The Creation of the State of Israel

THE JEWISH PRESENCE IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL

Since the times of Joshua, when the newly formed Nation of Israel conquered the kingdoms of Canaan (c. 1250 B.C.E.), not a decade has gone by when there was not a Jewish presence in the land that was to become the Land of Israel.
As the crossroads between three continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), the Middle East has always been a “hot spot” of activity. Throughout history, conquering armies have swept over the land of Israel, attacked its residents, and still the Jewish people have clung to their land. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans each marched through as they struggled to amass their vast empires. Each trying to eliminate the Jewish nation, either through forced assimilation, death or exile. The Jews, however, always remained committed to their faith, their people and their land.

Since the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and exiled the Jews in 70 C.E. (renaming the land Palestina), the vast majority of the Jews have lived in a diaspora (dispersion) in virtually every corner of the world. No matter the country in which they sojourned, their longing for their own land has continued to burn in their hearts and dreams as they turned their prayers towards Jerusalem. The saga of the modern State of Israel comes from this more than 2000 year old longing for Jerusalem.

By the mid-1800’s, as anti-Semitic violence increased in Europe, more and more Jews began making their way to Ottoman-ruled Palestine. When these new immigrants arrived, they found it impossible to blend in with the existing Jewish population, a community of scholars living in squalid Ottoman cities that were locked each night to keep out marauders. After all, the new Jewish immigrants had come to work the land.

When studying the pattern of settlement leading to the State of Israel, the history between 1882 and the creation of the State of Israel is divided into five Aliyah* periods.

*Aliyah means going up. The term Aliyah is used for those moving to Israel implying that one is rising spiritually.

ISRAEL BEFORE THE IMMIGRATION

In order to understand the history of the establishment of Israel, it is important to know the political condition of the land of Israel prior to the waves of Jewish immigration. The Ottoman Empire, ruled over large expanses of land, its reach broken into smaller ruling districts. The Ottomans governed the land of Israel for 400 years, from 1517-1917. The area of Israel, along with the current area of the Kingdom of Jordan, was known as Palestine and was under the jurisdiction of Damascus (Syria). With time, the Ottoman Empire became known for its stagnation. The intricacies of the vast bureaucracy were manipulated through bakshish, bribes. The majority of the territory of Palestine was broken into landholdings, and absentee landholders came once or twice a year to collect the rent from the shareholders who lived in squalor. Modern technology, such as plumbing, was unheard of in the backwaters of the Empire. The cities of the Ottoman Empire were no better. The people of Jerusalem lived only within the walls of the city (today known as the Old City) and the doors were locked each night for fear of the bands of robbers that terrorized the lands. Poverty and disease flourished in the cities that had none of the amenities of sanitation.

The situation of the land can best be understood by an excerpt from Mark Twain’s letters from his travels there in 67:

We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds–a silent, mournful expanse…We pressed on toward the goal of our crusade, renowned Jerusalem. The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those
fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem… Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless. I would not desire to live here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken Land (“The Innocents Abroad or the New Pilgrim’s Progress” Volume II, p.216-359 (Harper and Brothers 1922).

THE FIRST ALIYAH

Between 1882 and 1903, the period known as the First Aliyah, approximately 30,000 Jews made there way to the land of Israel. Impoverished refugees, they worked land purchased by European Jewish philanthropists and the newly created Zionist organizations. Life was a constant struggle against harsh conditions and many died of disease, exposure and malnutrition. Draining swamps, clearing land, and learning new farming techniques were major challenges for the immigrants, but they fought hard, and by the end of the First Aliyah period, several settlement towns, such as Rishon L’tzion, had been established and the Hebrew language had begun its revival as a modern, spoken tongue.

During the period of the First Aliyah, “Zionism” became an official movement, spearheaded by Theodore Herzl. The First Zionist Congress convened in Switzerland in 1897, giving focus to the movement and adding political weight to the cause.

THE SECOND ALIYAH

As the First Aliyah petered out, the spirit of Zionism was revitalized by a new surge of pogroms in Russia, particularly after the failed revolution of 1905. The Second Aliyah was characterized by the Socialist Zionists who saw the rebuilding of the land of Israel as an opportunity to bring to life their socialist ideology. Unlike the First Aliyah, which relied, in part, on Arab labor, the Second Aliyah promoted a society in which Jews viewed craftsmanship and laboring the land as virtual mitzvot.

During the Second Aliyah period, the first kibbutz*, Kibbutz Deganiah, was created, and the first all-Jewish city, Tel Aviv, was founded. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), founded in 1901, facilitated the purchase and development of land, and numerous organizations were organized to help new immigrants find housing and adjust to their new environment. By the end of the Second Aliyah, there were approximately 85,000 immigrants working to establish a Jewish homeland.

*A Kibbutz is a collective, Socialist settlement.

THE THIRD ALIYAH

World War I marked the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. With the defeat of the Turks, Palestine became a British colony. In 1917, the World Zionist Organization successfully negotiated with the British government, and the British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour, pledged British support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
Thus began the era of the Third Aliyah (1919-1923), with the world at peace and support for a Jewish homeland seemingly guaranteed by the Balfour Declaration. Again large numbers of Jews came from Eastern Europe following new pogroms instigated by the successful Bolshevik Revolution. The new immigrants came far better prepared by European Zionist organizations with Hebrew education and labor training, and proved critical in helping develop new settlements, build roads and strengthen Jewish communities.

Since the beginning of the Zionist movement, the Jews had been purchasing the land from the wealthy absentee-landlords of the Ottoman Empire. At first, these landholders were happy to sell their lands at the high prices the Jews were willing to pay. As their Arab tenants’ began to grumble about the growing Jewish presence and the better living conditions of the Jews, the Turks began to sell the Jews tracts of land that they saw as unusable, such as the Jezreel Valley. By the sweat of their brow, the immigrants of the Third Aliyah drained the marshes of the Jezreel Valley, creating an entire region of agriculturally desirable land which flourished in their hands

While the Third Aliyah was bolstered by the hopes inspired by the Balfour Declaration, the period ended in disappointment. At the beginning of the 1920s, the League of Nations (forerunner of the UN) granted Britain the Mandate for Palestine, charging it to administer the land and “facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions…”
With the removal of the Ottoman Empire, and having witnessed the progress made by the Jews in the land, a new movement of Arab nationalism surged. The Arabs began to apply pressure to the British to prohibit Jewish immigration. Arab pressure and riots in Palestine brought about the Churchill White Paper of 1922, which, while it again reiterated the right of the Jews to a homeland in Palestine, detached all of the area east of the Jordan river from Palestine and gave it to the Hashemi family to establish an independent Arab state called (Trans)Jordan – Thus creating a Palestinian state out of 2/3 of the region.

In response to the growing dissonance created by the conflicting promises of the British to the Jews and the Arabs, the immigrants of the Second and Third Aliyah laid the foundations for self-rule. They created the Histadrut (National Labor Organization), which helped create an industrial base while continuing to support agricultural advances. Another important creation was the establishment of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary defense organization.

THE FOURTH ALIYAH

Marked as the period from 1924 until the start of World War II, the immigrants of the Fourth Aliyah were composed of primarily middle-class Polish refugees fleeing new persecutions, as well as Jews from Middle Eastern countries. The influx of the middle-class Europeans brought new capital to the region as the newest immigrants invested in small businesses.

Dominating the era of the Fourth Aliyah was the growing unrest between Jews and Arabs. While the Jews had purchased all the land upon which they settled, and were recognized internationally by the League of Nations’ Mandate as having a right to settle the land, there was an increasing opposition from the Arabs. In 1929, the Jews of the city of Hebron, whose Jewish population long predated the Zionist settlement movement and had lived in peace with their Arab neighbors, were ravaged by a violent Arab pogrom. When the rioting stopped, 67 Jews were dead and 70 wounded. The reports spoke of neighbors attacking neighbors and life-long friends suddenly turning into bitter enemies. The violence spread to other cities.

As had all-too-frequently become the case under British Rule, the British authorities did nothing to try and stop the attacks. With the British unable and unwilling to insure their safety, the surviving Jews fled Hebron, unable to return until 1967.

THE FIFTH ALIYAH

The Fifth Aliyah began with the rise of Hitler in Germany and ended in 1939, due to a combination of German emigration restrictions and British quotas. This Aliyah, just prior to World War II, was composed mostly of German Jews and other war refugees. Unlike many of the immigrants of the previous Aliyahs, they came out of necessity, not out of ideology. The new immigrants were often from upper and middle class backgrounds, often professionals who filled the need of the settlements for doctors and lawyers, as well as enhancing the cultural tone of the country. As the immigration increased, neighboring Arab countries accelerated their oppression of the native Jewish populations, causing another influx of Middle Eastern Jews, particularly from Yemen.

WORLD WAR II

As the situation for the Jews in Europe grew more deadly, the doors of the world closed. Responding to anti-Jewish riots by Arabs throughout 1936, ‘37, ‘38 and, ‘39, Britain issued another White Paper in 1939 severely restricting Jewish immigration. At the same time, England and the United States imposed immigration quotas and the Jews were left with nowhere to go. The Jews pleaded with the British government to be allowed to enter Palestine, but to no avail.

The Jews in Palestine, seeing the desperate situation of the Allied forces, put aside their disputes with the British government and formed a special Jewish Brigade to fight the Nazis in Europe. At the same time, the Arab leaders met with Hitler and decided to support the Axis powers. Some members of the Jewish Brigade and other Jews from Palestine, managed to smuggle themselves into the war zone and establish underground forces to help Jews escape.

By land or sea, bribery and fake visas, Jews tried desperately to escape Nazi Europe and enter Palestine.
Tens of thousands did managed to smuggle through the British blockades. Those that were caught were put into British prison camps, reliving the barbed-wire nightmares from which they had fled.

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL

As European Jews faced the horrors of the Nazis, the Jews in Palestine were engaged in their own struggle. Frequent attacks against settlements and individuals by the Arab population were countered by Jewish self-defense and retaliation. After the conclusion of World War II, these attacks continued, and even increased The ruling British often took the side of the Arabs, including confiscating the few weapons the Jews had for self-defense.

By the late 1940s, the British, frequently sabotaged by both sides, gave up trying to keep the peace altogether. They brought the matter before the UN and a proposal was passed to divide the remaining land of Palestine (bear in mind that 3/4 of the original land of Palestine, now called Jordan, was already in Arab hands) into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. The Jews supported the proposal, recognizing that even after the great tragedy in Europe it was the best they could hope for. The Arabs, however, rejected the plan.
In May of 1948, the British completed their withdrawal from the region.

While the withdrawal was supposed to be neutral, many of the British jails, fortresses and munitions were handed over to local Arabs.

On May 14, the day the British pulled out, the State of Israel formally declared its independence. On May 15, the new State of Israel, with no army, navy, or air force, was attacked by the surrounding Arab States.


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Kinnot

Kinnot

Many devastating events took place on the 9th of Av. This is why the Jewish people consider it the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Here is a brief description of some of the major events that transpired over the centuries that we mourn on this day.

Events and Tragedies Mourned on Tisha B’Av

Many devastating events took place on the 9th of Av. This is why the Jewish people consider it the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Here is a brief description of some of the major events that transpired over the centuries that we mourn on this day.

When ten of the twelve scouts who were dispatched by Moses to survey the Promised Land returned with a negative report, God’s anger was kindled. The Almighty decreed that the adults of that generation would die in the wilderness without entering the Promised Land. God told the believers of that evil report that their tears on that day, as described in the Torah (Numbers 14:1), would be manifest in history in multiple tragedies. “Rabbi Yohanan said: That night was the night of the ninth of Av. God said to them: ‘You wept needlessly that night, and I will therefore establish for you a true tragedy over which there will be weeping in future generations’” (Talmud Ta’anit 29a).

Indeed, as our sages have taught, on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the First and Second Temples were destroyed, the city of Betar was conquered, quashing the Bar Kochba revolt, and the Roman General Turnus Rufus plowed the City of Jerusalem. These were the events that the rabbis of the Talmud, who lived prior to the year 500 CE, could identify, that occurred on Tisha B’Av.

But, God’s promise did not end a millennia-and-a-half ago. Prior to the Spanish expulsion of its Jews, King Edward I expelled the Jews from England on July 18, 1290, an edict that stood, un-repealed, until 1656. July 18, 1290, the pre-cursor of all European expulsions, corresponded to the 9th of Av, 5050. Two centuries later, the Golden Age of Spain came to an end. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain officially banished the Jews from Spain, giving them exactly four months to leave. The deadline, four months later, July 31, 1492, also corresponded to the 9th of Av.

More than four hundred years later, on August 1, 1914, the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar, World War I began, which really set in motion a thirty-year European tailspin, culminating with the allied invasion of Europe and the end of World War II. The start of those 30 years, which destroyed much of what Europe had been, led ultimately to the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, according to most, by far, the worst tragedy the Jews have ever experienced.

Even closer to home, on July 18th 1994, corresponding to the tenth of Av, a bomb destroyed the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, killing 87 and injuring 100.

Jews worldwide are more cautious during the days leading up to Tisha B’Av, given the promised “crying” ascribed to that specific time period. It behooves us to learn our history, and to take great strides to improve, and repair our relationship with God.

This is but a brief summary of tragic events that befell the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av throughout the generations.  To learn more about these and other historical events, please click on the links below.

An Explanation of Tisha B’Av Kinnot

One of the ways that we help ourselves mourn on Tisha B’Av is by learning about, and reading the kinnot (elegies, mourning the destruction of the Temples and other great Jewish tragedies). There is great benefit to studying the Tisha B’Av kinnot, so they can be absorbed and experienced more meaningfully on Tisha B’Av day.  Here is a brief explanation of what the kinnot are and thereafter, offer an in-depth look at several of the particularly significant mournful poems

Elegies (Kinnot)

An elegy is defined as a mournful poem or a lament. In Hebrew, an elegy is known as a kinnah. On Tisha B’Av, when the Jewish people mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, it is customary for kinnot to be read at both the evening and morning services. Kinnot traditions may vary according to one’s community, specifically as to which kinnot are recited, by whom and using which type of chant or tune.

