the first day celebrated as a Yom Tov with special prayer services and holiday meals. Outside the land of Israel, the first two days are celebrated as Yom Tov. The remaining days are known as Chol HaMoed (“festival weekdays”). The seventh day of Succos is called Hoshanah Rabbah and has a special observance of its own.
Eating in the Succah
If it is raining on the first night of Succos: One should wait approximately one hour to see if the rain will stop. If the rain continues he should go into the Succah; say the Kiddush with the “Shehechiyanu” blessing, wash as one usually does before the consumption of bread and eat at least a kizayis of bread in the rain. He should NOT say the blessing of “leishev baSukkah.” He may then complete his meal in the house. After the meal, he should wait until slightly before the Halachic midnight to see if the rain will stop. If the rain stops, he then washes, enters the Sukkah again, says the brocho “leishev baSuccah,” eats at least a kibeitza of bread and then says Birkas haMazon.
On the second night, if it rains, one need not wait at all and he may begin his meal immediately in the house. Kiddush with “shehechiyanu” is made in the house. At the end of the meal, before saying the Birkas Hamazon, even if it is still raining, he should eat a kizayis of bread in the Sukkah in the rain. Again, a bracha of “leishev baSuccah” is not said. A bracha of “shehechiyanu” is not needed for the succah on the second night. One may then go back into the house to say the Birkas Hamazon. According to many opinons, even on the second night, one should wait again until slightly before the Halachic midnight to see if the rain stops. If the rain does stop then the procedure is the same as the first night.
On all other days or nights of Succos, if the rain is so strong in the Succah that if it was raining in the house a person would be driven out of his home to find other shelter, or if the rain is ruining his food, preventing him from eating, he need not eat in the Succah. If one has already started his meal inside, and the rain stops, he may complete his meal in the house.
The second through seventh days of Succos (third through seventh days outside the land of Israel) are called Chol HaMo’ed (חול המועד – lit. “festival weekdays”). These days are considered by Halakha to be more than regular weekdays but less than festival days. In practice, this means that all activities that are needed for the holiday-such as buying and preparing food, cleaning the house in honor of the holiday, or traveling to visit other people’s sukkahs or on family outings-are permitted by Jewish law. Activities that will interfere with relaxation and enjoyment of the holiday-such as laundering, mending clothes, engaging in labor-intensive activities-are not permitted. Jews typically treat Chol HaMo’ed as a vacation period, eating nicer than usual meals in their succah, entertaining guests, visiting other families in their sukkahs, and taking family outings.
On the Shabbos which falls during the week of Succos (in the event when the first day of Succos is on Shabbos, Koheles, Ecclesiastes, is read in Israel while diaspora communities read it the following Shabbos which is Shemini Azeres)( or during Chol HaMo’ed), the Book of Ecclesiastes is read during morning synagogue services. This Book’s emphasis on the ephermeralness of life (“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity…”) echoes the theme of the succah, while its emphasis on death reflects the time of year in which Succos occurs (the “autumn” of life). The second to last verse reinforces the message that adherence to God and His Torah is the only worthwhile pursuit.
In the synagogue, each day of Succos, the worshippers parade around the synagogue carrying their lulavim and esrogim and reciting Psalm 118:25 (Ana HaShem, hoshia nah..”, “We beseech you, O Lord, save us…” followed by special prayers.)
This ceremony commemorates the Aravah (willow) ceremony in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, in which willow branches were piled beside the altar, with their tops branching over it, and worshipers paraded around the altar reciting the same verse.
Simchas Beis HaShoeivah
In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, a unique service was performed every morning throughout the Succos holiday: the Nisuch HaMayim (נסוך המים-lit. “pouring of the water”) or Water Libation Ceremony. According to the Talmud, Succos is the time of year in which God judges the world for rainfall; therefore this ceremony, like the taking of the Four Species, invokes God’s blessing for rain in its proper time. The water for the libation ceremony was drawn from the pool of Shiloah in the City of David, and the joy that accompanied this procedure was palpable. (This is the source for the verse in Isaiah: “And you shall draw waters with joy from the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3).
