Friday, October 13, 2006
Celebrating Jewish Holidays
It is a good thing that I got hold of Harry Gersh’s “When a Jew Celebrates,” a Jewish Value Series Book purchased second hand by the ambassador from a thrift book shop somewhere along Ben Yehuda, one of Tel Aviv Israel’s major shopping street.
It was an easy-to-read book, with larger than the normal reading font and complete with colored pictures – perhaps intended to completely own albeit temporarily the reader’s attention into it.
Overall, the book offers its reader a comprehensive look into an important Jewish facet, that is, the Israeli/Jewish holidays, festivals and customs. It also gives a glimpse into the symbolic ceremonies, changes and activities that go with every milestone that happens in a Jewish man’s life.
Jewish marriage for example is a very important event for the Jews that they are even allowed to “sell a Scroll of the Torah to get a wife.” Jewish marriage is elaborate with its two ceremonies; that of betrothal and the actual marriage itself. Such ceremonies are accompanied with great merrymaking, dancing and feasting.
The Jewish holidays are the major discussion in the book. For every season of the Jewish year, meaningful holidays and festivals are to be celebrated. And every time a Jewish holiday is celebrated, automatically a part of the Bible is being retold. Abraham, Isaac and Moses are some of the main characters. And biblical events such as the Exodus are being remembered and even reenacted.
Commemoration of the Jewish holiday means the reenactment of the important biblical events particular to such holiday. This week’s Sukkoth, I got to see a number of huts or Sukkah all around Tel Aviv, even in front of the embassy at Yarkon Park. Simple huts at the park or near the sea shore area. Big, elaborate ones erected in front of restaurants and establishments.
If there is one festival that is joyously celebrated here in Israel, it is the Purim – the time during which everyone seems to be willing to participate in the celebration, party and parade into the streets in masquerades and costumes. But more importantly, Purim is the time for gift giving and acts of charity, especially to the poor and needy.
One thing I learned about the book is that the Jews don’t celebrate just for the heck of it. Bountiful feasts and merriment and family reunions and get-together are not without significance. Of course, prayers seem to be central in the commemoration of any Jewish holiday. The Jewish people pray a lot, whether they are in their synagogue or at their own homes. Every time they pray, the Jews are affirming their connection with God.
The Israelis are indeed serious about their holidays. Jewish holidays and festivals and the colorful yet meaningful celebrations that go with them - they are definitely a significant part of the Jewish kaleidoscope culture.