The majority of the kinnot are lamentations over the loss of the Temple – odes to that which was lost and to the horrors that occurred in Jerusalem at the time of the destruction. Some kinnot are poetic reiterations of chapters from the Book of Lamentations and the Book of Ezekiel, and others express a longing to return from exile to the Promised Land. Although the majority of the kinnot focus on the loss of the Temple, later authors added elegies for other tragic events such as the First Crusade (1096), the burning of the Talmud in Paris (1242) and the expulsion from Spain (1492). More recently, several kinnot lamenting the tragedy of the Holocaust have been included in the Tisha B’Av service.

The kinnot are divided into three basic categories:

  1. The destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and the impact it had on the Jewish people.
  2. The destruction of individuals and communities.
  3. The beauty of Jerusalem before it was destroyed.Of the kinnot whose authorship is known, many were written by Rabbi Elazar Hakalir (c. 600 C.E.), whose poems often include complex patterns of acrostics, rhyme and repetition. His elegies mostly address the destruction of the Temples (category #1). Other well-known authors of kinnotare Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141), (who composed many elegies regarding the beauty of Jerusalem that was lost, i.e.. category #3),  Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (Maharam of Rothenberg 1220-1293) and Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (Bobover Rebbe 1908-2000), who wrote a gut-wrenching kinnah based upon his first-hand experiences with loss during the Holocaust (category #2).

Tisha B’Av Night
Here is a selection of Kinnot that we recite on Tisha B’Av.

5th Kinnah

In addition to the lengthier recitation of kinnot recited on Tisha B’Av morning, five kinnot are recited at the evening service, upon the conclusion of reading Megillat Eichah, the Book of Lamentations. The 5th of those kinnot is structured upon the signs of the Zodiac, mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. Although some may be surprised that astrology commands oxygen in Judaism, the sages saw the astrological signs as part of the tradition, and images of the zodiac can be found in synagogues dating back thousands of years. (Attempting to predict one’s future via a zodiacal reading, however, would not fall within the parameters of the Jewish tradition.)

The author of the kinnah (according to some is Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra) presents that Aries wept for her lambs who were led to the slaughter; Taurus bellowed; Gemini seemed torn in half; Cancer climbed to the shore due to thirst; the heavens shook when Leo roared, as the Jews’ prayers were unsuccessful in reaching heaven; Virgo mourned the murder of the chaste; Libra tipped her scales in prayer; Scorpio became scared as God condemned the Jews to death by sword; our eyes overflowed with tears, as the rainbow (Sagittarius) was denied; Aquarius provided water to the heavens, but not to the parched mouths of the Jews; The Capricorn sin offering was offered but was not accepted; Pisces, which represents fertility, averted her eyes as mothers saw their children’s demise.

The kinnah begins “How long must Zion cry and Jerusalem mourn? Pity Zion, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.” The elegy ends with words of consolation taken from the book of Isaiah (51:3): “For the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found in it, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”

Tisha B’Av Morning Kinnot

Kinnah #11

Aside from the opening and closing scenes in Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award winning “Schindler’s List,” the entire movie was presented in black and white, except for one girl’s red coat depicted in a scene taking place in the Krakow ghetto. The camera followed this young girl as the haunting tune of the famed Yiddish tune, “Oyfn Pripetshik” played in the background.

One of the ways to comprehend mass tragedy is to focus on individuals. By understanding one personal tragic story we can better comprehend mass tragedy. On Tisha B’Av, the sages wrote kinnot (elegies) about the loss of individuals, in order to foster better comprehension of the magnitude of the mass tragedies that we mourn on Tisha B’Av.

Kinnah number 11 describes the tragedy of King Josiah. The opening line of the kinnah is taken from Chronicles II 35:25, and the text is considered by some to be Jeremiah’s eulogy upon King Josiah’s death. Rashi proclaims that the sad story of Josiah needs to be invoked during every tragedy for the Jewish people.

Menashe, born to the righteous King Hezekiah and his queen, the daughter of the prophet Isaiah, became one of the most vile and immoral kings in Jewish history. As but one example, Menashe replaced the name of God with his own name in all Torah scrolls. Menashe’s son Josiah, was purposely prevented from learning Jewish theology and practice. On one fortuitous occasion, he found a single uncorrupted Torah scroll and opened it to the portion containing the rebukes that set forth the consequences for shunning God’s word. With his new-found knowledge, he caused a great renaissance in Jewish observance. He died tragically, and so did his outreach movement. As he lay dying, Jeremiah hears the king declare that God is righteous.

Kinnah #17

The Prophet Jeremiah, lived during the destruction by the Babylonians of Solomon’s Temple, and served as the Jews’ chief consoler as they were being exiled out of Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s narrative describing the devastation to the Jews and the barbarism of the Babylonians is recorded in the Biblical book of Lamentations. One of the most unspeakable and jarring images provided by Jeremiah can be found in the second chapter: “Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom you have done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, their cherished babies? Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (Lamentations 2:20).

The 17th of the kinnot (elegies), read on Tisha B’Av morning, addresses this disturbing image. Each stanza ends with the Hebrew “a’le’lay li,” woe is me, a quote from the tragic epistle of Job (10:15). The phrase describes the ravishing hunger and degradation of the Jewish people, which was a consequence of the Babylonian siege and seizure of Jerusalem. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who popularized explaining the kinnot on Tisha B’Av day, rather than just reciting them by rote, strongly suggested reading this elegy in English. Rabbi Soloveitchik would usually share a Holocaust story at this time as well.

Rabbi Yisrael Zev Gustman (1908-1991), a towering Lithuanian scholar in pre-war Europe, survived the Nazi onslaught and rebuilt his shattered life in Israel. Rabbi Gustman once commented, “I witnessed in the Vilna Ghetto all of the atrocities mentioned in the Tisha B’Av kinnot.” The Gustman’s only son, Meir’el, six at the time, was murdered before their eyes. Rabbi Gustman recalls seeing in the ghetto, a starving elderly woman lying in the filthy street. As he approached, he was shocked to learn that the woman was none other than the widow of the famed Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, the leading Torah scholar of pre-Holocaust Europe, who had died earlier in 1940. This woman was royalty in the enormous Vilna Jewish community. She was so sick, that she was unable to consume the carrot that Rabbi Gustman gave her, until he first chewed it for her.

Woe is me. Woe is us!

Kinnah #21

The 21st kinnah describes the martyred death of eight of ten leading rabbis during the Hadrianic persecutions of the first century CE. The death of the ten, according to the kinnah, was to atone for the sin committed by ten of Joseph’s brothers centuries earlier, who sold Joseph as a slave. Among those killed by the Romans for illicitly teaching Torah are Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Akiva, and the other greatest rabbis of that period. The legends surrounding their deaths also stress their piety in accepting this difficult Divine decree.

Kinnah #23

The theme of “unconditional love” can be found in the Tisha B’Av kinnot, as the ideal that was absent during our history’s lowest moments.

Kinnah number 23 cites a tragic story recounted in the Talmud (Gittin 58a). At the time of the Temple’s destruction, seven Jewish slaves could be purchased for the price of one horse. The son and daughter of Rabbi Yishmael, the High Priest, who were both of attractive countenance, were sold to two separate Roman patrons, who, seeing their beauty, suggested breeding them. They were placed in a dark room together, each in his own corner, crying over their predicament. As the sun rose and they recognized one another, they died of heartbreak in each other’s arms. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910-2012, Jerusalem) suggested that too often we remain in our own corners and label others slaves and maidservants. Only when the light appears do we see these slaves and maidservants as our own brothers and sisters.

It is clear that one of the most important takeaways from Tisha B’Av is that we destroy ourselves when we hate each other. Conversely, when we love one another, we rise and succeed.

Kinnah #26

In Kinnah number 26, the author, Elazar HaKalir, invokes a Midrash (Eicha Rabbati, peticha 24) where the prophet Jeremiah, arouses the matriarchs and patriarchs from their eternal rest, begging them to intercede with God to prevent the utter destruction of the Jewish people. He approached Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all of whom pleaded with the Almighty to spare their beloved Jewish children for the sake of their holy actions. “Is it in vain that I suffered ten trials?” cried Abraham. “Was it in vain that I was inscribed to be slaughtered?” offered Isaac. Jacob, Moses, and Leah too were unsuccessful in their entreaties. It was only Mother Rachel who aroused God’s mercy, for Rachel famously showed great unconditional love for her sister Leah. The Bible recounts that Jacob was slated to marry Rachel, but Laban, Rachel’s wily father, believed that Leah needed to be married first, as she was older than Rachel, and intended to deliver Leah to Jacob, during his wedding with Rachel. Knowing her father’s predilection for subterfuge, Rachel concocted a code with her beloved Jacob, to assure that Laban would not try to marry Leah to Jacob. When Rachel learned that Laban was indeed engaging in that deception, she had mercy upon her older sister, and revealed to her the secret code that she had set with Jacob, so Jacob would indeed marry Leah first.

Kinnah #34

The 34th kinnah recounts the untimely death of Zechariah the prophet/High Priest, on Shabbat Yom Kippur in the Holy Temple, as described in the Talmud (Gittin 57b, Sanhedrin 96b). Zechariah reprimanded the Jewish people for bringing an idol to the Temple. In response, a mob summarily murdered, arguably, the holiest man, on the holiest day, in the holiest place on earth. There could not have been a more irreverent crime. After the murder, Zechariah’s blood continued to spew forth; nothing would clot the fountain of flowing blood. Upon seeing this, Nebuzaradan, the chief Babylonian executioner, attempted to kill enough priests and sages to atone for the sin and cause the blood fountain to stop, but nothing would quiet the spewing blood. At one point Nebuzaradan turned to God, calling out, “Is it not sufficient? Shall I continue to kill everyone?” Finally, the blood stopped flowing. The Talmud claims that Nebuzaradan converted to Judaism as a result of this episode.

In order to grasp the enormity of mass tragedy, we must try to perceive the loss of individuals, and only then, when magnifying the tragedy, begin to absorb the scope of this immense calamity.

Kinnah #45

The Jewish sages taught that there can be no mourning process without a consolation process. For centuries, Jews have spent Tisha B’Av morning surrounded by sadness, tragedy and hopelessness. But, immediately following this “morning of mourning,” begins a process of consolation.

Kinnah #45, Eli Tzion, is traditionally sung as the final elegy of the morning, to help console the distraught Jew and serve as encouragement to begin contemplating the future. “Wail for Zion and her cities like a woman giving birth, and like a bride dressed in mourning for her husband on her wedding night.” The author (some claim it to be Rabbi Judah Halevi) employs two examples of people who cannot be consoled: a women in the midst of the pains of childbirth and a widowed bride. The idea with which we end the “morning of mourning” is to tell ourselves that even though Tisha B’Av will end and we will ultimately rise up from our bereaved state, we will bring this awareness of sin, exile and national tragedy with us to our post-Tisha B’Av lives of normalcy.

The Jewish people are able to move on only because we hope and pray for an end to the bitter exile. Jacob was never consoled over the death of Joseph. So long as he believed Joseph was dead he was unable to prophesy. Why not? Some commentators argue that he could not be consoled because, in reality, Joseph was not dead. A pillar of Jewish faith is to pine for redemption, even though we may not be consoled, but we must be comforted knowing that our current status is only temporary.


Tisha B’Av

Holidays

The saddest day in the Jewish calendar, believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. 

Guide to Tisha B'Av

The Jewish Treats Guide to Tisha B’Av is your online resource for Judaism’s day of mourning for the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. With this eBook, you will discover the significance of the Ninth of Av, explore the history of the day and the ways in which Jews change their lives in order to mourn that which has been lost. Additionally, the guide includes an overview of the period of mourning that follows the days of reflection and despair.

From everyone at NJOP and Jewish Treats, we wish you a meaningful and easy fast this Tisha B’Av.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Jewish Treats Guide to Tisha B'Av or use the interface on this page to view or download.

The Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av)

Tish'a B'Av begins at sundown on

Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av, is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Jews around the world gather together and mourn their state of spiritual exile, the Holy Temple, destroyed, not once, but twice, and the diaspora that has been the home of tragedy after tragedy.

Even before the great tragedy of the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), Tisha B’Av was already marked as a day of sadness. It was on the ninth day of Av that the spies returned to the People of Israel in the wilderness to discourage them from going up to Canaan (Numbers 13,14). Because the Israelites were so easily dissuaded, and so greatly lacking faith in G-d, they were forbidden to enter the Promised Land and destined to wander for forty years until that generation had passed away.

As part of the mourning ritual marking the destructions, the Ninth of Av is a fast day. More than just refraining from eating, Jews spend Tisha B’Av actively mourning.

How We Mourn on Tisha B’Av
When Tisha B’Av begins on a Saturday night and ends at nightfall on a Sunday: Because Erev Tisha B’Av is Shabbat, one should make the following emendations to their Shabbat celebration:

  1. One should eat the regular three meals of Shabbat (Friday night dinner, Shabbat lunch and Seudah Shlishit). Wine and meat may be consumed in honor of Shabbat.
  2. Seudah Shlishit, the third meal, should be completed before sunset (refer to your local candle lighting time).
    • If one does not regularly have guests for Seudah Shlishit, one should not invited guests on this Shabbat.
  3. After Shabbat, only the blessing over the candle is recited for Havadallah, the ceremony separating Shabbat from weekday. On Sunday night, at the close of Tisha B’Av, an abridged Havdallah, containing the blessing over the wine and the final blessing (Hamavdil), is made.
    • If one is ill and must eat during the fast, one should first complete the Havdallah ceremony.