Afterwards, every night in the outer Temple courtyard, tens of thousands of spectators would gather to watch the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah (Rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing), as the most pious members of the community danced and sang songs of praise to God. The dancers would carry lighted torches, and were accompanied by the harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets of the Levites. According to the Mishnah tractate Succah, “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.” Throughout Succos, the city of Jerusalem teemed with Jewish families who came on the holiday pilgrimage and joined together for feasting and Torah study. A mechitza (partition separating men and women) was erected for this occasion.
Nowadays, this event is recalled via a Simchas Beis HaShoeivah gathering of music, dance, and refreshments. This event takes place in a central location such as a synagogue, yeshiva, or place of study. Refreshments are served in the adjoining succah. Live bands often accompany the dancers. The festivities usually begin late in the evening, and can last long into the night.
From the perspective of its status as a Yom Tov, Hoshana Rabba is the same as any other of the Chol HaMoed days. However, many extra prayers are added to the service on Hoshana Rabba. The reason for this is that throughout the Yom Tov of Succos we are judged concerning the fate of our water supply. On Hoshana Rabba, the judgment is finalized. The conclusion of any period of Judgment is our last chance to influence the Divine Judgment and, therefore, it is of great importance to us. The Chazzan wears a Kittel as on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Hoshanah Rabbah: Mussaf
At the conclusion of Chazzan’s Repetition, we take out all of the Sifrei Torah from the Aron HaKodesh and bring them to the Bimah where members of the congregation hold them while the rest of the congregation, led by the Chazzan, march around the Bimah seven times with their Lulavim and Esrogim; all of the Hoshanos for Hoshana Rabba are said; when we get to “Taaneh Emunim” we put the Four Species down and we take the special Aravos of Hoshana Rabba (the custom is to take five stems that are bound together) into our hands (anything that invalidates the Arovos of the Four Species during Succos invalidates these Arovos on Hoshana Rabba); at the end of the Hoshanos we beat the Arovos against the floor five times according to custom.
Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah
The holiday of Shemini Atzeres (שמיני עצרת – lit. “the Eighth [day] of Assembly”) is a separate festival that follows immediately after Succos, on the eighth day (eighth and ninth days outside the land of Israel). The family returns indoors to eat and sleep in their house, special synagogue services are held, and holiday meals are served. However, outside of Israel many have the custom to still eat in the Succah on Shemini Atzeres, but not on Simchas Torah.
Shemini Atzeres is a separate holiday in respect to six specific issues. However, it is considered part of an eight-day holiday regarding a seventh issue. These issues are explained in the Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashanah 4b. There is a dispute amongst the commentaries regarding what those six issues are. Two of the main opinions are Rashi and Tosafos.
In Israel, Shemini Atzeres lasts for one day and the festivities of Simchas Torah (שמחת תורה) coincide with it. Outside of Israel, Shemini Atzeres lasts for two days and the festivities of Simchas Torah fall on the second day. Simchas Torah (lit. “the joy of the Torah”) is an especially happy day on which the very last portion of the Torah is read in the synagogue during morning services and, in order to convey the idea that Torah study never ends, the very first portion of the Torah (the beginning of Genesis) is read immediately after. All the men and boys, and in more liberal congregations all the women and girls, over the age of bar mitzvah are called up to the Torah for an aliyah, and all the children under the age of bar mitzvah are also given an “aliyah” called Kol HaNa’arim (all the children)-the youngsters crowd around the reader’s table while men hold up a large tallit to include them all in the aliyah.
Both during the night service and the morning service, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and all the worshippers engage in rounds of spirited dancing. Seven official circuits around the reader’s table (called “hakafos”) are made, although the dancing can go on for hours.
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What does Chanukah commemorate?
During the period of the Second Temple, the Greek Empire took control of the Land of Israel and issued harsh decrees against the Jewish people. They forbade the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvos; plundered their possessions and violated their daughters; and entered the holy Temple damaging and desecrating it. When Hashem had mercy on His people, He saved them through the family of the Chashmonaim Cohanim. They miraculously defeated the Greek army, purified and rededicated the Temple, and reinstated the Jewish monarchy which continued for over two hundred years until the destruction of the Temple.
