Observance and Prayer Outline

Passover Observance
and Prayer Outline

The Seder night, when family and friends gather together to commemorate our redemption from slavery in Egypt, is more than just a festive meal – the Seder is a crucial vehicle for understanding the Exodus. For those experiencing the Seder night for the first time, or as a reference for those who want a refresher, this page is an outline of what to expect.

YOM TOV – The First Festival Days
Passover is a 7 day (8 days outside of Israel) holiday. The first day (first two days outside of Israel) are Yamim Tovim – days which are observed with the same rules as the Sabbath. (Cooking from an existing flame and carrying, however, are permitted).

Candle Lighting
Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin the evening before. When Passover begins on Saturday night (immediately following Shabbat), candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset on both the first and second night of Yom Tov.
Because one may not create a fire on Shabbat or Yom Tov, the candles must be lit from a pre-existing flame. For this reason, many people light a yahrtzeit candle (25 hour candle) before Shabbat, or leave a burner lit on the stove before Shabbat.
The procedure for lighting candles for a holiday varies slightly from Sabbath candle-lighting:

    • The blessings are said before lighting the candles.
    • The end of the blessing is changed to represent the Yom Tov [festival] and includes Shabbat, when applicable:
      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 [the Sabbath and] Yom Tov [festival].

Evening services are held in the synagogue.

The Seder
Changes in the morning synagogue service

    • During Shacharit, the morning service, the Festival Amidah is recited.
    • Hallel
        1. Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month).
        2. Hallel can be found in the siddur (Jewish prayerbook).
        3. Full Hallel is recited on the first two days of Passover. Half-Hallel is recited on the remaining days of the holiday.
    • The Torah Reading
        1. On the first day of Passover, Exodus 12:21-51 is read in synagogue.
        2. On the second day of Passover, Leviticus 22:26-23:44 is
          read in synagogue.
        3. The maftir (additional reading) on both days is Numbers
          28:16-25.
        4. The haftorah (prophetic message) on the first day is from the Book of Joshua, 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1, and 6:27.
          The haftorah on the second day is from Kings II, 23:1-9 and 23:21-25.
    • The Prayer for Dew
        1. On Passover, the prayer for rain, which began on Shmini Atzeret (the final days of Sukkot), is discontinued and the prayer for dew is now recited.
        2. The cantor recites the prayer for dew during the repetition of the Mussaf (additional) service on the first day of Passover.
        3. In the Silent Amidah, morid ha’tal, “He who makes the dew descend,” is inserted. Morid ha’tal is added to each service until Shmini Atzeret. Many congregations, however, merely omit the previously said mashiv ha’ruach u’ morid ha’geshem.
        4. In the weekday Amidah, v’ten bracha, “and give blessing,” replaces v’ten tal u’matar liv’racha, “and give dew and rain for a blessing,” in the 9th blessing.

The Festive Lunch

    • The Festival day Kiddush (blessing over wine), found in the siddur (prayer book), is recited.
    • Ha’Motzee – After a ritual washing of the hands, the blessing is made over two whole matzot, the pieces of which are sprinkled with salt.
    • A festive meal is eaten, followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “He will go up and he will come…” for the Passover holidays and the holiday insertion towards the conclusion of “Harachamon.”

Mincha
The afternoon service is recited with the special Festival Amidah (and the special insertions for Shabbat, when applicable).

Havdalah
At the conclusion of the second day of Yom Tov, Havdalah, separating holy days from week days, is recited in the evening Amidah. This Havdalah is followed by the formal Havdalah, which consists of only the blessing over grape juice (HaGafen) and the Havdalah blessing (HaMavdil), which can be found in the prayer book
One may not prepare on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day of Yom Tov. One should wait until after nightfall to set the table, prepare the Seder plate, or any other activity not meant for the enjoyment of the first day itself.

CHOL HAMOED – The Interim Days

Passover is a 7 day holiday (8 days outside of Israel). The first day and the last day (first two days and last two days outside of Israel) are Yamim Tovim – days which are kept like Sabbath (Cooking from an existing flame and carrying, however, are permitted). The in between days are known as Chol HaMoed – weekday of the festival.

    • During Chol HaMoed, it is customary to continue the holiday spirit and avoid unnecessary work. Many people do not go to work, avoid shopping, and try to refrain from such chores as laundry, except for that which is essential for the holiday.
    • The prohibition of eating chametz continues throughout the holiday.
    • In the synagogue, the Torah is read and Half-Hallel (festive Psalms) and Mussaf (the additional service) are added to the daily service.
    • On Shabbat of Chol HaMoed (or if Shabbat falls on the seventh day of Passover), Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, is read before the Torah Reading. This is an Ashkenazic custom.

THE LAST TWO DAYS

Candle lighting

    • 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.
    • 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 the Sabbath/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).
On the last days of Passover one does not add the additional blessing, sheh’heh’cheh’yanu, as one does on other festivals.

Evening services are held in the synagogue.

A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the Festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and Ha’Motzee, which is made over two whole matzot. 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, and the Harachamon for the festival.

Because Yom Tov and Shabbat overlap, be sure to include all the Shabbat additions on Friday night and Saturday. On Saturday night, the festival Kiddush is altered to include Havdalah for the conclusion of Shabbat.

Changes in the morning synagogue service
During Shacharit, the morning service, the Festival Amidah is recited.

Hallel

Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month). Only the Half-Hallel is recited after the first (two) days of Passover.
Hallel can be found in the siddur (Jewish prayerbook).

The Torah Reading

    • On the seventh day of Passover, Exodus 13:17-15:26 is read in synagogue.
    • On the second day of Passover, Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 is read in synagogue.
    • The maftir (additional reading) on both days is Numbers 28:26-31.
    • The haftorah (prophetic message) on the seventh day is from the Samuel II 22:1-51.
      The haftorah on the second day is from Isaiah 10:32-12:6.

Yizkor – The Memorial Service

    • The Yizkor Memorial Service is recited on the last day of all festivals — Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and on Yom Kippur.
    • While those who have passed away are no longer able to effect their own spiritual growth, the deeds of their children may result in additional merit for their souls.
    • According to some Ashkenazic customs, those whose parents are both living leave the sanctuary during Yizkor. In Sephardic custom, everyone remains in the sanctuary while the cantor recites Yizkor.

A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the daytime festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and HaMotzee, which is made over two whole matzot. 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 and the Harachamon for the festival.

Mincha
The afternoon service is recited with the special Festival Amidah (and the special insertions for Shabbat, as well as including the weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Mincha, when applicable).

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

Passover

The 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. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover 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 Passover.

Articles

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


Passover Preparations

Passover Preparations

“And this day will be for you as a memorial and you will celebrate it as a festival for G-d. Throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast for an everlasting statute. Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away your Chametz (leaven) from your houses…” (Exodus 12:14-15)

Chametz
The Torah teaches that by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no Chametz should be left in one’s house. To fulfill this directive, the house (and other spaces where one spends significant time, i.e. one’s office or car) is thoroughly cleaned. Many begin their Passover cleaning immediately after Purim, thus giving themselves a month to prepare. The following is a guide to the special actions taken to eliminate chametz from one’s possession:
What is Chametz?

Chametz is defined as leaven and is any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating).

Kitniyot – Legumes
During the holiday of Passover, Ashekenazim (Jews of Western and Eastern European ancestry) follow the Rabbinic decree to not eat kitniyot, foods such as rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.

Kitniyot products are often stored together with chametz grains and it is difficult to insure that there is no chametz mixed with the products. Also, when kitniyot are ground into flour, the untrained eye could mistakenly think that this it is real flour and, therefore, accidentally come to use prohibited flour.

In the house – While the decree prohibits one to eat products containing Kitniyot, they do not need to be removed from one’s possession, as does chametz.

Peanut oil and other derivatives — a commonly noted Passover item on the supermarket shelf is peanut oil. There is a difference of opinion about using kitniyot-based oils. Please check with your local rabbi as to whether or not you may use these products.

Please note that while many Sephardim are permitted to eat kitniyot, the food must be thoroughly checked that it is not mixed with chametz.

Getting Rid of Chametz – Cleaning the House
The home and place of business are thoroughly cleaned in an effort to get rid of chametz, which one is forbidden to possess.

It is important to thoroughly clean the kitchen and dining room areas, where food is generally eaten. Be sure to brush or vacuum out crumbs from drawers and cabinets.
In living rooms and other rooms where food, especially snacks, is eaten, be sure to vacuum carpets and couches.

“Turning the House Over” – Perhaps you have heard this phrase uttered by a friend, or you remember your grandmother using such language. “Turning the House Over” means changing the kitchen from Chametz to Pesachdik (ready for Passover) and vice versa after the holiday.

  • During Passover, one may not use dishes, silverware or pots and pans that are regularly used with chametz foods. It is customary to have separate sets of dishes, cutlery and cookingware for Passover.
  • For those who are just beginning to observe the Passover laws or who are on a strict budget, paper, plasticware and aluminum are easy and affordable.
  • The non-Passover dishes, cutlery and cookware should be stored away so that they will not mistakenly be used. One may either box them and put them in another room, or tape the cabinet closed.
  • Appliances used for chametz should be removed from the counters and not used during Passover.
  • Because counters and table tops often come in direct contact with chametz during the year, one should cover them. A tablecloth is sufficient for the table and foil, plastic sheeting or contact paper (being cautious that it is removable without damage) to cover counters.

The Removal of Chametz

Any item which contains wheat, wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye should be consumed before Passover, given away, thrown out or sold (see below).

Any item that does not contain chametz, but is not specifically labeled Kosher for Passover, should be stored in a cabinet and the cabinet should be taped closed.

During the holiday, one should only eat food specifically marked Kosher for Passover. While a product may not appear to contain chametz, according to Jewish law it may still be chametz since the US FDA does not require any ingredient under 2% to be listed on the label. There are also some production techniques that use chametz based oils in packaging or canning products, which would not be listed on the labels.

Selling the leftover Chametz
In cases of significant monetary loss, it is customary to sell certain types of chametz to a non-Jew, for instance unopened economy size boxes of cereal or bottles of scotch.*
For details on selling chametz, please see Passover Writings.

Bedikat Chametz – The Final Search for Chametz
The evening before the Seder,* a final search for chametz is conducted using a candle or flashlight and a feather to make sure that the house has been cleared of chametz. Any chametz found should be put in a small bag to be disposed of in the morning.

The following blessing is said before the search begins:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al Bee’oor chametz.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.
*When the first Seder is Saturday night, Bedikat Chametz is performed on Thursday night.

  • While the house is cleaned, chametz may still be set aside for breakfast, lunch and the Shabbat meals (challah). Any chametz set aside should be eaten in a restricted area so that the chametz is not spread through the house.
  • The morning after Bedikat Chametz, no chametz may be eaten after the fourth hour after sunrise.
  • Please note that all chametz must be eaten by the fourth hour of daylight.

When the search for Chametz is complete, a declaration is made stating that any overlooked chametz is null and void of ownership. The text for this declaration can be found in most prayer books.

Burning of Chametz
Before the end of the fourth hour of daylight, all remaining chametz (except that set aside for Friday and the Shabbat meals), found during the search or left over from breakfast, is burned. A second, and more comprehensive, declaration is then* made stating that any chametz that one owns or possesses is null and void and ownerless. The text of the second nullification may be found in most prayer books.
*When Passover begins after Shabbat: Although chametz may be purchased and eaten all day Friday, the custom is to sell and burn all chametz on Friday morning before the end of the fourth hour since burning it later may lead to confusion in subsequent years. The comprehensive declaration nullifying ownership of the chametz is made on Shabbat morning.
Because the removal of chametz is taking place a day earlier than usual, one should be certain on the day of the Seder (Saturday), not to eat any chametz after the fourth hour of daylight.

Prohibition of Eating Matzah
One may not eat matzah the entire day before the Seder in order to increase the pleasure of eating matzah at the Seder.

Passover

The 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. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover 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 Passover.

Articles

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


The Story of the Exodus

Going Down to Egypt

Passover celebrates G-d’s taking the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt and bringing them to the Promised Land. But what were the Israelites doing in Egypt in the first place, and how did they get there?

The children of Israel’s trek down to Egypt actually begins with their forefather, Abraham. Abraham was the first person to acknowledge a purely monotheistic G-d. As a consequence, G-d promises to make his descendants into a great nation. The making of a great nation, like the making of anything great, is a complex process. So G-d tells Abraham that in order to become one united nation, his children must experience common suffering that is to include exile, enslavement and persecution in a land that is not theirs. Only then will they come into their inheritance–the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:13).

