Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the Bible.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13: 2-5)
It is the fifth day of Holy Week, preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.” The day comes always between March 19 and April 22, inclusive, and will vary according to whether the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar is used (Eastern churches generally use the Julian system)
Maundy Thursday initiates the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death and resurrections of Jesus; this period includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter. Good Friday begins according to Jewish tradition with sunset, as the Last Supper was held on the feast of Passover, according to the three Gospels.
This year, 2021, Maundy Thursday will be on Thursday, April 1
Christians today observe Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Here are five important things to know about Maundy Thursday:
What does Maundy mean? The Thursday before Easter is known as either Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday. Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command,” and refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”
What does it commemorate? Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which Christians consider the institution of Holy Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s supper or communion. It is described in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22. At the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus breaks bread, saying, “This is my body,” and pours wine, saying, “This is my blood.” He then asks the disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.”
What holiday was Jesus observing? The Last Supper is derived from Jesus’ Jewish heritage and his observance of a Jewish holiday. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, the feast of unleavened bread. Jesus and the disciples are eating unleavened bread. Passover is the Jewish festival commemorating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, when they left so quickly there was no time for the bread to rise.
Why foot-washing? Maundy Thursday is also associated with foot-washing. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, an act described in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, as Jesus teaching them to be servants. It’s the ultimate act of “servant leadership.” Jesus instructs his followers to love and to serve. Most Catholic churches will have a Mass tonight, with a Eucharistic celebration that includes the washing of feet..
Maundy Thursday has a dark side Jesus foretells his death, saying he will eat no more until the kingdom of God is fulfilled. It also marks an act of betrayal. “One of you will betray me,” Jesus says. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, is pointed out by Jesus as the one who will betray him.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday, often referred to as Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.
The biblical account of Palm Sunday can be found in all four Gospels: Matthew 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19: 28-44; John 12: 12-19 Palm Sunday History
The date of the first observance of Palm Sunday is uncertain. A detailed description of a palm processional celebration was recorded as early as the 4th century in Jerusalem. The ceremony was not introduced into the West until much later in the 9th century.
Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry in the Bible Jesus traveled to Jerusalem knowing that this journey would end in his sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all mankind . Before he entered the city, he sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage to look for an unbroken colt:
As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'” (Luke 19:29-31)The men brought the colt to Jesus and placed their cloaks on its back. As Jesus sat on the young donkey he slowly made his humble entrance into Jerusalem.
The people greeted Jesus enthusiastically, waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches:
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
The shouts of “Hosanna” meant “save now,” and the palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. Interestingly, at the end of the Bible, people will wave palm branches once again to praise and honor Jesus Christ
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
On this inaugural Palm Sunday, the celebration quickly spread throughout the whole city. People even threw down their cloaks on the path where Jesus rode as an act of homage and submission.
The crowds praised Jesus enthusiastically because they believed he would overthrow Rome. They recognized him as the promised Messiah from Zechariah 9: 9
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (NIV)
Although the people did not fully understand Christ’s mission yet, their worship honored God:
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” (Matthew 21:16)
Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus Christ, he began his journey to the cross.
How Is Palm Sunday Celebrated Today? Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday as it is referred to in some Christian churches, is the sixth Sunday of Lent and the final Sunday before Easter. Worshipers commemorate Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
On this day, Christians also remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, praise God for the gift of salvation, and look expectantly to the Lord’s second coming.
Many churches, such as Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, distribute palm branches to the congregation on Palm Sunday for the customary observances. These observances include a reading of the account of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the carrying and waving of palm branches in processional, the blessing of palms, the singing of traditional hymns, and the making of small crosses with palm fronds.In some traditions, worshippers take home and display their palm branches near a cross or crucifix, or press them into their Bible until the next year’s season of Lent. Some churches will place collection baskets to gather the old palm leaves to be burned on Shrove Sunday of the following year and used in the next day’s Ash Wednesday services.
Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week, a solemn week focusing on the final days of Jesus’ life. Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday, the most important holiday in Christianity.
