The Torah teaches us that Shabbat, Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, is the first among our sacred days.
At the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service we usher in Shabbat with traditional songs including Lecha Dodi. During the Saturday Shabbat Morning service we read from the Torah and Haftarah and the rabbi gives a D’var Torah on the weeks’ Parashat. Learn more about Shabbat at UT. Read some of Rabbi Emerita Goodman’s reflections on the weekly Torah portion.
The Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) are a time for reflecting on the year past and the year to come. We affirm our partnership with God and commit ourselves to tikkun olam (repairing the world). This Season of Teshuvah (Repentance) obligates us to make amends for our transgressions and to effect reconciliation with others.
UT’s special High Holy Day children’s services are noted for their warmth and music and accessibility. They begin a hour before the adult services so that parents may attend with their children. Professional child care is available at no cost in our large preschool playroom during the adult services so parents of young children are able to attend.
Sukkot, meaning “booths” is the festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. We celebrate Sukkot five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of Tishrei. We follow the commandment to dwell in booths by erecting a sukkah (a temporary booth) and by waving the four species: the lulav (palm branch), the aravah (willow leaves), hadas (myrtle leaves), and etrog (citron). The UT sukkah was specially designed to roll through our front doors, which face onto busy Eastern Parkway, and is assembled every year by our Brotherhood and beautifully decorated by our Religious School students.
Sukkot resources from URJ.
At the conclusion of Sukkot, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Following liberal Jewish custom, we combine these two into one holiday on the day after the conclusion of Sukkot. Shemini Atzeret marks the beginning of the rainy season in Israel and therefore we add the year’s first prayer for rain. Simchat Torah is the celebration of the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of the next. We express our joy in receiving Torah with hakafot (joyful dancing with the Torah) around the sanctuary.
Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah resources from URJ.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem on the 25th of Kislev in 164 BCE. after it had been defiled by the oppressive Syrian King Antiochus. Under the military leadership of Judah the Maccabee the Jews defeated the Syrians, re claimed the Temple and cleansed it. As related by rabbinic tradition there was only enough oil to keep the Eternal Light ablaze for one day, but it burned for the entire eight days of the rededication. Commemorating this miracle, we light the Hanukkah menorah for eight consecutive nights and eat foods fried in oil, including latkes, potato pancakes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). It is also traditional to play dreidel and, in the Western world, to give gifts.
Hanukkah resources from URJ.
The festival of Tu BiSh’vat (meaning the 15th of the month of Sh’vat) is the New Year for Trees. Originally, it was the date on which farmers in the land of Israel judged the suitability of their fruit to be brought as offerings to the Temple. Today, we hold a seder and eat three types of fruits and nuts traditionally associated with Israel: those with hard, inedible exteriors and soft edible insides like oranges and walnuts; fruits with soft exteriors and a hard pit inside, such as dates and olives; and fruit we eat whole including figs and berries. We also drink four cups of wine of different colors symbolizing the four seasons: white wine; white with some red; red with some white; and finally all red. A prominent feature of the modern celebration is a contribution to Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (the Jewish National Fund) for the planting of tress and environmental preservation projects.
Tu BiSh’vat resources from URJ.
Purim, the one time a year when we are commanded to silly and irreverent, celebrates the story of Esther, as told in the Megillah (Scroll of Esther). Esther rises to be Queen of Persia under the
guidance of her uncle Mordecai and ultimately thwarts a plot by the evil grand vizier Haman to kill the Jews. During the reading of the Megillah, we blot out the name of Haman by making noise with groggers every time that his name is mentioned. We perform a Purim shpiel (a satirical play), dress in costume, hold a Purim carnival, eat hamantaschen (triangular filled pastries) and distribute mishloah manot (food baskets) to friends and those in need.
Purim resources from URJ.
Pesach, also known as Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, our liberation from Egyptian bondage. We are required to remove all leavened foods from our homes for seven days. The central ritual of Pesach is the seder, a carefully choreographed ritual meal. Different food displayed on the seder plate help us tell the story of our liberation as told in the Haggadah. Most families hold a seder at home on the first night of Passover; members and friends may join together at Union Temple for a community seder on the second night.
Pesach-Passover resources from URJ.
On Yom HaShoah Union Temple joins with other synagogues in our community to commemorate the loss of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. This deeply moving program includes talks by Holocaust survivors or their children, readings, music, and prayer.
Yom HaShoah resources from URJ.
These two holidays celebrate the birth of the State of Israel. On Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), the 4th of Iyar, we contemplate the lives lost in conflict since the founding of the state. It concludes with a ceremony that transitions to the joyful Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), on the 5th of Iyar, when we celebrate the miracle that is the State of Israel and affirm the central Jewish value of love of Israel. On these days we recommit ourselves to supporting the people of Israel in their effort to build a modern state that lives up to the aspirations of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
Yom HaZikaron & Yom HaAtzmaut resources from URJ.
Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), is celebrated 50 days after the first seder of Passover. This period is called Sefirat Ha’omer (Counting of the Omer), and is when the spring grain is harvested. Shavuot also marks the giving of the Torah and the Jews’ entering into the covenant with God. It is traditional to eat dairy products on this holiday and to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night study session.
Shavuot resources from URJ.
Tishah B’Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av) is traditionally considered a time of mourning for the Jewish people as it commemorates the tragic events that befell our ancestors including, most notably, the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem as enumerated in Mishna Taanit 4:6. The haftarot read on the preceding 3 Shabbatot known as the three Sermons of Rebuke, prepare us for this day of mourning. As Reform Jews we do not seek the restoration of Temple worship and the meaning of the holiday has shifted to an identification with our people’s history.
Tishah B’Av resources from URJ.