Three generations later, the descent to Egypt begins with Joseph. Life is often an intricate weave of seemingly negative experiences that in hindsight end up being the perfect solution. When Joseph’s brothers sold him to a band of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt as a slave, they certainly could not have foreseen that two decades later he would be the Egyptian Viceroy who would save all of Egypt and his own family from starvation. Once all the brothers were reunited, with five more years of famine still ahead of them, Joseph brought his father and the rest of the children of Israel to Egypt (a total of 70 souls) and resettled them in Egypt in the land of Goshen.

Slavery

In Egypt, Joseph was widely acknowledged as the people’s savior. After Joseph’s death, however, the Bible reports that a new Pharaoh came to power who “did not know Joseph.” Now saying that this new Pharaoh did not know who Joseph was, is like saying a person born in the 1970’s does not know who John F. Kennedy was. Rather it implies that Pharaoh chose not to acknowledge Joseph’s contributions to Egypt’s survival. He and his advisors set out to destroy the Jews, who were flourishing in the land of Goshen. They protested that the Jews were growing far too numerous and that, should there be a war, the Jews would be a fifth column, fighting against them from within.

How does one go about enslaving an entire nation with subtlety? Pharaoh called for a “National Unity Program” in which everyone was to volunteer to help build the new store cities of Pithom and Ramses (something along the lines of a community barn raising). At the beginning of the program, everyone came. Later on,however, only the Israelites came, perhaps to demonstrate how loyal they were to Pharoah. Over time, the one-time volunteers became forced laborers, and Pharaoh demanded of them the same yield that they had produced previously. Thus they were enslaved.

The Israelites lived in Egypt for 210 years, serving for many of those years as slaves. The Egyptians were harsh taskmasters, who relished in being cruel to the Israelites. Beyond the physical labor, the Israelites suffered moral degradation…men were forced to do the work usually done by women, and women were forced to do the work of men. Pharaoh’s astrologers predicted that the Israelites would be saved by a Hebrew boy yet to be born. Pharaoh could not allow this to occur. First he ordered the midwives that when an Israelite woman gives birth, “if it is a boy, you shall kill him, but if it is a girl, she may live” (Exodus 1:16). But the midwives refused to kill the children and told Pharaoh that the Jewish women gave birth without assistance. Pharaoh, however, then took the matter into his own hands and declared to his people: “Every boy that is born, you shall cast into the Nile, but every girl you shall keep alive” (Exodus 1:22).

The Israelite slaves were often forced to stay in the fields, separated from their families, but the women refused to allow their families to be torn asunder. When the men were exhausted from the physical labor and afraid to have children lest their children be killed, the women went out to the fields and “seduced” their husbands so that Israelite children would continue to be born, ensuring the continuity of the people.

Despite the Egyptian efforts to destroy them, the Jewish people continued to grow.
Into this desperate situation, Moses was born. Moses’ parents, Amram and Yocheved were both from the tribe of Levi. Before the decree to murder the male children, they already had two children, Aaron and Miriam. After the decree to drown every male child was issued, a second son was born, Moses. To save the life of their son, Yocheved put the babe Moses in a basket covered with pitch and set the basket in the Nile. Miriam followed her baby brother as the current carried him toward the bathing pool of Pharaoh’s daughter.
When Pharaoh’s daughter saw that the basket contained a baby boy, she knew that it was a Jewish child, but nevertheless decided to keep him and raise him as her own child. Miriam immediately hurried forth to volunteer Yocheved as a nursemaid for the baby. Thus until he was weened, Moses was raised by a Jewish nursemaid, who was really his mother, before returning to Pharaoh’s daughter.
Moses was a full member of the Egyptian court and was regarded by Pharaoh as a grandson. But Moses was also sensitive to the injustices that were being done to his brethren, the Jews. One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian taskmaster mercilessly beating a Jew. He saw that there was no one about, and killed the taskmaster in order to save the Israelite’s life. Quickly, before there were any witnesses, he buried the body in the sand. The very next day, however, when he came upon two Jews arguing and tried to stop them, they threatened Moses by saying: Do you wish to kill us as you killed the Egyptian? Realizing that if even these two Israelite slaves knew of his actions, then so did Pharaoh.

Moses fled Egypt to Midian where he met Tzippora, the daughter of Jethro (a former high priest of Midian who had turned to monotheism). After marrying Tzippora, Moses became one of Jethro’s shepherds and lived a pastoral and peaceful life…but not for long.

One day, while shepherding the flocks, Moses followed a stray lamb and came upon a bush surrounded by flames, yet the bush was not consumed by the fire. At the burning bush (which was located on Mount Sinai), G-d first spoke to Moses and instructed him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses, however, did not believe that he was the right person for the task…after all, he had a speech impediment, and he had an older brother who was perhaps more appropriate for the job. But G-d had chosen Moses, and so Moses went back to Egypt where his older brother Aaron served as his spokesman.

Redemption From Slavery

Taking the Jews out of Egypt was no easy task. G-d warned Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened. In fact, after Moses and Aaron’s first visit to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh ordered an increase in the workload of his slaves. The slaves would now be responsible for supplying their own straw for the manufacture of bricks. The Israelites groaned under the weight of their oppression and accused Moses and Aaron of making things worse.

But G-d strengthened Moses, and told him that now he would soon see the strength of G-d, which would result in Pharaoh’s freeing the Hebrews.

Now that Pharaoh had hardened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go, G-d could bring down his wrath upon Egypt. While it is true that G-d had told Abraham that his descendants would serve another people, and the Egyptians were therefore only fulfilling G-d’s command, they had gotten carried away with their divine role and were wicked and vicious beyond the call of duty.

When Moses and Aharon next went to the palace to request freedom for their brethren and were refused, G-d turned the Nile River into blood. Each of the subsequent nine plagues followed the pattern: Moses and Aharon requested permission to leave, Pharaoh refused, Egypt and the Egyptians were smitten with a plague, while the Israelites were spared. The Egyptians would then cry out, and Pharaoh would beg for mercy and agree to let the Israelites go. Then Pharaoh would change his mind, and the next cycle would begin.

What exactly were the ten plagues?

BLOOD – The Nile River turned to blood. But it wasn’t just the river that turned to blood, it was all the water in Egypt. People would go to get something to drink from their barrels of stored water, but it had turned to blood. People would take a drink from what they thought was a clean source, and it would be blood. However, when an Israelite took water from the same source, it would remain water. The plague of blood was particularly distressing to the Egyptians because they worshiped the Nile.

FROGS – The land of Egypt was overrun by frogs. This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, after all, some people think frogs are cute, but the frogs were truly everywhere! There were frogs in the beds, frogs in the cupboards, frogs in the pots, even frogs in the oven. And whenever the Egyptians would hit a frog in order to kill it, the Midrash tells us, that the frog would split into two, producing even more frogs.

LICE – To initiate the plague of lice, G-d commanded Aharon via Moshe to hit the ground with his staff. The dust on the ground turned to lice and spread throughout Egypt.

WILD BEASTS – “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Wild animals of all sorts crossed over the borders of Egypt and ravaged the land. The Egyptians couldn’t leave their homes, for fear of being attacked, yet the wild animals would walk right past the Israelites without harming them.

PESTILENCE – The Egyptian cattle that had survived the ravaging of the wild beasts, were struck with pestilence and died. No Jewish owned cattle died, even those in close proximity to the Egyptian cattle. The first five plagues taught the Egyptians that their possessions were lost and their wealth ephemeral.

BOILS – From head to toe, the Egyptians were covered with painful boils.

HAIL – The hail storm of the seventh plague was a “fireworks” display of G-d’s power. The hail consisted of baseball-sized chunk of ice accompanied by fiery lightening. The physical destruction was immense.

LOCUSTS – Not much was left of Egypt by the time the plague of locust arrived. The cattle were dead, the buildings destroyed, morale was low, and then the locusts arrived. An enormous swarm darkened the sky and devoured anything that remained of the crops.

DARKNESS – For three days, total darkness descended on Egypt. The Sages taught that the darkness was so intense that it served as a physical restriction as well, leaving the Egyptians unable to move. The Jews, however, could see where they were going and were unaffected by the darkness.

DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN – By the time Pharaoh was threatened with the final plague–the death of all the firstborn of Egypt, his nation was begging him to release the Israelites. But Pharaoh was obstinate, and would not let them go. The night that the first born Egyptians died is the first night of Passover. Indeed, this was the only plague for which the Jews needed to prepare themselves so that they would not be harmed. In order to be “passed-over,” Moses instructed the Israelites to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood. And in the darkness of the midnight hour, G-d smote all of the first born in the land of Egypt.

Crossing the Sea of Reeds

Pharaoh now demanded that Moses lead the Israelites out of his land immediately! The people quickly gathered their belongings, including the bread that had not had sufficient time to rise, the matzah, and hurried forth into the wilderness.

Once the Israelites had left, however, Pharaoh, looking out over his destroyed land, grew angry, and changed his mind. Calling forth his army of chariots, he set out after the Israelites.

Three days later, the Israelites were stopped dead in their tracks. Before them lay the waters of the Sea of Reeds (also called the Red Sea). Mountains loomed on either side. And behind them was the swiftly approaching army of the Egyptians. There was nowhere to turn, there was simply nowhere to go, so the Israelites…screamed at Moses.

“Aren’t there enough graves in Egypt? We should have stayed there,” they shouted. Indeed some of the people even suggested turning around and returning to Egypt. Moses pleaded with G-d for assistance, and G-d instructed him to tell the people to travel forth. When they arrived at the water, G-d told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and it would split. Moses did so. He instructed the people to go forward, but they hesitated. One man, Nachshon ben Aminadav, from the tribe of Judah, stepped forward and waded into the sea. The water came to his waist, to his shoulders, to his chin, but he continued forward as Moses stretched out his arm over the water. As the water reached Nachshon’s lips, the sea burst apart, providing a stretch of dry land on which the Israelites were able to cross.

The Israelites hurried across the sea, but the Egyptians were close behind. No sooner had the last Israelite stepped out of the sea, when G-d instructed Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea, and the water came crashing down.
The Egyptians, in their mighty chariots, were crushed in the swirling waters. According to the Midrash only one Egyptian survived, Pharaoh. The sea spit Pharaoh out on the far side of the water so that he could witness both the destruction of his own people, and bear testimony to the redemption of the Israelites.

Moving Forward

From the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites continued into travel into the wilderness of Sinai. There, gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, the same spot when G-d appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the People of Israel received the Torah from G-d and were forged into a great and a holy nation….
And that is why we celebrate Passover.

Passover

The 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. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover 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 Passover.

Articles

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


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 Resources

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.


Hanging Haman: The Commandment to Wipe Out Amalek

Hanging Haman:

The Commandment to Wipe Out Amalek

“The army of Amalek swooped down from behind them, attacking the old and the weak who were straggling at the rear. The commandment to remember Amalek, however, is more than just remembering that Amalek attacked the Jews in the wilderness, it is remembering that they are the very antithesis of Israel…”

On the Shabbat before Purim, generally known as Shabbat Parashat Zachor, Jews across the world gather in their synagogues to hear Deuteronomy 25:17-19 read at the end of Torah reading:

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you went out of Egypt. That they encountered you on the way, and struck the hindmost, all that were weak at the rear; and they did not fear G-d. Therefore it will be, when the Eternal, your G-d, gives you relief from all your enemies, all around, in the land that the Eternal, your G-d, is giving to you as an inheritance to possess it, then you shall wipe out the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens; you must not forget.

What must the Children of Israel remember? Deuteronomy 25:17 refers to an incident in Exodus 17:8-16, just after the Children of Israel crossed the Reed/Red Sea. On their third day out of Egypt, as they traveled in the wilderness, the army of Amalek swooped down from behind them, attacking the old and the weak who were straggling at the rear. The commandment to remember Amalek, however, is more than just remembering that Amalek attacked the Jews in the wilderness, it is remembering that they are the very antithesis of Israel.

Parashat Zachor is read on the Shabbat before Purim because Haman is a direct descendant of Amalek. Like his forefathers, Haman was the archenemy of the Jews. He wanted to entirely wipe out the Jewish nation. Neither begging, bribery nor conversion would have changed Haman’s mind because he recognized that the Jewish nation itself represented a spiritual force which he abhorred.