In Israel, there are processions on Palm Sunday, starting on the Mount of Olives and walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane. See the video below for some photos from such a procession in Jerusalem some years ago
Below, watch the video where I talk about Palm Sunday and the meaning of it
When we tour Israel, people always ask about the different holidays in the Jewish calendar, I always say to people that most Jewish holidays falls under the same 3 definitions:
They were trying to kill us, We won, Let’s eat!
Passover this year, 2021, begins on Saturday night, March 27 and continues through Sunday, April 4, indeed falls under this explanation. Interesting that this year Easter is at the end of Passover, April 4 is Easter this year, not always it comes together with Passover, only once in 19 years according to the cycle of the sun and the moon. These two holidays are connected of course, make sure you read our blog about Easter as well and about Palm Sunday also.
For the Jews, Passover represents the time we went out of slavery into freedom, this was physical freedom, and 50 days later, we went into spiritual freedom on Shavuot (Pentecost) when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Passover for Christians has a different meaning, Jesus went on the cross on Passover, being the lamb who paid for mankind’s sins (the Passover sacrifice) and 50 days later, on Pentecost, the holy fire came on the disciples and they received spiritual freedom.
Below is a short explanation about this holiday and its meaning in Jewish tradition, followed by a video about the meaning of Passover for both Jews and Christians.
History of Passover
The first Passover (proto Passover) celebration in the Bible is found in Genesis Chapter 18, where we read how Abraham and Sarah were visited by angels who informed them that they would bear a son one year later. Tradition records that the visit (and Isaac’s birth) was on Passover. This is not stated explicitly, but the astute reader will note that Abraham instructs Sarah to knead some cakes (ugot) for their guests. This same term is used regarding the Passover matzah that their descendants would eat every year on Passover. Thus the conclusion is reached that it must have been Passover.
The First Mandated Passover Isaac’s descendants (by then known as the People of Israel) eventually wound up in Egypt, where they were enslaved. The time then came and G‑d decided to free them from their cruel taskmasters and take them back to the land that He had promised them so many years before. He instructed Moses and Aaron to repeatedly ask Pharaoh to release the people of Israel; each time Pharaoh refused, another plague was brought upon the Egyptians: blood, frogs, lice etc.
The Ten Plagues
A summary of the ten plagues G-d wrought upon the Egyptians
When Pharaoh persisted in his refusal to liberate the children of Israel, Moses and Aaron warned him that G‑d would punish both him and his people. And, indeed, G‑d sent the ten plagues, one after the next, until Pharaoh conceded. Below is a list of the ten plagues in Hebrew and a summary of each plague.
What Are the Ten Plagues?
1. Dam – Blood
First, the waters of the land of Egypt were to be turned into blood. Moses walked with Aaron to the brink of the river. There Aaron raised his staff, struck the water, and converted them into streams of blood. All the people of Egypt and the King himself beheld this miracle; they saw the fish die as the blood flowed over the land, and they turned with disgust from the offensive smell of the sacred river. It was impossible for them to drink of the water of the Nile, far-famed for its delicious taste; and they tried to dig deep into the ground for water. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, not only the floods of the Nile but all the waters of Egypt, wherever they were, turned to blood. The fish died in the rivers and lakes, and for a whole week man and beast suffered horrible thirst. Yet Pharaoh would not give in.
2. Tzefardeia – Frogs
After due warning, the second plague came to Egypt. Aaron stretched forth his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs swarmed forth. They covered every inch of land and entered the houses and bedrooms; wherever an Egyptian turned, whatever he touched, he found there the slimy bodies of frogs, the croakings of which filled the air. Now Pharaoh became frightened, and he asked Moses and Aaron to pray to G‑d to remove the nuisance, promising that he would liberate the Jewish people at once. But as soon as the frogs disappeared, he broke his promise and refused to let the children of Israel go.
3. Kinim – Bugs
Then G‑d ordered Aaron to strike the dust of the earth with his staff, and no sooner did he do so than all over Egypt bugs crawled forth from the dust to cover the land. Man and beast suffered untold misery from this terrible plague. Although pharaoh’s aids pointed out that this surely was G‑d’s punishment, Pharaoh hardened his heart and remained relentless in his determination to keep the children of Israel in bondage.