Erev Tisha B’Av, Tisha B’Av Eve, How We Prepare:

  1. Many have the custom of eating a full meal early in the afternoon so that they will be properly fortified for the fast.
  2. Seudah HaMafseket (the final meal) is eaten towards the end of the day. This is not a festive meal. Several features distinguish this meal from other meals:
    • One does not eat more than one type of cooked food.
    • Many eat a hard-boiled egg or lentils, which are customary signs of mourning – round foods representing the cycle of life.
    • Some have a custom of eating bread dipped in ashes.
    • It is also customary to sit on the floor or on a low stool during the final meal.
    • Generally, the seudah hamafseket should not be eaten with a group of three or more people.

Prohibitions of Tisha Ba’Av

  1. Eating – From sunset on the eve of Tisha Ba’Av until nightfall the next day it is forbidden to eat.
    • Pregnant and nursing women also fast, however, they should consult both a doctor and a rabbi about fasting.
    • One who is ill must consult a rabbi. If the rabbi says (s)he must eat, they should only eat that which is necessary and should refrain from delicacies.
    • Girls below the age of 12 and boys below the age of 13 are not required to fast.
  2. Drinking – It is forbidden to drink on Tisha Ba’Av.
    • The above exemptions from fasting apply to drinking as well.
    • This prohibition includes rinsing the mouth.
  3. Washing – During the fast, one may not wash for pleasure.
    • If one is dirty, one is permitted to wash away the dirt.
    • Upon rising in the morning and after using the bathroom, one should wash one’s hands, but only up to the knuckles.
    • One may wash one’s hands when preparing food.
    • One may bathe a baby.
  4. Anointing – It is forbidden to anoint oneself with oil, thus the use of perfumes, make-up, and other such items is prohibited.
  5. Wearing Leather Shoes – During the fast it is forbidden to wear leather shoes. Some people wear only socks, but others wear shoes of canvas or other non-leather materials.
  6. Marital Relations are forbidden.
  7. Studying Torah – Since studying Torah is considered a joyous activity, many have the custom to refrain from it from mid-day prior to Tisha B’Av. Only the following select topics of Torah may be studied:
    • The third chapter of the Talmudic tractate Moed Katan, which deals with mourning and excommunication, and other parts of the Talmud dealing with the destruction of the Temples.
    • The Book of Lamentations (Eicha) and the commentaries on it
    • The Book of Job (Iyov)
    • Sections from the Book of Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) which contain admonition and rebuke
  8. Greeting others – On Tisha Ba’Av, one does not greet friends or neighbors. If however, one is greeted, one may respond so as not to embarrass the other person.

Tisha Ba’Av Activities

  1. Until midday, it is customary to sit on the floor or on low stools, as a sign of mourning.
  2. On Tisha Ba’Av night, the regular evening service is recited with the following additions:
    • Eicha, The Book of Lamentations which was composed by Jeremiah, is read.
    • Kinot, Elegies reflecting the many tragedies, are also recited.
    • V’Atah Kadosh, a prayer of selected biblical verses, is recited.
    • The synagogue lights are dimmed, or only one small light in the sanctuary is left on.
  3. During the Tisha Ba’Av morning service there are several additions:
    • Deuteronomy 1:25-40 is read from the Torah scroll, followed by a Haftorah (prophetic message) from the Book of Jeremiah.
    • The Tallit (prayer shawl) and T’fillin (phylacteries) are not worn until after noon, since they are symbolic of glory.
  4. The afternoon service has the following additions:
    • Exodus 32:11-14 is read from the Torah scroll, followed by Isaiah 55-56, from the prophets.
    • Tallit and T’fillin are worn, since they were not worn in the morning.
    • The Nachem and Aneinu prayers are inserted into the silent Amidah.
  5. After the fast:
    • Kiddush Levana (Sanctification of the Moon) is recited.
    • It is customary to continue to refrain from meat, wine, pleasure bathing and cutting hair until midday on the Tenth of Av, since the Temple continued to burn until that afternoon.
    • When Tisha B’av falls on Shabbat and the fast takes place on Sunday the 10th of Av, except for the consumption of meat and wine, and the listening to music, all prohibitions are permitted immediately after the fast. One should wait for Monday morning for the latter 3 activities.

The Tragedies of Tisha B’Av:

    • The Destruction of the Holy Temples – The destruction of both the first and the second Holy Temples were among the greatest tragedies suffered by the Jewish people. While the Temple stood, G-d’s presence rested in Jerusalem and the Jewish people had a tangible sense of the Divine Presence.
      1. The First Temple was destroyed
        • In the year 586 BCE, during the reign of King Tzidkiyahu, the first Holy Temple was razed by Nebuzaraden, the general of Nebuchadnezer, King of Babylon.
        • It was destroyed because the Jewish people had consistently violated three major prohibitions:
          • Idol worship
          • Murder
          • Forbidden sexual relations
      2. The Second Temple was destroyed
        • In 70 CE, the Romans, under the leadership of Titus, destroyed the Temple which had been rebuilt more than 400 years before by Ezra and Nehemia.
        • The traditional reason given for the destruction of Second Temple is sinat chinam, baseless hatred.
          • Although a period of religious revival was at hand, there was much infighting among the Jews. Instead of focusing on their common enemy — the Romans, Jews demeaned their co-religionists and made false accusations against each other to the Romans.
          • The Talmud amplifies the level of sinat chinam with the powerful story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza<. One day a wealthy man had a party and instructed his servant to invite his friend Kamtza. Mistakenly, the servant invited Bar Kamtza, his master’s enemy. When Bar Kamtza arrived, thinking perhaps all was forgiven, the host was enraged and demanded that he leave. Not wishing to be embarrassed, Bar Kamtza asked if he could stay and offered to pay the cost of the meal… half the party… the whole party, but the host refused and had Bar Kamtza ejected, disgracing him in front of everyone present, including many sages. Bar Kamtza was so irate that he went to the Emperor and told him that the Jews were planning to rebel. To prove his contention, he told the Emperor that the Jews would not accept a sacrifice sent by the Emperor. The Emperor then sent a young calf to the Temple, but on the way, Bar Kamtza blemished the eyelid of the cow, rendering it invalid as an offering. After much debate, the rabbis decided that they could not accept the blemished calf. The Emperor’s fury eventually led to the complete destruction of Jerusalem.
      3. The Bar Kochba Revolt was crushed
        – After the Temple was destroyed, some Jews were exiled, while some fled to other parts of Israel. An attempt was made to overthrow the Romans. The Jews were led in their revolt by the great Jewish general, Bar Kochba. On Tisha B’Av, in the year 135 BCE, the revolt was crushed and the city of Betar, Bar Kochba’s last stronghold, was destroyed, resulting in the slaughter of thousands.
      4. The Site of the Temple was Ploughed Over
        – Turnus Rufus, a Roman General, ploughed over the site of the Temple and the Romans began to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city known as Aelia Capitolina. Their goal was to eradicate Jerusalem from the memories of the Jews, making them easier to subjugate.
      5. The First Crusade
        – In July of 1095, Pope Urban II began a preaching campaign to rally the people to battle to recapture the Holy Land, thus unifying Christendom. As the excitement spread and bands of unruly Crusaders gathered throughout Western Europe, the Jews, so easily at hand, became their first victims.
      6. The Expulsion from England
        – In July of 1290, the Jews were expelled from England. All of their property was seized by the King. The expulsion was the culmination of pogroms and blood libels that had been common occurrences in medieval England.
      7. The Spanish Expulsion
        – In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered all Jews to either convert to Catholicism or to leave Spain. The Spanish Inquisition, by which the Spanish monarchs were determined to create a completely Catholic country, had been raging for nearly one hundred years. Any professing Jew not gone from the country by July 30, 1492, Tisha B’Av, would be put to death. In Spain, Portugal, and their respective holdings, the Inquisition continued for centuries against converts suspected of still practicing Judaism. For those Jews who fled, it was the beginning of a period of continuous upheaval.
      8. The First World War
        – On August 1, 1914, Britain and Russia declared war on Germany, officially starting World War I. While World War I brought starvation and devastation to all of Europe, the true scope of the destruction of World War I would only be realized two decades later. As historians point out, the unacceptable resolution of World War I was a direct cause of the world-wide economic depression of the 1930’s which gave rise the Nazi’s and World War II. The opening date of World War I, therefore, can also be tied to the horrific events that followed a few decades later.
      9. The Warsaw Ghetto Liquidation
        – In 1942, two years after the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Nazis began the liquidations of the Ghetto by transporting the Jews to the Treblinka death camp, to be murdered. Between July and September 1942, nearly 300,000 Jews were put to death.

(The list, unfortunately, could continue with many smaller calamities around the world.)

Rabbi Buchwald's

Tisha B'Av Video Series

Watch the Rabbi’s series of videos on Tisha B’Av and learn about how to prepare, fast, mourn and all about this somber holiday.

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Chanukah Recipes

Holidays

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Tu B'Av

Tu B'Av

The Fifteenth of Av

Tu B’Av (The Fifteenth of Av) is no longer the well-known holiday on the Jewish calendar that it was in ancient times.

“There were no holidays so joyous for the Jewish People as the Fifteenth of Av…”
– Ta’anit 26b

On Tu B’Av, the unmarried maidens of Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards to dance together under the gaze of the unmarried men (sort of a Sadie Hawkins Day!). Each young lady would be dressed in white clothing borrowed from her neighbor so that those who came from wealthy families would not stand out and none would be embarrassed.

As they danced, the ladies would call out: “Young man, lift your eyes and choose wisely. Don’t look only at physical beauty–look rather at the family [values], ‘For charm is false, and beauty is deceitful. A God-fearing woman is the one to be praised…” (Proverbs 31:30).

While in ancient times the same ceremony also took place on Yom Kippur, the day of Tu B’Av was specifically set aside for this celebration because it was the anniversary of the date on which inter-tribal marriages were permitted after the Israelites had entered the Land of Israel.


Jerusalem Day

Yom Yerushalayim

Jerusalem Day

In 1947, when the United Nations approved the plan to partition the British Mandate of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab state, they determined that Jerusalem would be an “international city” for a period of ten years.

The plan was approved by the Jews, and the day after it came into effect, the new state was attacked by the surrounding Arab states (as the Arabs had not accepted the partition plan).

At the time of the cease-fire that ended the 1948 War for Independence, Jordan was in control of the Old City and eastern Jerusalem. Jews lost all access to the Western Wall, the holiest site of the Jewish faith as it is the last standing structure from the wall mount that supported the Holy Temple, and nearly all of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed.
On June 5, 1967, the Middle East was once again at war. Although the war itself lasted six days, the battle for Jerusalem was over in two. On June 7, 1967 – 28 Iyar 5727 – Jewish troops took the Old City and, for the first time in almost twenty years, Jewish prayers were recited at the Western Wall.

Eleven months later, the government of Israel declared a new holiday, Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim, on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. In Israel on this day, there are state ceremonies and parades, as well as commemorations for the soldiers who died in the battle for Jerusalem. Yom Yerushalayim is also celebrated in many communities outside of Israel with special assemblies and programs. Religious observance of this holiday, by means of the recitation of Hallel, varies by community.


Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Hashoah

Holocaust Memorial Day

On the 27th of Nisan, Jews around the world will mark Yom Ha’shoah (Officially Yom Ha’zikaron La’shoah V’hag’vurah, which translates to The Day of Memorial for the Holocaust and the Heroism, generally shortened to Yom Ha’shoah). In Israel, the day is marked by official ceremonies, flags at half mast and, most famously, by a siren marking a moment of silence during which traffic comes to a standstill.

When World War II ended and the world was finally clearly aware of the incredible devastation wrought in Europe, there were no words. While mourning for their own nation’s soldiers, the world was faced with accepting the fact that the Nazis had purposefully and systematically murdered six million Jewish men, women and children as well as several million others whom they classified as lesser human beings.

The term ‘Holocaust’ is a word of Greek origin used to describe massacres. As it came to be applied to the events in Europe in the 1940s, the term emerged as the name for this highly specific genocide. This was strengthened by the release of the 1978 NBC mini-series of the same title.

In Hebrew, the Holocaust is referred to as Ha’shoah. Shoah means calamity. Similar to the term Holocaust, the term shoah gained further usage after the release of the 1985 French documentary entitled “Shoah.” The film condensed over 300 hours worth of interviews into 9.5 hours and brought the hard-hitting facts of the Holocaust into reality.

In traditional communities, the events of the Holocaust are referred to as “Churban Europe” or “the Churban,” a term which parallels the destruction of the Torah learning centers in Europe with the destruction of the Holy Temple. Many traditional communities also mark a day of mourning for the victims of the Holocaust on an already established day of universal mourning, either the Tenth of Tevet or the Ninth of Av.


History of the State Since 1948

THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

From May 1948 until July 1949, the newly declared Jewish State waged what seemed to be a war for survival against impossible odds. Out-manned, out-gunned and nearly friendless, the survival of the fledgling state was unlikely. The trained armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and contingents from both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, together with an untold number of reinforcements, battled against a make-shift army composed of sabras (native-born Israelis) and refugees, many just arriving from European DP camps.

While the odds were vastly against them, the Jewish fighters had two major advantages: the desire to survive and unity. With victims of the Holocaust streaming in with tales of horror and despair, the Jews understood that independence was their only option. If they were defeated by the Arab nations, they would be massacred, and those who survived would have no place to go. And while the Arab nations were unified in their hatred of Israel, they fought amongst themselves, each seeking to expand its own territory.

Battling for every dunam of land, the Israelis slowly drove back the Arab armies, overcoming the impossible odds and breaking the siege on the roads.
In July 1949, armistice agreements were signed with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. At the end of the war, the borders of the State of Israel encompassed a slightly larger territory than originally mapped out by the UN partition plan, but the city of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan.
While the fighting was over, there was no real peace. The Arab nations refused to recognize the State of Israel. In the divided capital of Jerusalem, gun shots often rang out. The captured Jewish quarter of the Old City was laid to ruin as the Jordanians destroyed synagogues, schools, homes and even cemeteries. The holy Western Wall was rendered inaccessible to all Jews.

