Jewish Liturgical Year

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Fasts and Feasts

Replica of the Temple menorah, made by The Temple Institute

I have started this outline with "Rosh Hashanah," the Jewish feast that celebrates the start of their liturgical New Year. This represents a modern bias created by the arbitrary astronomical tradition of using January 1 as the beginning of the solar New Year. The Hebrew mindset was different, as indicated by the numbering of the months.[1] For them, Nissan (March-April) is the first month and Rosh Hashana takes place in Tishri (September-October), the seventh month of the year.

name date
7. Tishri (September-October).
There are 13 days of special religious significance in Tishri, 7 of them holidays on which work is not permitted.[2]
Rosh Hashanah 1-2 Tishri "Rosh Hashanah" means "Head of the Year." It is the Hebrew way of saying "New Year's Day."
Fast of Gedaliah 3 Tishri A fast from dawn until dusk to lament the assassination of Gedaliah, son of Achikam, the righteous governor of Judah circa 582-581 BC, which ended Jewish rule following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC.
Yom Kippur 10 Tishri 25-hour fast; end of High Holy Days. Five prayer services; public confession of sins.
Sukkot 15 Tishri Pilgrimage feast. "Feast of Booths" or "Tabernacles."
Hoshanah Rabbah 21 Tishri "Great Hoshana" or "Great Supplication." End of Sukkot, and last of the Days of Judgment. Seven circuits of the interior of the synagogue are made in procession by the congregation. "I wash my hands in purity and circle around Your altar, O Lord" (Psalms 26:6).
Shemini Atzeret 22 Tishri "Eighth Day of the Assembly."
Simchat Torah 22 or 23 Tishri Conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of the next cycle.
8. Cheshvan (October-November)
9. Kislev (November-December)
Chanukah 25th Kislev
10. Tevet (December-January)
Fast of Tevet 10 10 Tevet A minor fast, from sunrise to sunset. Commemorates the siege of Jersualem that began on 10 Tevet and led to the destruction of Solomon's Temple in 587 BC.
11. Shevat (January-February)
Tu B'Shevat 15 Shevat "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot"--"New Year of the Trees." One of four "New Years" in the Mishnah.
12. Adar (February-March)
Ta'anit Esther 13 Adar "Fast of Esther." Dawn until dusk on the eve of Purim. Commemorates three-day fast of the Jews recounted in the book of Esther.
Purim 14 Adar Commemorates rescue of the Jews in Persa from Haman, as told in the book of Esther. "We are also commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordecai,' though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation."[3]
Shushan Purim 15 Adar The date for the Purim festival in Jerusalem. Shushan was the capital city of the Persian Empire.
1. Nissan (March-April)
Pesah 15 Nissan "Pesah" has the guttural "h" at the end: Pesach. The English word Passover comes from the fact that the angel of death "passed over" the homes of those who heard and obeyed Moses' command to place the blood of a lamb on the lintels of their household (Ex 12:11-13). This is arguably the most important part of the Jewish liturgical calendar.
2. Iyar (April-May)
Second Passover 15 Iyar "Pesach Sheni." One month after Passover. This gave Jews who could not attend the first Passover a chance to make a Passover sacrifice.
Lag B'Omer 18 Iyar Literally, "33rd Day in the Counting of the Omer." Anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a disciple of Rabbi Akiva. "Scholar's festival." Bonfires and merrymaking.
3. Sivan (May-June)
Shavuot 6 Sivan Literally, "Weeks," hence "Feast of Weeks." Seven weeks and one day after Passover (50 days = "Pentecost" in Greek). Festival of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Wikipedia, "Shavuot"
The date of Shavuot is directly linked to that of Passover. The Torah mandates the seven-week Counting of the Omer, beginning on the second day of Passover and immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the Giving of the Torah. On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.
4. Tammuz (June-July)
Shiv'ah Asar b'Tammuz 17 Tammuz The fast of the 17th of Tammuz commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. It marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B'Av.
5. Av (July-August)
Tish'a B'Av 9 Av
Wikipedia, "Tisha B'Av"
The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. Although primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temples, it is also considered appropriate to commemorate other Jewish tragedies that occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, one of the concluding events of the Iberian Reconquista. Accordingly, the day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history."
The fast lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ending at nightfall the next day. In addition to the prohibitions against eating or drinking, observant Jews also observe prohibitions against washing or bathing, applying creams or oils, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in marital relations. In addition, mourning customs similar to those applicable to the shiva period immediately following the death of a close relative are traditionally followed for at least part of the day, including sitting on low stools, refraining from work and not greeting others.
6. Elul (August-September)

Jewish Fasting Tradition

"'They had established for themselves and their descendants the matters of the fasts and their cry' (Esther 9:31). This verse actually refers to the four fasts which relate to mourning for the Temple."[4]


  1. Judaism 101, "Months of the Year."
  2. Judaism 101, "Tishri."
  3. Judaism 101, "Purim."
  4. Wikipedia, "Fast of Esther."