4. Arov – Wild Animals
The fourth plague to harass the Egyptians consisted of hordes of wild animals roving all over the country, and destroying everything in their path. Only the province of Goshen where the children of Israel dwelt was immune from this as well as from the other plagues. Again Pharaoh promised faithfully to let the Hebrews go out into the desert on the condition that they would not go too far. Moses prayed to G‑d, and the wild animals disappeared. But as soon as they had gone, Pharaoh withdrew his promise and refused Moses’ demand.
5. Dever – Pestilence
Then G‑d sent a fatal pestilence that killed most of the domestic animals of the Egyptians. How the people must have grieved when they saw their stately horses, the pride of Egypt, perish; when all the cattle of the fields were stricken at the word of Moses; and when the animals upon which they looked as gods died smitten by the plague! They had, moreover, the mortification of seeing the beasts of the Israelites unhurt. Yet Pharaoh still hardened his heart, and would not let the Israelites go.
6. Shechin – Boils
Then followed the sixth plague, which was so painful and horrible that it must have struck the people of Egypt with horror and agony. G‑d commanded Moses to take soot from the furnaces, and to sprinkle it towards heaven; and as Moses did so, boils burst forth upon man and beast throughout the land of Egypt.
7. Barad – Hail
Now, Moses announced to the king that a hail-storm of unprecedented violence was to sweep the land; no living thing, no tree, no herb was to escape its fury unhurt; safety was to be found only in the shelter of the houses; those, therefore, who believed and were afraid might keep in their homes, and drive their cattle into the sheds. Some of the Egyptians took this counsel to heart; but the reckless and the stubborn left their cattle with their servants in the fields. When Moses stretched forth his staff, the hail poured down with violence; deafening thunder rolled over the earth, and lightning rent the heavens, and ran like fire along the ground. The hail did its work of destruction; man and beast who were exposed to its rage died on the spot; the herbs were scattered to the wind, and the trees lay shattered on the ground. But the land of Goshen, untouched by the ravages of the storm, bloomed like a garden amidst the general devastation. Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and acknowledged his sins (Exodus 9:27). “I have sinned this time. The L-rd is the righteous One, and I and my people are the guilty ones. Entreat the L-rd, and let it be enough of G‑d’s thunder and hail, and I will let you go, and you shall not continue to stand.” Moses replied: “When I leave the city, I will spread my hands to the L-d. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, in order that you know that the land is the L-rd’s.” And it happened as Moses had said: the storm ceased-but Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.
8. Arbeh – Locust
The next time Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, he appeared somewhat relenting, and asked them who was to participate in the worship the Israelites wanted to hold in the desert. When they told him that everyone without exception, young and old, men and women, and animals, were to go, Pharaoh suggested that only the men should go, and that the women and children, as well as all their possessions should remain in Egypt. Moses and Aaron would not accept this offer, and Pharaoh became angry and ordered them to leave his palace. Before leaving, Moses warned him of new and untold suffering. But Pharaoh remained adamant, even though his advisers advised against further resistance. As soon as Moses left the palace, he raised his arms toward heaven and an east wind brought swarms of locusts into Egypt, covering the sun, and devouring everything green that had escaped the hail and previous plagues. Never in the history of mankind had there been such a devastating plague of locusts as this one. It brought complete ruin upon Egypt, which had already been thoroughly ravaged by the previous catastrophes. Again Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and implored them to pray to G‑d to stop the plague. Moses complied, and G‑d sent a strong west wind that drove the locusts into the sea. When relief came, Pharaoh’s obstinacy returned to him, and he refused to liberate the people of Israel.
