High Holidays and Sukkot

Simhat Torah: Are There Limits on Innovation?

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb

Simchat Torah: Are There Limits on Innovation? Sources (pdf)
Simchat Torah: Are There Limits on Innovation? E-shiur (pdf)

simchat torah dancingRecently I heard a discussion on whether we can declare a new Jewish holiday.  In fact Yom Ha’Atzma’ut is a newly-created holiday, to celebrate the rebirth of an independent Jewish State.  Needless to say, how it is defined and celebrated continues to be the subject of much debate – halakhic, theological and political.

Simhat Torah is a “recent” holiday, if it should be considered a separate holiday at all.  It has no basis in the Torah and is in fact an embellishment of Shemini Hag Ha’Atzeret, the eighth day of Sukkot.  It has no separate identity liturgically – it is called “Yom HaShemini Hag Ha’Atseret hazeh (zman simhatenu)” in the Amidah and the Kiddush.  The name Simhat Torah was apparently first used in the Geonic period (8th – 10th centuries), in Bavel and Eretz Yisrael and is found in Rashi’s Siddur (11th century, Ashkenaz).   And the practices we now associate with it developed at different times and places, in the Geonic period and later.

Read more ...

Slichot: The 13 Attributes (Midot) – God Teaches Us how to Ask for Divine Forgiveness

By Vered Hollander Goldfarb of the Bible faculty and Rabbi Gail Diamond, Associate Director

Slichot 13 Midot Sourcesheet (pdf)
Slichot 13 Midot E-shiur (pdf)

The section known as “God’s 13 Attributes (midot)”, from Exodus 34:6-7, forms the heart of the Slichot (Forgiveness) prayers of the High Holiday season. Along with Birkhat Kohanim and Kriat Shma, it, as Torah verse, is amongst the oldest texts in Jewish liturgy, but unlike the priestly blessing, it was not originally meant as prayer. Its development into this role is fascinating historically and spiritually.

Read more ...

Zohar on the Holidays of Tishrei

By Dr. Shaiya Rothberg, Teacher in Bible and Jewish Thought

Zohar on the Holidays of Tishrei Sourcesheet
Zohar on the Holidays of Tishrei E-shiur

Jewish life constitutes a mosaic of ritual, law and narrative. Our most sacred text, the Five Books of Moses, weaves these elements into the holy story around which we build our lives as Jews and from which we derive the precepts of Jewish law and religion. The holidays of Tishrei are all rooted in that story of creation, covenant, slavery and redemption. This rootedness involves not only the legal codes that God reveals to Moses at different stages of the narrative, but also the sacred plot itself: Our sages discovered connections between Rosh Hashanah and the creation of the world. Sukkot is explicitly associated in the Torah with the Exodus. And the sages calculate Yom Kippur as the very day on which God fully forgave His People Israel for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Read more ...

The Scarlet Tongue and the Goats of Yom Kippur

Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, Director, The Conservative Yeshiva, Jerusalem

The Goats of Yom Kippur Sourcesheet (pdf)
The Goats of Yom Kippur E-Shiur (pdf)

The Biblical Holiday – Purity and Goats

Unlike Rosh Hashanah, which receives minimal mention in the Torah, Yom Kippur is dealt with at length.  Leviticus 16 describes the annual Yom Kippur ritual, centered on a series of sacrifices and sprinklings of blood on the altar, all to purify the Mishkan (the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the Temple in Jerusalem) and make it fit for the Shechinah (God’s presence) to dwell among Bnei Yisrael.

Read more ...

High Holidays: The Third of Tishrei – For Whom to Fast?

By R. Shlomo Zacharow

As we rush back to our daily routines following the majestic two day Rosh Hashanah, it is easy to overlook the third day of Tishrei, Tzom Gedaliah, a minor fast.  When the First Temple was destroyed, in 586 BCE, a remnant of Jews was left in the land, and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah ben Ahikam to rule over them.  Radical segments of the Jewish population viewed him as a Babylonian puppet and collaborator, and a Jew killed him, removing the last vestige of Jewish sovereignty in theland ofIsrael.

Read more ...