CATHOLIC-JEWISH Women's DIALOGUE
September 14, 2020.
This month the Jewish community will be celebrating the High Holidays - the Days of Awe.
The ten days of the high holidays start with Rosh Hashanah (start of the New Year) and end with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the concept that God has books and God writes our names in the books, indicating who shall live and who shall die, who will have a good life and who will not. These books are inscribed on Rosh Hashanah. Our actions during the Days of Awe can alter God's decree. The actions that can change the decree are "Teshuvah, Tefilah, and Tzedakah" - Repentance, Prayer, Good Deeds, usually Charity. The idea of writing in books is the source of the common greeting during this time :May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year".
The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only between people and God. Therefore, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. To atone for sins against another person, you must seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. Traditionally, Jews will fast throughout Yom Kippur and attend synagogue for most of the day.
This year will be different form any other year. Services will be virtual. At the end of the Yom Kippur fasting there will be no "Break the Fast" with family and friends. But we will still gather around our computers and greet each other on Zoom.
Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, means dedication, as it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. The story is told in the Book of Maccabees.
Judea became part of the Seleucid Empire of Syria in 200BC and the King guaranteed his new Jewish subjects their right to "live according to their ancestral customs". However, 25 years later a new King came to power. He invaded Jerusalem, looted the Temple, and ordered an altar to Zeus to be erected in it and had pigs sacrificed at the altar. This provoked a large-scale, successful revolt by the Jewish population led by Judah Maccabee. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. Specially processed oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, as it was required to burn throughout the night every night. Only one flask of oil was found and it had only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil. The eight-day festival of Chanukah was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.
Chanukah is celebrated by lighting candles each night. One candle is lit the first night, two candles the second night, until the final 8th night when all candles are lit. Traditionally, food fried in oil is eaten, potato latkes by Ashkenazi Jews, and jelly donuts by Sephardic Jews. Children are given a small gift each night, and a game of dreidel (spinning top) is often played. The top has 4 Hebrew letters, that stand for “A great miracle happened” there. Depending on which letter it falls on, you either take or put gelt, foil covered chocolate candy, into the pot.
The dates of Chanukah are set by the lunar calendar, so on our calendar it will start on December 10th this year. The Hebrew date is always the 25th day of Kislev.