Simhat Torah, Purim, and Hanukkah (Festival of lights)
What is Simhat Torah? (what do people do/celebrate?)
During Simhat Torah, people rejoice with the Torah. The festival is an expression of jubilation at God's giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.
Simhat Torah means "Joy of the Torah".
Origins of the Simhat Torah?
Based on a story about King Solomon celebrating when he finished reading the Torah. (Thus, festival is expression of joy and gratitute at God's giving of the Torah.)
It is a post-talmudic festival, which means that festival was created after Torah was written? made by the ribbis... [CHECK WITH TEACHER!!]
What are the common rituals associated/performed on Simhat Torah?
Different people in synagogue are called up to read part of the Torah, but greatest honour goes to the one who read the last portion of Deuteronomy and one who reads first portion of Genesis. (Completing the Torah annual cycle.) They are called bridgegrooms because they represent community joining to Torah, and also the joining of two annual cycles of Torah readings.
All the Torah scrolls are taken out of the holy arc and carried around bimah (elevated platform), with everyone singing, dancing and clipping as they proceed. (Connection with their holy scriptures in a very intimate way).
What is the significance of the Simhat Torah?
The Torah single-handedly represents the relationship between Jewsih people and God.
Opportunity for people to express their passion towards Torah, and their religion as a whole.
Once again, like with many festivals, it promotes a sense of unity within the Jewish community, the Torah being something that unifies the individuals. (After all, strong community is vital for idea that they are chosen people).
The festival of Purim is a ______ festival. This means? Also, Purim has a more ____ than a _____ character.
A rabbinic festival.
This means that this festival is not from the Torah. Thus its status is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy in the Torah.
Purim has a more national than a religious character. (the story surprisingly does not mention God once).
What is the purim festival based on? What origins?
It celebrates when the Jews were saved from near extermination. Based on story in the Megillat Esther (book in Tenakh).
Diaspora Jews in Peria in 539BCE were almost exterminated by its king, had it not been for the beautiful Esther who bravely persuaded the king not to.
What are the practices/ rabbinic mitzvot associated with Purim?
Listen to public reasing, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Ether. People enthusiastically engage in the reading, booing and making sounds when Haman's (baddie's) name is read out.
Sending of gifts to friends.
Giving charity to the poor.
Fast one day before Purim (because Esther fasted before seeing the king)
Eating a festive meal and getting mildly drunk.
What is the significance of the festival of Purim?
One of the most joyous festival in Jewish calender.
Time of giving to people in need - Jewish concept of Tzedakah (right for the poor).
Very much commemorates and celebrates Jewish survival against the odds (in this sense, also linked to holocaust). (Haman the baddie, has become embodiment of antisemite)
Again, sense of belonging and keeping community strong - giving of food to each other - love and friendship.
Significance and celebration of role of women as well - Esther was a woman.
What does the rabbinic mitzvah say about what you have to do in Purim?
To read the story from Megillat Esther.
So that the events could be re-lived and not forgotten.
Also decrees that women should attend too - as Esther was a woman.
What is the Hebrew name of the Festival of lights? How many days is it celebrated?
Celebrated for 8 days.
btw it's a rabinnic festival.
What is the origins of the Hannukah festival?
Based on the vicotry of the Maccabees against the Greeks and regaining of the Temple. (around 165 BCE)
THey prepared the temple for rededication - in Hebrew, Hanukkah means 'dedication'.
In the temple, they found only enough oil to kindle temple light for 1 day. But miraculously, the light continued to burn for 8 days. (hence the festival of lights).
What is the name for the 'lamp' that is lit up at Hannukah and how many candles? Representing what?
8 candles, reminding how the candle lamp burned for 8 days in the Temple when it was rededicated. Commemorates the miracle of the oil.
Blessings are recited when the candles are lit.
What is the rabbinic mitzvot about Hunnukah and the miracle?
To publicise the miracle.
What other practices/traditions associated with Hannukah, except for the lighting of the Menorah?
Playing with the Dreidel - spinning tops that once used to have a serious purpose.
When the Jews were secretly studying the Torah, they would have dreidel so that they could quickly pretend that they were only playing and gambling.
Traditional hannukah foods are cooked in oil, in remembrance of oil that burned in the tample.
[the four letters from the 4 tops form an cronym for phrase 'A great miracle happened there'.]
What is Yom Hashoah an example of? Give another example.
A later/additional festival.
Another example would be Tu B'Shevat.
Briefly explain what Yom Hashoah is.
Also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a day to commemorate approx 6 million Jews and 5 million others who lost their lived during the Holocaust of the 1940's.
It is a national holiday in Israel.
What are some of the things that are done during Yom Hashoah?
On the eve, state ceremony is held at Yam Vashem (official Israeli memorial of Holocaust).
In the morning, 10am, air raid sirens are sounded across Israel for 2 mins, and the whole of Israel stops and remembers the millions who lost their lives.
All public venues closed.
Very much a national commemoration day, not just for Jews in Israel. Jews outside Israel (eg. Auschwitz esp has 'March of Living') also commemorate this day.
Why are some ultra-orthodox Jews hesitant and not recognising of Yom Hashoah?
Because it is a later festival, and has no reference in the Scriptures.
Also the month of Nisan (in which it is held) is established as a month of joy, and thus some believe a day of mourning should not be in this month.
Instead, they would prefer to commemorate Holocaust lives lost on traditional mourning days like on Tishah B'Av (where they fast).