9. Choshech – Darkness
Then followed the ninth plague. For several days all of Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness which extinguished all lights kindled. The Egyptians were gripped with fear, and remained glued to their places wherever they stood or sat. Only in Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, there was light. But not all of the Jews were saved from this plague. There were a few who wanted to be regarded as Egyptians rather than as members of the Hebrew race, and who tried, therefore, to imitate the Egyptians in everything, or, as we call it, to assimilate themselves. They did not want to leave Egypt. These people died during the days of darkness. Again Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and Aaron, bidding them depart with all their people, leaving their flocks and herds behind as a pledge. Moses and Aaron informed him, however, that they would accept nothing less than complete freedom for the men, women, and children, and that they were to take all their belongings with them. Now Pharaoh became angry and ordered Moses and Aaron to leave and never to return. He warned them that if they were to come before him again they would die. Moses replied that it would not be necessary for them to see Pharaoh, for G‑d would send one more plague over Egypt, after which Pharaoh would give his unconditional permission for the children of Israel to leave Egypt. Exactly at midnight, Moses continued, G‑d would pass over Egypt and smite all first-born, man and beast. Of the children of Israel, however, nobody was to die. A bitter cry would sweep Egypt, and all the Egyptians would be gripped with terror, lest they all die. Then Pharaoh himself would come to seek out the leaders of the Hebrews, and beg them to leave Egypt without delay! With these words, Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, who was seething with rage.
The Passover Sacrifice
On the first day of the month of Nissan, two weeks before the Exodus from Egypt, G‑d said to Moses and Aaron: “This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year. Speak to the entire community of Israel, saying (Exodus 12:2-31), “On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb for each parental home, a lamb for each household.” On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb… a lamb for each household… . a lamb for a household . . . And you shall keep it for inspection until the fourteenth day of this month… And this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste it is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd… And I will see the blood and skip over you, and there will be no plague to destroy [you] when I smite the [people of the] land of Egypt. And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for the L-rd; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the preceding day you shall clear away all leaven from your houses… And it will come to pass if your children say to you, +What is this service to you?’ you shall say, It is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd, for He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and He saved our houses!” Moses told all this to the children of Israel. It required a great deal of faith and courage for the children of Israel to carry out this Command, for the lamb was a sacred animal to the ancient Egyptians. But the children of Israel eagerly and fearlessly carried out all that G‑d had ordered.
10. Makkat Bechorot – Death of the Firstborns
Midnight of the fourteenth to the fifteenth of Nissan came, and G‑d struck all first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of King Pharaoh, down to the first-born of a captive in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the cattle, exactly as Moses had warned. There was a loud and bitter wail in each house a loved one lay fatally stricken. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron during that very night, and said to them: “Arise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel; and go, serve the L-rd as you have said; and take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.” At last, then, the pride of the stubborn king was broken. Meanwhile the Hebrews had been preparing for their hasty departure. With beating hearts, they had assembled in groups to eat the Paschal lamb before midnight, arrayed as they had been commanded. The women had taken from the ovens the unleavened cakes, which were eaten with the meat of the roasted lamb. The preparations were at last concluded, and all was ready. At the word of command, the whole nation of the Hebrews poured forth into the cool, still Eastern morning. But not even amidst their trepidation and danger did they forget the pledge given by their ancestors to Joseph, and they carried his remains, with them, to inter them later in the Promised Land.
Finally, as G‑d was about to bring the final plague—the death of the firstborn son—He instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel to prepare by bringing a sheep into their homes. On the night that He was about to bring death upon the Egyptians, the Israelites slaughtered the lambs and ate them with unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs (maror). They were also instructed to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on their doorposts, a sign to G‑d that this was an Israelite home, to be passed over, when death was visited upon the firstborns in all other homes. This is what gave the Passover sacrifice (and holiday) its name. In the original Hebrew, the word is Pesach. At that same time, G‑d also instructed them to observe the Passover celebration every year on the anniversary of their Exodus: at the full moon of the first month of spring (Abib).
This entire episode is known as the Exodus.
Passover in the Desert: The Second Passover A year after the Exodus, G‑d instructed the people of Israel to bring the Passover offering on the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan, and to eat it that evening, roasted over the fire, together with matzah and bitter herbs, as they had done the previous year just before they left Egypt. “There were, however, certain persons who had become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, and could not, therefore, prepare the Passover offering on that day. They approached Moses and Aaron . . . and they said: ‘. . . Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present G‑d’s offering in its time, amongst the children of Israel?’” (Numbers 9: 6-7). In response to their plea, G‑d established the 14th of Iyar as a “Second Passover” (Pesach Sheni) for anyone who was unable to bring the offering at its appointed time in the previous month.