POPULATION SHIFTS

Certain of their victory in the war, the attacking Arab nations encouraged the Arabs living within Israel to flee, telling them that the Jews would surely massacre them, and assuring them that after the Zionists were defeated they would have priority in acquiring the Jewish lands. Many hundreds of thousands of Arabs believed their comrade’s propaganda and fled. When the Arabs lost the war, these Arabs were now without a home. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan…all refused to take them in and declare them citizens. Instead, they created refugee camps, vowing that they would soon disgorge the Zionist enemies and “drive them into the sea.”

But the Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence were not the only ones who suddenly found themselves displaced. An almost equal number of Jews who had been living in Arab countries now found themselves regarded as enemies in their own countries. Driven from their homes, these Jews were resettled in Israel.

For the next decade, Israel continued to grow. The population constantly increased by a flow of Jews from around the world. Life in Israel was not easy. Basic amenities were looked upon as luxuries, and constant infiltrations by Palestinian Arab terrorist groups called “Fedayeen” took the lives of over 1,000 Israeli citizens.

1956- THE SINAI CAMPAIGN

During the early 1950s, on top of the continued Fedayeen attacks, Egypt disrupted Israeli trade by blocking shipping routes in the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal. At the same time, Egypt nationalized the Suez canal, angering the French and English.

At the end of October 1956, Israel launched the Sinai Campaign, capturing the entire Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Two days later, France and England joined the battle. By early November, the campaign was over, Egypt was humbled and an uneasy truce prevailed. At the insistence of the United States and the UN, Israel withdrew from Gaza and Sinai. UN troops were stationed on the Egypt-Israel border, but the Egyptians continued to hinder Israeli shipping.

1967 – THE SIX DAY WAR

In 1967, military movements throughout the Arab nations surrounding Israel made it apparent that a major Arab military attack was imminent. Egypt ejected the UN peace-keeping forces that had served as a buffer at the Israel-Egypt border, and blocked Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran, an action Israel had warned would lead to war. At the same time, infiltration attacks increased on the Syrian border at the Golan Heights and large troop movements in Syria alarmed the Israeli Defense Force. Throughout the Middle East there was an increase in troop movements and anti-Israel rhetoric. Soldiers arrived in Jordan from Iraq, Algeria and Kuwait.

Using diplomatic channels, Israel tried to re-open the international shipping routes to their vessels. The previously pledged support by allies, France and Britain, evaporated, and the United States was unable to create an international force to pressure Egypt to back down. Faced with a major international challenge and surrounded by increased troop movements in enemy countries, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on June 5, 1967, swiftly capturing the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Ignoring Israeli pleas not to join the war, Jordan launched heavy artillery attacks on western Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel responded with a hard defensive push and gained control of all of Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank). When the Syrians attacked from the north, Israel fought back and succeeded in capturing the Golan Heights from which the Syrians had been launching terror attacks since the creation of the State.

The war ended on June 10th, again without any official peace. The State of Israel had added to its territory the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, all areas from which there had been constant attacks against Israel’s civilian population.
Perhaps the greatest moment in the 1967 war was the unification of Jerusalem. On June 7, 1967, for the first time since 1948, Jews stood before the holy Western Wall and were free to pray. Since the unification of the city, Jews, Christians and Muslims have all had open access to the holy sites of the ancient city.

1973 – THE YOM KIPPUR WAR

Despite the noted increase in movements of Egyptian and Syrian troops, the Israeli Defense Forces deemed the situation secure enough to allow the majority of Israeli soldiers to return home and spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, with their families.

When the Syrians and Egyptians attacked on the holiest day of the Jewish year (October 6, 1973), the Israelis were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the war. The Egyptians and Syrians were supported by troops from other Arab nations as well as extensive training and arms from the Soviet Union. What was originally a regional Mid-East conflict, became a battle ground for Cold War issues as the Soviet Union backed Egypt and Syria, supplying them with airlifts of weapons and advisors. At the very last moment, in response, the United States, sent Israel the military replacement parts it needed to recover from its initial losses. Israel eventually struck back and recovered, but only after suffering extraordinarily heavy losses.

Technically, the war ended on October 22, 1973, but fighting continued on the Egyptian-Israeli front. When the cease-fire went into effect, Israel had captured an additional 165 square miles of territory from Syria, and had encircled the Egyptian Third Army on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Egyptian forces held two areas of Israeli territory along the east bank of the canal. Israel, Egypt and Syria all held prisoners of war. After months of diplomacy, Israel withdrew from the area it seized from Syria during the 1973 war, in addition to some area gained in 1967, as well as from parts of the Sinai. Prisoners of war were exchanged.

THE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE

The visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in November 1977 was a monumental moment in Mid-East history. Sadat’s two-day visit, at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, began a process that ended two years later at Camp David, Maryland, when, through the good offices of American President Jimmy Carter, a peace treaty was brokered. It was the first time in history that an Arab nation recognized the State of Israel. As a result of the treaty, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

LEBANON

In the late 1970s, southern Lebanon became a formidable launching zone for terrorist attacks against Israel. The continued attacks became untenable and all diplomatic resources failed to secure peaceful living conditions for the residents of Northern Israel. In 1982, Israel could endure no more, and entered Southern Lebanon to do battle with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. While numerous cease-fires were arranged in the 1980s and 1990s, each time fighting broke out again, and the security of Israeli citizens was continually at risk. In June 1985, the majority of Israeli troops were withdrawn from Southern Lebanon. A small residual Israeli force and an Israeli-supported militia remained in Southern Lebanon in a “security zone,” which Israel established to serve as a necessary buffer against attacks on its northern territory.

In the summer of 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak unilaterally withdrew Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon. Hundred of members of the Southern Lebanese army, that had allied itself with Israel, fled to Israel for protection from retribution from anti-Israel forces. Since the unilateral withdrawal, there has been an increase in attacks by Hizbullah, the major terrorist organization.

THE GULF WAR

During the Gulf War, despite its non-involvement, Israel once again came under attack as Scud Missiles were launched at Israeli territory from Iraq. In total, 39 scuds landed in Israel, many of them on homes and other occupied buildings. Pressured by the United States and other international influences, Israel did not respond to the attacks. Miraculously, Israel suffered only one death.

THE INTIFADA and OSLO ACCORDS

In 1987, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), recognized internationally as a terrorist organization headed by Yassir Arafat, led an internal uprising known as the Intifada. A non-conventional war, the Intifada continued until the mid-1990s. The methods of the Intifada included guerilla warfare, terrorist attacks, stabbings and highjackings.

As the situation became unbearable for both sides, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin agreed to meet with PLO chief Yassir Arafat. Thus began the Oslo Peace Process in 1994. Under the Oslo agreement, Israel agreed to trade land for peace. Included in the terms of the Oslo agreement were: the removal of troops and the creation of self-governed Palestinian areas, the creation (and arming) of a Palestinian police force, as well as the removal from the PLO charter of the declaration of violence against Israel. Critical to the furtherance of the peace process was an educational system based on peace. The agreement was designed to slowly move towards a separate Palestinian entity governed by the Palestinian Authority, but only after accepted steps and signs of change on both sides. Important “final status” issues were left unresolved until the initial agreement had been fulfilled.

Over the five years during which the “land for peace” transfers were expected to build mutual trust and confidence, the two sides would proceed with negotiations on the “final status” issues left unresolved at Oslo. These included some of the thorniest issues dividing the two sides: Palestinian statehood, Jerusalem, and the right of Arab refugee return.

The Oslo period lasted from 1994 until 2000. Peace talks and negotiations gave Israelis hope that peace would soon be achieved. Yet the agreements being made by the leaders of both sides were not necessarily acceptable to their constituents. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations continued to disrupt any hopes for peace, staging numerous bus bombings and other attacks. Right-wing Israelis fought for their voices to be heard as they countered that “land for peace” would not bring peace. Still, the talks continued, and in the summer of 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, at the behest of President Bill Clinton, offered chairman Arafat control of over 90% of the West Bank, Gaza and a shared capital in Jerusalem. The offer was rejected. Arafat wanted all or nothing.

THE AL AKSA INTIFADA

Just before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in September 2000, violence again erupted in what is now called the Al Aksa Intifada. The Israeli people wearied by concessions that did not bring peace, elected Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister in the elections in February 2001.

The Al Aksa Intifada took the lives of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians. Every time it appeared that peace-talks would resume, and that the Palestinian Authority might make a serious attempt to deter the terrorism, there was another attack: suicide bombers attacked pizza shops, night clubs, cafes and Passover Seders, killing young and old indiscriminately. Gunmen infiltrated Bar Mitzvah parties, bombers blew up commuter buses — the one common thread was that the Palestinian terrorists made no distinctions. Even Arabs were murdered. Entire families were wiped out and many children were left without parents.

In 2002, Israel began constructing a Security Fence. While this move was controversial internationally, statistics have shown that there was a significant (90%) decrease in terrorist attacks from the areas where the wall was completed. The protection of human life, however, has come at a cost, as those Palestinians wishing to cross into Israel proper for legitimate reasons of work or recreation, are impeded by long backups at check points.

The Al Aksa Intifada definitively came to an end when Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. In January 2006, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke, effectively ushering in a new generation of political leadership to this seemingly never ending struggle. Mahmoud Abbas became the President of the Palestinian Authority, while Ehud Olmert assumed the Prime Ministry of Israel.

DISENGAGEMENT

Perhaps the most significant action of Ariel Sharon’s government was the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza and the removal of its settlers from Gush Katif and other Gaza settlements. Over 8,000 Jews were evacuated from their homes so that the Palestinians could govern themselves in Gaza.

In preparing for the Palestinian takeover, the Israeli army bulldozed every settlement structure except for several synagogues, Israeli soldiers formally left Gaza on September 11, 2005, and closed the border fence at Kissufim. The synagogues were later looted and burned to the ground.

The absorption of the former residents of Gush Katif into Israel proper was not smooth. Housing and employment still remain a problem for many who were relocated.

Gaza itself degenerated into chaos. In 2006-2007, it became the focal point of a power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. In June 2007, Hamas, a group recognized worldwide as a terrorist organization, seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah military entity. The smuggling of arms from Egypt and constant rocket firing into Western Israel – most notably the city of Sderot – have become the norm.

THE SECOND LEBANON WAR – Summer 2006

While Israel had withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000, the northern border was still a hotspot for violence. Hezbollah regularly sent katusha rockets into northern towns – thankfully, they often missed. In July 2006, Hezbollah terrorists attacked two Israeli border patrol Humvees, killing 3 Israeli soldiers and kidnaping 2 more, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev . This incident followed only a few weeks after Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, had been kidnaped in Gaza by Hamas. The Hezbollah kidnaping and Israel’s desperate attempts to have the soldiers returned was the starting point of the Second Lebanon War

The Second Lebanon War lasted 33 days and was ended by a United Nations Cease-fire. All told, over one thousand people were killed, including many civilians. Over one million people on both sides were displaced from their homes during the fighting, though most were able to return when the hostilities ended.

* In August of 2008, the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev were returned to Israel in a prisoner/body exchange. The two Israelis were believed to have been dead even at the time of the Lebanese action.

OPERATION CAST LEAD

While the U.N. cease fire was upheld on the Lebanese border, the violence throughout the rest of the country did not cease. On March 6, 2008, a gunman entered Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem and killed 8 students and wounded 11 others. Rocket attacks out of the Gaza Strip increased, and over 12,000 rockets were launched into Israel between 2000 and 2008. As the vast majority of these rockets did not, miraculously, take any lives, the ongoing bombardment was not widely noted and condemned.

In December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a three week military air and infantry operation in Gaza meant to end the ongoing rocket attacks and to weaken Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the region. The operation concluded with a unilateral cease-fire.

MORE RECENT HISTORY

Over the course of the last decade, Israel has faced the challenge of negative public relations and has lost important support from the North American Jewish community. Incidents such as the 2010 Gaza Flotilla raid in which Israel forcibly stopped a group of Turkish ships trying to illegally enter Gaza created much negative publicity, even if they were within their rights. One anti-Israel campaign that has gained particular popularity is the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state. Jewish university students have had to fight for Israel’s legitimacy in light of numerous calls for boycotts on Israeli products.

On a more positive note, after a 5 year multi-national pressure campaign, Gilad Shalit, who had been abducted on the Gaza border in 2006, was returned to Israel in 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners.

Our Sages have taught us that the actions of every Jew have a direct impact on the entire nation. What Jews do in America, in Canada, in Russia, in any part of the world, can help our brothers and sisters in Israel find peace.


Israel Memorial Day & Israel Independence Day

Yom Ha'Atzumaut

Israel Independance Day

As the State of Israel marks its birthday on the 5th of Iyar, the world holds its breath waiting and wondering if peace will ever come to the Middle East.

Israeli Memorial Day (Yom Ha'Zikaron) is
.
Observance for Israeli Independance Day (Yom Ha'Atzmaut) begins the evening of
, with a siren and a moment of silence in Israel.

Israel’s independence, as well as its continued survival, is a modern day miracle, but it has come with a great cost in human lives. Therefore, before it celebrates its independence, Israel honors the memory of those who gave life and limb for their country. On the 4th of Iyar, Yom Ha’Zikaron, Memorial Day is observed. It is not a day of picnics, fairs and fireworks. To honor the fallen soldiers of the State, an alarm is sounded simultaneously throughout the country for one minute, once in the evening and again in the morning. As the siren pierces the air, all traffic comes to a halt as everyone stands for a moment of silence.

