Posts Tagged ‘Judaism’
Jewish communities around the world are currently observing Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew)–one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar. So wish your Jewish friends chag sameach (happy festival)! Passover is a week-long celebration that takes place each year in early Spring, this year taking place between April 10-18th. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and God’s sparing or “passing over” Jewish homes during the final plague in Egypt. According to the Biblical story, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, taking with them only unleavened bread. As a reminder of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, Jews today refrain from eating anything containing leaven (chametz) during Passover, eating unleavened products such as matzah (a type of flatbread) instead. Jews also eat matzah with bitter herbs such as horseradish, in remembrance of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Learn about Passover traditions in the CultureGrams Israel report.
Test your knowledge of Judaism with this quiz
For the second year in a row tomorrow, two of the holiest days on the Jewish and Islamic calendars, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha fall on the same day. Prior to 2014, this had not happened for 30 years. Last year, because of mounting tensions between Jews and Muslims, there was concern about the threat of violence, especially considering the contrasting nature of the two holidays.
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is considered to be the holiest day of the year in Judaism and ends the 10-day time of repentance know as the High Holy Days. It is a solemn, reflective occasion during which Jews stay indoors and fast. In Israel, activity largely comes to a halt, as most people abstain from driving, and airports, businesses and trains shut down. This has led to a phenomenon known as “bicycle day,” during which secular Israelis take advantage of the lack of traffic to spend the day biking, skating and getting out into the empty streets.
Eid al-Adha comes at the end of the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca made by millions of Muslims each year. It celebrates the story of Abraham (or Ibrahim), whose faith was tested when he was told by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham was ready to follow through but was stopped by an angel at the last moment and ended up sacrificing a ram instead. Eid al-Adha is holiday of celebration, feasting and getting out to be with family.
One thing that the two holidays have something in common: goats. According to this article, Jewish communities of old chose a goat to carry all of their sins and then cast it into the wilderness, a tradition that gave us the word “scapegoat.” In Islam, goats are ritually slaughtered to represent Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram.
Surprisingly, these two holidays have nothing to do with the Autumnal Equinox, which also occurs this September 23. It is just a fluke of the Jewish, Islamic and Gregorian calendars in 2015. We think of fall as a time when the temperature begins to drop, the leaves begin changing color and football season gets into full gear. But, what is an equinox? It is a change in the seasons in which the sun is at a 90-degree angle to the earth’s equator at noon and the length of the day is equal to the length of the night. Basically, before the fall equinox, the sun is up for more than half the day and after the equinox it is up for less than half. This lessening of the amount of sunlight is why we begin to get relief from the summer temperatures and the trees start their annual show of color. Oh, and if you have heard that the only time you can stand an egg on its end is on an equinox, click here.
Happy autumn, and happy birthday to Autumn (my wife, that is).
Religion plays a major role in shaping the cultures of countries around the world. In CultureGrams’ World Edition, each country report features a religion section with facts about a country’s major religions. Judaism is the oldest religion and one of the three Abrahamic religions, also including Christianity and Islam.
Test your knowledge of Judaism by answering these religion trivia questions.
1) Which country has the largest Jewish population?
2) What does the Hebrew greeting Shalom mean in English?
3) What is the name of Judaism’s dietary law?
4) What is the Jewish place of worship called?
5) According to Jewish law, boys (age 13) and girls (age 12) perform what rite of passage in order to become an adult?
6) When do Jews observe the Sabbath?
7) During Passover, also known by it’s Hebrew name Pesach, Jews cleanse their home of what food item?
8) True or false: Jews are unable to use electricity during Shabbat.
9) What is considered the ultimate act of kindness?
10) What is the name of the Jewish Holy Book?
Check your answers with the quiz key in the comment section. Let us know how you did by leaving a comment.