To understand Haman’s motives and the commandment of Zachor, it is necessary to first learn the history of Amalek:

Esav’s Successor – Initially, Amalek was an actual person who later became the leader of a clan, which became a nation of the same name. Amalek was a grandson of Jacob’s brother Esav.
In Genesis 36:12, the Torah introduces Amalek:
Now Timna was concubine to Elifaz, son of Esav, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz.
We later learn (Genesis 36:22) that Timna was the sister of Lotan who was a chieftain of the land of Seir where Esav went to live. Thus we see that Amalek was the scion of two powerful families, yet he was only a concubine’s son.
The Sages tell us that Amalek was raised in the tents of Esav, constantly hearing his grandfather bemoan his fate and how Esav’s brother, Jacob, had stolen his birthright (See Genesis 25).
Amalek absorbed Esav’s hatred of the children of Jacob, thus it became the nature of the nation of Amalek to hate the Jews.

Amalek versus the Children of Israel:

Exodus 17:8-16 – As noted above, three days after the crossing of the Reed/Red Sea, the Amalekites traveled many miles in order to attack the Jewish people from behind, attacking the weak and the stragglers. The Jewish people miraculously defeated the Amalekites in a one day war. This battle was significant because it showed the true nature of the Amalekites. G-d had just performed miracle after miracle, from the 10 plagues to the splitting of the sea, and not a single nation dared to attack Israel except Amalek. Lest one believe that Amalek was courageous, it should be noted that they did not risk a frontal attack.

Every nation has certain outstanding character traits. Amalek is known for its all consuming love of self and reliance on violence to prove its superiority.

The Sages teach that Amalek never denied the existence of G-d or G-d’s special relationship with the Jewish people. The Amalekites just didn’t care. In fact, their very understanding of G-d and His relationship with the Israelites was precisely why they felt the need to attack–Amalek clearly resented the existence of an opposing authority.
Amalek saw that no other nation dared to attack the Children of Israel and that the Jews had demonstrated that there can be power in peace. This went against the entire mind-set of the Amalekites, who preached and practiced the ideology that ‘might makes right.”

Amalek versus the Kingdom of Israel: Samuel I, Chapter 15

Not long after the unified Kingdom of Israel was formed under the reign of King Saul, the king, at the direction of the prophet Samuel, gathered his troops to fulfill the Biblical commandment to wipe out Amalek.
King Saul was a mighty warrior and was victorious over Amalek, virtually destroying the nation. But, “he took Agag, the king of Amalek alive…and Saul and the people had pity on Agag the king of Amalek,” and on the Amalekite flocks and cattle (Samuel I 15:8-9).
By having mercy on Agag, Saul went against the specific directive of
G-d, who was, needless to say, less than pleased.
The prophet Samuel rose early the very next morning, came to Saul and informed him that G-d was angered by his taking Amalekite sheep and cattle for spoils and for not fulfilling the commandment to utterly destroy Amalek.
After a brief and futile denial by Saul, the king admitted his transgression and Samuel ordered Agag brought to him. The prophet proceeded to kill the king of Amalek and concluded the matter.
The damage, however, was already done. In that one night, our sages teach us, Agag had relations with a maidservant (or his wife) who later, gave birth to a son. Thus, over a thousand years later the Jews were faced with mortal danger from Haman the Agagite.
It is interesting to note that just as Haman is a direct descendant of Agag, both Mordechai and Esther are descendants of Saul.

Why Amalek and Israel are in opposition, and how this relates to Haman:

The Talmud tells us that the wording in Deuteronomy 25:18, “asher kar’cha ba’derech” literally means that Amalek “happened” upon the Jews. This, the rabbis explain, is an explanation of the personality of Amalek: Amalek represents the philosophy of chance, of the haphazard dictates of “fate” and “destiny,” which oppose the Jewish philosophy of Divine control. Amalek philosophy negates the concept that there is a purpose to humanity or to creation itself–again the antithesis of Jewish philosophy.

The difference in philosophy between Amalek and Israel can be seen all the way back to the time of the nations’ forefathers, Esav and Jacob.
Esav was a hunter, he lived his life for the thrill of the game, the risk of danger and for moment-to-moment pleasure. Life had no particular purpose in Esav’s mind, which is demonstrated in his desire for Jacob’s lentils and his preparedness to sell his birthright. Esav easily parts with his birthright as first born (which would have given him the rights to the Land of Israel) merely because he was hungry at that very moment. When he gave the birthright away, he mocked Jacob’s desire for it by asking “What is the birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:27-34).

Jacob, on the other hand, planned for the future. He studied and tried to find the best way to serve G-d. For this reason, G-d communicated with him and made him the father of the twelve tribes, the future Nation of Israel.

Amalek’s attack on the Jews after they crossed the Red(Reed) Sea was motivated by this hatred of the Israelite belief in the Divine hand of G-d. Certainly Amalek, and the entire world, had heard of the great plagues that had struck Egypt, but they found reasons to scoff at these phenomenal events. While no other nation would dare attack the Jews with the cloud of G-d surrounding them, Amalek needed to attack in order to show that “might makes right” was still the natural order of the world. While they did not win in their battle with Israel, they certainly diminished the fear of the other nations for the Jewish people. The Midrash describes it as if the Amalekites cooled a hot bath, scorching themselves, but encouraging others to enter.

Haman:

Haman’s attempt to destroy the Jewish people is a direct result of the historical and philosophical battles of Amalek and Israel. As a descendent of Agag, King of Amalek, Haman is strikingly aware of the Jewish victories over Amalek, both in the wilderness and in the time of King Saul, as definitively recorded in Jewish texts. His desire to wipe out the Jews as a nation was a direct result of this historical battle between nations.

Haman’s conflict with Mordechai, however, was based on the philosophical differences of the two nations. Just as in the days in the wilderness, Mordechai (the Jews) stood as a symbol of Jewish strength and as a symbol of the Divine hand active in the world. As Haman himself points out to King Achashverosh, no other nation was so scattered, yet remained unified. And Mordechai defied Haman’s assertions of might makes right by refusing to bow to him just because he was Prime Minister. While the king of the land may have commanded all to bow to Haman, the King of the Universe commanded all to bow to no one but Him. Throughout the Megillah there is an underlying struggle of Haman trying to show that he controls his own destiny, and the destiny of the empire, only to be foiled by the subtle plans of G-d.

Fighting Amalek Today:

While we do not know who the descendants of Amalek are today, the sages teach that a part of Amalek can also be found in each of us–our natural inclination to do wrong. Every person must constantly fight the Amalek in his/herself which tends to rationalize their actions: For example, lashon harah, speaking evil or gossiping, can destroy another person, yet we constantly justify our gossiping by saying that our juicy tidbit must already be common knowledge or it is important that the other person know that Suzie was out with Joey. On a more personal level, for the modern day Jew, fighting Amalek may mean battling our own inclinations and remembering that G-d is always there and surely runs the world for our benefit.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


The Mystery of Hester Panim

The Mystery of Hester Panim

“To the believer, it’s the Hand of G-d-Divine Providence moving behind the scenes to make certain the Jews are saved. This is Hester Panim…”

An Old Joke

It was a deluge, the likes of which had not been seen for years. A man who lived by the river saw that he was in danger of being flooded. He prayed to G-d, “Please save me.” A few minutes later a fire truck came by and told him to get on. He said, “No, G-d will save me.” The water continued to rise until he had to flee to the second floor. Again he pleaded with G-d. A few minutes later, a boat drifted by but again he refused human help. Finally, stuck on the roof with the water swirling around him, a police helicopter threw him a rope, but the man insisted that G-d would save him. As you may imagine, he also wasn’t the best swimmer. So up in the Heavenly Court he says to G-d. “I trusted in you, why didn’t you save me?” And G-d replies,” I tried, I sent you a fire truck, I sent you a boat, I sent you a helicopter…”

Of all the books of the Bible, the Book of Esther is unique in that it does not once mention G-d directly. One might ask, “Why, then, is it considered a holy book and included in the Tanach (the complete Biblical canon)?”

To understand the importance of the Book of Esther as more than just a history of the Jewish victory over a vicious enemy, one must look at the phenomenon of Hester Panim. Literally, Hester Panim means “the hiding of the face” and refers to G-d’s presence being hidden from direct human perception. Like the sun on a very cloudy day, however, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The story of Purim teaches us that G-d is ALWAYS involved, even when we don’t see His hand.

After a casual reading of the Book of Esther, one might think it is a heroic tale about Mordechai and Esther saving the Jewish people from Haman through diplomatic skill. After all, Esther does deftly manipulate the emotions of King Achashverosh and Haman at her private wine-parties with them. Looking deeper, however, one is struck by the overwhelming “coincidences” of the right people being at the right places at the right times to save the Jews.

To follow one line of such “coincidences”:

*Esther was the beautiful niece of one of the leaders of the Jewish people.
*While women throughout the kingdom flocked to the beauty pageant, hoping to be chosen as queen, the Megillah tells us that Esther “was taken to the king’s palace” (2:8). Her beauty was noticed and she was brought, apparently by force, to the palace, for she would never have gone there of her own volition. Ultimately, she chosen to be queen.

*Because Esther is in the palace, Mordechai is able to get word to the king about the plot on his life, which was not remembered by the king until Haman’s plot was unraveling.

*If Esther had not been “taken to the king’s palace,” there would have been no “insider” to have Haman’s evil plan revoked. Even Mordechai points this out when he tells her: “Do not imagine that [you can] save yourself in the king’s palace from the fate of all the Jews. For if you indeed keep silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and your father’s household will perish. And who knows that but for a time like this you are in a royal position?!”(Esther 4:13-14)

Coincidence? Divine Providence? To the scoffer, it’s the former. To the believer, it’s the Hand of G-d–Divine Providence moving behind the scenes to make certain the Jews are saved. This is Hester Panim. Therefore, the Book of Esther is not simply the story of how the Jews were saved from Haman’s evil plot–it is a guidebook for future generations on how to view the world.

What role does Hester Panim play in the Divine plan? Why would G-d choose to hide Himself from humanity? Hester Panim is actually a Divine gift that allows humanity freedom of choice. If a child is told not to eat a cookie by its mother, but the mother remains in the kitchen to watch, then the child isn’t going to take the cookie. Once mother leaves the room, though, it is the child’s free choice that determines what happens to the mother’s ruling. At the same time, when mother leaves the room, she is aware of her child’s behavior, listens for danger and is ready to jump to the rescue. So too, G-d leaves us to give us space and allows us to make our own free choices, but He is always waiting on the periphery to protect us from ultimate harm.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Drinking on Purim

Judaism

“A person should drink on Purim until the point where they cannot tell the difference between ‘Blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed is Haman.’
Talmud-Megillah 7a/Shulchan Aruch
(Code of Jewish Law)

On Purim, one is commanded to drink wine to a point of inebriation. This is usually fulfilled during the course of the festive meal, although many also attempt this on Purim night, as well.

How much should one drink?

The purpose of drinking on Purim is not to get so drunk that one is unable to function. It is generally agreed that the requirement is limited to the point of not impairing one’s ability to recite blessings and fulfill the necessary mitzvot of Purim.

Most opinions agree that one should drink more than one is accustomed. The Talmud actually suggests as well that the mental blurriness necessary can also be fulfilled by a drink-induced nap.

What does it mean, “cannot tell the difference between ‘Blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed is Haman?'”

On a simple level, this is just a description of a level of intoxication, a point at which one has trouble making clear distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad.

Not being able to tell the difference between ‘Blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed is Haman’ accentuates one of the major themes of Purim, which is role reversal.

On a more philosophical level, when ‘Blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed is Haman’ become indistinguishable, one has grasped a higher concept that even the negative which happens is good, that it comes from G-d and, in the end, makes us better people.

Why do we drink on Purim?

When reading the Purim story, one sees that wine plays an important role in events that transpire:

      • King Achashverosh is drunk when he calls for Vashti and when he orders her banished (*Targum and Rashi both say she was killed).
      • Esther invites the King and Haman to a banquet, which the Megillah refers to as a wine-banquet.
      • The Megillah describes the 14th and 15h of Adar as days of “feasting and joy,” inferring that the Jews celebrated with feasts of wine.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

While drinking on Purim is a mitzvah, risking one’s life is not. Whether host or guest, it is important to be responsible:

      • DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE
      • Beware of underage drinking. While Purim is a religious holiday, and underage alcohol consumption is allowed for religious occasions, adults are still responsible for minors. Please do not give young people any alcohol beyond the bare minimum of wine, if at all. Remember, our children are deeply influenced by our own behavior.
      • While Purim is a religious holiday, and underage alcohol consumption is allowed for religious occasions, adults are still responsible for minors. Please do not give young people liquor beyond the bare minimum, and remember, our children are influenced by our behavior!