In honor of Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, NJOP brings you a brief summary of the dynamic history of the State of Israel:

The Creation of the State of Israel

History of the State Since 1948


The Nine Days

July 20, 2020

The Nine Days

Rosh Chodesh Av (the beginning of the month of Av) through Tisha B’Av is the period known as the “Nine Days,” during which the mourning is intensified. The “Nine Days” sensitize us to the depth of sadness necessary to fully relate to the tragedies of Tisha B’Av.

The “Nine Days” sensitize us to the depth of sadness necessary to fully relate to the tragedies of Tisha B’Av. To this end, in addition to the prohibitions of the Three Weeks, the rabbis prohibited the following:

  1.  Buying, making, or wearing new clothing
  2. Washing, laundering and cleaning clothes (unless one owns only one set of clothing)
  3. Rejoicing and things which lead to rejoicing, such as the planting of trees or the building of a new home
  4. Celebrations with music and dancing
    •  It is, however, permitted to get engaged during the Nine Days, but the engagement celebration must be postponed until after Tisha B’Av
  5. Bathing
    • This refers to bathing for pleasure, such as in a bubble bath, jacuzzi or taking a long, hot shower. It is permitted to bathe for personal cleanliness.
  6. Eating meat and drinking wine
    • While meat is generally not eaten, an exception is made for Shabbat or a Seudat Mitzva, a festive meal in celebration of a bris, pidyon ha-ben (redemption of the first born), bar mitzvah or conclusion of the study of a Talmudic tractate. Wine is permitted on Shabbat.


The Three Weeks

July 9-30, 2020

The Three Weeks

The Seventeenth of Tammuz marks the beginning of a period known as the “Three Weeks.” Exactly 21 days (3 weeks) after the fast day is Tisha B’Av, a full day of mourning over the destruction of both Temples and the other great tragedies throughout history that correspond with the date. More than just a “bridge between two fast days,” the Three Weeks are, historically, a time of continuing tragedy.

How We Mourn During the Three Weeks

    1.  During this period of mourning, certain restrictions have become customary. These restrictions intensify at the beginning of the Month of Av during the period known as the “Nine Days.”
    2. The following activities are avoided or prohibited during the three weeks:
      •  Weddings (according to Ashkenazic custom)
      • Listening to live music
      • Dancing to music (instrumental)
      • Pleasure-trips
      • Hair cuts (Sephardim only prohibit haircuts during the Nine Days)
      • Saying a Shecheyanu, the blessing said over a new fruit or new outfit


Ki Tisah

Ki Tisah

In the parasha, Parashat Ki Tisah, we read of the infamous episode of the Golden Calf.

In preparation for the Revelation, Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights to study Torah with the Almighty. But, because of a miscalculation regarding the date of Moses’ return, the People of Israel thought that Moses had abandoned them, and demanded that Aaron produce a new leader. Aaron tried to delay them, but eventually the Golden Calf is created. The crazed people cry out to the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:4) “Ay’leh Eh’lo’hecha Yis’rael,” This is your G-d, O’ Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!

G-d is furious at the people’s actions, tells Moses to descend from the mountain, saying that the people that he (Moses) has brought up from Egypt have become corrupt. G-d, in anger, denounces the people, saying in Exodus 32:9, “Rah’iti et ha’am ha’zeh, v’hinei am k’shey oref hu,” I have seen this people and behold, they are a stiff-necked people. And now Moses, says G-d, desist from Me, let My anger flare against them, and I will annihilate them, and shall make of you (Moses) a great nation.

Moses pleads to G-d that the destruction of Israel will be seen by the other nations as G-d’s lack of omnipotence. G- d, so to speak, reconsiders, and Moses comes down the mountain with the two tablets of testimony in his hands. When Moses sees the people dancing around the Gold Calf, his own anger flares. He throws the tablets from his hands and shatters them at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 32:19).

Moses then calls out: (Exodus 32:26) Whosoever is for G-d join me. All the Levites gather around him, and wreak vengeance on those who had led the rebellion of the Golden Calf. Three thousand men of Israel fall that day at the hands of the Levites. Moses pleads to G-d on behalf of the Jewish people, but G-d strikes the people with a plague.
Moses spends the next forty days praying that G-d restore Israel to its previous state of eminence. The second set of tablets are delivered to the Jewish people. G-d reveals His thirteen attributes of mercy, and so the story ends.

Although we have not yet completed the reading of the Book of Exodus (the second of the Five Books of Moses), one could already get the impression that the G-d of Israel is a vengeful G-d. This is the G-d who destroys the world by means of a Flood; the G-d who asks Abraham to sacrifice his son; the G-d who enslaves the Jewish people in Egypt; the G-d who kills Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s sons, on the greatest day of Aaron’s life, at the investiture of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle; the G-d who swallows up Korach and 250 of his men as the earth opens; the G-d who decrees that the Jewish people will never be allowed to enter the Land of Israel because of the sin of the spies; the G-d who says to Moses that he will never enter the Land of Israel because he hit the rock, rather than speak to the rock. The seemingly unending anger and acts of retribution are perhaps why the nations of the world refer to the G-d of the Hebrew Scriptures, the so-called “Old Testament” G-d, as the G-d of Vengeance, while the G-d of the Christian Bible is often called the god of love or the god of mercy.

The Torah in Leviticus 19:18 clearly forbids vengeance. “Lo tikom, v’lo titor et b’nei ameh’cha,” You shall not wreak vengeance nor bear a grudge toward the people of your nation. The Talmud, in Yoma 23a, defines vengeance, citing the following example: If one farmer asks to borrow a hoe from a second farmer and is refused, that first farmer is not permitted to refuse the use of a spade to the farmer who was unkind to him. In Leviticus 19, however, the Torah goes further. Do not bare a grudge, explains the Talmud–one is not even permitted to say to that farmer who was unkind yesterday: “I’m not like you, I’m not a low-life. Here, take my spade and use it in good health!” And yet, our G-d seems to be a vengeful and grudge-bearing G-d. How could that be?

Of course, there is a profound difference between people being unnecessarily vengeful, and a G-d who demands accountability. One cannot equate a valid and deserving punishment meted out to a wicked person, with vengeance against an arrogant or mean neighbor.

As the story of the Golden Calf concludes, a second set of tablets are carved out. In Exodus 34:4, Moses rises early in the morning and ascends Mount Sinai. G-d descends in a cloud and stands with Moses. Moses calls out the name of G-d as G-d proclaims: “Hashem, Hashem, G-d, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth, Preserver of Kindness for Thousands of Generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses but does not Cleanse Completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” These so- called 13 attributes of G-d’s mercy represent the ultimate level of forgiveness. By invoking the 13 attributes, G-d gives the Jewish people a second chance.

Let’s look at this again! There is an inconsistency, a blatant inconsistency in the thirteen attributes!! Exodus 34:7 reads “V’nakay lo y’nakeh, po’hkead avon avot,” the verse tells us that G-d does not entirely cleanse. In fact, He recalls the iniquity of the parents on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations!
The brother of the Chazon Ish, Rav Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz, the great Jewish sage who led the religious community in Israel in the 1940s and 1950s, was asked a question: If we are supposed to cling to G-d, “V’da’vakta b’id’ra’chav,” if we are supposed to imitate G-d, then perhaps we, humans, should be vengeful, since we see that the last of G-d’s 13 attributes of mercy is vengeance and not cleansing completely? He answered: If a human being’s act of vengeance is preceded by 12 qualities of mercy, then perhaps that person is truly entitled to be vengeful as well.

In real life there is vengeance that is entirely legitimate. In fact, sometimes legitimate vengeance is not cruel at all, but may actually be a reflection of mercy. There comes a time when people in authority need to say, “Enough is enough!” G-d also says: “Enough is enough, this cannot continue, this must stop!” And by stopping the undesirable actions, we perform an act of mercy not vengeance. Stopping a cruel and wicked person certainly is an act of mercy for the victims. It may even be an act of mercy for the cruel and wicked person himself.

Let’s face it, Judaism’s goals are radically different from the conventional world. Judaism sees the world differently and values the world differently. Our G-d, the G-d of the Hebrews, is surely a G-d of love, but also a G-d of accountability. In the Jewish religion, one doesn’t just walk away from one’s misdeed. People are held accountable, responsible, and expected to mend their ways when they err; and if they don’t, there’s a price to be paid by us all for improper actions.

Yes, our G-d holds us to a strict account, but by holding us to a strict account, He performs for us an act of mercy. As a result, we become better, stronger, more knowledgeable and even more merciful people, especially when we ultimately see the toll that sinfulness exacts on us.

Yes, as the brother of the Chazon Ish said: If vengeance is preceded by 12 qualities of mercy, then perhaps vengeance is indeed justified!

May You Be Blessed.

Originally aired 2/26/2000


The Fast of 17 Tammuz

June 27, 2020

The Fast of 17 Tammuz
(Shiv'ah Asar B'Tammuz)

Jews across the world will fast from sun-rise to night fall. This fast, Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz, the Seventeenth of Tammuz, like most commemorative fast days of the Jewish calendar, marks the anniversary of a series of tragic incidents. On the seventeenth itself, five major events occurred, each with major implications for the Jewish nation.

WHY WE FAST:

  1. Moses smashed the first set of the Ten Commandments
    • When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found the Jews dancing around the Golden Calf, he threw down the two tablets of law given to him by G-d, smashing them into pieces. (For more details, click here.)
  2. Daily sacrifices were discontinued in the First Temple –
    • Due to the Babylonian siege on the city of Jerusalem, the priests were unable to obtain unblemished sheep to offer the daily sacrifice.
      • In the time of the Temple, two sheep without blemishes were offered every day as a sacrifice, one in the morning and one in the evening. As the siege progressed, food and animals became scarce. The priests attempted to continue the Temple Service for as long as possible. They would send a basket full of silver and gold over the wall and the soldiers would exchange it for sheep. On the seventeenth of Tammuz, no more sheep were found and the practice came to a halt.
  3. Jerusalem’s city walls were breeched by the Romans
    • The breeching of the walls of Jerusalem on the 17th of Tammuz led to the eventual destruction of the Second Temple.
    • Similarly, on the 9th of Tammuz, the walls were breeched, leading to the destruction of the First Temple. Initially, this was also a day of mourning, but the rabbis decreed that the Fast of the Seventeenth would commemorate both events, in order not to make life too difficult.
  4. An idol was erected in the Temple
  5. The Torah was burnt by Apustemus –
    • During the violent times prior to the final destruction of the Second Temple, a Roman official was robbed by highwaymen. In response to this incident, Roman troops were sent to the villages nearest the location of the robbery and their entire populations were arrested — guilty of not pursuing the robbers. One soldier grabbed a Torah Scroll, tore it up and cast it into the fire. “From all sides the Jews gathered trembling, as if their entire land had been given to flames” (Josephus Flavius as translated in the Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov).

THE FAST

  •  When – The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends after nightfall. Some people will get up before dawn and have a early morning breakfast (but this is only permitted if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).
  • Do’s and Don’ts
    • During the duration of the fast, eating and drinking are prohibited
    • Unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av (The Day of Atonement and the Ninth of Av), bathing, annointing and wearing leather are permitted.
    • Pregnant and Nursing women, and others with health restrictions may be exempt from fasting (please consult your rabbi). Children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah (13 for boys, 12 for girls) are not required to fast.
    • One does not go swimming.
    • Special prayers are added to the synagogue services:
      • Slichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited.
      • At the afternoon service, Exodus 32:11, containing the 13 attributes of G-d’s mercy, is read from the Torah.
      • The Aneinu prayer asking for special forgiveness is added to the morning and afternoon services by the cantor. An individual who is fasting includes Aneinu when saying Mincha.
    • If the Seventeenth of Tammuz falls out on Shabbat, the fast is postponed until Sunday, as it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat (with the exception of Yom Kippur).

Emotional Output

    • A fast day is a somber occasion. On this day, Jews mourn the tragic events which led to the destruction of the Holy Temples and, subsequently, our exile — which led to the many additional persecutions Jews have suffered throughout the ages. It is appropriate and necessary to remember this on the fast day, and, therefore, frivolous or playful activities should not be indulged in on this day.

THE 17TH OF TAMMUZ BEGINS THE PERIOD KNOWN AS THE THREE WEEKS


Shavuot

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Shavuot

The Festival of Weeks, Holiday of the First Fruit, Time of the Giving of the Torah – the many names of Shavuot describe it well

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks

Holiday begins at sundown on

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, corresponds to the 6th and 7th of Sivan. The many names of the holiday best describe exactly what is celebrated:

Shavuot, Festival of Weeks – Shavuot is the only holiday not listed in the Torah by the day and month on which it is to be observed. Rather, the Torah instructed that this festival take place the 49th day after the second day of Passover, the day on which the Omer Sacrifice was offered. The name, therefore, reflects the fact that this holiday occurs seven complete weeks (Shavuot) after Passover. In mystical terms, the number 7 represents the natural order of things, and so a complete, natural cycle has occurred.

Chag Ha’Bikurim, Holiday of the First Fruit – The natural cycle that has been completed is agricultural. On Chag Ha’Bikurim, the offering of the First Fruit of the harvest was brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as a gesture of thanksgiving for the successful yield.

Z’man Matan Torateinu, Time of the Giving of the Torah – But Shavuot takes place one day after the seven weeks, which is one step beyond the natural cycle and is, therefore, also representative of a supernatural event as well. On Passover, we celebrate the miraculous Exodus of the People of Israel from Egypt. The Israelites at the time, however, were, at best, a family, a loose assortment of cousins bonded together by their mutual misery. At the end of seven weeks, however, at the base of Mount Sinai, the former slaves rose above their human limitations and, by accepting the Torah, took upon themselves a total commitment to G-d, thus creating the Nation of Israel. Shavuot is therefore also known as Z’man Matan Torateinu, the celebration of the giving of the Torah.

