From Chanukah being the Jewish Christmas to Passover being known as the holiday where Jews eat giant crackers, Judaism is full of holidays which are misunderstood by the general public. In this article I will explore some of those misconceptions by analyzing the Jewish holidays of Sabbath, Passover, and Chanukah. By understanding the real significance of these holidays to Judaism you will gain a greater appreciation of the Jewish faith.
The Sabbath is the most important of the Jewish holidays. On first thought outsiders to Judaism may not consider the Sabbath a holiday because the Sabbath happens every week. Ironically, the frequency of the Sabbath is what makes the day so important to Judaism. Sabbath, like all Jewish holidays, starts at sundown. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday Jews observe a day of rest. The Sabbath celebrates the rest God took after creating the world. Jews are not permitted to work on the Sabbath for this reason. What qualifies for work is defined in the laws of Judaism. For example, Jews are not supposed to drive automobiles on the Sabbath because driving an automobile constitutes as work. The Sabbath is a day that should be reserved for family.
Anyone not familiar with Judaism might know Passover as the holiday when Jews eat giant crackers. Those giant crackers are actually matza. Matza is bread without yeast. Matza is consumed on Passover because Passover celebrates the feast Jews were supposed to have before leaving Egypt. However there was not enough time for the yeast to rise in the bread before the feast. For that reason Jews do not eat anything with yeast during the duration of Passover. Passover is celebrated for seven or eight days (depending on whether the Jew is Orthodox, conservative, or reform).
To the masses Chanukah is known as the Jewish Christmas. Chanukah received the identity as the Jewish Christmas because Chanukah is usually celebrated around the same time as Christmas. The truth though is Chanukah has nothing to do with Christmas or Jesus. Chanukah, the festival of lights, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians centuries ago. The victory was made possible in part by candle wax that was only supposed to last one day but ended up lasting for eight. For this reason Judaism dictates that for eight nights Jews should light candles on a menorah. A candle is lit for each night of Chanukah.
1. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions by Brandon Toropov and Father Luke Buckles
2. “NDC Experiences Taste of Judaism” Notre Dame News 04/01/09