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The Jewish Calendar

All These Vows All These Vows
Friday, October 7, 2011 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

No one knows for sure how Kol Nidrei originated. It is by far the best-known Yom Kippur prayer, but in fact it is neither a prayer nor actually recited on Yom Kippur. Rabbis have never liked it.
Pay to Pray? Pay to Pray?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 by Jack Wertheimer | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In the middle decades of the 20th century they were called "mushroom synagogues." They popped up in the waning days of summer to provide High Holiday services, then disappeared at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. Today, "mushroom synagogues" are once again in vogue—but with a critical difference.
Rosh Hashanah with the Chief Rabbi Rosh Hashanah with the Chief Rabbi
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Ten years ago, the first day of Rosh Hashanah—the two-day Jewish New Year—fell on September 18. That was one week after September 11, 2001, when almost 3,000 people were killed by Muslim terrorists. On that Rosh Hashanah, rabbis did not lack for sermon topics.
The Forgotten Festival The Forgotten Festival
Monday, June 6, 2011 by Michael Carasik | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The holiday of Shavuot, which begins this year on Tuesday evening, is the orphan among Jewish holidays; it is the forgotten festival. Let me count the ways.
Telling Jewish Time Telling Jewish Time
Monday, April 11, 2011 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The most acclaimed Jewish Bible commentary opens with a question. Why, asks Rashi (1040–1105), does the Torah begin with the account of creation, when it should properly have begun with God's revelation of His very first law to Moses on the eve of the Exodus from Egypt: "This month shall be for you the first of months"?
Manger’s M’gilah, and Ours Manger’s M’gilah, and Ours
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Part of the strangeness of the biblical book of Esther lies, oddly, in its very familiarity. It takes place in a world where God hardly figures, where prophecy is but a memory, where lust, vanity, and arrogance call the tunes, and where flat-out redemption is too much to hope for.
Of Calendars and Controversy Of Calendars and Controversy
Thursday, February 10, 2011 by Michael Carasik | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

It's the month of Adar, and in Jewish tradition, the beginning of Adar always means an "increase in joy."  After all, the festive holiday of Purim, on Adar 15, is just two weeks away—or would be in a normal year.
Cyrus, Ahmadinejad, and the Politics of Purim Cyrus, Ahmadinejad, and the Politics of Purim
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 by Alex Joffe | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Anyone who deplores the politicization of the past should have been apoplectic in September 2010 at the sight of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receiving the loan of the "Cyrus Cylinder" from officials of the British Museum.
Be Joyful Be Joyful
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Alongside the more colorful and distinctive rituals of the Sukkot festival—the taking-up of lulav and etrog, the sukkah itself—there is another command, less concrete and more penetrating: "And you will rejoice." Indeed, the passage in Deuteronomy (16: 14-15) concludes, v'hayita akh sameah, translatable as "you will be altogether joyful," or even "you will be only joyful."
Creations Creations
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, marks the creation of the world. Or does it? The Torah refers to Rosh Hashanah, although not by that name, as the first day of "the seventh month" (Leviticus 23:24)—the seventh, that is, if you're counting from Nisan, the month of Passover. That month is designated as the beginning of the year in the first act of the Exodus: "This month will mark for you the first of the months; it will be, for you, the first month of the year" (Exodus 12:2). Like revolutionaries everywhere, the Israelites wanted a new calendar. 
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Editors' Picks
It's a Bird! It's a Challah! Leah Koenig, Forward. Rolls shaped like birds, symbols of divine protection and mercy, are among traditional Ashkenazi foods for Rosh Hashanah and the meal before Yom Kippur.
The Month of Love Reuven Hammer, Jerusalem Post. Tonight, we inaugurate the Hebrew month of Elul—a month whose very name reminds us of the closeness and mutuality of our relationship to God.
The Standing Devotion Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line. In 1706, Isaac Abendana published Discourses of the Ecclesiastical and Civil Polity of the Jews; it includes a précis, reproduced here, of the 18 sections of the Amidah, the central daily prayer.
The Gift of Rest Michael Medved, Washington Times. In an enchanting new book, Senator Joseph Lieberman argues that the purpose of the Sabbath is not "to recharge our batteries so we can work harder but to recharge our souls so we can live better."    
The Three-Week Challenge Erica Brown, Text & Texture. The mourning rituals of the period leading up to Tisha b'Av (this year on August 9) are largely foreign territory to non-Orthodox Jews; but doesn't everyone know the meaning of loss?
There's a Key in My Challah Jeffrey Saks, Torah Musings. On the origin of the post-Passover tradition known as "shliss challah."      
Passover without Jews Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal. Not only are more and more non-Jews seated at seder tables, but an increasing number of churches have been offering their own versions of the ritual—with their own messages.
Who Knows Four? Mordechai I. Twersky, Jerusalem Post. Bar Ilan University unveils four rare Haggadahs, from Italy, India, Germany, and London. (Video)
What's Inside Ruth Abusch-Magder, Forward. Hidden identities are the very essence of Purim, and the holiday's foods, from hamentaschen to surprise fillings in bread and meatballs, reinforce the message.
Master Illustrator Eve M. Kahn, New York Times. A new, annotated edition of Arthur Szyk's Haggadah brings back a long-neglected Jewish artist.