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Jewish Holidays

Rosh Hashana

The holiday of Rosh Hashana is on the 1st-2nd of Tishri on the Jewish calendar. It is widely known as the Jewish New year, celebrating a new calendar year. It is a holiday that is written in the Torah, and is one of the Holy Days. Celebrating Rosh Hashana is a Mitzvah.

It is also a mitzvah to go to a synagogue, read the Torah and listen to the shofar. Jews have the custom of wearing white, resembling a new beginning. It’s also customary to eat sweets such as apples and honey in prayer for a sweet new year. A joyful dinner is usually hosted with friends and family as guests.

Rosh Hashana is celebrated for two days in America but it lasts only 1 in Israel.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is observed on the 10th of Tishri and is the day of repentance for Jews. It comes from the Torah and can be found in the story of the golden calf. The Jewish people lost faith in G-d when they didn’t have communication from him and began to worship idols such as the golden calf. They wandered in the dessert and questioned G-d’s path for them. As punishment for their poor behavior and lack of faith, HaShem commanded them to repent for their sins.

It is a commandment to repent on this Holy Day. Jews must fast for the entire 24 hours. Wearing white clothing or even a kittel (Jewish burial garb) resembles humility and cleansing. Jews may not wear leather on this day. Showering or anointing ones body with lotions or makeup is prohibited, as is shaving, haircutting and cutting nails. Jews spend most of the 24 hours in temple praying for forgiveness and acknowledging wrongdoing to G-d, oneself and others. It is customary to apologize to people you have hurt before Yom Kippur begins. The shofar is also blown on this day.

Moshe (Moses) came down from Mount Sinai on this day with the second Torah and that is why it is celebrated at this time.

Yom Kippur is one of the most meaningful holidays for Jews as it gives an opportunity and courage to reflect deeply on ones behavior the past year. Individuals observing the holiday get to take responsibility for neglected and ignored commandments. Asking for forgiveness from people one has hurt (not only friends and family) can be cleansing.


This joyful holiday lasts from the 14th-22nd of Tishri. Sukkot is the festival commemorating the time spent after Jews were freed from Egypt, living in tents. They wandered for 40 years in the desert, with no home.

This holiday is written in the Torah to be celebrated and remembered. It is a mitzvah to recreate a tent (sukkah) and to dwell and eat in it as well. It is customary to dine as much as possible in the sukkah as well as invite people to join. Children enjoy decorating the sukkah with artwork and crafts and take immense pleasure in this 7 day holiday.

Sukkot is a nice time to gather Jewish people together and remember to be grateful for the triumph of the Jewish people. This is a significant holiday for Jews because it represents any time of uncertainty or question in faith.

Simcha Torah

Simcha Torah is the completion of the Torah as it was received orally from G-d to Moses. It is celebrated on the 22-23rd of Tishri and is considered a Rabbinical holiday.

It is a mitzvah to hear Torah being read and join fellow Jews at synogogue. It is customary to celebrate, be joyful, and thank HaShem for the gift of Torah. It lasts for 2 days and is meaningful because the Jews were lost without the ideals and perspective of Torah.


This happy holiday is celebrated on the 25th of Kislev. Chanukah is the story of when Greeks invaded Israel and desecrated the Jewish temple. They massacred most of the Jewish people and left them with no food or oil for heat and light. The Jews left (the Macabees) only had enough oil to burn for one night but miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights. Amazingly, eight nights was exactly the amount of time it took those days to prepare more oil.

This is considered a Rabbinical holiday as it happened after the written Torah. It is a mitzvah to light candles on each night of the eight. The process of lighting the candles is to light the first candle on the right, continuing to the left as the nights pass.

Although Chanukah can be dismissed as a holiday for children and not observed as strictly due to it happening after the Torah, it is a historically and spiritually beautiful holiday. The triumph of the Jewish people and having faith, even when they had no reason for hope is one that inspires resolve and hope.

Tu B’ Shevat

This interesting Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 15th of Shevat. It is meant to celebrate the life of trees. It is stated that one may not eat the fruit from a tree for the first three years. The fruit on the tree on the fourth year is meant for G-d. The fruit may be eaten on the fifth year.

It is customary to eat fruit on this day. Jews also plant trees on this day. While the celebration of the new year for trees is mentioned in the Torah (Mishnah), it is considered to be a rabbinical holiday.


Purim is a joyful, lively holiday celebrated on the 14th or 15th day of Adar. It tells the story of Esther, a very pretty Jewish girl who was chosen to be one of the wives of the Persian king. She was introduced by her cousin, Mordecai, who was one of the main advisors to the king and held high ranking. Mordecai warned Esther to keep her Jewish faith a secret because he feared that if the king or anyone else knew, she would be persecuted. At that time, the Jews were being treated very poorly in the Persian kingdom.

Esther was loved by the king more than any other wife, and became the queen. Problems arose when Mordecai refused to bow down to the king, as Jews are not allowed to bow to anyone or anything but G-d. The king’s advisor Haman, became infuriated by what he saw as disobedience and sought out to destroy Mordecai and fare war on all Jews in the kingdom.

At this time, Esther could no longer keep it a secret that she was Jewish, and the king was persecuting her people. She told the king that she herself was Jewish and begged for him to spare the lives of her people. The king loved Esther so much that he abandoned the plan to persecute the Jews and declared a state of peace for them instead.

The story of Purim is quite a beautiful and triumphant one that is loved by Jews. It tells a story of honor, courage and hope and is a fun holiday to celebrate. It is customary to dress in costume, drink alcohol, and party. It is a special Mitzvah to give Tzadakah (charity) on this day. Jews usually host parties and attend parties held at a synogogue where the Megillah is read and any time Haman’s name is mentioned, loud boo’s and noises get yelled from the audience as though to blot out the sound of Haman’s name. Children love this holiday as there are many sweets and costumes, and is very fun for all.


Passover is perhaps one of the most widely known and celebrated Jewish holidays. It is celebrated on the 15th day of Nissan. The story of Passover is filled with miracles and some of the most direct communication between G-d and man. The Jewish people were slaves of the Egyptian king and were treated with extreme punishment and rule. Moses was a Jewish man that passed as an Egyptian prince. When Moses was an infant, he was found in the river by Bat-ya the princess of Egypt. She took him as her own baby and raised him to adulthood. He later found out his true identity and demanded that the king let the Jewish people free, but the king did not listen. G-d spoke directly to Moses and told him to give the king a message that if he does not free the Jewish slaves, he will unleash havoc upon the Egyptians.

The Pharaoh laughed at Moses’ warning and dismissed him. One of the most terrifying plagues HaShem warned the Pharaoh of was the death of every Egyptian firstborn son. G-d instructed Moses to tell the Jewish people of this plague and mark their doors with lamb’s blood and the plague would “passover” their homes, leaving their sons unharmed. G-d unleashed his 10 plagues upon the Egyptian kingdom, including killing the Pharaoh’s beloved firstborn son. After he lost his son, he released the Jewish people from his reign and they followed Moshe (Moses) into the desert.

Today, Jews remember and pay reverence to the history of slavery in Egypt and the beginning of their freedom. It is also a direct celebration of giving thanks to HaShem (G-d) for being the chosen people. A dinner, also called Seder is held on the first night of Passover and some families have an additional Seder on the second night. It is commanded that during the seven days of Passover, Jews may not eat anything leavened. When Pharoah freed them from slavery, they left Egypt in such a hurry that the bread they took with them did not have adequate time to rise. Matza is the recreation of this part of history.