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Find out more about the next festival on the Jewish calendar.

Pesach, 1st Day
April 04, 2015
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)

Pesach/Passover is the Jewish spring festival, which begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year. This corresponds to March or April, and to the tradition of celebrating the re-birth of nature, common to many peoples in the ancient world. In addition, Judaism gave the festival an historical significance, as it commemorates the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and the start of their/our journey to freedom. It is the first of the 3 Pilgrim festivals, the shalosh regalim, of the Jewish year, a time when traditionally the journey was made to Jerusalem.

Pesach lasts a week, and in Israel and for Diaspora Progressive communities, the first day and the seventh day are Yomtov, festival days when traditionally no work is done. The intervening days of the festival are known as ‘Chol HaMoed’, when there are special additions to the liturgy and the Passover food laws are observed, but work may be done, other than, of course, on Shabbat.
Pesach starts with the Seder, observed on the first night, and sometimes on the first two nights. Traditionally this is a home ceremony, and is said to be the most widely observed celebration of the Jewish year. Many Reform synagogues hold a ‘communal Seder’, on either the first or second night, both for those who might not be able to spend the evening with family, and as a community event. The word ‘Seder’ means order, and using our text of the evening, the Haggadah, its readings and songs, and various tangible symbols, we retell the story of the exodus of our ancestors from Egypt. However it is also usual to think about different journeys throughout Jewish history, different times when Jews have been required to leave their homes, and, in addition, to think about what freedom means to different groups, both historically and in our own time.
We are taught in the book of Exodus that the Israelites left so quickly there was not time for the dough to rise. To commemorate this, we eat nothing ‘leaven’ during the week of Pesach, and have matzah, unleavened bread. There are various ways of interpreting the laws relating to food for the festival. Some will just have no bread. Others will be much more strict in their observance and, in addition to restraining from certain foods, will also use different cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, kept just for this week, so it has not had any contact with leaven, and there are a range of observances in between these two extremes.
The ritual is very important, but is ideally an accompaniment to...


Pesach, 7th Day
April 09, 2015
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)


Torah Readings

 

 

Haftarah Reading

 

 

The readings are taken from the official luach prepared by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. Please note that the English text of these Torah portions is taken from the 1917 JPS translation and may differ from translations used in our communities. Occasionally alternative portions may be read, please contact your synagogue or rabbi to confirm the exact readings.


Lag Ba-Omer
May 07, 2015
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)

18th Iyar 5775

The seven week period from Pesach to Shavuot is known as the Omer. The Torah, (Leviticus 23) tells of the command to count 49 days from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer measure of barley was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem until the day before the offering of the new wheat was brought at Shavuot.
There was a controversy as to when the counting was to start, but it was decided it should begin on the second evening of Pesach. This was a very tense period of the agricultural year. It was a time of hard work, and also of anxiety lest the harvest failed, and perhaps that is the origin of there being no celebrations at this time.
However, as time went on, and the majority of Jews became distanced from agriculture, an historical meaning was superimposed on counting the Omer. Children, and sometimes adults too, will eagerly count the days until an awaited event. So, it was considered appropriate to count the annual journeying to revelation each year.
The Kabbalists gave other interpretations to the journey through the Omer, and in modern times it has an added significance, as Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZicharon and Yom Ha’Atzmaut are all observed during this time.
The period was regarded as a time of semi-mourning, when for example, there were no haircuts, no music, no celebration of weddings, but an exception to these restrictions was Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day. Tradition referred to a major plague which killed many thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students, (though perhaps the plague was not a disease, but a euphemism for the Romans who forbade the Jews to study Torah), and on Lag B’Omer the plague lifted, and celebrations were, and remain, permitted.
Particularly in Israel today, it is a time for bonfires, bows and arrows, other outdoor pursuits.
There is a variation in the way the restrictions of the Omer period are observed in different Reform synagogues, but it is usual to count the Omer at services, and the Shalosh Regalim Machzor of the Movement for Reform Judaism contains a calendar of Omer readings, (pp655-718).

The readings are taken from the official luach prepared by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. Please note that the English text of these Torah portions is taken from the 1917 JPS translation and may differ from translations used in our communities. Occasionally alternative portions may be read, please contact your synagogue or rabbi to confirm the exact readings.


Shavuot
May 24, 2015
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)

6th Sivan 5775

Shavout means ‘weeks’ and is celebrated on the 6th of Sivan, seven weeks after Pesach, and originally perhaps had no greater purpose than ‘concluding’ Pesach . In the agricultural year, Pesach was the time of the barley harvest, and Shavuot the wheat harvest, and it is said that the correct time to cut wheat is 50 days after the barley is ripe. As time went on, it, like the other pilgrim festivals of the Jewish year, was given an historical meaning, and Shavuot became z’man matan toratenu, the season of the giving of the (our) Torah. Pesach commemorated the Exodus from Egypt, the next seven weeks, the period known as the Omer, was also a time of a spiritual journey, to Shavuot and the re-enactment each year of the giving/receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai. While its origins were agricultural, it is interesting that, theologically, for Jews, the 50th day from Pesach is Shavuot, while Christians celebrate Pentecost, literally the 50th day, after Easter, and often the two coincide.
The focal point of the synagogue morning service on Shavuot is the reading, from the Torah, of the account of revelation and the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19 and 20, and the congregation stands at this point, as though to symbolise the fact that we are receiving the revelation afresh. The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, because of the harvest, and because Ruth is the ancestor of King David who, we are told, was born and died at Shavuot. There is also symbolism in associating the festival of Torah with Ruth, who was a convert to Judaism.
The eve of Shavuot is associated with the tradition of staying up all night to study, and is known as Tikkun Leyl Shavout, from the book originally put together for this occasion. Dairy foods are associated with Shavuot, one reason being to compare the physical nourishment gained from milk, with the spiritual nourishment of the Torah.

Torah Readings

Haftarah Reading

The readings are taken from the official luach prepared by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. Please note that the English text of these Torah portions is taken from the 1917 JPS translation and may differ from translations used in our communities. Occasionally alternative portions may be read, please contact your synagogue or rabbi to confirm the exact readings.


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