The First Passover in the Promised Land After 40 years in the desert, Moses passed away just prior to leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. His death was on the 7th of Adar, just five weeks before Passover. In The Book of Joshua, Chapter 5, we read the account of Joshua organizing the circumcision of the Israelite males, something they had not been able to do in the desert. This was followed by a celebration of Passover. “And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and they made the Passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho.” (Joshua 5:10)
The Great Passover Revivals The next mention2 of Passover is in II Chronicles 30, where we read how King Hezekiah, the righteous king remembered for his campaign to reintroduce the people of Israel to the Torah way of life, sent out messengers enjoining everyone to celebrate Passover with him.Since they were not in a proper state to celebrate Passover on time, they celebrated one month later, on “Pesach Sheini”, the 14th of Iyar (in accordance with the laws of the Second Passover discussed above3.) Despite the fact that the members of some tribes refused to participate, “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel [there had] not [been] the like in Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 30: 26). Approximately 100 years later, a similar event happened in the days of King Josiah. In the eighteenth year of his rule, Josiah announced his plan to have the Holy Temple renovated. In the course of the repairs, the High Priest Hilkiah found a scroll which turned out to be the Torah scroll written by Moses. The passage that was read before the king contained the warnings of heavy punishment for the Jewish people if they failed to follow in G‑d’s ways. The king was determined that the words of the Torah and the warning of the prophets should spread through the length and breadth of the land. After the Temple was rededicated and the people returned en masse to G‑d, they celebrated Passover in grand scale, such as had not been seen since the days of Samuel the Prophet (II Chronicles 35: 18).
Passover in the Second Temple Solomon’s Temple was eventually destroyed, and the people were exiled. Decades later, Ezra and Nehemia led a group of Jews who returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple once again. We read in Ezra 6 how the returnees purified themselves and celebrated Passover “with joy, for the L‑rd made them joyful and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to strengthen their hands in the work of the House of G‑d, the G‑d of Israel.”The Passover celebrations then continued in the Second Temple, until it was destroyed by the Romans more than 400 years later.
Passover Today Following the destruction of the Second Temple and its altar in Jerusalem, we have been unable to celebrate Passover completely, without the sacrifice the Passover lamb. And yet, Jewish people gather every year to celebrate the other elements of this special evening. As we hope and pray for the Passover lamb to be reinstated, matzah and maror are eaten, four celebratory cups of wine are drunk, and Jewish parents tell their children (and themselves) the story of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egypt.
How to Celebrate Passover
Mandated by the Bible, Passover is celebrated by Jewish people as an annual commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. It is observed for eight days (seven in Israel) during the springtime month of Nisan
· Neither owning nor benefitting from chametz (anything containing grain that has risen, including virtually all breads, cakes, crackers, pastas, whiskeys and beers) from the morning preceding Passover until the holiday has ended.
· The entire home is thoroughly cleaned, all traces of chametz are purged from the kitchen, and whatever remains is sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday.
· On the first night of Passover (and the following night in the Diaspora) a festive meal, called a Seder, is held. Some highlights of this meal, which comprises 15 steps:
– Retelling the story of the Exodus, elaborating on the text contained in the Haggadah, the traditional guide-book to the Seder experience. This begins in response to the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana) traditionally asked by a child.
– Eating matzah, flat, hard “bread” that was baked before it had a chance to rise, to recall our ancestors’ urgent flight from Egypt—they left in such a hurry that there was no time for their bread to rise.
– Eating butter herbs to reexperience the bitter taste of slavery.
– Throughout the evening, drinking four cups of wine or grape juice, imbibing the intoxicating sweetness of freedom.
· The first, second, seventh, and eighth days of the holiday (just the first and seventh in Israel) are yom tov, when work is restricted and festive meals are enjoyed.
· On the final day, Yizkor (the memorial prayer for our departed loved ones) is said, and a special meal (Moshiach’s Meal) is enjoyed during the waning hours of the holiday, in anticipation of the Redemption yet to come.
The Passover Seder
The Seder in a nutshell, the Haggadah explained, printable Haggadah, the Four Questions in many languages, and more…
The Seder is a feast that includes reading a book called “Haggadah”, drinking four cups of wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.
