O level Notes : FRS - Judaism -Sacred days In Judaism

Judaism observe sacred days namely the Sabbath, Passover, Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), Feast of Weeks, New moon, Feast of Gedalia among others.


They observe sacred days namely the Sabbath, Passover, Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), Feast of Weeks, New moon, Feast of Gedalia among others.


The requirement is to refrain from work on these days. Any “creative constructive work” was not allowed. Sabbath work restrictions are only put aside in cases of saving human and animal life. Sabbath is not observed based on a calendar date, but simply at intervals of seven days. The Sabbath never needs to be observed for two days. It begins just before sundown Friday night and ends at nightfall Saturday night with a blessing. It is ushered by lighting candles and reciting a blessing. Traditionally, three festive meals are eaten in the evening, in the early afternoon and late in the afternoon. People enjoy the three meals through the course of the day. God was the first one to observe it in Genesis creation stories. There are 39 categories of prohibitions and among the prohibitions there are disagreements between the Orthodox Jews and the Conservative Jews. The strict observance of the Sabbath is often seen as the benchmark for one to be viewed as a true Jew.

Passover or Pesach

Jews celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. Passover commences on the 15th  of Hebrew month of Nisan (April) and last for seven days. It is also known as the “festival of unleavened Bread”. It is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. It commemorates the fact that the Israelites left Egypt so quickly that their bread did not have enough time to rise. This is the reason why all leavened food is eliminated.

There is an ordered ritual meal eaten on the first night of the Passover. This meal is known for its distinctive ritual foods namely unleavened bread (matzo), bitter herbs (maror) and four cups of wine. Passover lasts seven days in Israel as stated in Exodus 12:15.The Pesach Sheni is a day prescribed in the Torah to allow those who did not participate in Passover to do so. These may have failed because of distance from Jerusalem on Passover or those who were ritually impure and ineligible to participate in sacrificial offering.

Feast of Booths or Tabernacles

It is a seven-day festival known as Feast of Booths or feast of Tabernacles. It is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals. It commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. They celebrate the way in which God protected them under difficult desert conditions. Jews are commanded to “dwell” in booths during the holiday. This generally means taking meals in booths but some sleep in the booths (Sukkah) as well. The important ritual unique to this holiday is the use of four species of trees namely, lulav (palm), hadass (myrtle), aravah (willow) and etrog (citron). The main notable custom on this holiday is the celebrations of the Torah. The last weekly Torah portion is read from Deuteronomy, followed by the reading of the first chapter of Genesis.

Feast of Weeks, Pentecost or Shavuot

It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals ordained in the Torah. It is different from other holidays in that the date for it is not explicitly fixed in the Torah. It is observed on the day following the 49th and final day in the counting of the calendar. It is a one-day holiday. According to rabbinic tradition, the Ten Commandments were given on this day. During this holiday the Torah chapter containing the Ten Commandments is read in the synagogue. It is traditional to eat dairy meals during this festival. All night Torah study is common on the first night of shavvot (feast of Weeks/ Pentecost). The shavvot marks the time that the Jews were given the Torah on Mt. Sinai. It is considered a highly historical event.

New moon

It is a minor holiday or observance occurring on the first day of each month of the Jewish calendar, as well as the last day of the preceding month if it has 30 days. There is observance of the custom that women be excused from certain types of work. Fasting is normally prohibited on this festival. The date of the forthcoming festival is announced in the synagogue on the preceding Sabbath.

Fast of Gedalia

The fast of Gedalia is a minor Jewish fast day. It is a day set aside to commemorate the assassination of the governor of Judah, Gedalia, the Babylonian- appointed official charged with administering the Jewish population remaining in Judah following the destruction of the Temple. As expected on all fast days, fasting from dawn to dusk is required. A Torah reading is included in prayers. Just as fasts were ordained to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish temple, likewise the fast was ordained to commemorate the death of Gedalia.

Day ofAtonement orYom Kippur

This is the holiest day of the year for Jews. Its main theme is atonement and reconciliation which is accomplished through prayer and complete fasting. It involves fasting by all adults from all food and drink, bathing, wearing of perfume or cologne, wearing of leather shoes, as well as sexual relationships. All the fastings are meant to ensure one's attention is completely focused on the quest for atonement with God. It also has work related restrictions identical to those of the Sabbath. The fast and other prohibitions start at sunset and mark the beginning of the day in Jewish traditions. Yom Kippur is considered as the happiest day of the year.