Festivals

1. The High Holy Days

Adat Shalom offers a rich High Holiday experience for our diverse membership. Please click here for further information.

2. Sukkot

Called "Z'man Simchateinu" (the Time of Our Rejoicing) or simply "The Festival" during Biblical times, this festival falls immediately after Yom Kippur, beginning on the full moon of Tishrei and lasting for seven days. In history it commemorates our 40 years of wandering, as we dwelt in fragile temporary booths; in nature it commemorates the fall harvest. Thus we celebrate Sukkot by building and living in the sukkah, our own fragile booth, decorated with a cornoucopia of vegetables and other objects. It is followed immediately by Shemini Atzeret, the 'eighth day of assembly,' and Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing in the Torah when we finish our annual cycle of Torah reading, and begin anew. Adat Shalom follows the Israeli calendar in considering only the first and the eighth days to be "hag," with Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret being celebrated concurrently, though we recognize that the second and ninth days are still festival-time for folks both in and beyond our community.

3. Hanukkah

Hanukkah brings light to the darkest time of year: it always falls over the new moon (when nights are darkest) closest to the winter solstice (when nights are longest). A late addition to the holiday cycle, Hanukkah is the only ancient festival devised entirely by the rabbis, without any biblical basis. According to one school of thought. Hanukkah commemorates the miraculous victory of a ragtag group of Jewish fighters, the Maccabees, over the Hellenized Syrian empire in 167-164 BCE. Another school—uncomfortable with the militancy or the secularism of the first interpretation, or uncomfortable with the Maccabees' own less-than-ideal leadership—emphasizes instead the miracle that supposedly happened when the victorious Jews rededicated the Temple, and one day's worth of oil lasted for eight days. We celebrate the eight-day festival by lighting our own hanukiyot (a.k.a. menorahs), eating oily foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), spinning the dreidel, offering modest presents to one another, and singing joyful songs.

From the Torah School Music Program: Hanukkah Song Sheet

4. Tu B'Shvat

Rosh Hashanah is the new year for people, but Tu B'Shvat—the 15th day (full moon) of the month of Shvat, which falls in January or February on the secular calendar—is the new year of the trees. Around now, at least in Israel, sap begins to rise, and the earliest stirrings of the regrowth of spring take place. The medieval kabbalists (mystics) wrote a seder for Tu B'Shvat that parallels our Passover observance, a version of which we still use. And through ardent 20th century efforts to grow trees in the Land of Israel, the festival has acquired new Zionist resonance. Today, Tu B'Shvat stands as the Jewish Arbor Day or Earth Day, when we focus on the beauty and fragility of Creation, and on our own responsibility as enlightened stewards of the trees, ecoysystem, and biosphere.

5. Purim

Purim captures the essence of this early springtime festival, which commemorates the deliverance our early diaspora community in Shushan, Persia, some 2500 years ago. The story is outlined in the Biblical book (or scroll / megillah) of Esther, which is chanted with great fanfare and celebration on Purim eve. Though the story has its dark moments, the festival has over the years become Judaism's most raucous, edgy, kid-friendly all-out joyous day with gift-giving, dressing up and cross-dressing, hard-drinking and hard-laughing. At Adat Shalom, we have celebrated virtually every year with a chanting of the Migillah and an inter-generational "Purim Spiel" or play (generally musical) with satiric script and song. All who wish to dress in costumes for the celebration. The reading and spiel are preceded by the "Tot Purim Party" for the youngest children including a festive potluck dinner and hamentaschen in many flavors.

From the Torah School Music Program: Purim Song Sheet

6. Pesach

This most-beloved, most-celebrated, most ritualistic festival comes at the full moon of Nisan, in the midst of the early spring harvest, and the beginning of the season's verdancy. Preparations begin weeks in advance, as we rid our households of any chametz (bits of bread)—and while we can easily go overboard in this process, it has rich personal, social, and ecological connotations, even as it occassions a good spring cleaning! A commemoration of the exodus from Egypt, we celebrate Pesach on the first (and often the second) night with an elaborate seder, an at-the-table telling of the story of Pesach, punctuated by ritual, songs, and a festive meal. We elaborate on the meaning of the day and join in addressing our answers to the “youngest child” (actual or symbolic). For the full seven biblically-mandated days—and many Adat Shalomers add an eighth day, in tandem with diaspora Conservative and Orthodox Jews—we avoid bread or bread-like products from the five biblical grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye, and spelt; strict Ashkenazim add legumes, corn, and rice) if prepared under any but the most controlled circumstances, so that we eat only un-risen food, just as our ancestors did when they left Egypt in a hurry. Pesach forces us to consider the meaning and price and implications of freedom, for ourselves and for others, in the past and present and future. "Let all who are hungry come and eat... in every generation we must see ourselves as if we, ourselves, came out of the narrow place ... everyone who goes beyond the mere recounting of the story of the Exodus is deemed praiseworthy."

"Truly" Preparing for Pesach

Rabbi Fred on Pesach Food and Wine

From the Torah School Music Program: Pesach Song Sheet

Passover supplement

Eco-Haggadah Helpers 4 pages of useful readings and inserts keyed to each step of the seder

Reconstructionist Press: "A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah" Information and Ordering Remember as an Adat Shalom member, you are a JRF member, entitled to the member prices.

The Omer -- including Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, and More

During the seven-weeks-of-seven-days from Pesach to Shavuot—from liberation to revelation—Jews traditionally count the passage of time with special significance. This period known as the omer (meaning sheaf, from the sheaves of wheat being gathered between the early and late spring harvests) is observed in semi-mourning, as we wait to know how good the harvest and the year will be, and in rememberance of the victims of plagues and violence in this season in years past. Yom HaShoah, the day on which the Jewish world pauses to remember the horrors of the Holocaust, takes place during this season, on the anniversary of the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. But only five years later, on the fifth of Iyar (May 15) of 1948, David ben Gurion read Israel's Declaration of Independence—and so immediately following Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance for all of Israel's fallen heroes, the Jewish world celebrates the birthday of the modern State of Israel, "reishit tzmichat ge'ulateinu, first fruit [i.e., the evidence] of the flowering of our redemption."

7. Shavuot

Shavuot is the last of the biblical "Big Three" pilgrimage festivals (with Sukkot and Pesach), when Jews in biblical times would come from all over to Jerusalem to gather, pray, donate, sacrifice, and celebrate. Coming at the end of the Omer (the carefully-counted 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot), Shavuot commemorates in nature the late spring harvest, and in history the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We celebrate Shavuot—for one day, though individuals often observe a second day as well—with blintzes and ice cream and other dairy products, with joyful liturgy, with recitation of the biblical book of Ruth, and with a late-night or all-night study session called the Tikkun Leil Shavuot, the "opportunity to repair the breach in God's world on the eve of Shavuos."

8. Tisha B'Av

The greatest historical disasters that befell the Jews, tradition tells us, happened on the 9th day of the month of Av, in mid-summer. Most significantly, both Temples were destroyed on this day—the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. We commemorate this sad day by reading the Book of Lamentations, recalling our losses, and committing ourselves to play whatever part we can in building a more positive future. To help us in this process, we fast; though there are five "minor" fast days across the Jewish year when we abstain from food and water and other practices only from sunup to sundown, on Tisha B'Av (as on Yom Kippur) the traditionally prescribed fast is for the full 24-plus hours. Many liberal Jews fast only half a day. The haftarah selections in synagogue in the weeks preceding Tisha B'Av are drawn from prophetic passages of rebuke, but for seven full weeks after—from Tisha B'Av until Rosh Hashanah—they carry the message of consolation.