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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Festival Cycle

By TorahLab

Holidays are those times in the year which draw our attention to a special message underlying them. They ask us to take to heart certain fundamental truths that they aim to impress upon us. Rising above the other days of the year, they call us out of our humdrum existence, to dedicate to them our minds and lives.
Our daily life is devoted to our ordinary pursuits and activities by means of which we strive to build our future. The holidays interrupt our labors, to revive those fundamental ideas upon which our life is based.
The Sabbath calls to a weekly self-sanctification, by reminding us that we were created by G-d and can only find true happiness in his service.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur demand from us self-examination and return to our spiritual goals in life.
Passover, Shavuos and Succos all express one central idea; they immortalize the sublime happenings in which G-d revealed Himself at the founding of the Jewish nation. In fact, it is only through such perpetuation and observance that these miracles attain their true purpose: to reveal G-d to all ages, and thus serve as bright guiding stars for our inner and external self. They renew and revive the spirit of Israel, by proclaiming one basic truth: G-d founded and maintains Israel in body and spirit.
Taken together, the festivals commemorate the period from the exodus from Egypt until the entry into Israel.
Passover: the founding of Israel’s physical existence as a nation; G-d, true to His pledge, broke open the dungeon of Egypt; the descendants of Jacob passed from serfdom to nationhood. Passover teaches that G-d rules nature and history, creating life out of death, day out of night. It also teaches, in particular, that He created Israel to be His property and servant. Hence, it appeals to us to remain loyal to Him, accepting the life and destiny that he determined for us; Passover calls for the love of G-d, our Father.
Shavuos: the founding of Israel’s spiritual existence; G-d revealed His Law to the Jews, turning the liberated slaves into bearers of His word. Sinai completed what had begun in Egypt; the nation was given soul and life. Shavuos teaches that G-d guides nature and history in accordance with His purposes. It also teaches, in particular, that Israel received its Law from Him, to become a holy nation of priests. Hence, Shavuos appeals to us for firmer attachment to the divine Law, for the fulfillment of which we were born as Jews. Thus, Shavuos calls for the humble fear of G-d, our Lawgiver.
Succos: the physical survival of Israel, by divine providence; G-d sustained the Jewish people for forty years of desert wanderings. Succos teaches that G-d sustains nature and mankind, as the source of all means of life. In particular, it teaches that Israel was not only created by Him, but even today, only lives by his providence. Hence, Succos asks us to look to G-d as the source of our success in life and our support in times of need.

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