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Festive Meal

Festive Meal

The Book of Esther records that the Jews agreed “to observe them as days of feasting and joy” (Esther 9:22). One is obligated to partake in a festive meal on Purim day.

The bare minimum to fulfill this mitzvah requires that one wash and eat bread and then recite the bentching, the Grace after Meals.

    • One should include Al Hanissim, the special prayer for Purim, in bentching.
    • If one forgots Al Hanissim, one does not repeat bentching.
    • It is customary to invite guests to one’s Purim meal.
    • The Purim meal is normally held later in the day so that the feasting and rejoicing carries over past sunset into the next day.
    • The festive meal concludes with bentching, Grace after Meals, which can be found in any Jewish prayerbook or bentcher, special Grace after Meals booklets.
    • Al Hanissim is added to bentching before the conclusion of the 2nd blessing.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Matanot L'evyonim-Gifts to the Poor

Gifts to the Poor

Matanot L'evyonim

After the Jews were saved from the decree of Haman, they agreed “to observe [the days of Purim] with…donations to the needy” (Esther 9:22).

Giving to the poor is a mitzvah all year round. However, the mitzvah to do so on Purim is separate even from the general mitzvah of tzedakah (charity).

    • To fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot L’evyonim one must give charity to two individual poor people.
    • One should give each poor person enough money to provide for a meal. One may also give someone the equivalent in food.
    • Matanot L’evyonim should be given early enough on Purim so that the poor can benefit on the holiday. If, however, one does not have someone to give to on Purim, one should hold onto that money (separately) to give when the opportunity arrives. The money may not be given or spent elsewhere.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Mishloach Manot/Shaloch Manos-Sending Gifts

Sending Gifts

Mishloach Manot / Shaloch Manos

After being rescued from Haman’s attempt to destroy the Jews, scripture records that the Jews agreed “to observe…with the sending of food gifts, each to his/her friend” (Esther 9:22).

The threat of Haman reminded the Jews that indeed they were a separate but unified people, and each individual’s rejoicing over being saved was shared with neighbors and friends by sending gift baskets.

Every Jew is obligated to give at least one Mishloach Manot gift containing at lest two different types of immediately edible food items.

If a family wishes to send Mishloach Manot as a family unit, they should make sure to send enough packages so that each adult (over the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah) fulfills the mitzvah.

    • The package must contain two different foods (or drink) e.g. fruit & candy, grapejuice & chocolate, cookies & ice cream
    • The food in the package should be ready-to-eat and not require preparation (i.e.: do not send a raw steak – but salami is okay).

Hamentashen

A popular item to include in Mishloach Manot is Hamantashen (click to recipe), which are special triangle shaped cookies filled with poppyseeds, prune butter, jelly, chocolate, and a variety of other treats and delights.

There are several theories as to the source and history of hamantashen:

The triangle shape of the hamantashen are said to represent a type of three-cornered hat worn by Haman. They are also sometimes called “Haman’s ears,” also because of their triangular shape.
The word may be derived from the Yiddish moon tashen, which mean “poppy pockets.”
The question may be asked, “Why is the Purim treat named after the archenemy of the Jewish people?” By eating a piece of Haman, one may be figuratively “wiping out the memory of Amalek.”

Traditionally, hamantashen were made with poppy seed or prune filling. Today, however, people use a wide variety of fillings such as chocolate, strawberry or apricot jam, cherry pie filling, prunes, etc.

Mishloach Manot Suggestions

Mishloach Manot are a fun way to get the entire family involved in the holiday. Having children prepare baskets or baggies is a great way to keep the little hands busy while baking the hamantashen.
Many people like to “theme” their Mishloach Manot.
For the more adventurous, and expensive:

Flower Pots

Using regular earthenware flower pots as the basket, fill each pot with chocolate crumb cake (if possible, bake in pot) to represent soil. Tightly roll a green fruit roll-up and stick into the center of the cake for a flower stem. To the top, carefully arrange a red fruit roll-up into a rose. This project creates a beautiful display of 2 separate types of foods.

For those who want to keep it simple, and are on a budget:

Prisoners: Dress in black and white striped clothing (or in a solid color and pin paper stripes) and deliver bread (the hamotzee blessing) and water (the she’ha’kol blessing).

Mishloach Manot are meant to bring joy, happiness and unity amongst Jews. It is not meant to be a contest of who can create the largest, most expensive or most extravagant gift arrangements. Many feel that it is better to give smaller packages to more people. It is also better to spend more on gifts to the poor than on fancy Mishloach Manot.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Purim Day Megillah Reading

Purim Day

Megillah Reading

The Megillah tells us that all Jews agreed “to observe them as days of feasting and joy, with the sending of food gifts, each to his/her friend, and donations to the needy” (Esther 9:22).

This is the source for the various mitzvot that are part of Purim day:

Changes in the synagogue service on Purim

Torah Reading

      • The Purim Torah reading is Exodus 17:8-16, which tells of the initial encounter between Israel and Amalek in the wilderness.
      • Megillah Reading

As mentioned earlier, the Megillah must be heard once our Purim night and once on Purim day.
The Megillah reading will often follow the morning service. Those who are unable to attend, however, should check with their local synagogue(s) for later additional readings.
For further details on the Megillah and Megillah Reading, please read Purim Night Megillah Reading.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Breaking the Fast

Breaking the Fast

Many people eat together and have little dinner parties, while some synagogues have “Purim Parties or Carnivals” with food and fun for the kids (and adults!).

After hearing the Megillah, the fast is broken.

While the obligatory festival meal must be held on Purim day, it is appropriate to have a festive meal with bread and wine in the evening as well. Many people follow the custom of getting drunk on Purim night and Purim day. A much beloved Purim custom is the Purim shpiel.

A Purim shpiel is a play in which people make fun of friends, teachers, institutions and normally serious situations. This custom is based on Purim being the time v’nahaphoch hu. “it was turned around” (Esther 9:1). We therefore turn our normally serious and courteous behavior into a light-hearted and humorous mood. There are few sacred cows when it comes to a Purim shpiel, but one should be careful not to hurt people’s feelings.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Purim Night Megillah Reading

Purim Night

Megillah Reading

The Tan’ach, the Hebrew name for the complete Bible, is made up of Torah (the Pentateuch), N’viim (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings). Included in K’Tuvim are the 5 megillot (scrolls).

The Tan’ach

  • Shir HaShirim – The Song of Songs – written by King Solomon. Song of Songs is read on Passover.
  • Ruth – The Book of Ruth – written by Samuel the Prophet. The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot.
  • Eichah – Lamentations – written by Jeremiah the Prophet. Lamentations is read on Tisha B’Av.
  • Kohelet – Ecclesiastes – also written by King Solomon, is read on Sukkot.
  • Esther – The Book of Esther is read on Purim and is attributed to Mordechai and Esther.

While all five of these books are called megillot, only Esther is referred to as “The Megillah.”
The Megillah is read twice on Purim, once at night and once during the day. Both readings are obligatory.
On Purim night, the Megillah is usually read about an hour after that week’s Shabbat candle lighting times. Different synagogues may, however, vary, so please call your local synagogue for the exact times.
If possible, one should not break one’s fast before hearing the Megillah. If one feels weak or ill, however, one is permitted to eat.

      • In order to fulfill the mitzvah of Megillah, it is necessary to hear every word during the reading. For this reason it is imperative that people not talk to each other during the Megillah reading or allow the words to be drowned out by “stamping out” Haman.

Blessings for Megillah reading:

The person reading the Megillah recites 3 blessings before the Megillah is read. Those listening should respond “Amen.”

    • Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the reading of the Megillah.
    • Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season.
    • 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.

After Megillah reading, the reader recites one blessing. Following the blessing, the congregation recites the traditional hymns, Asher Heni and Shoshanat Ya’akov.

    • Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who takes up our grievance, judges our claim, avenges our wrong; Who brings just retribution upon all enemies of our soul and exacts vengeance for us from our foes. Blessed are You L-rd, Who exacts vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the G-d Who brings salvation.
    • Asher Heni is recited only after the evening Megillah reading.
    • Asher Heni and Shoshanat Yaakov can usually be found in Jewish prayerbooks, or after the Megillah text.
    • Because the reading of the Megillah is a mitzvah in which both men and women are equally obligated, many synagogues hold second and third readings for those who miss Megillah reading so that mothers and fathers can switch between watching the children and hearing Megillah.

Children who are not able to stay quiet during the Megillah reading should not be brought to the services.

“Booing” during the Megillah:

Because it is a commandment to “wipe out” the memory of Amalek, and Haman is the wicked epitome of Amalek, it is customary to drown out his name with boos, hisses and other loud noises.
When the reader says the name of Haman everyone makes noises to drown out his name. As mentioned earlier, however, it is necessary to hear every word of the Megillah reading. Therefore, when the reader or the rabbi signals for the noise to stop and the reader to continue, it is important to maintain quiet.
While all sources of noise are acceptable for drowning out the name of Amalek, the traditional Purim noisemaker is a grogger, a mechanical device that makes a loud grating sound when twirled by hand.

Making groggers is a great way to involve children in the Purim festivities.

Dressing up in Costumes:

There is a tradition on Purim to come dressed up in costume or mask to Megillah reading. A major theme in the Megillah is the ‘hidden face of G-d.’ By putting on a mask, we are remembering that one must often look past the surface of an experience to see the hand of G-d.
Dressing up is also a way for people to bring joy and laughter to their friends, another major Purim theme.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


A Brief Synopsis of the Book of Esther

A Brief Synopsis of

The Book of Esther

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

The Book of Esther opens with a description of an enormous 180-day party thrown by King Achashverosh in his 3rd year as king of the Persian Empire, ruling over 127 provinces. As the days of feasting draw to a close, he summons his wife, Vashti, to show off her beauty (by appearing wearing only her crown!). But Vashti refuses to come and the king, following his ministers’ advice, has her banished.

Chapter 2

As time passes, Achashverosh realizes the consequences of his actions and misses his queen. The deed, however, is done. Seeing that their ruler regretted the action that they suggested, the ministers propose that he find a new queen via an elaborate beauty contest of all the kingdom’s beautiful maidens. From all over the 127 provinces, beautiful women are brought to the palace for the king to select his new queen.
In Shushan, the capital city, lives a beautiful Jewess named Esther (also called Hadassah). She is an orphan who was raised by her uncle, Mordechai, one of the leaders of the Jewish people in exile. When they come to take her to the palace, Mordechai, insightfully instructs her not to reveal that she is a Jewess or who her family is. Needless to say, after a 12 month process, Esther is deemed the fairest of them all. “The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she carried charm and favor before him more than all the other virgins, so he placed the royal crown on her head, and made her queen in place of Vashti”(Esther 2:17).

While Mordechai does not reveal his relationship to the new queen, he frequents the palace gates to hear news of Esther’s well being. One day he overhears two men plotting to murder the king and he quickly sends word to Esther, who reveals the plot to the king in the name of Mordechai. The plotters are caught and executed, and Mordechai ‘s name and deed are written in the king’s Book of Chronicles.

Chapter 3

In the meantime, Achashverosh appoints Haman the Agagite (An Amalekite) as Prime Minister and issues a decree that all should bow to him. Mordechai refuses to bow down before Haman. [The Midrash informs us that Haman wore a necklace with a large idol, which is one reason Mordechai refused to bow before him.] Mordechai’s refusal infuriates Haman. Already driven by his family’s historic hatred of the Jewish people, Haman goes to King Achashverosh (with 10,000 silver pieces) and asks for permission to destroy the Jews. He presents the issue to the king as a matter of loyalty, saying “There is a certain people, scattered and spread out among the peoples in all the states of your kingdom, their laws are different from other peoples and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not worth it for the king to leave them alive” (Esther 3:8). The king agrees and issues an edict to all 127 provinces saying that on the 13th of Adar, the Jews in all the provinces are to be exterminated and their property kept as plunder.

Chapter 4

Upon hearing this vile edict, Mordechai dons sackcloth and ashes. He quickly sends word to Esther that she must go to the king and stop this horrible decree from becoming reality. Esther, however, is afraid to approach the king. It is known that anyone who approaches the king without being summoned faces the chance of death. But Mordechai sees the bigger picture and tells Esther “Do not imagine that [you can] save yourself in the king’s palace from the fate of all the Jews. For if you indeed keep silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and your father’s household will perish. And who knows that but for a time like this you are in a royal position?!”(Esther 4:13-14) Summoning all of her courage, Esther agrees to go to the king but she first asks Mordechai to request all the Jews to fast for three days and repent for their own sins while praying for the heavenly decree against them to be reversed.

