Useful Notes: Jewish Holidays
Please try not to add natter or unnecessary information. This is not a treatise or lecture on Jewish Holidays; it is Useful Notes.
"We have holidays up the ass! Sometimes I stay home, and I don't even know why!"Most Jewish holidays, as the saying goes, can be described in nine words: "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." With the exception of fasts, when it goes: "They tried to kill us. They managed it. Let's not eat." Having said that, there are quite a few fast days as well. And because there's so much variety in Jewish practice, there is necessarily some Fan Myopia in these descriptions. Unless otherwise stated, the practices described here correspond to Ashkenazi Orthodoxy, which can be seen as a sort of "template" for the others. Since All Jews Are Ashkenazi this is often a default in people's minds. Many Jews are less observant or non-observant and won't strictly follow, or even be aware of, all of these holidays; the ones they are most likely to observe would include Yom Kippur, Passover, and Chanukah. A Jewish holiday is known as a yom tov (literally, "good day"). On any yom tov, one greets a fellow Jew with "Gut Yom Tov" (for those of a European background) or "Chag Same'ach" (for those more Eastern in extraction); the first is Yiddish and the second is Hebrew. There are three kinds of holidays:
- "Major holidays": Holidays which originated in the Torah. On these days, "work" is forbidden in mostly the same way it is on the Sabbath (cooking is allowed on these holidays, as is transferring flame from one already-burning fuel source to another. Starting a new fire is not allowed). This includes operating electrical devices like light switches, riding buses, conducting business, and a myriad other laws. To confuse you further, this is known as a yom tov when compared against chol hamo'ed (below) - but the full holiday is also known as yom tov, so context matters.
- Chol Hamo'ed (literally "the mundane part of the holiday"): On Passover, which is 7 or 8 days long, and Sukkot, which is 8 or 9 days long, only the first one or two and last one or two days are full holidays. The ones in between are more minor, and many different kinds of "work" are permitted. Just how much is permitted depends on how lenient your views are.
- "Minor Holidays": Holidays that originated later than the Torah (that is, in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud). Unlike the major holidays, work during these days is allowed.
- Fast days. No work is forbidden on these, for the most part (except on Yom Kippur), but eating and drinking is forbidden. Unlike most holidays, the minor fast days start from sunrise, not sunset of the previous day (this incidentally makes their rules more or less identical to the fast in Islam). The major ones (Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av) do start from sunset.
- Nisan (Passover)
- Iyar (Lag Ba'Omer)
- Sivan (Shavuot)
- Tammuz (17 Tammuz)
- Av (Tisha B'Av, Tu B'Av)
- Tishrei (Rosh Hashana, Tzom Gedaliah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Torah)
- Marcheshvan, more commonly known as Cheshvan
- Kislev (the first few days of Chanukah)
- Tevet (the last few days of Chanukah, Asara B'Tevet)
- Shvat (Tu Bi'Shvat)
- Adar I (added during leap years)
- Adar or Adar II (Fast of Esther, Purim)
- Among Orthodox Jewry there is actually a great deal of debate over what exactly this requirement for drunkenness means in a practical sense. The general consensus among Modern Orthodox rabbis is that those who can drink in a safe and responsible manner should have something to drink, but not so much that they literally can't differentiate between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman", probably because that level of intoxication also leads to blackouts, drunk driving, assaults, and all sorts of general badness.