Why do we light a menorah?
When the Chanshmonaim entered the Temple and searched for pure undefiled oil to light the menorah, they found only one small bottle bearing the seal of the Cohen Gadol. Although this contained enough oil to burn for only one day, a miracle occurred and the oil sufficed for eight days until new pure oil was produced. The Sages therefore instituted the festival of Chanukah to rejoice and praise Hashem for eight days. Each evening a menorah is lit by the doors and windows of Jewish homes to show and publicize the miracle.
How is Chanukah commemorated during davening?
The entire hallel is recited every day and the additional praise al haNissim is inserted in Shemoneh Esrei and bensching. The Torah is read every day in shul and tachanun and lamnatzeach are omitted.
Is the shape of the menorah important?
It is preferable that the lights stand in a straight line and all at the same height. Therefore, one should not buy a modern design menorah whose branches are in a staggered position or of differing heights.
Who is obligated to light?
According to the basic law it is sufficient to light one menorah per household, irrespective of the number of family members. However, the custom is to beautify the mitzvah by each male member of the family lighting a separate menorah.
Are women required to light?
A woman living on her own is required to light a menorah. Although this is a time-bound mitzvah, women are obligated since they were included in the decrees and instrumental in the miraculous defeat of the enemy when Yehudis cut off the head of the evil Greek general Holiphernes.
If the father is lighting, can his daughters light their own menorah?
This is permitted, although the standard custom is not to do so. One reason is that originally everyone lit the menorah next to the doorway of the house in the street, and it was considered immodest for women to stand there among the crowds of men. Therefore, they would stand in the house near the doorway and watch the men light. Although today many people light indoors, the custom remains. Even where daughters do have a custom to light their own menorah, the wife should not light since she is considered one unit with her husband.
Should children light?
The custom is to educated boys to light their own menorah from the age of six or seven. In families where daughters also light, girls of six or seven may light their own menorah, although they have no obligation to do so. Children should be given oil or candles that will stay alight for the required length of time
Where should the menorah be placed (outside of Israel)?
One should choose the window that enables the maximum number of people to see the menorah, since publicizing the miracle is an important part of the mitzvah. For example, it is better to light by a bedroom or kitchen window that can be seen by many people than by a dining-room window that can be seen by fewer people.
When is the correct time to light?
At nightfall. I.e. when three medium sized stars are visible in the sky. This is right after the Mincha/Maariv minyan finishes in shul.
What is the latest time for lighting?
One may light until the halachic dawn.
For how long must the lights burn?
If one lights at nightfall or later they must be able to burn for at least half-an-hour
If one lights before nightfall, (e.g. erev Shabbos), they must be able to burn until half-an-hour after nightfall.
How many lights are kindled each night?
According to the basic requirement, it is sufficient to kindle one light each night. However, the universally accepted custom is to beautify the mitzvah by kindling one light on the first night and adding an additional light each night, until eight lights are kindled on the eighth night.
Which end of the menorah should be used on the first night?
One should begin at the right end of the menorah as one faces it.
What is the procedure on the subsequent nights?
Each night, an additional light is placed next to those of the previous night, gradually filling up the menorah towards the left. When lighting the menorah, the main custom is to kindle the newest light first, i.e. the left-most one and proceed to light from left to right.
Should one light the shamash before or after the main lights?
There are two customs.
The main Ashkenazic custom is to light the shamash at the start before the brachos are recited. After reciting the brachos, the shamash is used for kindling the Chanukah lights and is then placed into the menorah.
The main Sephardic custom is to use a different candle for lighting both the Chanukah lights and the shamash. According to this method, the shamash is placed on the menorah beforehand but only lit after the main lights. The candle use for lighting the menorah is then extinguished.
Which brachos are recited when kindling the menorah?
On the first night of Chanukah, three brachos are recited:
אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להדליק נר של חנוכה
On the following night only the first two brachos are recited.
When should one begin to kindle the lights?
The lights should be kindled only after all the brachos have been recited.
Why is it forbidden to benefit from the lights?
There are three reasons:
To make it clear that they are mitzvah lights kindled solely for the purpose of publicizing the miracle.