Jewish Treats Guide on the
Ten Commandments

Our free eGuide Jewish Treats on The Ten Commandments is a beautiful fifteen page overview of the Ten Commandments that were given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai on Shavuot.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Jewish Treats on the Ten Commandments or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Shavuot Videos

Shavuot Prep 101

Web Series

Welcome to NJOP’s Shavuot Prep 101 web series featuring Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP.  Watch four short webisodes discussing important topics for the Shavout holiday.

View The Series

Lag Ba'Omer

Lag Ba'Omer

33rd of the Omer

Table of Contents

As Pesach flows into Sefirat Ha’Omer, (the counting of the Omer), which leads into Shavuot, Jews commemorate the loss of thousands of the students of the great 2nd century sage, Rabbi Akiva.

 Lag Ba’Omer

Because of their lack of respect for each other, the students were struck with a terrible plague. On the thirty-third day of the Omer, the plague ended, but nearly all of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students had perished. To commemorate the tragic loss of these Torah Scholars, 33 days of the Omer are marked as days of mourning, during which observant Jews refrain from marrying, shaving, cutting hair and listening to live music.

In Hebrew, every letter has a numeric value. The “lamed” equals 30, and the “gimmel” equals 3, thus the name: Lamed Gimmel (L”G) Ba’Omer, literally 33 (days) in the Omer.

Rabbi Akiva persevered after this great tragedy and continued to teach those students who had survived the plague, as well as new students. Of his surviving disciples, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is also deeply connected with the thirty-third day of the Omer. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent his life studying the Kabbalah, the hidden esoteric aspects of the Torah. According to tradition, on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai finished revealing his teachings, recorded in the famed book, the Zohar. He died that evening, and was buried in the cave on Mount Meron, near Safed, where he had lived.

There are several customs associated with Lag Ba’Omer:

Bonfires:

Families and friends gather together for a bonfire or a picnic on Lag Ba’Omer, often on Mount Meron. There are several reasons given for this custom. One is that the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai were compiled in the Zohar (which means shining light) and the bonfires bring light to the world.
First Hair Cuts: Many have the custom not to cut a boy’s hair until he is three years old, the age at which he first begins to learn Torah. Because this idea is tied into Kabbalistic thought concerning hair, many put off the ceremony, called an Upsherin, until Lag Ba’Omer.

Weddings:

Because weddings are not held during the mourning period of the Omer, and because of the high spiritual energy of the day, many people choose to get married on Lag Ba’Omer.
Mount Meron: In Israel, tens of thousands of people travel to Mount Meron to celebrate the Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the death, of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Per his deathbed request, his death is celebrated, rather than mourned.

Rabbi Akiva – Hero and Martyr

One of Israel’s greatest sages, Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef, was a scholar, a teacher, a shepherd and a revolutionary.
A revolutionary? In the year 70 of the Common Era, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem. The emperor promised to rebuild the city, but his plan was to rebuild it and rename it Aeila Capitalina, dedicating it to the Roman god, Jupiter. This outrageous act, along with the harsh laws forbidding the study of Torah and the observance of many of the mitzvot, led to the Bar Kochba revolt over 60 years after the destruction of the Temple, in the year 132 CE.

While Shimon Bar Kochba was the military commander of the revolt, the spiritual leader was Rabbi Akiva. He had such faith in Bar Kochba that he believed him to be the Messiah, which, unfortunately, he was not. It was during the Bar Kochba revolt that the 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died in a plague. The rabbis understood this plague to be a result of the students lack of respect for each other, and, despite their high level of intellectual development, their lack of proper moral comportment was fatal. Devastated by the death of his pupils, and the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt, Rabbi Akiva nevertheless persevered and continued teaching his surviving students.
Living in such turbulent times, however, Rabbi Akiva’s life was not to end peacefully. Ignoring the Roman prohibitions against the Jewish people and their practices, he was declared a criminal for teaching Torah wherever he could, and was eventually captured by the Romans. Tortured, he called out joyfully: “All my life I’ve been waiting to fulfill the concept ‘You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources…'[the first paragraph of the Shema] and now I finally have the chance.” Rabbi Akiva died a martyr’s death.

Rabbi Akiva–The Simple Shepherd

Where did Rabbi Akiva get the strength to persevere while watching all but 5 of his students die, his country in revolution, and while being tortured himself?
Akiva ben Yosef ben Avraham was not always a great sage. In fact, he was the son of a convert who was once a thoroughly ignorant and illiterate shepherd. So poor and downtrodden a figure was Akiva ben Yosef that his father-in-law, one of the wealthiest men in Israel, disinherited his daughter, Rachel, for marrying him

At the age of forty, Akiva’s life changed suddenly. One day, while out tending his flocks, he noticed a rock with a strange hole going straight through it. This hole was created by constantly dripping water. Akiva ben Yosef decided then and there to go and learn Torah, for if dripping water could bore a hole into solid rock, then even he, a forty year old man could learn Torah through constant effort. He had to start from scratch, for Akiva ben Yosef did not even know the aleph-bet!

Fully supported by Rachel, his wife, he went to study Torah for 12 years. When he returned he overheard his wife tell a friend that she would gladly let him learn for another 12 years. And he did. When he finally returned, he had become the great sage and acquired his 24,000 students.

Like Moses, Rabbi Akiva started as a shepherd. He became one of the greatest sages of the Jewish people with enough wisdom to unravel the intricacies of the law, guide the populace, and inspire an army.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

When the plague of Rabbi Akiva’s students ended, only five students survived. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was among them.

Like his teacher Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a great scholar and political leader. He believed that all Jews should be immersed exclusively in Torah study, and only late in life did he come to understand that not every Jew could make such a total commitment. His own intense study of Torah brought out the deeper, esoteric meanings of the Torah. With the approval of his teachers, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai set out to share the hidden secrets of the Torah, what is today called Kabbalah, with his fellow Jews

With the arrest of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, were forced to go into hiding from Caeser’s army. For 13 years they dwelled in a cave on Mount Meron in the Galilee, not far from the city of Safed, where, according to tradition, they sustained themselves with the fruit of a carob tree. When the throne changed hands, the pair of scholars were able to come out of hiding and once again share their knowledge with their people.

The teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai were set down in a book called the Zohar, which means “splendor.” According to tradition, on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s last insight of Kabbalah was given over and he died. Just before he passed away, he requested that his death not be marked by sadness, for he felt that death should be a time of rejoicing as the soul takes its proper place with G-d. The great sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who revealed the secrets of the Kabbalah, was buried in his cave on Meron. For this reason, tens of thousands of people gather on Mount Meron every year on Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, to celebrate the anniversary of his death.


Passover

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Passover (Pesach)

Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai.

Welcome to the NJOP Passover Guide!

With less than a month till Passover, the Jewish community is in a flurry of activity and you’ll probably notice that the supermarket shelves are suddenly stocked with matzah, gefilte fish, and those special Passover jellied-sugar fruit candies.

The seven day (8 days outside of Israel) holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice.

Passover Seder Cheat Sheet

Whether you are planning to run your own seder, attend a seder with friends or family, or haven’t yet decided, the Passover Seder Cheat Sheet contains insights and information to enhance your entire Passover experience. Starting with basic questions such as “What is a seder?” and ending with “What should we eat?” it is the essential pre-Passover “how-to” guide.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Passover Cedar Cheat Sheet or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Passover Videos

Passover Seder 101

Web Series

Watch NJOP’s Passover Seder Web Series corresponding to the 15 steps of the seder. Featuring Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP.

View The Series

Best Seder in the USA

(The Passover Song)

Jewish Treats and @JewishTweets presents an NJOP Project from the ‘Nice Jewish Boy’ series.

Watch Now

Passover Programs

Here are several excellent Passover programming options in which you can participate or offer in your community.

Model Seder

NJOP’s Model Seder program is the perfect dry run, whether participants will be leading or attending a seder. Complete with the songs, customs and reasons behind the recitation of specific sections of the Haggadah, your seder experience will never…

Passover Across America

The goal of this program is to enable Jewish organizations and synagogues to offer a hands-on explanatory seder to Jews of limited religious background, helping participants develop a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the…

Passover Workshop

There’s no better way to gain an appreciation for the Passover story than to attend a Passover Workshop. The materials help guide participants through an overview of the holiday. A series of questions, answers and supporting…

Beginner's Haggadah

Concise commentary and provocative questions to inspire further thought, as well as proposed answers. The Haggadah has English, Hebrew and user-friendly translations and transliteration…

Hebrew Reading Crash Course

A Hebrew Reading coure is the perfect way to start the Passover season. Imagine the students’ delight when they are able to read the Haggadah at their Passover seder. And for more advanced students, try NJOP’s…

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our Passover programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.


Purim

Purim

A holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays, Purim also provides an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Happy Purim!

The megillah is read the evening of

The time of year has come again – Purim festivities! A smile instantly jumps to your face as thoughts of hamantashen (three-cornered Purim cookies) and costumes float through your mind. While Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot. Read on to find out the whys and what-fors of the holiday of Purim.

Jewish Treats Guide To Celebrating Purim

Welcome to Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Purim. Shake your grogger, eat some hamantashen and get dressed in your silliest costume…it’s Purim! Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Purim offers fun facts and inspiring insights into the four major Purim mitzvot and the customs that make this holiday a unique celebration for all. We hope that you will use this guide to truly enhance your own Purim celebration.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Purim or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Purim Videos

Rabbi Buchwald on Purim

Web Series

Let Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP, take you through the essential elements of Purim with this selection of entertaining YouTube videos from past years focused on the holiday.

View The Series

Purim Workshop

Discover our exciting Purim program you can attend or offer in your community

Purim Workshop

An interactive program with questions, source material and illuminating answers.
NJOP’s Purim Workshop enables participants to discover a new appreciation for a holiday that is often thought of as being kid-focused. Understanding the philosophy and mitzvot of the holiday provides participants with an opportunity to celebrate the true spirit of Purim.

Sample Purim Workshop materials:

Purim Workshop Sample

Attend a Workshop Offer a Workshop email

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.

Attend a Program

Discover classes and programs near you.

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Host a Program

Offer programs in your community.

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Forward

Send these programs to a friend or synagogue.

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The Fast of 10th of Tevet

Asara B'Tevet

The Fast of 10th of Tevet

‘And it was in the ninth year of [King Tzidkiyahu’s] reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth (day) of the month, that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon came, he and all his legions, upon Jerusalem…’
– Second Book of Kings (25:1-4)

When?

1) The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends at nightfall.

a) Some people get up before dawn to have an early morning breakfast (but this is only permitted if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).

b) When the fast falls on Friday, most people fast until they drink the wine or grape juice of the Friday night Kiddush at the Shabbat table.

Do’s and Don’ts

1) During the duration of the fast, eating and drinking are prohibited

2) Unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha Ba’Av (The Day of Atonement and the Ninth of Av), brushing teeth (no swallowing!), bathing, annointing and wearing leather are permitted.

3) Pregnant and nursing women, and others with health restrictions may be exempt from fasting (please consult your rabbi). Children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah (13 for boys, 12 for girls) are not required to fast.

4) Special prayers are added to the synagogue services:

a) S’lichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited during the morning service.
b) At Mincha, the afternoon service, Exodus 32:11, containing the 13 attributes of G-d’s mercy, is read from the Torah.
c) The Aneinu prayer, asking for special forgiveness, is added to the morning and afternoon services by the cantor. An individual who is fasting includes Aneinu in the silent Mincha Amidah.

Historical Significance:

The Second Book of Kings 25:1-4:

‘And it was in the ninth year of [King Tzidkiyahu’s] reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth (day) of the month, that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon came, he and all his legions, upon Jerusalem, and encamped upon it and built forts around it. And the city came under siege till the eleventh year of King Tzidkiyahu. On the ninth of the month [of Av] famine was intense in the city, the people had no bread, and the city was breached.’

      • On the tenth of Tevet, the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem.
      • A year and a half later, on the ninth of Av (Tishah Ba’Av), the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

The Tenth of Tevet marks two additional tragedies for the Jewish people:

    • On the 8th of Tevet during the 2nd Beis Hamikdash Talmai (Ptolomy), King of Egypt ordered 72 sages to translate the Torah into Greek, known as the Septuagint.
    • On the 9th of Tevet, Ezra HaSofer (The Scribe), leader of the Jews who returned from Babylonia to Jerusalem at the beginning of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash period, died.

A Friday Fast:

1) It is a general rule that no Rabbinic fast days fall on Friday so that people will not enter Shabbat while fasting. The exception to this rule is the Tenth of Tevet, which may occur on Friday.

2) That this fast may occur on a Friday, demonstrates the seriousness of mourning on the Tenth of Tevet.

a) Even Tisha Ba’Av, the ninth of Av, on which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and the Second Holy Temple, cannot fall on Friday.

b) The Fast of the Tenth of Tevet is considered more intense since it marked the beginning of the calamities. Had there been no siege, then the walls could not have been breeched (on the 17th of Tammuz), the First Holy Temple would not have been destroyed (on the Ninth of Av), and Gedaliah (the Governor of the Jews) would not have been murdered, causing the remaining Jews to go into exile (the Fast of Gedaliah – 3rd of Tishrei).

An Added Meaning

In Israel, the Tenth of Tevet is also Yom HaKaddish HaKlali, a day on which Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited for people whose date or place of death is unknown, such as the victims of the Holocaust.


Tu B'Shevat

Tu B'Shevat

New Year for Trees

Tu B’Shevat is a rabbinical, not biblical holiday. In fact, it is first referred to in the Mishna (Rosh Hashana 2a), where it is called the New Year for Trees. Nevertheless, Tu B’Shevat is an important holiday on the Jewish calendar.

While there are no additional prayers during the day’s services, and there are no special “requirements” for Tu B’Shevat, there is a widespread custom to eat of the 7 special foods by which G-d and the Torah praised the land of Israel. Some Jews even get together to eat a special meal on Tu B’Shevat. This meal is sometimes called a Tu B’Shevat Seder (like the Passover Seder).