As per Biblical command, it is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover (and the second night if you live outside of Israel), the anniversary of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago.
We have below a recipe for Charoset, hope you’ll make it and enjoy it
When we tour Israel, people always ask about the different holidays in the Jewish calendar, I always say to people that most Jewish holidays falls under the same 3 definitions:
They were trying to kill us, We won, Let’s eat!
Purim, this year, in 2021 it begins on Thursday night, February 25 and continues through Friday, February 26, (extending through Sunday in Jerusalem), indeed falls under this explanation. Below is a short explanation about this holiday and its meaning.
The jolly Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the (Divinely orchestrated) salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian empire from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” Literally “lots” in ancient Persian, Purim was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme, as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther). “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them.” (Book of Esther 3: 8-9)
The Story in a Nutshell
The Persian Empire of the 4th century BC extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality. Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Book of Esther 4: 12-14) Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job. “For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” (Book of Esther 8: 16-17)
Why is it called Purim?
Purim means “lots” in ancient Persian. The holiday was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme. It is pronounced poo-REEM.
Reading of the Megillah (book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle. This is done once on the eve of Purim and then again on the following day.
Giving money gifts to at least two poor people.
Sending gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person.
A festive Purim feast, which often includes wine or other intoxicating beverages.
When to Celebrate?
One of the unique aspects of Purim is the diverse timing for its celebration.● Common Custom: Jews all over the world celebrate Purim on Adar 14, the day when our ancestors rested from the war against their enemies.● Walled Cities: Since the Jews of Shushan rested one day later, their Purim was deferred to the 15th. This was extended to include any city that was surrounded by walls in the days of Joshua, notably Jerusalem.● Small Towns: In ancient times, villagers only banded together with fellow Jews in the larger towns on Mondays and Thursdays, which were market days. Thus, the sages decreed that they should read the Megillah on the market day preceding 14 Adar. This custom is no longer practiced. Note that on Jewish leap years, there are actually two months called Adar, Adar I and Adar II. Purim is celebrated in the second Adar, but 14 Adar I is still a happy day, referred to as Purim Katan (Small Purim).
The Meaning of Purim
In addition to the miracle of Jewish survival despite the efforts of our enemies, Purim celebrates G‑d’s intimate involvement in every aspect of this world. Even though there were no overt miracles recorded in the Megillah—indeed, His name is not even mentioned once—G‑d was actively “pulling the strings” to care for His nation. Additionally, Haman’s edict catalyzed a spiritual revival among the Jews. In a sense, this was even more significant than the Covenant at Sinai—an overwhelming spiritual experience that compelled the Jews to accept the Torah—since it occurred of their own volition, even as they were scattered among the Persian people and immersed in their culture. It was in the merit of this spiritual reawakening that G‑d orchestrated their salvation.
Other Cool Purim Facts
All too often, Jewish communities have narrowly escaped catastrophe. More often than not, the plot involves an evil tyrant who follows the ways of Haman. And just like the Purim story, G‑d is there to save His people from certain doom. Some communities make their own “Purim” holiday on the anniversary of the date of their respective salvation. Some even read the chain of events from specially-made “megillah” scrolls. In modern times, the plans of some of our nation’s worst enemies have have been thwarted on this day. In the early 1950s, Joseph Stalin, the ruthless butcher of millions of innocent people, had bloody plans for dealing with the “Jewish problem” in the U.S.S.R. Just as things were reaching a crisis point in 1953, he died . . . on Purim! In 1990, Saddam Hussein of Iraq defiantly invaded nearby Kuwait. As pressure ramped up from the international community, his army began firing SCUD missiles into Israel. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, repeatedly assured the people of Israel that they would be protected. After the U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq, they were quickly victorious and the hostilities ended . . . on Purim!
Purim Traditions and Customs
There is a spirit of liveliness and fun on Purim that is unparalleled on the Jewish calendar. If there were ever a day to “let loose” and just be Jewish, this is it!It is also customary for children (and adults, if they desire) to dress up in costumes.
Why Do We Dress Up on Purim?