Since the miracle occurred with the menorah of the Temple, the lights are treated with the same holiness as the lights of the Temple menorah.
So that a person does not become accustomed to degrade mitzvos.
What type of benefit is forbidden?
All personal benefit is forbidden. For example:
Reading by their light.
Eating a meal by their light.
Lighting a candle from their flames.
widespread custom is also not to learn Torah by the light of the menorah.
May one benefit from the lights after half-an-hour?
It is preferable not to use the lights at any time, since an onlooker may not realize that they have already been burning for half-an-hour.
If oil remains in the menorah after the eighth night may it be used for other purposes?
Since this oil was set aside for the mitzvah of Chanukah, it may not be used for anything else. It is even forbidden to use such oil for another mitzvah e.g. Shabbos lights.
What should be done with such oil?
It should be burned. The same applies to the used wicks after the eighth night.
Can this oil be saved for next Chanukah?
No, we are afraid that during the year it may accidentally be used for something else.
What about the leftover oil in the bottle?
This oil has not been designated for the mitzvah and may be used for any purpose.
When should the menorah be lit on erev Shabbos?
It should be lit before kindling the Shabbos lights.
Until when must the lights burn?
The lights must be capable of burning until half-an-hour after nightfall. Therefore, one must be especially careful on erev Shabbos to use sufficient oil or long candles that can burn until this time. If the menorah can only contain a small amount of oil or small candles, an alternative should be used on erev Shabbos.
Is the menorah lit on motzei Shabbos before or after havdallah?
The main custom is the recite havdallah before lighting the menorah. In shul, the reverse order is done. I.e. first we light the menorah, then we recite havdallah.
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It falls out either seven or eight days after the conclusion of Chanukah, depending on whether Rosh Chodesh of Teves that year is observed for one day or two. The Tenth of Teves commemorates the onset of the siege that Nevuchadnezzar of Babylonia laid to Jerusalem, an event that ultimately led to the destruction of the First Temple and Babylonia’s conquest of southern Israel’s Kingdom of Judah.
The text in II Kings (25:1-4) tells us that on the 10th day of the 10th month (which is Teves when counting from Nisan, the “first month” in the Torah), in the ninth year of his reign, (588 BCE), Nevuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. Three years later, on the 17th of Tammuz, he broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Teves can thus be considered part of the cycle of fasts connected with these events, which also includes: Tzom Gedaliah (3rd of Tishrei); Shivah Asar B’Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B’Av (9th of Av). The first mention of the Tenth of Teves as a fast appears in Zechariah (8:19) where it is called the “fast of the tenth month” (Teves). Other references to the fast and the affliction can be found in Ezekiel 24:1-2 (the siege) and Jeremiah 52:4-6.
According to tradition, as described by the liturgy for the day’s selichos, the fast also commemorates other ignominious events that occurred throughout Jewish history on the tenth of Teves and the two days preceding it:
- On the eighth of Teves one year during the 200s BCE, a time of Hellenistic rule of Judea during the Second Temple period, Ptolmey, King of Egypt, ordered production of the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew text of the Torah into Greek. This was seen as a debasement of the divine nature of the Torah and a subversion of its spiritual qualities.
- Ezra the Scribe, the great leader who brought the Jews back to the holy land from the Babylonian exile and who ushered in the era of the Second Temple, died on the ninth of Teves.
As with all minor Jewish fast days, the Tenth of Teves begins at dawn and concludes at nightfall. In accordance with the general rules of minor fasts, and in contrast to Tisha B’Av, there are no additional physical constraints beyond fasting (such as the prohibitions against bathing or of wearing leather shoes). Because it is a minor fast day, halachah exempts from fasting those who are ill, even if their illnesses are not life threatening, and pregnant and nursing women who find fasting difficult.
A Torah reading is added at both the Shacharis and Mincha services, and a special Haftorah reading, and a special prayer in the Amidah (the Aneinu), are added at the Mincha services. At Shacharis and Minchah, Avinu Malkeinu is also said.
