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Saturday, Aug. 10 (begins at sunset) Sunday, Aug. 11 (ends at nightfall) The Three Weeks is an annual mourning period that falls in the summer during which we do not cut our hair, purchase new clothes, listen to music or hold weddings. It reaches its climax and concludes with the fast of the ninth of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date that many other tragedies befell our people. The fast of Tisha b’Av begins at sunset the previous evening. Besides fasting, we abstain from additional pleasures: washing, applying lotions or creams, wearing leather shoes and marital relations. Until midday, we sit on the floor or on low stools.


Sunday, Sept. 29 (begins at sunset) Tuesday, Oct. 1 (ends at nightfall) Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the universe, the day G-d created Adam and Eve, and it’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year. It’s celebrated with candle lighting in the evenings, festive meals with sweet delicacies during the night and day, prayer services that include the sounding of the ram’s horn (shofar) on both mornings and desisting from creative work.


Tuesday, Oct. 8 (begins at sunset) Wednesday, Oct. 9 (ends at nightfall) Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year – the day on which we are closest to God and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement – “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30). For nearly 26 hours – from several minutes before sunset on 9 Tishrei to after nightfall on 10 Tishrei – we “afflict our souls,” or abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear and abstain from marital relations.


Sunday, Oct. 13 (begins at sunset) Sunday, Oct. 20 (ends at nightfall) For 40 years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt, miraculous “clouds of glory” surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, we remember God’s kindness and reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah – a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches – for the duration of the Sukkot festival (on the Jewish calendar Tishrei 15-21). For seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home.


Monday, Oct. 21 (begins at sunset) Tuesday, Oct. 22 (ends at nightfall) The holiday of Sukkot is followed by an independent holiday called Shemini Atzeret. In Israel, this is a one-day holiday; in the Diaspora, it is a two-day holiday, and the second day is known as Simchat Torah. This holiday is characterized by utterly unbridled joy, which surpasses even the joy of Sukkot. The joy reaches its climax on Simchat Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion – and restart – of the annual Torah-reading cycle.


Sunday, Dec. 22 (begins at sunset) Monday, Dec. 30 (ends at nightfall) Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, we light just one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are kindled. Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit, and traditional songs are sung afterward.

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Annual guide to Jewish living in Northeast Ohio

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Annual guide to Jewish living in Northeast Ohio

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