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A Guide to Jewish Studies: Jewish Calendar & Holidays

A guide to Jewish Studies created by Allison James '22 and Abe Nemon.

Jewish Calendar & Holidays

The Jewish year is structured around the lunar calendar system, which determines which dates the Jewish holidays fall on each calendar year. The year begins with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah ("the head of the year") and the first day of each month is celebrated as Rosh Chodesh ("the head of the month"). See here for a list of Jewish month names. The calendar includes the holidays of Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, Shemini Azteret, Hanukkah, and Passover (Pesach), which are outlined in this section.

General Works

Rosh Hashanah (רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה)

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, literally “the head of the year.” It begins on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which approximately falls in September/October. The customary greeting Jews give one another on this day, “l’shanah tovah u’metukah,” translates to “have a happy and sweet new year,” but is commonly shortened to “shanah tovah!” Some of the most well-known customs of Rosh Hashanah include blowing the shofar and eating apples dipped in honey.

Sukkot (סֻכּוֹת‎)

Simchat Torah (שִׂמְחַת תּוֹרָה)

Purim (פּוּרִים)

Shavuot (שָׁבוּעוֹת‎)

Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּיפּוּר)

Yom Kippur is the Jewish “day of atonement.” It begins on the tenth day of Tishrei, which approximately falls in September/October. The customary greeting Jews give one another on this day, “tsom kal, tsom mo’il,” translates to “easy fast, beneficial fast.” During this 25-hour holy day, Jews refrain from eating and drinking. On the eve of the holiday, Jews practice the kapparot ritual, in which the sins of the past year are transferred to money or live poultry which is then donated to charity. The prayer service is marked by the recitation of the Priestly Blessing in the synagogue.

Shemini Atzeret (שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶֽרֶת‎)

Hanukkah (חֲנֻכָּה)

Passover / Pesach (פֶּסַח)

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