Chapter 5

With great trepidation and dressed in her most beautiful robes, Esther approaches King Achashverosh. As she walks towards his throne she prays that G-d has taken into account the three days of fasting and repentance and has nullified His decree against the Jews. Seeing the beautiful queen, the king holds out his golden scepter, a sign that she is welcome in his court, and offers to grant her any request. Modestly, Esther requests only that Achashverosh and his Prime Minister Haman join her for a private feast. Pleased at her minimal request, which shows him that she was a wise choice as queen, the King agrees. Haman is summoned and the three dine together. At the end of the feast, the king once again tells her to ask whatever she would of him and she only requests that the king and Haman join her for a second feast on the following day.
After the private feast, Haman sets out for his home well pleased with the great favor shown to him by the queen. On his way, however, he passes Mordechai, who once again refuses to bow, reigniting Haman’s fury. By the time Haman reaches his home, he is crazed with anger at Mordechai’s refusal to bow – after all, he is Haman, second to the king and so beloved even by the queen! He tells his wife, Zeresh, and his gathered friends “Even Queen Esther did not bring anyone else with the king except me, to the feast she prepared, and tomorrow as well, I am invited to her feast with the king. All this is worth nothing to me, every time I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate!”(Esther 5:12-13) . Zeresh, who equals her husband in wickedness, suggests that Haman immediately build a gallows on which to hang Mordechai personally. This Haman does, with the assistance of his ten sons.

Chapter 6

That night, King Achashverosh is unable to sleep. After tossing and turning, he calls for his ministers to bring him the Book of Chronicles and read it to him. The section is read that recalls the great service rendered to him by Mordechai for uncovering the plot on the king’s life and Achashverosh realizes that he has never rewarded Mordechai. Just as the king is deciding how to best reward a man who has saved his life, Haman enters. He has come, after building the gallows, to ask the king for permission to hang Mordechai. Before he can speak, however, the king asks his opinion on how the king can best honor a most loyal subject. Thinking that the king is referring to him, Haman suggests that the king dress the subject in the king’s finest robes and have him led around town on the king’s steed. Pleased with the suggestion, he orders Haman to dress Mordechai in the finest royal robes and to lead him around Shushan on his best stallion.

Chapter 7

After returning home feeling thoroughly humiliated, Haman is summoned to the palace to dine with the King and Queen. As the banquet comes to a close, Esther tells the king that someone seeks her death and the death of her people. Outraged, the king demands to know who this man is. Esther reveals her identity as a Jew and identifies Haman as the archenemy. Overcome by anger, the king went out to “the garden orchard, while Haman stood up to plead for his life from Queen Esther…The king then returned from the garden orchard to the wine feast chamber, [just as] Haman was falling on the couch on which Esther was lying. The king said, ‘Does he also intend to assault the queen in my presence here in the palace?!'” (Esther 7:7-8) The king will not be placated, and Haman is hanged from the very gallows that he built for Mordechai.

Chapter 8

Achashverosh now sees the damage that his late Prime Minister has caused and appoints Mordechai as his new Prime Minister. The very first edict that Mordechai and Esther issue grants the Jews the right to defend themselves against those who try to harm them.

Chapter 9

When the 13th of Adar arrives, the Jews successfully defeat their enemies throughout the provinces, although in Shushan the battle continues throughout the day of the 14th of Adar. The ten sons of Haman are killed and their bodies are hanged publicly. When their enemies are vanquished, the Jews celebrate their survival with great feasts, thus the 14th (outside of Shushan) and the 15th are the days for celebrating Purim.

Mordechai, as the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, and Esther, declare that henceforth the 14th of Adar shall be a day of feasting in all of the outlying provinces, but the 15th shall be a day of feasting in the city of Shushan, for these were the days on which the threat was abated. (The Great Sages amended this to give honor to the city of Jerusalem so that all cities which had walls at the time Joshua conquered the land of Canaan were given the same status as Shushan, thus in Jerusalem Jews celebrate Shushan Purim on the 15th.) Mordechai also codified the particular practices of the holiday of Purim: the reading of the Megillah, the festive meal, gifts of food and charity to the poor.

Chapter 10

“King Achashverosh then imposed a tax on the mainland and on the sea islands. And the entire account of his power and might, and the details of Mordechai’s greatness which the king promoted, are indeed recorded in the Book of Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia. For Mordechai the Jew was King Achashverosh’s viceroy, the leader of the Jews, and accepted by most of his brethren, promoting his people’s welfare and preaching peace for all their descendants” (Esther 10).

Important Characters in the Book of Esther

To understand the story of Esther, it is important to know a little more about the major players in the story.

Achashverosh: While some historian’s correlate Achashverosh to Cambys, son of Cyrus, or as the son of Darius the Mede, tradition identifies him as a pretender to the throne who gained power through deceit and/or bribery. No matter how Achashverosh achieved his kingship, he ruled over a vast kingdom, yet the Megillah itself shows us what sort of ruler he was. From the outset, it is apparent that he is easily swayed by the opinions of others. In the first chapter, he demands that Vashti come to the men’s party to display her beauty. Like a child, he must prove that he has the best. Nor is it Achashverosh’s own idea that she be banished when she refuses to come. He is angry, but it is his ministers who tell him that she must be gotten rid of, lest the women throughout the kingdom stop following the orders of their husbands! In fact, it is even the king’s servants who suggest how he find a new wife. Throughout the Megillah, one very rarely sees Achashverosh making a decision for himself. Achashverosh’s waffling (indetermination) is particularly apparent in his rewarding Mordechai for saving the king’s life, even though he had recently signed a decree to murder all of the Jews.

Another important aspect of Achashverosh’s character is his jealousy. The Midrash explains that one of the reasons Esther invited Haman to the private feast was to arouse the king’s suspicions. Indeed one Midrash notes that the reason that the king could not sleep that night because he was worried over the implications of Esther inviting Haman. One can only imagine his reaction when he returned to the room and saw Haman on the couch of the queen, even if he had accidently fallen there!

Vashti: By marrying Vashti, Achashverosh legitimized his right to the throne. Vashti was the daughter of Bal’shatzar (the last Babylonian king who was defeated by Darius and Cyrus) and the great-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzer (who destroyed the First Holy Temple and Jerusalem). As a descendant of this evil line, Vashti was the epitome of wickedness and licentiousness. In fact, the Midrash teaches that she did not refuse to come before the king because of modesty, but because her beauty was marred by a sudden affliction of a skin disease (leprosy). Had she not been thus afflicted, she would not have limited her behavior in any way. The Midrash also teaches us that while she was only 12 when her father was murdered by Darius the Mede (she was 18 at the time of Achashverosh’s party), she had already been inculcated with a deep hatred for the Jews. According to traditional sources, Queen Vashti used to force her Jewish maidservants to scrub the palace floors on Shabbat.

Mordechai: A descendant of King Saul (from the tribe of Benjamin), Mordechai was a prophet and a member of the Sanhedrin (the supreme court) in Jerusalem before the exile. He was considered one of the greatest Torah leaders of his generation and the Jews in exile looked to him for guidance.
Esther: Esther was a prophetess who possessed exceptional beauty and modesty. Esther was actually her Persian name, her Hebrew name was Hadassah, which means myrtle branch. She lived in the palace of the king without revealing her Jewish identity, which is alluded to by her Persian name, Esther, which means ‘hidden’ in Hebrew. After the Jews were saved, Esther helped Mordechai send out letters to all of the provinces instructing them on the commemoration of Purim. According to tradition, King Darius II, who allows the Jews to rebuild the Holy Temple, was the son of Esther and Achashverosh.
Haman: Haman is introduced in the Megillah as an Agagite, referring to his lineage as a descendant of Agag. Agag was the last king of Amalek, the national archenemy of the Jewish people. While the Amalekite nation was destroyed by King Saul (Samuel I), Saul disobeyed G-d’s commandment and had mercy on Agag, allowing him to live. When the prophet Samuel heard of this he was furious and killed Agag himself, but the damage was already done, for Agag had enough time to sow the seeds of future generations. For more information on Agag and the Amalekites, click here. Haman was married to Zeresh and they had ten sons and, according to the Midrash, one daughter, as well. His ten sons were hanged and his daughter committed suicide.

Zeresh: The wife of Haman is considered to be equal in wickedness to her husband. In fact, during the reading of the Megillah, many also boo and hiss when her name is read. Zeresh and Haman are prototypes for ‘like-marrying-like.’ What was important in their lives was honor and power, but only complete honor and power, as seen by their hatred of Mordechai. The Megillah shows Zeresh’s great importance in mentioning her as Haman’s consultant, demonstrating that they were as one in their thirst for power and their desire to destroy the Jews. Zeresh, however, was wise enough to see that the king’s order for Haman to lead Mordechai through Shushan as a certain sign that he is about to lose to the Jews, for she says: “If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a descendant of the Jews, you will not be able to harm him, for you will surely fall before him” (Esther 6:13).

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


How To Keep Kosher

Introduction

We are living in quite unusual times, especially for Jews. Remarkably, perhaps miraculously, Jews of all ages and backgrounds, are now taking steps to return to the heritage of their ancestors. Hence, the growing interest in kashruth, and kosher homemaking. While you may or may not have already decided to kosher your home, it’s important that you realize that making your home kosher is not only the fulfillment of a religious precept, but also a vital social and national action. By making your home kosher, any Jew, from anywhere in the world will feel welcome in your home, and by taking this important step, you will also be saying that you wish to identify with the Jewish people, and be a part of their cultural legacy.

One can become obsessive about almost any activity in life. Koshering one’s home can seem overwhelming, but it need not be. In fact, with all the modern appurtenances, a home can be kashered in very few hours, and even if mistakes are made, now, or in the future, they can be readily corrected. Not only your rabbi, but also many observant lay Jews are knowledgeable enough to help you, and are eager to do so.

Whatever you do, do it slowly and considerately. Ask your rabbi or a knowledgeable advisor to come to your home and explain to you exactly what is going to happen. Let him/her inspect your pantry and examine the products, and teach you how to identify kosher products and the major kosher symbols. Let the advisor review the dishes, pots, pans, utensils, silverware and indicate to you the various actions which need to be taken for kashering, which utensils may be saved and which must be discarded. Kashering your home is a bonding action with the Jewish people, past, present, and future. Be calm, relish the experience, work diligently, and before you know it you will look upon the kashering process as a wonderfully meaningful memory.

The basic principle to bear in mind when kashering is: the way the non-kosher food substances are absorbed into the walls of the utensil, that is the way it is expelled. Hence, a pot used for stewing can be kashered by boiling; a pan used for frying or baking can be kashered only by blowtorching (direct contact with heat).

How To Kasher an Oven

Gas & Electric
The most difficult item to kasher properly is the oven, because it requires an absolutely thorough cleansing. Please note the following steps in cleaning:

  1. The oven should not be used for twenty-four hours prior to kashering.
  2. Spray all internal surfaces of the oven with a chemical cleanser to remove all surface dirt.
  3. Disassemble the inner parts of the oven: remove grates, the shelf separating the oven from broiler, remove the entire broiler and its drawer.
  4. Check all of the above surfaces for dirt. Use chemical cleanser a second time, scrub with steel wool, screwdriver, and/or a scraper to remove remaining spots. Carefully check difficult areas (use a flashlight, if necessary): internal corners, door edges, the area behind the flame burners, and the grooves of the broiler tray shelves. CAUTION: Do not disturb the thermostat wire. The interior of oven should look new.
  5. Reassemble the oven. Set the oven dial at top heat (broil) for 1« hours. Unless the broiler tray is blowtorched (or heated in a self cleaning oven cycle) food should never be placed directly on it. Cover the tray with the aluminum foil or place food in a pot or pan on the broiler tray.
  6. Some have the custom of blowtorching the interior surfaces of the oven in order to assure the removal of any remaining dirt.

Self-Cleaning
Self-cleaning ovens are self kashering. Kasher the oven automatically by putting it through one full cleaning cycle, (approximately 3 hours). Don’t forget to clean the top cooking area, as indicated below.

Gas Range Tops

  1. Disassemble and remove spiders, burner jets, drip trays, and the entire oven top if possible.
  2. Clean with steel wool, soap and water.
  3. Clean the entire surface under top of the oven.
  4. Reassemble the cooking surface and ignite the fire under the spiders at top heat until they glow red (15-20 minutes). If possible, invert spiders so that they get closer to the fire source.

Electric Stove Top
Follow the above cleansing procedures. Set the electric burners on the highest setting until they glow red after a few minutes.

