Rituals and Worship

Title: A sacrifice containing an omer (a measure) of barley was sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:High_Priest_Offering_Sacrifice_of_a_Goat.jpgOnly the first and final days (in the Diaspora, the first and final two days) of Pesach are considered "sacred days of convocation," akin to Shabbat. The intermediate four days of these festivals are called hol ha-mo'ed, literally mundane days of the festival, during which special holiday prayers are recited daily, but the restrictions against labor do not apply. Aside from the seder, the most distinctive regulation governing the observance of Pesach is the strict dietary laws that prohibit the consumption of any leavened, or grain-based, food or drink.

Title: Moses receives the Torah on Mt. Sinai Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideacreamanuelapps/3542205854/The one-day festival of Shavuot (Pentecost: observed in the Diaspora for two days), occurs seven weeks after Pesach, at the conclusion of the period of Omer-counting—a daily ceremony rooted in the ancient spring wheat-harvest ceremonies performed by the Israelite priests in the Jerusalem Temple. Although originally a pilgrimage celebration of the early spring harvest in the Land of Israel, after the expulsion of the Jews from Israel the rabbis associated Pentecost with the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Shavuot is therefore commonly referred to in rabbinic literature, and in the holiday's liturgy, as the "day of the Torah's presentation."

Title: sounding the shofar Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96683394@N00/1370211842/Rosh Ha-shanah is the Jewish New Year that inaugurates the Ten Days of Penitence, which conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Observed for two days both in Israel and the Diaspora, Rosh Ha-shanah commemorates the world's creation, and is marked by very lengthy prayer services whose main themes are acknowledgement of God as Creator and Ruler of the Universe and implorations for forgiveness of sins. Title: Abraham nearly sacrifices his son Isaac (see the replacement, a ram, in the right corner) Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rzrxtion/2716721503/The most dramatic aspect of the services on Rosh Ha-shanah is the sounding of the shofar, a ram's horn, intended as a call for penitential return to God, and a reminder of the ram whose sacrifice replaced that of Isaac, whom his father Abraham was willing to offer to God.

Ten days after Rosh Ha-shanah, Jews observe the fast day of Yom Kippur, the most holy and austere day of the Jewish calendar. In addition to Shabbat restrictions that apply to Yom Kippur, this holy day includes a regimen of ascetic restrictions. From sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur until nightfall the next day, Jews are prohibited from any eating or drinking, bathing, sexual relations, anointing in body oils and creams, and the wearing of any leather garments, including shoes.

Title: Many Jews set up a “booth” in their yards to commemorate the Israelites’ dwelling in the Sinai desert Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronalmog/1447782563/Five days after Yom Kippur, Jews celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles), a seven-day pilgrimage festival commemorating the fall harvest, as well as recalling the booths in which the Israelites dwelled during their forty-year sojourn in the Sinai desert. The day following the end of Sukkot is a festival called Shmini Atseret/Simchat Torah, celebrated immediately after Sukkot and sometimes called the "eighth day" of the festival (observed as two separate days in the Diaspora).

Title: Purim parade in Israel Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronalmog/2352340000/in/set-72157604203489495/In addition to Shabbat and these five biblical Festivals, the Jewish calendar also includes a host of minor, "post-biblical" holidays. Purim, a late-winter festivity, commemorates the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia from annihilation, based on the account in the biblical Book of Esther. Aside from the ceremonial recitation in synagogue of the entire Book of Esther both during the evening and morning Purim services, the holiday is celebrated as a carnival, featuring masquerading (to commemorate Queen Esther's hiding her true Jewish identity from the Persian King), feasting and drinking of alcoholic beverages, and a festive late afternoon meal. Jews are expected to exchange gifts of food with one other, and give alms to the poor on Purim. On account of its carnivalesque nature, Purim is often compared to the Catholic celebration of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, before Lent.

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