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

Chanukkah (1st Day)
December 17, 2014
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)

25th Kislev 5775

In Jewish tradition, Chanukkah is a minor festival, but it has grown in importance over recent years.
The historical story of Chanukkah, recounted in the Books of the Maccabees, in the Apocrypha, tells of the victory of those Jews who resisted the call to assimilation by the Syrian Greeks who wanted to replace Judaism with their own religion and culture. It was essentially a military victory won by a small group of guerrilla fighters, as the majority were attracted by at least some elements of the new way of life. The victory resulted in the reclaiming and rededication of the Jewish temple which had been desecrated. The word ‘Chanukkah’ means dedication, and probably the original 8 day festival of (re)dedication of the Temple was modelled on the festival of Succot, which, because of the fighting, was not able to be celebrated.
Later on, during a Talmudic discussion about candles, it becomes clear that Chanukkah was not widely known. This may have been partly because of the embarrassment the rabbis felt about celebrating a military victory. Therefore, in one place only, we have the account of the legend of the oil required for the dedication. According to the story, there was only enough for one day, but, miraculously, it lasted for eight.
So, Hanukkah had its place in the Jewish calendar, with the lighting of candles for eight days, Chanukkah geld (money) was given to the children, but it was a relatively minor one. Different factors have come together to make it appear that Chanukkah is almost a major festival in status.
One is its timing, and it is felt that one way of dealing with the problems presented by Christmas, is to make the observance of Chanukkah much more major. Clearly festivals of light are important in many traditions at this darkest time of the year. Bigger gifts are now given, and indeed exchanged for all ages, and there is much more emphasis on different ways of celebrating. This is good in one way, but there is a certain paradox in that a festival that had its origins in a victory against assimilation, has expanded because of pressures to assimilate.
There are additions to the synagogue liturgy for Chanukkah, and celebrations will be held there. However, the focus should be the lighting of the Chanukkiah each night, and the blessings are found on page of the Siddur of the Movement for Reform Judaism, beginning on page 374. The legend of the oil has led to doughnuts and latkes, (potato pancakes) being a particular feature of the festival. There is also a tradition of playing...


Purim
March 05, 2015
(The Movement for Reform Judaism) (Jewish Festivals)

14th Adar 5775

Torah Readings

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.


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.


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