There are several reasons given for the age-old custom to dress up in costumes and wear masks on Purim. Here are some of them:
– In contrast to the overt miracles of the holidays of Passover, Chanukah and other Jewish holidays, the miracle of the holiday of Purim was disguised in natural events. Here is a sampling of the story: The King wanted his wife to come to the party, she did not want to, and she was killed. Then an evil man wanted the Jews dead and plotted to accomplish this with the approval of the king. The king remarried, and his new queen happened to be Jewish, and arranged for the decree to be countered. Only after the fact, when one looks at the entire story, does one realize the great miracle that transpired.
– The custom of wearing costumes on Purim is an allusion to the nature of the Purim miracle, where the details of the story are really miracles hidden within natural events.
– The Talmud writes that just as the Jews at the time pretended to be serving other gods, G‑d pretended that He was going to destroy the Jewish nation, and in the end He did not. In other words, you pretend to be someone else on Purim, since both the Jews’ and G‑d’s actions were masked by other intentions.
– We dress differently on Purim to minimize the embarrassment of the poor who go around collecting charity on this day—a day when we give charity to everyone who outstretches their hand.
– To commemorate the dressing up of Mordechai in King Ahasuerus’s royal garments in the story of Purim.
A traditional Purim food is hamantaschen (or oznay Haman), three-cornered pastries bursting with poppy seeds or another sweet filling.
The History and Meaning of Hamantaschen
What comes to mind when you think of Purim? Costumes, the megillah, gift baskets, and of course, those delectable three-cornered pastries, hamantaschen. Called oznei Haman in Hebrew, these treats filled with poppy seeds (or other fillings) have been a part of Purim celebrations for centuries. Where did they originate? What do their names mean? And why are they eaten on Purim?
One of the oldest mentions of a Purim treat referred to as oznei Haman is in a Purim comedy skit written by Yehudah Sommo (1527- 1592) of Italy. Literally translated as “Haman’s ears,” this name led to the myth that the pastries celebrate the cutting off of the wicked man’s ears before he was hanged. Lastly, there is no documentation of any such barbaric mutilation having been carried out.
Daniel, Esther and the Real Hamantash
Although nowadays you can find hamantaschen filled with practically any type of filling (sweet or savory), the classic hamantash was always filled with poppy seeds. Indeed, the very word “haman” can either refer to the wicked Haman or poppy seeds (mohn), and the Yiddish word“tash” means pocket. Thus, “hamantaschen” means “poppy-seed-filled pockets.”This is in line with the classic explanation given in the Code of Jewish Law for eating hamantaschen on Purim: Some say that one should eat a food made out of seeds on Purim in memory of the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate in the house of the king of Babylon, as the verse states, “And he gave them seeds.” But what in the world does Daniel eating seeds have to do with Purim?
The Talmud explains that Hatach, Queen Esther’s faithful messenger and one of the lesser-known heroes of the Purim story, is a pseudonym for none other than Daniel.
Furthermore, as we read in the Purim story, when Esther was in the king’s palace, she kept her identity secret. The Talmud explains that since the food was unkosher, she survived on various beans and seeds. It is in commemoration of both Daniel and Esther that there is a custom to eat beans and seeds on Purim. The way this custom is traditionally observed is by eating pastry pockets, a.k.a. taschen filled with mohn, poppy seeds. Based on this reason for eating hamantaschen, whenever the classic halachic sources discuss this custom, specific mention is made of the hamantash being filled with poppy seeds. In addition to the classic reason for hamantaschen, many other explanations have been offered to explain this custom. Indeed, just about every aspect of this treat is laden with symbolism. Here are some explanations given.
The Weakening of Haman “Tash” in Hebrew means “weaken.” Thus, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that G‑d always save us by weakening our enemies.
Hidden Messages During the Purim story, many Jews did not believe they were going to be completely wiped out. Mordechai convinced them of the seriousness of the threat by sending them numerous letters warning them of the impending doom. Afraid to send the letters by conventional routes lest their enemies intercept them, he sent the letters hidden inside pastries. In commemoration of this, we eat pastries with a filling.