The fast can occur on a Friday resulting in the unusual event of a Torah and Haftorah reading at the Mincha service right before Shabbos. No other Jewish fast day can occur on a Friday in modern times (with the exception of the Fast of the Firstborn, on which the Torah and Haftorah reading at Mincha do not even occur).
The Tenth of Teves has been chosen as a “general kaddish day” for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whom lack identifiable yahrtzeits (anniversaries of their deaths).
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Purim (Hebrew: פורים Pûrîm “lots”) is a rabbinically ordained Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s plot to annihilate all of them in the ancient Persian Empire as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. The Jews were in the Babylonian captivity because Babylonia had destroyed Solomon’s Temple and dispersed the defeated Jews of the Kingdom of Judah. Babylonia was in turn conquered by Persia. Purim is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.
Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies which was on the 13th day of Adar. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, including Shushan and Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, known as Shushan Purim. As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day.
Fast of Esther
The Fast of Esther, observed before Purim, on the 13th of Adar, is an original part of the Purim celebration, referred to in Esther 9:31-32. The first who mentions the Fast of Esther is Rabbi Achai Gaon (Acha of Shabcha) (8th century CE) in She’iltot 4; the reason there given for its institution is based on an interpretation of Esther 9:18, Esther 9:31 and Talmud Megillah 2a: “The 13th was the time of gathering”, which gathering is explained to have had also the purpose of public prayer and fasting. Some, however, used to fast three days in commemoration of the fasting of Esther; but as fasting was prohibited during the month of Nisan, the first and second Mondays and the Thursday following Purim were chosen. The fast of the 13th is still commonly observed; but when that date falls on a Sabbath, the fast is pushed forward to the preceding Thursday, Friday being needed to prepare for the Sabbath and the following Purim festival.
Overview of the Holiday
The events leading up to Purim were recorded in the Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), which became the last of the 24 books of the Tanakh to be canonized by the Sages of the Great Assembly. The Book of Esther records a series of apparently unrelated events which took place over a nine-year period during the reign of King Ahasuerus. These coincidental events, taken together, are taken to be evidence of divine intervention, according to interpretations by Talmudic and other major commentaries on the Megillah.
The holiday of Purim has been held in high esteem by Judaism at all times; some have held that when all the prophetical and hagiographical works are forgotten, the Book of Esther will still be remembered, and, accordingly, the Feast of Purim will continue to be observed (Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1/5a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Megilla).
Its status as a holiday is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah. Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim, though in certain places restrictions have been imposed on work (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim, 696). A special prayer (“Al ha-Nissim”-”For the Miracles”) is inserted into the Amidah during evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as is included in the Birkat Hamazon (“Grace after Meals.”)
The four main mitzvot of the day are:
- Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther in the evening and again in the following morning (kriat megilla)
- Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot)
- Giving charity to the poor (matanot le’evyonim)
- Eating a festive meal (seudah)
Reading of the Megilla
The first religious ceremony ordained for the celebration of Purim is the reading of the Book of Esther (the “Megilla”) in the synagogue, a regulation ascribed in the Talmud (Megilla 2a) to the Sages of the Great Assembly, of which Mordecai is reported to have been a member. Originally this enactment was for the 14th of Adar only; later, however, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (3d century CE) prescribed that the Megillah should also be read on the eve of Purim. Further, he obliged women to attend the reading of the Megillah, inasmuch as it was a woman, Queen Esther, through whom the miraculous deliverance of the Jews was accomplished.
In the Mishnah, the recitation of a benediction on the reading of the Megilla is not yet a universally recognized obligation. However, the Talmud, a later work, prescribed three benedictions before the reading and one benediction after the reading. The Talmud added other provisions. For example, the reader is to pronounce the names of the ten sons of Haman (Esther 9:7-10) in one breath, to indicate their simultaneous death. The congregation was to recite aloud with the reader the verses 2:5, 8:15-16, and 10:3, which relate the origin of Mordechai and his triumph.
The Megilla is read with a cantillation (a traditional chant) differing from that used in the customary reading of the Torah. In some places, however, it is not chanted, but is read like a letter, because of the name iggeret (“epistle”) which is applied (Esther 9:26,29) to the Book of Esther. It has been also customary since the time of the early Medieval era of the Geonim to unroll the whole Megilla before reading it, in order to give it the appearance of an epistle. According to Halakha (“Jewish law”), the Megillah may be read in any language intelligible to the audience.