Cooking In A Kosher Oven

There are various customs with respect to cooking milk and meat dishes in the same oven. Some people only cook meat in their ovens, and have small toaster ovens for milk dishes.
A second custom is to wait 24 hours between the cooking of milk and meat. The most lenient custom is to wait until the oven has cooled between the cooking of milk and meat. If the milk or meat is tightly covered (e.g. aluminum foil) it is not necessary to wait. If there is any spillage of meat, the oven may not be used for milk before it is cleaned thoroughly and set at top heat, and vice versa. It is wise to line the oven bottom and check the broiler for any spillage before cooking.

Microwave
Clean the microwave oven thoroughly and put a vessel with a few ounces of water in the oven. Allow the water to vaporize into steam.

How To Kasher Silverware

Silverware made of one piece of metal can be kashered. However, any utensils with a plastic, wood, or bone handle which will be damaged by boiling water cannot be kashered. If the plastic, wood or bone will not be damaged and can be cleaned properly. it may be kashered, employing the following procedure. Clean the utensils thoroughly of food and rust (especially at the joints). Wait 24 hours. Kasher the silverware by dropping them, one by one, into a vat of boiling water. Make sure that:

  1. The water is actually boiling when you place the silverware in the vat (Remember, that placing the utensils in the vat often lowers the temperature of the water below the boiling point).
  2. Large utensils may be purged in the water, one side at a time. But make certain that the part that you are immersing is completely surrounded by water.
  3. Remove the utensil and rinse in tap water. Use tongs or place a soft wire basket into the pot to help with removal.

How To Kasher Pots and Pans

  1. Metal (not enamel or teflon) pots and pans not used for frying, which can be thoroughly cleaned, can be kashered by the boiling method described above. If there is accumulated dirt under plastic pot handles, they must be removed before kashering.
  2. Frying and baking pots and pans can be kashered by slowly and deliberately glowing the utensil with a blowtorch,by placing them in a self-cleaning oven during a full cleaning cycle (not advised). It is usually very difficult to kasher them correctly. If possible, replace these utensils with new ones.

How To Kasher A Sink

A sink made of metal can be kashered by rinsing every square inch of the sink with boiling water (the water must be boiling right before you pour it.) Porcelain sinks cannot be kashered. In both instances it is wise to purchase plastic sink tubs, one for milk dishes and one for meat dishes.

How To Kasher Counters

Counters made of nonporous material can be kashered. (Anything porous like butcher-block counter must be sanded down and then kashered.) Simply follow the procedure applicable to sinks. It is preferable not to place hot utensils directly on the counters.

How To Kasher Dishes

China, earthenware, porcelain, corningware, corrella, pyrex, duralex enamel, glazed stoneware, may be kashered only by reglazing in a kiln at 900 F for one minute, or in a self-cleaning oven for an entire cycle. Extreme caution should be exercised since very delicate items may not be able to withstand the intense heat. Valuable porcelain dishes which were not used for one year, may, in consultation with your rabbi, be kashered by dipping in boiling water 3 times.
Glassware used for cold, or for tea and coffee may be kashered by soaking in room temperature water for 72 hours, changing the water every 24 hours.

How To Kasher A Refrigerator

A refrigerator may be made kosher by thoroughly cleaning with soap and water.

The Mikvah

Metal and glassware utensils used in preparing and serving food require immersion in a Mikvah (ritual pool).

Kosher

Kashruth in the 21 century is far more than a religious ritual. It is, in effect, a profound bond that unites Jew to Jew, a most meaningful tether that secures an individual to a nation, it is the sacred energy that connects a people and a nation to its very essence.

Recipes

We know you want the good stuff, skip ahead to all the great Kosher recipes on NJOP.

Kosher

Learn more about keeping Kosher and browse our collection of delicious recipes.

Resources

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The History of Purim

Judaism

The story of Purim takes place at the very end of the era known in Jewish history as the Babylonian Exile. In 422 B.C.E.*, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem and exiled the Jews from the Land of Israel. Scattered, the Jews waited for the end of the 70 year exile prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah.

In the year 372 B.C.E., however, the Babylonian Empire was itself crushed by the combined armies of King Darius of Media and King Cyrus of Persia (both part of current day Iran) and the new Persian Empire was formed under the rule of Cyrus. Unlike his Babylonian predecessors, Cyrus was not interested in destroying the individual cultures of his subjects, unless they were in direct opposition to him. Known as Cyrus the Great, he issued an edict in 373 B.C.E., allowing the Jews to return to the land of Israel. Shortly afterwards, the first group of exiles returned under the leadership of the prophet Nechemiah. In Jerusalem, they began to lay the foundations for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, paving the way for their Jewish brethren who remained scattered across the empire. The enemies of the Jews, however, convinced Cyrus to stop the Temple’s rebuilding.

The rise of King Achashverosh, the king of the Purim story, begins around the year 360. There is much debate as to the exact identity of Achashverosh. Some sources say that Achashverosh was actually Cambys, the son of Cyrus, some say that he was the son of Darius the Mede. Still others say that he was a commoner who usurped the throne through cunning and by marrying Vashti, the great-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar, to give him legitimacy. Regardless of how Achashverosh achieved power, he took over the reign of the Persian Empire in 360 B.C.E., and continued the ban on the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Achashverosh ruled over 127 provinces, a vast empire from Ethiopia to India. His capital was the city of Shushan, known today as Susa. Thinking that the 70 year prediction that the Temple would be rebuilt started with the exile of King Yechonia and the Jewish elite, Achashverosh miscalculated the correct date for the end of the Jewish exile. Secure that the Jewish prophecy had come to naught, he threw a great party. This is opening of the Book of Esther.
Following the defeat of the enemies of the Jews (355 B.C.E.), Achashverosh remained in power with Mordechai as his Prime Minister.
In 352 B.C.E., the Jews in the Land of Israel completed the rebuilding of the Second Temple and the Babylonian exile officially came to an end as Jews streamed home.
* There is a discrepancy of 164 years between the traditional Jewish chronology and secular chronology.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Why Purim is Called Purim

Why Purim is Called Purim

Most Jewish holidays have names that describe the significance of the holiday (i.e. on Sukkot we dwell in sukkahs – specific small huts, on Passover G-d passed over the Jewish people…etc.), what then is the meaning of the name Purim. Translated, Purim actually means “lots,” as in “drawing lots.” From where does this name come?

In the third chapter of the Book of Esther, after Haman is angered by Mordechai’s refusal to bow down to him, when Haman decides to destroy the entire Jewish people, “a pur, [a lottery], was thrown before Haman [to select] which day and which month” (Esther 3:7). Only after having determined the most auspicious day to kill the Jews, did Haman go to the king. What is so important about Haman choosing his “day of rage” through a lottery?

By casting a “pur” for this most significant decision, Haman is demonstrating his Amalekite commitment beliefs. As discussed in more detail in “Hanging Haman,” the Amalekite nation, the opposing force of the Jewish nation, believes that chance rules the world (rather than the Jewish belief of Divine control). As much as Amalek, and therefore Haman, believe in the existence of G-d, they reject the idea that G-d utilizes the world for a Divine purpose, and thus the very existence of the Jewish people is antithetical to their beliefs. Haman saw the cycles of history, and was aware that the Jews were at a spiritual low point, so he felt certain that he would be victorious. Since victory was guaranteed, he would prove, through their defeat, that might made right, and a single person could control destiny.

Purim, however, is a celebration of the very fact that the world is not run by random chance. Calling the holiday Purim reminds the Jewish people that even when events appear to be happening at random, such as in a lottery, G-d is still the ultimate controller of fate.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

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Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

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Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


Shushan Purim on Shabbat

Shushan Purim on Shabbat

When Shushan Purim, observed in walled cities in Israel, coincides with Shabbat, the holiday is actually spread out over three days.

The three days include*:

  • Adar 14: Megillah reading and Matanot L’evyonim (gifts to the poor)
  • Adar 15: Exodus 17:8-16 is read as part of the Shabbat Torah reading and Al Hanissim is added to davening and bentching.
  • Adar 16: The festive meal is eaten and Mishloach Manot (gift baskets) are sent. Al Hanissim is not added to davening or bentching, as it is Technically, no longer Purim.

Why

The Megillah is not read on Shabbat lest one carry it outside of reshuth harabim (public area not enclosed by an eruv). However, a verse in the Megillah (Esther 9:27) states that these days “shall not pass,” and therefore we read the Megillah on Friday and not Sunday.
On Shabbat, the exchange of money is prohibited, therefore Matanot L’evyonim is performed the day before so that the poor might benefit as early as possible.
The festive meal is postponed until Sunday so that one celebrates the Shabbat meal separately from the Purim meal.
Mishloach Manot are delayed because one cannot exchange gifts on Shabbat. Why: Changing ownership is considered akin to performing a business transaction, which is prohibited on Shabbat.

Purim

Purim is a holiday of fun and festivities, like all Jewish holidays it is also an opportunity to fulfill numerous mitzvot.

Learn more

Purim Workshop

Host or attend the exciting Purim Workshop provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover our exciting guide, watch videos and learn about the histories, origins and customs of Purim.

Articles

Browse our archive of Purim Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about history and tradition.


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 Resources

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.

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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

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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 Heroines

Chanukah Heroines

There are two famous stories about women associated with Chanukah, the story of Yehudit and the story of Hannah and her Seven Sons.

The two stories show the courage and inner-strength of the Jewish people in the time of adversity, and how strength can be shown both in action and in lack of action.

Yehudit/Judith

Life under the Hellenist aggressors was a constant trial. Not only did they forbid basic Jewish observance, but, after the beginning of the Maccabee revolt, they laid siege to cities and towns across the land. And the siege was not simply a siege of food and water, it was also a siege on morality and morale. By decree of the king, any Jewish maiden who was to be married had to first spend the night with the local governor or commander. The Hellenists loathed the very sanctity of Jewish family life, knowing that it was a source of strength for the Jews, and were determined to undermine this lifestyle.

The Hellenist armies, under the command of Holofernes, laid siege to the town of Bethulia where Yehudit, the daughter of Yochanan the High Priest, was a young widow. While she was beautiful and wealthy, Yehudit was also known for her piety and good deeds. Holofernes, let it be known that he desired the beautiful widow.
As the siege persisted against the town of Bethulia, the people grew discouraged. They began to suffer from severe hunger. Out of despair, the town gathered together and the elders announced that in 5 days time, when they ran out of food, they would surrender. But Yehudit spoke out at the meeting, expressing her disappointment in their lack of faith in G-d. As the meeting ended, Yehudit told the elders that she had a plan that would deliver the enemies into their hands, but they must not ask her what it was. They must simply have faith in her. Because of Yehudit’s reputation for wisdom and piety, they agreed.

Taking with her one maidservant and a large basket of cheese, bread and wine, Yehudit left the city and was immediately stopped by the soldiers. She told them that she wished to speak with their commander, Holofernes. When she was brought before him, he welcomed the beautiful woman.
Yehudit told Holofernes that she worried for those in the city who were suffering under the siege and had decided to come and tell him how to capture the city and, hopefully, receive, in return, mercy on her people. He encouraged her to go on.

The people’s faith in G-d remained strong, she explained. So long as they had faith, they would not surrender; and, G-d would not allow the army to take the city. On the other hand, she added, before long, every scrap of kosher food would be gone, and in desperation they would begin to eat the flesh of unclean animals, and then G-d’s anger would be turned against them and the town would fall. She proposed to stay with Holofernes in the camp of his army, but would return to Bethulia each day in order to find out how low the supplies were. Then she would tell Holofernes when the time to strike was. Eager to spend time with the beautiful widow as well as to end the siege victoriously, he agreed.

After several days of Yehudit relaying that the people in Bethulia were almost out of supplies, she felt that she and her maidservant had gained the trust of the army. They came and went as they pleased. It was time to implement the second half of the plan.

Yehudit informed Holofernes that the Bethulia was now out of food and there remained only to wait a few days until they would be eating the non-kosher animals. He invited her to come alone to his tent that night to celebrate. She agreed, insisting that he partake of her renowned’ goat-cheese. As he ate the salty cheese, he grew thirsty and Yehudit hurried to give him the heavy wine she had brought with her. While Yehudit pretended to eat and drink, Holofernes became sluggish from imbibing and eating. Shortly thereafter, he was in a deep sleep. Calling her maidservant in, Yehudit took Holofernes’ sword and cut off his head. The two women wrapped the head in a cloth and returned to Bethulia.