7 Special Foods

The seven species of Israeli produce.

On Tu B’Shevat, Jews celebrate with the fruit of the trees, placing particular emphasis on the 7 types of produce by which the Torah praises the land of Israel.

The seven species are mentioned in the Torah in Deuteronomy 8:8 – A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey (from dates).

Tu B’Shevat Seder

Significance of The Color of Wine:

Pure White – Symbolically, the pure white represents the winter and the void of life therein.

Pale Pink (white with a drop of red) – Symbolically, the pale pink mixture represents the approach of spring, and the splash of red signifies the emergence of color.

Dark Pink (a mixture of white and red) – Symbolically, the dark pink mixture represents the progression of spring. The ground has warmed to allow the seeds to take root, and the plants have started to grow.

Almost Red ( red with a drop of white) – Symbolically, the red mixture represents the arrival of summer. The trees are in full bloom and filled with fruit.

The First Cup and Second Cup – The Seder begins with the pouring of the first cup of wine, pure white.

SUGGESTED DISCUSSION:

Introduction to Tu B’Shevat: Why Do we have a New Years for trees?

Discussion point: What does a tree represent in Judaism?
In Proverbs, King Solomon refers to the Torah as the Tree of Life. Why did he choose this metaphor for the Torah?

A midrash (legendary source) from the Talmud may add to the discussion: One day, Honi (a Talmudic sage) was walking along, and saw an old man planting a carob tree. Honi knew that the old man would not live to see the fruits of his labor. He asked the man: “Why do you bother to plant a tree if you will never see its fruits?” The man answered: “I will not see this tree full grown, but my children will and their children will. I plant this tree for them.”
Discuss how this midrash reflects on how our actions effect the future, and the importance of the commandment to teach the Torah to the children.
Compare the midrash’s future-view of trees with Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree.
Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai once said: “If you have a sapling in your hand, ready to plant, and the Messiah comes, plant the tree first and then go to greet him. What does this tell us about the importance of trees?

Discussion point: Jewish views on the environment –

What is the Jewish attitude towards the environment? Keep in mind that Jewish law forbids the destruction of the fruit trees during the time of battle, forbids the eating of the fruit of a tree for the first three years after it is planted, and demands that the land lie fallow every seventh year.

Discussion point: The Halachic (Jewish legal) importance of Tu B’Shevat –

The Zohar, the Jewish book of mysticism, says :”When a person is privileged to eat in the presence of God, (s)he must show his/her appreciation by giving charity to the poor and feeding them, just as God in His bounty feeds him/her.” Therefore Tu B’Shevat is an opportune time to make an extra effort to give charity to the hungry. Discuss the many ways people can give charity, such as giving money, donating time, helping a neighbor, and the popular Tu B’Shevat charity – planting a tree in Israel.Beginning the Seder of Foods: At the Tu B’Shevat Seder one partakes in many fruits, but in particular, one eats the 7 species for which the Land of Israel is praised in Deuteronomy 8:8: “A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey.”

GRAINS

But G-d would feed him with the finest wheat. (Psalm 8:17)
The Tu’ B’Shevat Seder begins with the grain products of wheat and barley.
At this point those involved, partake of either cakes or bread, after reciting the appropriate blessings to show appreciation to G-d for the food they are eating.

For those eating cakes:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, bo’ray mee’nay m’zo’not.

“Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, who creates varied grains of nourishment.”

For those who are eating bread:

a) Before eating bread, one must ritually wash one’s hands. Using a cup of at least 4 ounces, follow these instructions from this NJOP washing poster and recite the following blessing

b) Without speaking from the time of the washing, we then recite the blessing on the bread:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam ha’motzie lechem min ha’aretz.

“Blessed are you G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the Earth

The significance of wheat (chitah)

Wheat is the basic ingredient of the most common form of sustenance in the world – bread.
The Sages noted the importance of wheat in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers 3:21): “Where there is no flour, there is no Torah. Where there is no flour, there is no Torah.”
The significance of barley (seh’o’rah) i) Barley plays an important role in the cycle of the Jewish year because it marks the start of the spring harvest. The beginning of the barley harvest occurs at Passover time, when the offering of the omer (a measure of barley) was brought to the Temple. The 50 days between Passover and Shavuot are referred to as Sefirat Ha’Omer (the Counting of the Omer).

FRUIT OF THE LAND

The trees have borne their fruit, THE fig tree and vine have yielded their strength. Children of zion be happy, rejoice in the l-rd your G-d. Joel 2:22-23
The Seder participants now begin to eat the fruit of the land of Israel. Taking the first fruit in hand, recite the following:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, boray p’ri ha’etz.

Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.

If one is eating a fruit which one has not eaten in the last year, the sheh’heh’cheh’yanu blessing is recited before it is eaten:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, sheh’heh’cheh’yanu v’kee’manu v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

The olive tree is a tree of strength. Olive trees can live more than a thousand years and still bear fruit. Olive oil played an important role in the Holy Temple, where pure olive oil was used to keep the menorah in the Temple constantly kindled and to annoint priests and kings.Prior to eating each of the different fruits, participants should reflect on, and discuss, the fact that these fruits are mentioned in the Torah. While eating the fruit, one should enjoy the rich flavors and textures and the great variations:

Olives (zayit)

“Your children shall be like olive plants around your table” (Psalms 123:3). iii) “God called your name a green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit.” (Jeremiah 11:16).
Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Levi said: “Why is Israel compared to an olive tree? Because just as the leaves of an olive tree do not fall off either in summer or winter. So too, the Jewish people shall not be cast off – neither in this world nor in the World to Come” (Talmud – Menachot 53b).

Dates (tamar)

While the Torah uses the word d’vash, honey, it is understood as referring to date-honey because the fruit of the date palm is frequently boiled to make a type of honey.
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” (Psalms 92:13).
“No part of the palm tree is wasted. The dates are for eating; the Lulav branches are for waving in praise on Sukkot; the dried thatch is for roofing; the fibers are for ropes; the leaves are for sieves; and the trunk is for house beams. So too, is every one of the Jewish people needed. Some are knowledgeable in Bible, others in Mishna, others in Aggada (homiletic understanding of the Torah). Still others perform many mitzvot, and others give much charity” (Midrash – Bamidbar Raba 3:1).

Grapes (gefen – literally grape-vines)

The fruit of the vine has always played an important role in Jewish life. Special significance is given to the grape, as it has the unique ability to be transformed into wine. Wine reflects the human condition in that humans can choose to uplift themselves or debase themselves depending upon how they use alcohol. Thus wine is used in almost every Jewish ceremony, representing our ability to create holiness out of something which could be profane.
Just as a vine has large and small clusters, and the large ones hang lower, so too are the Jewish people: Whoever labors in Torah and is greater in Torah, seems lower than his fellow [due to his humility]” (Midrash – Vayikra Raba 36:2).

Drinking the first cup of wine – Since grapes have just been discussed, the first cup of wine is drunk. Before drinking the wine, the following blessing should be recited:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, boreh pri ha’gafen.

Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine

Figs (te’aynah)The Second Cup of wine, white with a drop of red, is filled and the Tu B’Shevat Seder proceeds to the remaining two Fruits of the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Yochanan said: “What is the meaning of ‘He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit’ (Proverbs 27:18)? Why is the Torah compared to a fruit tree? Figs on a tree do not ripen all at once, but a little each day. Therefore, the longer one searches in the tree, the more figs (s)he finds. So too with Torah: The more one studies, the more knowledge and wisdom one finds” (Talmud – Eruvin 54a).

Pomegranates (rimon)

According to the midrash, the pomegranate has 613 seeds, the equivalent of the number of commandments in the Torah. b) “Let us get up early to the vineyards. Let us see if the vine has flowered, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates have budded. There I will give you my love.” (The Song of Songs 6:11).
“If the pomegranates have budded”–these are the little children who study Torah and sit in rows in their class like the seeds of a pomegranate (Midrash – Shir HaShirim Rabba 6:11).

Having now tasted and discussed the Seven Species of the Land of Israel, this is an excellent place to talk about Israel and the Jewish relationship to the land.

Suggested Discussions:

            • Personal experiences in Israel
            • The Torah calls Israel a “land flowing with milk and honey,” why are these items used to describe the land. (* Perhaps discuss the sources of milk and honey, the tastes, etc.)
            • The Torah promises that the Land of Israel will flourish in Jewish hands. Discuss the historical fact that under the foreign rulers (such as the Turks who governed for four hundred years) the land of Israel was considered a veritable wasteland. With the beginning of the Jewish settlement in the late 1800’s, and with a lot of hard work, the Land of Israel has been transformed into a land flourishing agriculturally and economically.

The second cup of wine is drunk, which ends the section of the Seder dealing with Fruits of the Land of Israel.

Third Cup and Fourth Cup
The third cup of wine, dark pink, is drunk.

This section of the Tu B’Shevat Seder is focused on fruit in general and the coming of spring. It is customary to connect the physical nature of the fruits to level of spiritual growth.

Fruits with inedible shells or peels

Commonly eaten at this point are: nuts, oranges, avocados, pomegranates etc.
Fruits that have inedible shells or peels represent a world that is enclosed in materialism. To get to the part of the fruit that is desirable, the outer core must be broken. So too, spiritual growth can be impeded by a hard shell of materialism or cynicism.

Fruits with inedible pits

Commonly eaten at this point are: peaches, plums, cherries, dates, olives, etc.
While the edible part of the fruit represents that which is spiritually good, the pit symbolizes the need to remove impurities within. Often times, one puts on an outer act of holiness. Spiritual growth demands work on one’s inner nature as well as one’s actions.
The “inedible pit,” however, is a step up from the “inedible shell or peel” in that the seed is an element of potential growth.

Drink the third cup of wine and pour the fourth cup, red with a dash of white.

This section of the Tu B’Shevat Seder focuses on reaching completion.
Fruits that are completely edible
One now eats fruits such as blueberries, of which both the outside and the inside can be eaten.

Fruits which are completely edible represent reaching one’s spiritual potential by bringing holiness both the one’s outside (actions) and one’s insides (thoughts and motives).

Drink the fourth cup of wine

Conclusion

The Tu B’Shevat Seder concludes with a final-blessing. The coordinator of the Seder should have benchters on hand. If one ate bread, the full Bentching/Grace After Meals should be recited. Bentching can be found in any Jewish prayerbook.
If one did not eat bread, one should recite:

The final-blessings for baked products, fruits, and wine (Al Ha’mich’yah).


Chanukah

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Chanukah

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt.

"Oh Chanukah, O’ Chanukah, come light the menorah…"

It is time again for glowing menorahs, spinning dreidles, delicious latkes (potato pancakes) and deep fried sufganiot (jelly donuts). It’s Chanukah time. On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles.

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period. In commemoration of the “miracle of the oil,” Jews light candles each night for eight nights. Learn about the miracle of the oil and more.

Complete Guide to Chanukah

Jewish Treats is excited to bring you our Chanukah eBook – your online resource to Chanukah. This eBook includes a little bit of everything: Discover how gelt became gifts, the enduring dreidel game and menorah lighting methods. You will also find recipes, fascinating facts and lots of family fun. Everything you need to know and have been wondering about this spectacular holiday is now right at your fingertips!

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Jewish Treats Complete Guide to Chanukah or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Chanukah Videos

Rabbi Buchwald on Chanukah

Web Series

Watch NJOP’s Chanukah Web Series, discussing all things Chanukah from ancient times to the modern day, in 12 short videos. Featuring Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP.

View The Series

Chanukah Programs

Here are several excellent Chanukah programming options in which you can participate or offer in your community.

Chanukah Workshop

The Chanukah Workshop will transform your Chanukah celebration. Participants will learn the deeper reasons behind the customs and practices associated with the kindling of the Chanukah menorah. The materials are user friendly…

Chanukah Hebrew One Day Review

NJOP’s Hebrew Reading Crash Course One Day Review Program For Chanukah has been designed to meet the needs of those who wish to sharpen their Hebrew reading skills. It includes passages from Chanukah liturgy and popular Chanukah songs.

Offer a Workshop


Chanukah Food-tacular

This unique program encourages a more culinary look at the holiday of Chanukah. We’ve provided four informative cards relating why dairy foods and food cooked in oil are associated with the holiday as well as a guideline for how to make the evening fun and delicious.

Offer a Workshop


Who, What, Why, When-Chanukah Jeopardy

NJOP’s Who, What, Why, When-Chanukah Jeopardy is meant to be “played” in a Jeopardy format. Each card contains an answer for which the team of players must think of a question. An explanation for each answer/question is included as well.

Offer a Workshop

COVID-19 | Program Status

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of the Coronavirus and heeding the recommendation of medical professionals to forgo large gatherings for the time being, NJOP will not be going forward with our Chanukah Across America Program this year. We hope to reinstate the initiative in future years. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all those who have contracted the virus and the safety of all others.

Thank you for your understanding.

Chanukah Across America

Particpate in Chanukah Across America to experience the holiday this year in a new light!
Our program includes a specially-designed Chanukah One Day Review which uses popular Chanukah songs and passages…

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our Chanukah programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.


Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

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Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

The Gathering of the 8th

Shemini Atzeret, literally the Gathering of the Eighth, appears, on the surface, to be the eighth day (and ninth day outside of Israel) of Sukkot. It is, however, a separate and independent holiday that immediately follows Sukkot.

Simchat Torah is actually the second day of the Sh’mini Atzeret festival and is a Yom Tov.

In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is celebrated concurrently with Simchat Torah. Outside of Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the following day. This Crash Course in Jewish Holidays presents them as two separate days.

SHEMINI ATZERET

Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah is a Yom Tov and is observed like Sukkot, hence carrying and cooking are permitted. On Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, the obligation to dwell or eat in the sukkah no longer pertains. In the Diaspora, some eat in the sukkah (without a blessing) on Shemini Atzeret, while others do not. In Israel, there is no custom to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.