Boisterousness in the Synagogue
Partly due to the festival’s national rather than religious character, it was appropriate to celebrate the occasion by feasting. Purim is an occasion on which much joyous license is permitted within the walls of the synagogue itself. For example, during the public service in many congregations, when the reader of the Megillah mentions Haman (54 occurrences), there is boisterous hissing, stamping, and rattling. This practice traces its origin to the Tosafists (the leading French and German rabbis of the 13th century). In accordance with a passage in the Midrash, where the verse “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek” (Deuteronomy 25:19) is explained to mean “even from wood and stones”, the rabbis introduced the custom of writing the name of Haman, the offspring of Amalek, on two smooth stones and of knocking or rubbing them constantly until the name was blotted out.
Women and Megilla Reading
Women have an obligation to hear the megilla because “they also were involved in that miracle.”
Giving of Food Gifts and Charity
The Book of Esther prescribes “the sending of portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22). Over time, this mitzvah has become one of the most prominent features of the celebration of Purim. According to the Halakha, each Jew over the age of bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah must send two different, ready made foods to one friend, and two charitable donations to two poor people, to fulfill these two mitzvot. The gifts to friends are called mishloach manot (“sending of portions”) and the donations are matanos l’evyonim (“gifts to the poor”).
In the synagogue, regular collections of charity are made on the festival and the money is distributed among the needy. No distinction was to be made among the poor; anyone who was willing to accept charity is allowed to participate. It is obligatory upon the poorest Jew, even one who is himself dependent on charity, to give to other poor people.
The Purim Meal
On Purim day, typically toward evening, a festive meal called Seudat Purim is held, often with wine as the prominent beverage; consequently, drunkenness is not uncommon at this meal. The jovial character of this feast is illustrated in the saying of the Talmud (Megilla 7b) stating that one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between (ad delo yada) the phrases, arur Haman (“Cursed is Haman”) and baruch Mordechai (“Blessed is Mordecai”). In Hebrew these phrases have the same gematria (“numerical value”), and some authorities, including the Be’er Hagolah and Rabbi Avraham Gombiner known as the Magen Avraham, have ruled that one should drink wine until he is unable to calculate these numerical values.
Costumes and masks are worn to disguise the wearers’ identities. Mistaken identity plays an important role in The Book of Esther, as Esther hid her cultural origins from the king, Mordecai hid his knowledge of all the world’s languages (which allowed Bigthan and Teresh to discuss their plot openly in his presence), and Haman was mistaken for Mordechai when he led Mordechai through the streets of the capital city of Shushan. According to the Talmud, Haman’s daughter, thinking that it must be Mordechai leading her father around, dumped a chamber pot on her father’s head as he passed by, and, realizing her error, committed suicide.
The one who is truly hidden behind all the events of the Megillah is God. The Jewish Sages referred to His role as הסתר פנים (hester panim, or “hiding of the Face”, which is also hinted at in the Hebrew name for the Book of Esther, Megillat Esther-literally, “revelation of [that which is] hidden”). Although Jews believe that everything turned out in the end for the best as a direct result of Divine intervention (that is, a series of miracles), the Book of Esther lacks any mention of God’s name and appears to have been nothing more than a result of natural occurrences. On the other hand, Jewish philosophy and scriptural commentators believe that the reason for the omission of God’s name is in order to emphasize the very point that God remained hidden throughout this series of events, but was nonetheless present and played a large role in the outcome of the story. Furthermore, this lesson can be taken into consideration on a much larger scale: Throughout Jewish history, and especially in the present Jewish diaspora, God’s presence has been felt more at certain times than at others. Megillat Esther (and the omission of God’s name in it) serves to show that although God may not be conspicuously present at times, He nevertheless plays (and has played) an important role in everyone’s lives and in the future of the Jewish nation. In remembrance of how God remained hidden throughout the Purim miracle, Jews dress up on Purim and many hide their faces.