The elders were surprised to see her. Yehudit showed them Holofernes’ head and told them that the men of the city must attack the Syrian-Greeks now. When the soldiers would go to wake their leader they would find him dead. The elders followed her advice and, sure enough, the Syrian-Greek army fled at the surprise attack and after learning that their commander was dead. Thus Yehudit saved the day.

Hannah and her Seven Sons

When Antiochus tried to destroy Jewish culture by outlawing Torah, he mistakenly thought that the Jews would quickly adopt the Hellenistic lifestyle. While some Jews did assimilate without a fight, Antiochus was not prepared for the unprecedented obstinacy of the Jews who refused to give up their heritage. Since the Jews would not quietly submit, Antiochus launched a full-scale culture war.

Those Jews who refused to give up studying Torah, who refused to eat pork, etc., were killed or tortured. Antiochus recognized that Judaism and Hellenism were antithetical and that he could not allow Judaism to survive or Hellenism would disappear. One of the well-known examples of the lengths to which Antiochus went to convert the Jews, and their fierce resistance to his attempts, is the story of “Hannah and her Seven Sons.”

Brought before the king for the crime of being devout Jews, Antiochus demanded that they bow down to an idol before him. The eldest son stepped forward and said:
“What do you wish from us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.”

Shocked and angered, the king ordered him tortured. His tongue, hands and feet were cut off and he was placed in a cauldron of boiling water. While the tortures continued, the wicked Antiochus turned to the next son and demanded that he worship the idol. This brother refused as well and was similarly tortured. Antiochus continued down the line and each brother held fast to his faith and gave up his life, tortured in front of his mother and remaining brothers until only Hannah and her youngest son remained.

Aware that this event had not gone the way he had planned, and, in fact, was becoming a public relations disaster, Antiochus called the child forward and begged him not to be a martyr for such a small thing as bowing before a statue. The king went so far as to promise him wealth beyond his dreams for this one act. When he saw that he was not getting anywhere, he called Hannah forward and beseeched her to talk some sense into her son so that she might have one child left. Hannah agreed to talk to him, and took him to the side, pretending to beg him for his life.

But Hannah was proud of her sons. She knew what this one small act would mean to her child and to the morale of the Jewish people. Without tears, Hannah told her youngest, a mere child: “My son, I carried you for nine months, nourished you for two years, and have provided you with everything until now. Look upon the heaven and the earth — G-d is the Creator of it all. Do not fear this tormentor, but be worthy of being with your brothers.”

Without a second thought, the boy refused to obey the king’s commandment and was put to death. As her child lay dying, she cradled his body and asked him that, when he arrived in heaven, he say to Abraham that he, Abraham, had been willing to sacrifice one son to prove his loyalty to G-d, while she had sacrificed seven. For him it had been a test, for her it was reality. Pleading with G-d that she should be considered worthy to her children in the world to come, Hannah fell to the floor and died.

Hannah is considered a heroine for her faith in G-d. By teaching her sons that sometimes one must give up even life itself for the sake of one’s beliefs and by not begging for mercy from this evil king, by encouraging even her youngest son not to bow to evil, Hannah made a stand that resonates with all who hear her story.

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.

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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

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Judaism vs. Hellenism

Judaism vs. Hellenism

Why did the interaction of the Greeks and the Jews create such problems?

What was there about Hellenism that lured so many Jews to assimilate and at the same time, aroused in other Jews such staunch opposition?

Ironically, Greek culture and Judaism are the roots of modern Western civilization. And, in fact, they are similar in that both cultures put great value on understanding the world and the use of one’s intellect. The Greeks nurtured the great philosophers and gave the world Plato and Aristotle. The Jews gave the world the Torah, the Talmud, and the basic concept of ethical monotheism. If both sought “Truth” in the world, why were they hostile to one another?

In order to understand the Chanukah story, it is necessary to understand the differences between these two cultures. Here is a basic outline of Judaism versus Hellenism:

Judaism
Hellenism
One G-d
The belief in one G-d is the first of the Ten Commandments. Judaism believes not only that there is only one G-d who created everything, but that G-d is actively involved in ruling the world.
Gods, Goddesses and
Who Knows What!
The Greeks believed in a multitude of gods. For each object or state of nature there was a different god or goddess, such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Poseidon, the god of the sea.
Man in the Image of G-d
The Jewish view of the Divine is that G-d has no physical form. The Torah does, however, often speak of G-d in human terms, such as “a jealous G-d” or G-d took us out of Egypt with “an outstretched arm.” These are all, however, understood to be metaphors used to help humans relate to G-d by speaking in familiar terms. One of the Thirteen Principle of Faith laid out by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam) is that G-d has no corporeal form.
Gods in the Image of Man
The Greeks gods were almost all conceptualized as humans with supernatural powers. Not only did they possess the same physical image as humankind, but the Greek deities even had human lusts and passions. Greek mythology is filled with images of gods fighting in jealous rivalries, plotting against one another and innocent mortals, and pursuing human lovers. In fact, numerous gods in mythology are born out of god-human relationships. By creating gods who were as spoiled and egocentric as humans, it was easy for a person to negate the will of a god by saying it was the will of a rival god.
The Beauty of Balance
Judaism views the physical body as a partner with the soul. Humankind was created from the physical and from the spiritual (And the L-rd G-d formed the human being of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7). This dual level of creation distinguishes humans from animals (completely of the lower world) and angels (completely of the upper worlds), neither of which have free-will. It is the Jewish belief that people must work throughout their lives to synthesize the physical and the spiritual. Finding this balance is, in Judaism’s view, true beauty. Since the Jewish view is that humankind was created in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:27), it is impossible to come to a conclusion that a human may supplement the Divine.
Beauty as Ideal
Greek culture placed the highest value on the physical and gave the world the idea that beauty is, in itself, a supreme ideal. Epitomizing this worship of the physical was the Greek passion for athletics. Among their first actions, the Greeks built gymnasiums in every city they conquered. The Greek athletics were held in the nude, highlighting the beauty of the human being. This physical glorification is one example of the Hellenistic view of nature as supreme. The attitude that the greatness of the human being ruled over the belief in the power of their gods, culminated in Plato’s view that there was a Divine creation, and and then the world was left to run itself.

 

 

These differences created a clash of cultures. The Greeks could not understand why the Jews did not instantly embrace their culture, which catered to the human’s physical desires. They were infuriated by the Jewish refusal to accept Hellenism. In their need to rid the world of Judaism, they singled out three mitzvot (commandments): The sanctification of the new month, the Sabbath, and circumcision. Here’s why:

Rosh Chodesh/the Sanctification of the New Month – The Jewish people follow a lunar calendar and the very first commandment to the Jewish people in the Torah is: “This month shall be yours as the first of months.” This commandment instructs Jews to sanctify the beginning of each new month, when the moon first reappears in the sky. In ancient times, when there was a Temple and a Sanhedrin (High Jewish Court), witnesses would come and declare that the new moon had been seen and the sages would then declare the month sanctified.

What then could be the problem with setting a calendar? When the Jews sanctified the new moon, it, in effect, stated to the world that G-d is in control of time. The month was not declared based on the counting of days, but rather based on the appearance of the new moon, according to G-d’s commandment of how the months should be calculated. Since the Greeks wished to show that humankind was in control of nature, they felt threatened by the Jewish concept of Divinely ordained time. Also, by denying the Jews the ability to sanctify the new month, they inhibited the proper celebration of the Jewish holidays, which are based on dates which start with the declaration of the start of each new month.

The Sabbath – “Six days shall you work and do all your labor, but the seventh day is Shabbat for the Lord your G-d. On it, you shall do no [creative] work.” The seventh day is the Jewish Sabbath on which a Jew does no work. Why did the Greeks have a problem with a day of rest? The Hellenistic culture was a center of great creativity. From ancient Greek traditions, the Western world has inherited a remarkable legacy of literature, sculpture, philosophy, and architecture. Through their marvelous creations, the Greeks proclaimed their might over the world. Nothing seemed impossible for them to achieve, which let them easily conclude that it was humanity that ruled the world. The idea of taking one day to let G-d run the world negated the Greek belief in their own control. It also forced them to acknowledge how lightly they treated their own deities, while the Jews were willing to set aside an entire day to their one deity

Circumcision – Remember, the Greeks idealized the beauty of the physical form, particularly the male body, as can be seen in so many of their sculptures. The idea that the Jews would willing mar the body was outrageous to them (of course, leaving a baby to die from exposure wasn’t a problem). On a deeper level, however, circumcision represents humanity’s ability to have control over one’s physical self. The Greeks believed in fulfilling all of their passions, in contrast to Judaism’s devotion to self discipline. While Judaism teaches humankind to strive to be like G-d, the Greeks created gods who acted with less dignity than many humans. Remember, it was Greek mythology that created nymphs and satyrs, philandering gods and promiscuous goddesses. They abhorred circumcision because it focused on the fact that a person is capable of channeling his/her passions.

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.


What to do on Chanukah

What to do on Chanukah

Chanukah is unique amongst the holidays in that it has only a single mitzvah - publicizing the miracle of Chanukah through the lighting of the menorah.

Table of Contents

The Chanukah Menorah

The Chanukah Menorah is a candelabra with nine branches. It is also called a chanukiah.

The Ninth branch – While there are only eight nights of Chanukah, an extra candle is lit every night to be a “helper,” and is used to light the other candles. This candle is called the shamash. The place for the shamash on the menorah should be differentiated from the other lights. Usually it is higher, lower or out of line with the others.

The Eight Lights

    • Instead of a menorah, one may light a series of tea candles (for example) one next to the other.
    • The lights should be in a straight, even line without any differentiation in height between the eight Chanukah lights, or however many are lit that particular night. The lights may be in a semi-circle as long as all of the lights can be viewed at the same time.
    • There should be enough space between lights so that two flames do not burn together or cause the candle next to it to melt.

Oil or candles — The sages said that it is preferable to use olive oil for the Chanukah lights, since the miracle took place with olive oil. One may use wax or paraffin candles or other types of oils as long as they produce a steady light.

Lighting

NOTE: Please be sure to review fire safety procedures with your family

Where

  • The purpose of lighting the Chanukah lights, and its essential mitzvah, is to proclaim the miracle (Pirsumei Nisa). It is important, therefore, to kindle the Chanukah lights where others will see them.
  • The Chanukah lights were originally lit at the entrance to one’s home, facing the street. It was placed on the left side of the entrance, across from the mezuzah.
    • It is now a common practice to place the menorah in a window facing the street.
    • If one lives on a high floor or is unable to place the menorah in a place visible from the street, it is permissible to place the Chanukah lights in any room where the people in the house will be able to see it.

When

  • While there are several opinions about when one should kindle the Chanukah lights, the majority opinion is that it should be done at the time when three stars have appeared in the sky (approximately an 40-50 minutes after sunset).
  • Many people do, however, follow the opinion of the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 1720 – 1797), and light at sunset. This custom is commonly followed in Jerusalem.
  • If one is unable to light at the appropriate time, one may light later in the night as long as there is someone else in the household who is awake (thus fulfilling the requirements of publicizing the miracle).
    • If it is very late and no one is awake, one should light without the blessing.
    • If there are people in the street or in the apartments of a facing building who would see the lit candles, it is okay to light.
  • If one does not light at all during the night, they cannot do a “make-up” lighting. In such a case, one should just continue on the next night with everyone else.

Who

  • All adults are equally obligated in the lighting of the Chanukah lights and each one may light their own menorah.
  • Children over the age of 9 should light.
  • The head of the household may, however, elect to kindle one set of Chanukah lights for the entire household.

How

  • On the first night, one light is placed on the far right of the menorah. Each succeeding night, one light is added to the left of the previous night’s candle(s). The newest light is always lit first.
  • Before lighting, the following blessings are recited:
    • Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.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 Chanukah.
    • Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech ha’olam, she’asah neesim la’avotaynu, bayamim hahem bazman hazeh.Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season.
    • The third blessing is recited on the first night only.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.
  • As the lights are kindled, Ha’neyrot Halalu is recited.Ha’neyrot halalu anachnu madlikin al hanisim v’al ha’niflaot, v’al ha’t’shu’ot v’al hamilchamot, she’aseetah la’avotaynu ba’yamim hahem bazman ha’zeh, al y’dey Kohanecha ha’k’doshim. V’chol shmonat y’mey Chanukah, ha’neyrot halalu kodesh hem. V’eyn lanu r’shut l’hishtamesh bahem, ehla lirotam bilvad, k’dey l’hodot u’leha’lel l’shim’cha ha’gadol al neesecha v’al nif’l’otecha v’al y’shu’otecha.These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders, the salvations and on the battles which You performed for our ancestors in those days in this season, through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred. We are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but to look at them, in order to express thanks and praise to Your great name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.
  • After the lights are lit, Ma’oz Tzur is sung. Ma’oz tzur y’shu’ahtee, l’chah nah’eh l’shabeyach; Tee’kone beyt t’feelah’tee, v’sham todah n’zah’beyach; L’ayt tacheen matbeyach, mee’tsahr ham’nabeyach; Ahz egmor b’sheer mizmor, chanukat ha’mizbeyach.
    Rock of Ages let our song, praise Thy saving power. Thou amidst the raging foes, was our sheltering tower. Furious they assailed us, but Thine arm availed us. And thy word, broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.

