September 21, 2011
From Selichot to Simchat Torah
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YOM KIPPUR, or the Day of Atonement, is considered one of the holiest days of the year. We abstain from food or drink for 25 hours, wear white, and immerse ourselves in prayer and repentance.
Oct. 7 (9 Tishrei)
Candle Lighting at 6:11 p.m.
This somber evening service begins with the chanting of the Kol Nidrei, which is meant to absolve us, as a community, of any vows we may make in the upcoming year. Many people have the custom of wearing white to synagogue symbolizing purity.
Oct. 8 (10 Tishrei)
Services begin in the morning and often last all day, with a brief break midafternoon.
NOTE: Fasting is only required for healthy adults. In fact, it is forbidden to fast if it will adversely affect your health. All children and the elderly as well as anyone who takes medication with food or has a medical condition should not fast. There are other ways to have a spiritual “fast,” aside from food.
Dress: Many avoid wearing leather on Yom Kippur, following the commandment to “afflict” themselves or avoid luxuries. So, feel free to wear canvas tennis shoes to services.
Vidui: “Confession.” This is recited during each main prayer throughout Yom Kippur, which lists all the sins we may have committed during the previous year, and asks for God’s forgiveness.
Neilah: This is the “locking” prayer. During this prayer, we each have the ability to access the most essential level of our soul. It is the only service where the ark remains open throughout, signifying that the gates of heaven are wide open to us. The closing Neilah service peaks with the cries of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel ... God is one.” This is immediately followed by a joyful single blast of the shofar.
Break-the-fast: A festive meal to end the 25-hour fast and rejoice.
Oct. 12 (14 Tishrei)
Candle Lighting at 6:05 p.m.
Begins at sundown.
Sukkot, the Season of our Rejoicing, is a seven-day joyous festival that commemorates the protection the Jews found during their 40 years wandering in the desert. The Torah commands: “In sukkahs (booths) you shall dwell, seven days” (Leviticus 23:42). Observant Jews not only eat but also sleep and socialize in a sukkah. Sukkahs must have at least three walls and a roof made out of material that grows from the ground.
Pre-fab sukkah kits can be purchased from online sites and can be assembled without tools.
Ask neighborhood gardeners if you can cut palm tree branches for the roof.
Sukkot, first day: Oct. 13 (15 Tishrei)
Four Species: The Torah describes four species of branches to be bound together during Sukkot. We wave the branches and the etrog in all directions, representing God’s presence everywhere.
Etrog: a fragrant citron resembling a lemon with a thick, white rind.
Lulav: a palm branch with tightly bound leaves and a straight shape.
Hadas: a myrtle branch with a plaited pattern of three leaves.
Arava: a willow branch with smooth-edged oblong leaves.
Four species are available at various Judaica stores and kosher markets.
Four Species prayers:
Hold the four species in your right hand and the etrog in your left hand (reversed if you’re a lefty) with the spines of the branches facing you. Face east and say:
“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al netilat lulav.”
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to raise up the lulav.
Bring the lulav and etrog together and wave them to complete the mitzvah.
EVE OF SHEMINI ATZERET
Oct. 19 (21 Tishrei)
Candle Lighting at 5:56 p.m.
Shemini Atzeret, “The Eighth Day of Assembly”: A holiday of unbridled joy marking the close of Sukkot and paired with Simchat Torah, celebrating the ending and the restarting of the annual Torah-reading cycle.
DAY OF SHEMINI ATZERET
Oct. 20 (22 Tishrei)
Simchat Torah begins at 6:58.
Prayers for rain are featured.
Yizkor (a memorial prayer) is recited, to remember the souls of the deceased.
A festive meal is eaten, although no longer in the sukkah.
In the State of Israel and in some U.S. synagogues, Simchat Torah is combined with Shemini Atzeret observances. Simchat Torah is an exuberant celebration of the completion of the annual cycle of reading the Torah and beginning it anew. In the synagogue, all the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark, and the congregation dances with the Torah scrolls in “seven circuits” (hakafot) amid great joy and singing.
In the words of one Chasidic master, “On Simchat Torah, the Torah scrolls wish to dance, so we become their feet.”
The hakafot are celebrated on the eve of Simchat Torah and then again the following morning.
This is an event for the whole family. Don’t forget your comfortable clothes and shoes for dancing!
For more information, visit chabad.org/holidays.
SIMCHAT TORAH DAY
Oct. 21 (23 Tishrei)
Candle Lighting at 6:58 p.m.
As the annual cycle of Torah reading is concluded, it is customary for everyone to receive an aliyah. There are various creative ways to stretch the eight aliyot to include all attendees. Some synagogues repeat the first five until everyone has had a chance to come up to the Torah. Others divide the congregation into groups for mass aliyot.
After the last word has been read in the Torah, everyone rises and proclaims, Chazak chazak v’nitchazek!: “Be strong! Be strong! And let us strengthen one another!” Then a second Torah is used to read the beginning parashah of Genesis.
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