Songs associated with Purim are based on sources that are Talmudic, liturgical and cultural. Traditional Purim songs include Mishenichnas Adar marbim be-simcha (“From the beginning of [the Hebrew month of] Adar, joy increases”-Mishnah Taanith 4:1), LaYehudim haisah orah ve-simchah ve-sasson ve-kar (“The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor”-Esther 8:16), and Mechayav inish livesumei (“There is an obligation to drink”-Talmud Megilla 7b.) The prayer, Shoshanat Yaakov, read at the conclusion of the Megillah reading, is often sung to various popular melodies.
During Purim it is traditional to serve triangular pastries-called homentashn (“Haman’s pockets”) in Yiddish and oznei Haman (“Haman’s ears”) in modern Hebrew. A sweet cookie dough is rolled out, cut into circles, and traditionally filled with a sweet poppyseed filling, then wrapped up into a triangular shape with the filling either hidden or showing. It is customary to eat seeds on Purim in remembrance of Jews in ancient times who had no access to kosher food and subsisted on seeds. More recently, prunes, dates, apricots, and chocolate fillings have been introduced. This pastry belongs to the Ashkenazi cuisine, its Sephardic equivalent is a thin dough called Fazuelos. Kreplach, a kind of dumpling filled with cooked meat, chicken or liver and served in soup, are also traditionally served by Ashkenazi Jews on Purim.
Shushan Purim (the 15th day of Adar) is the day on which Jews in Jerusalem and Shushan (in Iran) celebrate Purim. The Book of Esther explains that while the Jews in unwalled cities fought their enemies on the 13th of Adar and rested on the 14th, the Jews in the walled capital city of Shushan spent the 13th and 14th defeating their enemies, and rested on the 15th (Esther 9:20-22).
Although Mordecai and Esther decreed that only walled cities should celebrate Purim on the 15th, in commemoration of the battle in the walled city of Shushan, the Jewish sages noted that Jerusalem, the focus of Jewish life, lay in ruins during the events of the Book of Esther. To make sure that a Persian city was not honored more than Jerusalem, they made the determination of which cities were walled by referring to ancient cities walled during the time of Joshua. This allowed Jerusalem to be included on the basis of that criteria; paradoxically, they included Shushan as the exceptional case since the miracle occurred there, even though it did not have a wall in Joshua’s time.
The Megillah is also read on the 15th in a number of other cities in Israel-such as Jaffa, Acre, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron-but only as a custom based on a doubt over whether these cities were walled during the time of Joshua. These cities therefore celebrate Purim on the 14th, and the additional Megillah reading on the 15th is a stringency. Jews in these cities do not recite the blessings over the reading of the Megillah on the 15th.
When the main Purim date, the 14th of Adar, comes out on a Friday, then in Jerusalem there is a situation called Purim HaMeshulash – a 3 part Purim celebration. Shushan Purim is then on the 16th day, rather than the 15th day, of Adar. Each day has a different focus. The giving of money can’t occur on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and since it would be unfair to make the poor wait a day, so it is moved to the 14th of Adar. The Megilla reading in Jerusalem takes place on the 14th as well.
This “triple” Purim is a chance to strengthen the celebration even outside of Israel, since on Friday the Purim meal cannot be carried over after dark, as is usually done. These are not very common; they cluster (about every 2-3 years) and then they leave gaps as large as 13 years.
In leap years on the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar. (The Karaites, however, celebrate it in the first month of Adar.) The 14th of the first Adar is then called Purim Katan (“Little Purim” in Hebrew) and the 15th is Shushan Purim Katan, for which there no set observances but have a minor holiday aspect to it. The distinctions between the first and the second Purim in leap years are mentioned in the Mishnah (Megillah 1/46b; compare Orach Chayim 697).