Duration
The Chanukah lights should stay lit for at least half an hour.
For the first half hour that the lights are burning, it is customary to refrain from common household chores.
One may not use the Chanukah lights for anything except proclaiming the miracle. For instance, one may not read using the light of a menorah.

Chanukah Happenings

Additional Prayers

  1. Al Ha’nisim, “On the Miracles,” is inserted into the daily prayers.
    • During the Silent Amidah of the morning, afternoon and evening service, Al Ha’nisim is recited after Modim (the Thanksgiving blessing).
    • During Bentching/Bircat Hamazon (Grace After Meals), it is added in the middle of the second blessing, Nodeh L’cha.
    • If one forgets to add Al Ha’nisim, neither the Silent Amidah nor Bentching should be repeated.
    • Al Ha’nisim recalls the miracles that occurred on Chanukah, particularly the victory of the Jews over the Syrian-Greek army.
  2. Hallel, Psalms of Praise, is recited after the morning Silent Amidah. – Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month).

The Customs of Chanukah

  • Dreidel is a spinning top game played with coins or candies.
  • The Foods of Chanukah
    • Because of the significance of oil in the miracle of Chanukah, it has become customary to partake of foods fried in oil during the holiday. Two traditional treats are latkes and sufganiot (potato pancakes and doughnuts).Click here for recipes
    • Some people eat dairy in honor of Yehudit, a Jewish heroine who saved her city by giving the enemy goat cheese to eat.

Chanukah Gelt (Chanukah Gifts)
Gelt is Yiddish word meaning money. It is customary to give Chanukah gelt to the children.

  • In earlier generations, it was usually shiny pennies or, at most, dimes. Now, probably as a result of inflation, one doesn’t give less than a shiny gold dollar (sometimes filled with chocolate).
  • The custom of Chanukah gelt is often used to reward the child for knowing about the holiday or for learning about Judaism during Chanukah.
  • The custom of Chanukah Gelt is actually found in the Talmud, where it states that even the poorest person must light Chanukah lights. If the person cannot afford oil or candles, than they should actually ask people for money. The Jewish perspective on charity, however, is very sensitive the dignity of the person in need. For this reason, it became customary to distribute money at Chanukah time so that it does not come across as charity, but as Chanukah gelt.
  • The custom of giving gifts is often seen as an extension of Chanukah Gelt.
  • Unfortunately, in the consumer driven American society, Judaism has to compete with the non-Jewish “Holiday Season.” Since children cannot distinguish between their spiritual needs and their material desires, many parents have found it necessary to give Chanukah gifts in competition with Xmas gifts, and thus developed the custom of giving Chanukah presents.

Shabbat Chanukah
Shabbat candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset on Friday night. Since the Chanukah candles are lit during or after sunset, which is already the Sabbath (on which it is prohibited to create a flame), there are specific rules for Shabbat Chanukah.

    1. The Chanukah lights are kindled immediately before the Shabbat candles are lit.
    2. Because the Chanukah lights must burn for at least a half an hour after sunset, extra oil is used or larger candles should be lit.
      • Judaica stores often have special larger, longer candles available.
      • Many people create makeshift menorahs and use Shabbat candles, which burn much longer than the thin Chanukah candles.
    3. After the Chanukah candles are lit, and a moment is taken to enjoy their light, the Shabbat candles are kindled. Click here for Shabbat Candle-lighting directions.

On Saturday night, the Chanukah candles are lit after the Havdalah ceremony, which separates the Sabbath from the weekday, is recited.

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.


The Story of Chanukah

The Story of Chanukah

How a small band of Jewish renegades took on the Syrian-Greek army.

Under the Hellenist Rule
When the Greeks conquered the world, they brought with them their highly developed Hellenistic culture – the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, the multitude of Greek gods and goddesses, and the worship of the physical. At first, the Greeks were peaceful rulers, luring Jews to their culture by inviting them in and being open to searching the wisdom of Judaism. In the year 199 B.C.E., however, the land of Judea, which had been under the control of the Ptolemies (Greeks ruling from Egypt), was conquered by the Seleucids (Greeks ruling from Syria).

The Syrian-Greeks did not feel that it was appropriate for the Jews, now their subjects, to maintain their own national culture. By now, they felt, the Jews should have seen the error of their “primitive” ways and grasped the “far more advanced” Hellenistic culture with open arms…and many did. The majority of Jews, however, maintained the heritage of their ancestors, incorporating some Hellenistic activities, but remaining faithful to the Torah.

The Syrian-Greeks tried to force the Jews to assimilate. The study of Torah became a capital crime. If a parent was found to have circumcised an infant son, both the parent and child were put to death. The Syrian-Greeks set up idols in town squares and called the Jews to the square and forced them to bow to the statue or sacrifice a pig before it. They even forced Jewish brides before their marriage to sleep with the local Syrian-Greek commander. Their campaign against Judaism began slowly, but by 168 B.C.E. they had desecrated the Holy Temple by setting a statue of Zeus in the main plaza.

 

The Maccabees Arise
In the town of Modiin, west of Jerusalem, lived a man named Mattitiyahu (Mattithias). He was from the Hasmonean family, which is one of the branches of the Kohanim (priests). In 167 B.C.E., Syrian-Greek soldiers came to the town and demanded that the Jews sacrifice a pig to one of their gods. Knowing that Mattitiyahu was considered a righteous leader, they signaled him out. But Mattitiyahu refused to sacrifice the animal, even under threat of death. Not all the Jews of Modiin were so brave and devoted. When one of his fellow townsmen stepped forward and volunteered to sacrifice the pig, Mattitiyahu, outraged at the treacherous act, grabbed a sword and slew the heretic. Mattitiyahu’s sons joined him and they attacked the soldiers, decimating the force by the end of the day. Needless to say, Mattitiyahu and his sons fled Modiin and took refuge in the hills. While Mattitiyahu began the revolt, he did not live to see its end. After his passing, within a year of the start of the revolt, the leadership was taken up by his son Judah, a valiant soldier and a wise tactician. In the hill, Judah gathered a band of Jewish freedom fighters who were prepared to fight for the Jewish way of life. They became known as the Maccabees.

 

The Joy of Victory
Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews led a guerilla war to free their nation, their primary goal being to cleanse Jerusalem and the Holy Temple from the pagan idols desecrating it.

It was a challenging fight, with the vast power, might and numbers on the side of the Syrian-Greeks. But the Jews had a steadfast will and the knowledge that they were fighting for G-d and Torah. In 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees succeeded in retaking the Temple. They were aghast, however to find that the soldiers had thoroughly rampaged and desecrated the holy site.

The Jews immediately set to work removing statues, scrubbing the altar, and the many tasks necessary to rededicate the Temple. On the southern side of the sanctuary stood the grand, golden Menorah, but there was no oil with which to light it. As the Jews cleansed the Temple they searched for an unopened jar of pure oil. When all seemed lost, however, one small jar, with its seal still in tact, was found. The Jews rejoiced and hurried to the Menorah to rededicate the Temple.

One small jar of oil…It would take another week for a fresh jar of pure olive oil to be made. The Jews were in a quandary. Do they light the Menorah and let it fizzle out while they waited for more oil, or do they wait and use the oil the day before the new oil will arrive, in order to keep the flame continuous. Not wanting to put off the mitzvah, they decided to light the Menorah – and the miracle of Chanukah occurred. Despite the small quantity of oil, THE MENORAH REMAINED LIT FOR THE ENTIRE EIGHT DAYS, announcing to the world that G-d’s presence once again resided in the Temple.

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.


The Dreidel

The Driedel

Ahh, the famous childhood Chanukah song. In fact, many of the favorite Chanukah ditties revolve around the dreidel (no pun intended!). What is this fascinating game?
The Dreidel is a four sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. Before the game begins, everyone is given an equal number of pennies or candies, and each player places an initial deposit of coins or candies in the middle of the circle. Each person then takes a turn spinning the Dreidel. When it falls, depending on the Hebrew letter that is facing up, the following occurs:

נ Nun:
Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
ג Gimmel:
The player wins everything in the pot.
ה Hey:
The Player takes half the pot.
ש Shin:
The player must put a penny/candy in the pot.

Gambling! On a Jewish holiday? What could possibly be the derivation of this game? When the Syrian-Greeks ruled Judea (in the year 167 BCE), they banned the study of Torah. The Jewish people, however, continued to study and to teach their children. Under the threat of death, they met in secret, leaving a lookout to watch for signs of the soldiers. When the lookout signaled, the books were quickly hidden away and the Jews pretended to be gambling.

The letters stand for Neis Gadol Hayah Sham- a great miracle happened there.
In Israel, the dreidel has a Pey instead of a Shin, for Neis Gadol Hayah Poh – A Great Miracle Happened Here.

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.


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.

Resources

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.


Hoshana Raba

Hoshana Raba

The last day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot

The last day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot is called Hoshana Raba, the Great Hoshana, because of the extensive Hoshana service.

a) All of the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and held by members of the congregation at the bimah.
b) While holding the lulav set, the bimah is circled 7 times while responsively reciting the special Hoshana prayers of the day.
c) After circling the bimah, the lulav set is put down and a special bundle of 5 aravot (willow branches) are held. Selichot, penitential prayers, are then recited and the Torah scrolls are returned to the ark.
d) The participants then take the bundle of aravot (willow branches) and beat them against the ground five times.

Hoshana Raba is actually the last day of the Sukkot holiday. (The remaining two days of Yom Tov are a separate festival). It is therefore customary to eat a festive meal in the sukkah in the afternoon to fulfill that mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah one last time.

a) It is traditional to begin the meal with a whole round challah which is sprinkled with salt and then dipped in honey.
b) On Hashana Rabbah, some have the custom to serve Kreplach (dumplings), which are symbolic of our wanting G-d to hide our sins.

While G-d judges the world on Rosh Hashana and concludes the verdict on Yom Kippur, on Hoshana Raba the verdict receives its final seal. One therefore has time to complete the teshuvah, repentance process, up until the closing hours of Hoshana Raba.

a) There is a custom to spend the night of Hoshana Raba studying Torah, fortifying oneself at the last moment of judgement.
b) The cantor wears a white kittel (robe) on Hoshana Raba, as he does on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
c) In Israel, people stay up all night studying Torah and then thousands go to the Western Wall for the Hoshana Raba Service.

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.


Women's Obligation on Sukkot

Women's Obligation on Sukkot

Women are not responsible for the time-bound positive commandments, including among others: dwelling in the sukkah, the four species, shofar, tefillin, and many more.

Time Bound Positive Commandments

a) Women have, however, taken some of these commandments, such as shofar, upon themselves.

b) The Torah does not obligate people to perform mitzvot that they will not be able to fulfill on a consistent basis. Because of a woman’s role as child-bearer and initial nurturer, the Torah recognizes that a woman will often not be able to perform time-bound mitzvot at very specific times, and, therefore, exempted all women from these mitzvot. However, the halacha (Jewish law) allows women to fulfill these mitzvot on a voluntary basis.

c) When performing mitzvot for which one is not obligated, there is a disagreement whether the blessing over the mitzvah is recited.

According to Ashkenazic opinions, women may say the blessing when performing these mitzvot.
According to Sephardic opinion, women should not say the blessing when performing these mitzvot.

The Mitzvot of Sukkot and Women

a) Dwelling in the sukkah

Because dwelling in the sukkah is required only during the holiday of Sukkot, it is a positive time-bound mitzvah. Many women also try to eat in the sukkah whenever possible.

b) The Four Species

Because the mitzvah of lulav and etrog may only be performed during the day, thus making it a positive time-bound mitzvah, women are not obligated to perform the mitzvah of the four species. Many women, however, choose to perform this mitzvah.

c) Synagogue services

Women are not obligated to pray in a minyan (a quorum of 10 men) and are therefore not obligated to attend services at the synagogue, although attendance is strongly recommend for those who are in a position to do so.

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.