Chapter: 01 – Introduction

01. The Idea of the Holidays

There are six holidays (Yamim Tovim)[*] mentioned in the Torah: a) the first day of Pesaḥ; b) the seventh day of Pesaḥ; c) Shavu’ot; d) Rosh Ha-shana; e) the first day of Sukkot; f) Shemini Atzeret         . We are commanded … Continue reading

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02. Agricultural Seasons and Judgment Days

The names of the regalim (pilgrimage festivals) reflect the agricultural periods in which they take place. Thus we read: “Three times a year, you shall hold a festival for Me: You shall observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Pesaḥ)…at the … Continue reading

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03. Israel and the Seasons

The sanctity of Shabbat is fixed and enduring. Since God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, Shabbat is always on the seventh day of the week. In contrast, the sanctity of the festivals depends upon … Continue reading

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04. Shabbat and the Holidays – the Mitzvot and Their Punishments

Each of the six holidays mentioned above is the subject of a positive commandment to refrain from melakha (constructive labor) as well as a negative commandment against melakha. Thus, there are twelve mitzvot pertaining to resting on Yom Tov.[1] In … Continue reading

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05. Torah Study on Yom Tov

There is a mitzva to study a great deal of Torah on Shabbat and Yom Tov. As the Sages state: “Shabbat and Yom Tov were given to us solely for the purpose of learning Torah then” (y. Shabbat 15:3).There are … Continue reading

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06. Time for Learning and Eating

When it comes to the purpose of a holiday, there are two verses which seem to contradict each other. One verse tells us that the holiday is for God: “You shall hold a joyous gathering for the Lord your God … Continue reading

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07. The Festive Meals – “Mikra’ei Kodesh

It is a mitzva to have two festive meals on Yom Tov, one by night and one by day. This is one of the primary expressions of the sanctity of the holiday. All the holidays are referred to in the … Continue reading

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08. The Mitzva of Simḥa

There is a positive mitzva to experience simḥa (joy) on the festivals, as it is written: “You shall rejoice in your festival (ve-samaḥta be-ḥagekha)” (Devarim 16:14). We have already seen that Shabbat and Yom Tov are “mikra’ei kodesh” and that … Continue reading

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09. Meat and Wine at Yom Tov Meals

In Temple times, the joy of the pilgrimage festivals was expressed primarily through bringing ḥagiga offerings in Jerusalem, as we read, “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God…at the place where the Lord your God will choose to establish … Continue reading

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10. Women’s Mitzva of Simḥa

It is a positive commandment for women to rejoice on the festivals. Even though this is a time-bound positive commandment, it is incumbent upon both men and women, as the verse explicitly states: “You shall rejoice in your festival with … Continue reading

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11. To Enjoy and Bring Joy to Others

The mitzva of simḥa requires a man to include his entire family in his enjoyment, and to include the poor and despondent as well. This is not just a pious act, but is the simḥa required by the Torah: “You … Continue reading

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12. Festival Expenses

In general, the Sages encourage everyone to minimize expenses and to save money. People can use their savings to help their children train in a profession and start a family as well as to support themselves in their old age. … Continue reading

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13. Singing, Dancing, and Outings

Anything that brings one joy is included in the mitzva of simḥat ḥag. This includes singing, dancing, and tiyulim (outings). The more singing and praising God, the better. Torah giants composed religious poems and hymns to praise and thank God … Continue reading

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14. The Festive Mood and the Prohibition of Mourning and Sadness

It is a mitzva to be in good spirits for the duration of the festival. At first glance, this would seem to be an easy mitzva, since everybody wants to be happy. However, in practice this mitzva is difficult to … Continue reading

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15. The Mitzva of Making a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Temple Times

As long as the Temple stood, there was a mitzva to travel there for the festivals: “Three times a year, all your males shall appear (yeira’eh, literally ‘will be seen’) before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel” (Shemot 34:23). … Continue reading

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16. Making the Pilgrimage Nowadays

The commandment to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was nullified with the destruction of the Temple, as the mitzva is dependent on the ability to bring the offerings. Nevertheless, many Jews came and continue to come to Jerusalem for the … Continue reading

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17. Visiting One’s Rabbi

“One must visit his rabbi on the three pilgrimage festivals” (RH 16b; Sukka 27b). This is so that he can honor his rabbi and learn Torah from him. Doing so allows a person to connect with his rabbi and receive … Continue reading

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