Gordon Tours Israel Blog

Everything you need to know about the Jewish holidays of Tishrei

Icon October 10, 2019
Icon By Shai Navon
Icon 0 comments

Seasons Greetings! In Israel, the holiday season is upon us. This year the Jewish month of Tishrei nearly coincides with the entire month of October. The first holiday of the month is Rosh Hashana, followed by Yom Kippur (on the tenth), then rolling right into the week-long holiday of Sukkot which begins on the 13th of the month. Each holiday is significant in its own right, but together they mark a break in the usual busy pace of life and allow both locals and tourists a unique perspective of the traditions of the modern, Jewish people.

Rosh Hashana- the Jewish New Year

Jewish Shofar

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, 5780. Unlike the secular calendar, it is not a day celebrated with revelry. Instead, the shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown throughout Rosh Hashana as a reminder to use this special time for repentance and reconnection. It is a holiday customarily spent in a synagogue and with festive, family-centered meals. Other food-related customs include eating apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, and the head of an animal or fish. Many people also eat special foods from their former homelands.

Prayers

The following ten days are called The Ten Days of Repentance, and many use this time to work on repairing their spiritual and interpersonal relationships. Some choose to ceremonially purge one’s sins at a body of free-flowing water, a custom that can be seen performed at the Mediterranean sea and other bodies of water during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur – the holiest day

Yom Kippur

The tenth day of the month is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. A 25-hour fast from sundown to nightfall sets the tone for the country. Many people customarily wear white garments to signify spiritual purity. People take on a different pace. Even the national radio broadcasting shuts down for the day! The typically traffic-clogged Israeli highways experience a hiatus as many spend the day in communal prayer or in contemplation. Others take advantage of the day to bike through urban areas, unimpeded by cars and trucks. At the end of the day, the shofar is blown and people gather in their homes with their families to break the fast.

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Sukkot

Sukkot

Five days later, it’s time for another celebration: The week-long holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Referencing the Israelite’s period of wandering in the desert and the ancient Israelite festival associated with the fall harvest, Jews build huts to live in for the next seven days. These huts (“Sukkot” in Hebrew) pop up on balconies, backyards and roofs (apartment balconies in Israel are actually designed to be able to construct these huts). Aside from prayer and food, Sukkot features a few unique customs: The Lulav (palm branches) and Etrog (citron) are a medley of four species (including the myrtle and willow) that are held together and blessed each day. Look out for the Lulav – they are spikey! Since children are out of school, music and cultural festivals throughout the country are popular and well attended during the intermediate days of this holiday.

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah

Culminating the season is Simchat Torah. This holiday is a celebration of the Jewish people’s devotion to the Torah, and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new one. The holiday once again revolves around family, food and prayers. Watch out for singing and dancing in the streets, sometimes accompanied by the Torah scrolls!

The month of Tishrei is a treasure of traditions, old and new. While touring the country during this festive month, you’ll be sure to feel the unique richness of the Jewish holidays that will inspire joy for you and your loved ones in the coming year. Shana Tova!

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