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A Brief Summary of Jewish Holidays - Mo's Journal — LiveJournal
October 19th, 2007
11:47 am


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A Brief Summary of Jewish Holidays

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[User Picture]
Date:October 19th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
I notice that the Israeli and Reform Jews seem to get consistently fewer holidays—is there a reason for that?)

Well they get fewer holiday *days* albeit not fewer holidays. Yes, there's a reason, and it's historical. Originally the holidays had fewer days - if you look at a bible you'll see that the festivals of Passover and Sukkot, for example, were each a week long. As I said elsewhere it's a lunar calendar, so everything is pegged to the New Moon. In ancient times - pre-telescopes, pre-predictive calendars - people looked at the sky to determine when the new moon was and then started the holiday accordingly. In Temple times this was done in Jerusalem (holy city, where the Temple was) for the whole nation. And then bonfires were lit on the hills of Jerusalem to indicate the new moon. And people close enough to see the fires would light fires of their own on high places and so on and so on, so the whole country knew.

But then comes the destruction of the Temple and the Diaspora (dispersion of the Jews). Each community had to figure the right day for themselves, because there's no way they could see bonfires in Israel. So to be more sure they got the right day for important holidays, they added one - sort of hedging their bets. But that never applied to Israel.

The Reform movement decided that there's no need to do that anymore because we have calendars and telescopes and TV and radios and we all know what the right days are. The Orthodox movement kept to the extra-days-in-the-Diaspora bit because that's what it says to do in the Talmud. The Conservative movement is somewhere in the middle - less bound by talmudic pronouncements but not willing to change halakha (Jewish law) without good reason. And I'd say it has kept the extra days because it's conserving a tradition that people in the Diaspora found meaningful in its own right (which is where the name comes from - it's nothing to do with politics).

I'm glad you found the post useful and that you noticed the USAmerican thing :-).

Now I have to quickly put some food together for a pot luck at my shul tonight. There's dinner and a lecture on Jewish Traditions of Social Justice after Erev Shabbat services and I'm really looking forward to it!
[User Picture]
Date:October 24th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
Well they get fewer holiday *days* albeit not fewer holidays.

Er, that's what I meant, yeah. :) (Slight confusion in dual use of word: "holiday" = "day off work" vs. "holiday" = "holy day")

Anyway, thanks for answering my question. That explanation never would have occurred to me, and I think it's really interesting!
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