Candlelighting

Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin at sunset of the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival] candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holiday. On the second night of Yom Tov, candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset.
Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin at sunset of the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival] candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holiday. On the second night of Yom Tov, candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset.

When Shemini Atzeret, begins on Friday night, the Shabbat candle-lighting procedure is as follows:

        • Two candles (minimum) are lit, then both hands are waved towards the face, symbolically drawing in the light of the candles and the sanctity of theSabbath/Yom Tov. The eyes are covered and the blessing is recited. On the second night, Saturday night, the blessing is said first, without the Shabbat addition, and only then are the candles lit (from a pre-existing flame).

On Friday night, insert the bracketed words:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel [Shabbat v’]Yom Tov.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of [the Sabbath and] Yom Tov (festival).

An additional blessing is said on both nights of Shemini Atzeret, to acknowledge the good fortune of being able to experience the holiday:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, she’he’che’yanu v’kee’manu, v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Evening services are held in the synagogue.
A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and Ha’Motzei, which is made over two whole challot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday.

The Morning Synagogue Service

1) On Sh’mini Atzeret the formal prayer for rain is added to the service (as Sh’mini Atzeret marks the start of the rainy season in Israel).
a) Although there are many allusions to rain on Sukkot, and G-d determines the allotment of rain for the next year on Hoshana Rabah, the prayer for rain is delayed until after the Sukkot holiday. Rain on Sukkot is considered a sign of disfavor since it prevents the fulfillment of the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah.
b) The cantor recites the prayer for rain during the repetition of the Mussaf (additional) service.
2) In the Silent Amidah, ma’shiv ha’ruach u’morid ha’geshem, He makes the wind blow and He makes the rain descend, is inserted. Mashiv… is added to each service until Passover.

A festive meal is eaten, proceeded by the daytime festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and HaMotzei, which is made over two whole challot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday.
Mincha, the afternoon service is recited (including the weekly Torah reading, since it is also Shabbat).

SIMCHAT TORAH

Simchat Torah is actually the second day of the Sh’mini Atzeret festival and is a Yom Tov.

1) The festival meals (with festival kiddush, ha’motzei and Grace After Meals) are eaten.
2) Because the first day of Yom Tov is also Shabbat, Havdallah, the ceremony separating holy days from each other and weekdays, is recited after Kiddush at the second night meal.

Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion of the yearly cycle of the reading of the Torah.

1) Moshe ordained that the Torah should be read on every Shabbat and the Rabbis divided the Torah into 54 sections called parshiot (parasha). Generally, due to the cycle of the year, certain parshiot are doubled, ie: read together on a single Shabbat.
2) On the same day that the Torah is completed, it is begun again to show that Torah is always a new and desired gift for the Jews, and that our mitzvah to study Torah is never ending.

Simchat Torah Night

1) After the evening service, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark.
2) The bimah is circled seven times by those holding the Torah scrolls as the congregation dances around them. Each circle, called hakafa, begins with a responsive prayer.
3) In many communities, the beginning of the final parasha of the Torah is read on Simchat Torah night, the only time that it is read at night. *NOTE: The Simchat Torah festivities can last many hours. If you have been invited to friends or family for dinner, please confirm what time to meet.

Simchat Torah Day

1) During the morning service, all the Torahs are again taken from the ark and the hakafot, the joyous circling of the night before, is repeated.
2) The final parasha (weekly portion) of the Torah, V’Zot HaBracha (And this is the blessing…) is read.
It is customary that every man present in the synagogue receive an aliyah (be called to the Torah) on Simchat Torah. The final parasha is, therefore, read over and over until everyone has had an aliyah. In some congregations, several Torah readings take place simultaneously.
3) At the end of the Torah reading, there are three special aliyot for Simchat Torah:

Kol ha-Ne’arim, All the Children. This is the second to last aliyah of the parasha V’Zot Ha’Bracha. On Simchat Torah all the children are called together for a joint aliyah.
All of the children in the synagogue come to the bimah and stand beneath an outstretched tallit, prayer shawl. Since children under the age of 13 do not officially receive aliyot, one adult recites the blessings over the Torah with them.

After the concluding blessing over the Torah, the blessing over the children is recited:

Y’simicha E-lokim k’Ephraim u’ke’Menashe. Y’varechecha A-donai, v’yishm’recha. Ya’er A-donai panav eylecha viy’chu’neka. Yee’sa A-donai panav eylecha v’yasem l’cha shalom.
May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe. May G-d bless you and guard you. May G-d shine His countenance upon you, and be gracious unto you. May G-d turn his countenance to you and grant you peace.

The congregation then recites, HaMalach Ha’Goel, (The Redeeming Angel).

HaMalach Ha’goel oti meekol rah y’va’rech et han’arim, vey’karay bahem sh’mee, v’shem a’votai Avraham v’Yitzchak, v’yidgu la’rov b’kerev ha’aretz.

May the angel who redeemed me from all evil bless the youths, and call my name on them and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and let them grow into a multitude upon the land.

This is the part of the blessing the Jacob gave to Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Menashe.

Chatan Torah, The Bridegroom of the Torah
The Chatan Torah is the final aliyah of the Torah.
The Chatan Torah aliyah is considered a great honor. As a reciprocal gesture, it is customary for the Chatan Torah to sponsor of the Kiddush following the service or on a forthcoming Shabbat.

After the aliyah, the congregation recites:

Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazaik Be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened c) Chatan Bereshit, The Bridegroom of the Beginning [of the Torah] i) The Chatan Bereshit is honored with restarting the Torah and begins with Genesis.

4) The services continue with the mussaf (additional) service. *NOTE: The Simchat Torah festivities can last many hours, depending on the synagogue. If you have been invited to friends or family for lunch, please confirm what time to meet.

Havdallah – At the conclusion of the second day of Yom Tov, Havdallah, separating holy days from week days, is recited. This Havdallah consists of only the blessing over grape juice (HaGafen) and the Havdallah blessing (HaMavdil), which can be found in the daily prayer book.

Sukkot

Sukkot is a time for celebration! Immediately following Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the week-long holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Sukkot programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Sukkot.

Articles

Browse our collection of Sukkot Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Sukkot.


Sukkot

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Sukkot

The holiday of Sukkot, known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, or the liturgy Zman Simchatainu, the time of our rejoicing.

Happy Sukkot!

The first month of the Jewish year (Tishrei) is also the busiest month of the Jewish year. Immediately following Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the week-long holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is called in the liturgy Zman Simchatainu, the time of our rejoicing.

Now that the Jewish people have repented on Yom Kippur and, hopefully, received Divine forgiveness, Sukkot follows as the time for celebrating G-d’s presence in the world. By living in temporary dwellings and taking the four species (the two primary mitzvot of Sukkot) Jews acknowledge that G-d provides for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.

Origin of Sukkot

During the week of Sukkot, when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, 70 oxen were sacrificed. The rabbis taught that these 70 oxen represent the original 70 nations of the world. The priests offered sin offerings for the nations, invoking a desire for universal atonement, peace and harmony. Sukkot, therefore, is actually a truly universal holiday.

The holiday, however, does not end abruptly since G-d commanded that an eighth day be added which will also be Yom Tov, a festival day, specifically for the Jewish people. This holiday, known as Sh’mini Atzeret, the Gathering of the Eighth, is seen as the holiday which demonstrates G-d’s especial love for the Jewish people – comparable to a host asking his/her best friend to stay after everyone else has left, in order to share a private moment.

Guide to Celebrating Sukkot

Welcome to Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Sukkot. From the symbolic meaning of the four species to guidelines for building a sukkah, Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Sukkot offers it all– inspiring insights, enticing recipes and suggestions on how to celebrate the holiday known as Z’man Sim’chah’tay’nu, the Time of our Rejoicing. We hope that you will use this guide to truly enhance your own Sukkot celebration.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Jewish Treats Guide to Celebrating Sukkot or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Sukkot Programs

Discover our exciting Sukkot programs in which you can celebrate, participate, or offer in your community.

Sukkot Workshop

This Workshop brings to life the happiest time of year on the Jewish calendar. This exceptional, interactive program includes questions, source material and. illuminating answers..

COVID-19 | Program Status

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of the Coronavirus and heeding the recommendation of medical professionals to forgo large gatherings for the time being, NJOP will not be going forward with our Sukkot Across America Program this year. We hope to reinstate the initiative in future years. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all those who have contracted the virus and the safety of all others.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sukkot Across America

The holiday of Sukkot is known as Zman Simchatainu, the Time of our Rejoicing. So let’s celebrate together! You’re invited to join NJOP for Sukkot Across America!
In this uplifting event, participants are welcomed…

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our Sukkot programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.


Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement begins at sunset.  There is a mysticism in that almost all Jews recognize the holiness of the day.

The Sabbath of Sabbaths

The tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei), Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sunset on the previous day. There is something mystical about Yom Kippur in that almost all Jews recognize the holiness of the day: On Yom Kippur, G-d graces the world with amnesty – all one needs to do is to come and ask for it.

When we spend the day talking with G-d, we are discussing, privately, all the things for which we need such amnesty, thereby cleansing ourselves and helping us recognize how we can improve our lives. In fact, the holiday is structured for us to build towards this connection with our inner-selves and with G-d.

High Holiday Videos

High Holiday 101

Web Series

These High Holiday videos are each between 9-12 minutes long and are geared towards anyone seeking to engage fellow Jews on the High Holidays. Whether you are a rabbi, or a lay leader, your observance is traditional or more progressive, you will benefit from these engaging videos.

View The Series

High Holiday Programs

Join or partner with us in one of our renowned High Holiday programs.

High Holiday Prayer Workshop

The High Holiday Prayer Workshop (HHPW) is designed for those who seek meaning in a service they find difficult to relate to and hard to understand. Based on the Abridged Beginners Service, the Prayer Workshop…

COVID-19 | Program Status

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of the Coronavirus and heeding the recommendation of medical professionals to forgo large gatherings for the time being, NJOP will not be going forward with our High Holiday Beginners Service programs this year. We hope to reinstate the initiative in future years. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all those who have contracted the virus and the safety of all others.

Thank you for your understanding.

High Holiday Beginners Service

Looking for something different for this year’s High Holidays? If you are one of thousands of Jews around the country who are curious but wary or hesitant about High Holiday services, NJOP invites you to start here…

Abridged High Holiday Beginners Service

A brief and dynamic program designed to appeal to, and inspire, those who may not have attended a High Holiday Service in some time. This brief program enables participants to appreciate the majesty and beauty of the Rosh Hashana and…

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our High Holiday programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.


Rosh Hashana

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Rosh Hashana

A celebration of the very creation of the world and a recognition of humankind’s relationship to the Creator.

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is much more than the celebration of another year’s passing. Rosh Hashana is, after all, a celebration of the very creation of the world and a recognition of humankind’s relationship to the Creator.

Fundamental to Judaism is the belief in an active G-d who is involved in our lives like a caring parent. G-d responds to our needs, but, at the same time, G-d also watches us and assesses our actions.

On Rosh Hashana, G-d metaphorically closes out the year by reviewing the records of each person’s actions, judging each person’s merits and faults, and setting a verdict for the quality of each person’s year to come. Rosh Hashana is a day of judgment, we Jews therefore use the holiday to reconnect with G-d and to reassess our own lives.

Complete Guide to Rosh Hashana

NJOP and our social media brand Jewish Treats are excited to introduce our Jewish Treats Complete Guide to Rosh Hashana- your online resource to the Jewish New Year.

Jewish Treats Complete Guide to Rosh Hashana eBook is designed to engage and inspire those who are active in the social media universe. Easily downloadable for even those who are not very computer savvy, NJOP’s eBook makes the customs and traditions associated with Rosh Hashana both accessible and meaningful. This very contemporary guide provides in-depth explanations, delicious recipes and personal inspirational thoughts and experiences associated with Rosh Hashana. Jewish Treats Complete Guide to Rosh Hashana eBook is an invaluable tool for all Jews, especially those who may never have experienced the majesty and inspirational nature of Rosh Hashana.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Complete Guide to Rosh Hashana or use the interface on this page to view or download.

High Holiday Videos

High Holiday 101

Web Series

These High Holiday videos are each between 9-12 minutes long and are geared towards anyone seeking to engage fellow Jews on the High Holidays. Whether you are a rabbi, or a lay leader, your observance is traditional or more progressive, you will benefit from these engaging videos.

View The Series

Soul Bigger

(The Rosh Hashana Song)

@JewishTweets wants to know if you’re ready to make your “Soul Bigger” for the High Holidays!

*Featured on NBC’s The Today Show!

Watch Now

High Holiday Programs

Join or partner with us in one of our renowned High Holiday programs.

High Holiday Prayer Workshop

The High Holiday Prayer Workshop (HHPW) is designed for those who seek meaning in a service they find difficult to relate to and hard to understand. Based on the Abridged Beginners Service, the Prayer Workshop…

COVID-19 | Program Status

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of the Coronavirus and heeding the recommendation of medical professionals to forgo large gatherings for the time being, NJOP will not be going forward with our High Holiday Beginners Service programs this year. We hope to reinstate the initiative in future years. We pray for the speedy and complete recovery of all those who have contracted the virus and the safety of all others.

Thank you for your understanding.

High Holiday Beginners Service

Looking for something different for this year’s High Holidays? If you are one of thousands of Jews around the country who are curious but wary or hesitant about High Holiday services, NJOP invites you to start here…

Abridged High Holiday Beginners Service

A brief and dynamic program designed to appeal to, and inspire, those who may not have attended a High Holiday Service in some time. This brief program enables participants to appreciate the majesty and beauty of the Rosh Hashana and…

Send us message to have us contact you about running any of our High Holiday programs or call 1-800-44-HEBREW.