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Pesach is a Jewish holy day and festival commemorating the Jewish people’s release from enslavement in Egypt. Pesach begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan (equivalent to March and April in Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Jewish calendar’s festival year according to the Torah. In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that G-d inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Jewish slaves, with the tenth plague being the killing of all of the firstborn, from the Pharaoh’s son to the firstborn of the dungeon captive, to the firstborn of cattle. The Jews were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, G-d passed over these homes, hence the term “Passover”. When Pharaoh freed the Jews, they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for their bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzoh (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday. This bread that is flat and unrisen is called Matzoh. Together with Shavuot (“Pentecost”) and Sukkot (“Tabernacles”), Passover is one of the three pilgrim festivals (Shalosh Regalim) during which the entire Jewish populace historically made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Products for Pesach
May one own or eat spoiled chometz?
Spoiled chometz that a person would not eat but a dog would eat is still considered chometz. One may not eat or own such chometz.
Chometz that is thoroughly spoiled t the extent that even a dog would not eat it is no longer considered chometz. One may own such chometz but not knowingly eat it (except for medicinal purposes).
May one use thoroughly spoiled chometz?
It is permitted to own and benefit from items that contain chometz if they are inedible to a dog. Therefore, shoe polish, floor cleaner, and laundry detergent can be used on Pesach even if they do not have a hechsher and may contain chometz.
May thoroughly spoiled chometz be applied onto the body?
Yes. Therefore, it is permitted to use soap, shampoo, and creams, even if they do not have a hechsher for Pesach. Some have a custom to be stringent and do not use these items unless they have a hechsher.
Do medicinal creams require a hechsher?
No. Even those who follow the stricter opinion regarding soaps and creams permit their use for medicinal purposes, even if they contain chometz.
Do medicines require a hechsher?
Bitter or tasteless tablets, capsules, and liquids may be taken o Pesach, even if they contain chometz. This is considered to be thoroughly spoiled chometz,, and may be taken for medicinal purposes. Many people try to obtain a chometz-free equivalent, if this is easily available. Where no alternative is available, it is forbidden to put one’s health at risk by refusing to take such medicine.
What about pleasant tasting tablets and liquids?
Tablets that are swallowed without chewing or sucking have the same rule as tasteless medicines.
Tablets that are chewed or sucked must be supervised for Pesach. The same applies to liquid medicine that is pleasant tasting. This is common with children’s medicines.
What about eye drops, eardrops, nose drops, and throat sprays?
These are all permitted and do not require a hechscher.
May vitamins be taken on Pesach?
According to many opinions, vitamins are considered to be food and should be taken only if they are supervised for Pesach. If these are not available, one may be lenient to take regular vitamins only if:
They are bitter tasting or tasteless and
They are medically prescribed
May cosmetics be used on Pesach?
One may use all cosmetics that are not liquids. Since they are inedible to a dog they are permitted, even if they contain chometz. This includes all powders, stick deodorants, eye shadow, mascara, blush, rouge, and lipstick. Some have the custom to use only cosmetics that are supervised for Pesach.
Is a fresh stick of lipstick required?
Many use a fresh stick. Strictly speaking, it is sufficient to clean or remove the top of the old one.
May one use flavored lipstick?
Such lipsticks may not be used unless they are supervised for Pesach.
May one use liquid cosmetics, e.g. perfume?
There is much debate about this. The problem concerns certain types of alcohol that may be made from grains, e.g. ethyl alcohol. In addition, some perfumes may contain vitamin E or wheat germ that is chometz. According to some opinions, this may be ignored since the final product is unfit for eating. Other opinions do not consider this to be thoroughly spoiled chometz, since there are people who will drink it by diluting it or by making other improvements to its taste. Strictly speaking, one may be lenient and use all liquid cosmetics. However, there is a widespread custom to use only products that are supervised for Pesach, and include non-supervised products in the sale of chometz. This applies to perfume, cologne, shaving lotion, mouthwash, spray and roll-on deodorants, and hair spray. Liquid cosmetics that do not contain alcohol, vitamin E or wheat germ are permitted according to all opinions.
May one use air-freshener sprays?
Yes. Even if they contain alcohol they are permitted, since they are not applied to the body.
Does toothpaste require a hechsher?
Although toothpaste is unfit for eating, the widespread custom is to use only one that is supervised for Pesach.
Does soap for dishes require a hechsher?
This too is unfit for eating, but the custom is to use only soap that has a hechser for Pesach.
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