Hidden Sweetness A well-known insight into the hamantash points to the fact that the filling is hidden inside the dough. In earlier times, our ancestors were accustomed to experiencing open miracles. In a time of exile, we don’t necessarily experience openly revealed miracles anymore. Nevertheless, the Purim story shows that this does not mean that we’ve been abandoned (G‑d forbid). On the contrary, G‑d is ever present. He’s just operating in a behind-the-scenes fashion, just as the filling of the hamantash is hidden within the dough.
Three Corners While there is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and to commemorate his downfall, we eat a three-cornered pastry, there is a deeper significance as well.
The Midrash says that when Haman recognized (the merit of) our three forefathers, his strength immediately weakened. Because of this, we eat three-cornered pastries and call them “Haman weakeners (tashen).” Another reason for corners: The Hebrew word for “corner” in Hebrew is “keren,” which literally means “horn,” and can also denote “ray,” “fortune,” or “pride.” Thus, the sages understand the verse, “And all the kerens of the wicked I shall cut down” as referring to Haman, and “Exalted will be the keren of the righteous” as referring to Mordechai.
We have below a recipe for hamantaschen, hope you’ll make it and enjoy them
Tu BiShvat is the Jewish new year for trees. It occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shvat in the Jewish calendar. Since the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the months are based on the lunar cycle, this holiday will always be around the same time of year, beginning of Spring time. This holiday is a minor Jewish holiday, and it is not mentioned in the Torah. Scholar believe that this holiday started originally as an agricultural festival celebrating spring in Israel. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D., many Jews were exiled and the agricultural celebration stopped. Over time, some Jews felt a need to symbolically bind themselves to their homeland, and Tu BiShvat was a way to fill that need. They introduced a new ritual, the Tu BiShvat Seder. This Seder (a ceremonial dinner) is similar to the Seder at Passover. The Seder involves eating biblical foods native to the holy land. As a part of this, people eat fruit and the seven spices of Israel. The fruit is typically grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, or dates, as they are mentioned in the Torah as food from the Holy Land. Some families would have a 15-course meal, and each course would be one of the foods associated with the land. Nowadays, Tu BiShvat is an environmental holiday. Jews consider this day as a way to remind themselves of their duty to care for the natural world. Many Jews take part in a tree-planting ceremony, or collect and send money to Israel for them to plant a tree there.
Tu Bishvat during the days of the Temple According to Biblical law, there is a seven-year agricultural cycle, concluding with the Sabbatical year.
When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, on years one, two, four and five of this cycle, farmers were required to separate a tenth of their produce and eat it in Jerusalem. This tithe is called Maaser Sheni, the Second Tithe, because it is in addition to the (two percent which must be given to the Kohain-Priest, and the) ten percent which is given to the Levite. On the third and sixth years of the cycle, instead of the owners eating the Maaser Sheni in Jerusalem, they gave this second tithe to the poor, who were permitted to consume it wherever they wished.
It takes approximately four months for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit (On the Sabbatical year, no tithes are separated. All produce which grows during this year is ownerless and free for anyone to take.) It was therefore of vital importance to ascertain when the new year started for produce. Our Rabbis established that a fruit which blossomed before the 15th of Shevat is produce of the previous year. If it blossomed afterwards, it is produce of the “new year.” (By comparison, grains, vegetables, and legumes have the same New Year as humans, the 1st of Tishrei.) Why is this so?
In the Mediterranean region, the rainy season begins with the festival of Sukkot (around September-October). It takes approximately four months (from Sukkot, the 15th of Tishrei, until the 15th of Shevat) for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit. All fruit which blossoms beforehand are a product of the rains of the previous year, and are tithed together with the crops of the previous year.
Although this day is Rosh Hashanah for trees, we attach special significance to this holiday because “Man is [compared to] the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20: 19). Through cultivating strong roots – faith and commitment to G‑d – we produce many fruits—Torah and Mitzvot.
Observances and Customs On this day it is customary to partake of the fruit with which the Holy Land is praised (Deuteronomy 8: 8): olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. If tasting any of these fruit for the first time this season, remember to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing. (A blessing recited on joyous occasions, thanking G‑d for “sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion.”
Watch this short video about Tu Bishvat
Inspired by nature and by trees and the holiday of Tu Bishvat, we also added to our store at beautifulisraelstore a new collection of Jewelry of the Tree of Life series