"Do-it-yourself" sukkot kits are available
from Jewish bookstores or can be
ordered. It is customary to decorate a
sukkah with Rosh Hashanah cards, draw-
ings, posters and strands of fruit.
Another mitzvah, or commandment, of
Sukkot is to shake the lulav, a palm
branch with myrtle and willow branches
attached, and hold an etrog, a lemon-like
Israeli fruit, while reciting a special bless-
ing. Lulavim and etrogim can be ordered
in advance at many synagogues, temples
and day schools, and also are available at
A fun custom is "sukkah hopping,"
inviting friends over and visiting their
sukkah to share a meal or snack.
The intermediate days are called chol
haMoed, when one may go to work and
engage in other weekday activities.
Oct. 11, 2003
SHEMINI ATZERET/Eighth Day Of Assembly
Shemini Atzeret (Tishrei 22) immediately
follows HoShana Raba on the seventh
day of Sukkot, which is the final day of
judgment (Tishrei 21).
The prayer for rain is recited in
services because this holiday marks the
beginning of the rainy season in Israel.
Yizkor, the memorial prayer for the dead,
also is said at this time. Oct. 18, 2003
SIMCHAT TORAH /Rejoicing In The Torah
Simchat Torah (Tishrei 23), the day after
Shemini Atzeret, is when we complete
the annual cycle of Torah reading and
Both at evening and morning services,
each Torah is taken out of the congrega-
tion's Ark and joyously paraded around
the sanctuary seven times, accompanied
by much dancing and singing. Children
are encouraged to participate, and flags
and apples are traditional treats for them.
Oct. 19, 2003
CHANUKAH/Festival Of Lights
Chanukah is an eight-day festival (Kislev
25-Tevet 2) that celebrates the victory of
the Maccabees over the Hellenized
Assyrians (influenced by the Greeks),
who had outlawed Jewish practices.
While cleaning the desecrated Temple,
the Maccabees found a small jar of oil.
Although it contained enough oil to last
only one day, it miraculously lasted eight.
To commemorate these events, we light
a special eight-branched menorah or can-
delabra, called a chanukiah.
Chanukah customs include giving chil-
dren small gifts of money called gelt,
playing dreidel (a four-sided top), singing
Chanukah songs and eating fried foods
like potato /atkes (pancakes), which recall
the miracle of the oil. Dec. 20, 2003
THE 10TH OF TEVET/A Minor Fast Day
This minor fast day (Tevet 10) recalls
Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem.
Rabbis also use this day to commemorate
those who died in the Holocaust and
whose yahrzeits are not known.
TU B'SHEVAT/Jewish Arbor Day
This holiday (Shevat 15) is the New Year
of the Trees and often marked by con-
tributing to the Jewish National Fund to
have trees planted in Israel.
It also is customary to eat foods and
fruits from the land of Israel. Some people
also attend a Tu b'Shevat seder. It is organ-
ized much like a Passover seder, including
four cups of wine, but starts with white
wine, representing winter, with red added
to each subsequent cup as a sign of the
coming spring. Feb. 7, 2004
PURIM/Feast Of Lots
Purim (Adar 14) marks the victory of
Queen Esther and her relative Mordechai
over the evil Haman, adviser to King
Ahasuerus in ancient Persia. It is tradition-
al to wear costumes on Purim.
Four mitzvot, commandments, are asso-
ciated with Purim: read or listen to Megilat
Esther, the Book of Esther; send shalach
manot, gifts of food, to friends; send matan-
ot le'evyonim, gifts of food or money, to the
poor; enjoy a seuda mitzvah, or feast.
Because Haman is associated with
Amalek, an enemy of the Jewish people,
and we are told in the Bible to blot out
Amalek's name, noisemakers are used
enthusiastically to drown out Haman's
name when it is said during the Megillah
Purim is preceded by Ta'anat Esther
(Adar 13), the Fast of Esther, which was
instituted in honor of this heroine who
fasted as she prayed for the Jewish
people to be saved even as Haman was
plotting their destruction. March 7, 2004
JEWISH HOLIDAYS on page 46
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