Catalog of Books

Judaism In A Nutshell Series
A complete guide to the themes, practices, and traditions of Passover.
The reality of God as examined through philosophy, history, and the  Kabbalah.
Learn how the State of Israel arose, its history and why it is so central to Judaism.
A broad exploration of the major holidays deeper spiritual meaning.
The Survival Kit Series
Rediscover the seder's lively inner life as a source for personal growth.
  Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur
An easy-to-use guide for the High Holiday Services
  Family Haggadah
Clear explanations woven into the standard text along with Q & A style commentary.
Survival Kit Companions
  Chanukah - 8 Nights of Light, 8 Gifts for the Soul
Examine the history, themes, traditions, and prayers of Chanukah.
  One Hour Purim Primer
A step-by-step guide to celebrating Purim with insights that reveal how the holiday speaks to the heart
Clueless but Curious Series
  The Bible For The Clueless But Curious
The Bible's wisdom presented  in a fun and unique format.
  Kosher For The Clueless But Curious
A fun, fact-filled and spiritual guide to all things kosher.
Cheat Sheets
  High Holiday Cheat Sheets
A pamphlet that's jam-packed with fun and practical information to help you have the most meaninful High Holidays ever!  
  My Hanukkah Cheat Sheets
This Hanukkah, give the gift of Jewish knowledge and humor.
  My Purim Cheat Sheets
This pamphlet is jam-packed (and not just because it includes a recipe for jam-filled hamentashen!) with useful, fun, and practical information about the holiday of Purim.
Other Available Books
  Remember My Soul
Provides a comforting voice for those who have suffered a loss.
  Death Of Cupid
Speaks equally to singles searching for love and couples searching to deepen theirs.
  Missiles, Masks And Miracles
Chilling accounts of the attacks on Israel during the Gulf War and the miracles that ensued.  
  The Jewish Hero Corps
This comic book tells the story of the world's only Jewish Super-Hero team as they go on a worldwide race against ti$  

by Shimon Apisdorf

List price: $9.95
Our price: $8.95



Everybody Is into Holidays

In Japan, February 3 marks the Setsubun bean-throwing festival. April 8 is Buddha’s birthday in Korea, September 28 is Confucius’s birthday in Taiwan, and October 19 is Ascension of Mohammed Day in Indonesia. Independence Day is May 14 in Paraguay, March 25 in Greece, April 31 in Trinidad and Tobago, and July 4 in the United States. And what self-respecting list of holidays would be complete without Bastille Day, Soweto Day, Kwanzaa, Passover, and Easter?

The very concept of a holiday seems to touch a basic, universal chord. After all, everybody is into them. If you were to show ten people the above list and ask the question, “What’s a holiday?” most would probably tell you that they are cultural or religious days that are designated to commemorate something significant in that particular religion or society. And by-and-large they would be correct, with one exception: Passover.

In the Jewish concept, while holidays may appear to be commemorations of historical events, in fact they are something altogether different. The Hebrew word the Torah uses for holiday is moed, and moed means “rendezvous.” Every moed, every Jewish holiday, is a meeting of sorts. In fact, Jewish holidays are multidimensional meetings. Think of a business meeting for a moment. Imagine that you have plans to meet with someone at 2:30 on July 24 (Simon Bolivar’s birthday in Ecuador) at your seventh floor office on the corner of Twelfth and Main. Is this not a multidimensional meeting? It is taking place within the three dimensions of space, as indicated by the location of your building and the floor your office is on, as well as within the dimension of time, as indicated by the date and hour of the meeting. Additionally, and most importantly, there is a human dimension to your meeting in that what will transpire is two people relating and interacting with one another. In a sense, this is what moed is all about.

Jewish holidays are rendezvous that incorporate not only the dimensions of time and place but spiritual dimensions that go to the heart of the Jewish understanding of matters like history, the soul, God, and what it means to be a Jew. To appreciate the depth and import of these holiday-rendezvous events, it is necessary to first take a look at some of the primary components that all converge to form the experiential framework of what we are used to calling holidays but as we will see are actually moed, points of rendezvous that bring us to the threshold of the deepest aspects of our existence. Let’s take a look—

Rendezvous with Who?

Well, with God, who else?

Perhaps the most seminal Jewish perspective on God, and one that shapes the entirety of how Jews relate to God in general and the holidays in particular, is this: Since God is wholly complete and lacks nothing, it can’t be that His act of creation was motivated by a need, because a need implies a lack, and He has no lackings. Creation, then, is not for the Creator, rather, it is for us, His creations. If creation is for us, what this implies is that existence is for our benefit; in other words, existence is good for us. And, since when God does things He does them right, Judaism understands that the entire purpose of our existence is that we enjoy being able to receive and partake of the greatest good possible. The key words in all of this are “enjoy” and “good.” Consequently, God’s relationship to us is one in which He is the giver par excellence, and we are the receivers of the best He has to offer. And just what is this “best” that we were created to enjoy? It’s the Creator Himself. Therefore, what flows from this is the Jewish perspective that the way we partake in the purpose of what we were created for is to be engaged in a relationship with God. And it is with this perspective that we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the Jewish holidays.

A full appreciation of the holidays begins with understanding them in the context of the relationship between God and the Jewish people. In a word, the relationship between God and the Jewish people is a marriage. This means that the unique depth, intimacy, love, and bonding that is present in marriage provides the best possible analogy for the spiritual connection that is present in the relationship between God and the Jewish people. In fact, King Solomon’s Song of Songs, a deeply passionate and poignant tribute to the longing and love of a husband and wife, is understood to be an allegory for the love between God and the Jewish nation. It is also regarded as the holiest of all the books of the Bible.

“On Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot [the three holidays when the Jews visited the Temple in Jerusalem] the curtain was opened so the people could see the two Cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant embracing. It was then announced to the people, ‘God’s love for you is like the love of a man and a woman.’”

---- Talmud

From the vantage point of seeing God and the Jewish people as lovers, and with the appreciation that the holidays are in fact rendezvous points of love, we will now take a closer look at the Jewish idea of marriage and how it relates to the holidays.

A Word about Marriage

I have been asked the following question on numerous occasions: “If two people live together for many long and happy years, have children together and raise them in a warm, and loving home but choose to never formalize their relationship through marriage, are they really any different from another couple who did happen to have a wedding?” And what I tell people is this: The Jewish understanding of marriage is that it is a relationship that transcends both the physical, day-to-day practicalities of living together as well as the deep, emotional reality that is a part of building a life, a home, and a family together. Beyond the physical and beyond even the emotional, there is a profound spiritual dimension to marriage. When two people get married, more is taking place than just the first part of sharing a life together; marriage is a spiritual transformation. The souls of two people who marry become blended together as one.

“Therefore a man will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they will become one flesh.”

---- Genesis 2:24

When the Torah speaks about two people becoming “one flesh,” it means that marriage is a metamorphosis of essential identity; it is the shift from one’s essence being perceived in terms of “I” and “mine” to “us” and “ours” in the deepest and most actual way. It is in the realm of the soul—of the ultimate reality of two people’s being—that Judaism sees the difference between a married couple and an equally fulfilled and happy unmarried couple. The marriage ceremony, then, is a sort of re-engineering of two people’s spiritual DNA. It is the vehicle through which a new spiritual reality is brought into being—and the only way to describe this new reality is oneness. Where once there were two, a wedding now creates one.

Weddings and Holidays

If you have ever been to a Jewish wedding, then you have seen some or all of the following: the bride and the groom stood together under the wedding canopy (the chuppah), the rabbi said some prayers, a marriage certificate (the ketubah) was read, a ring or rings were exchanged, a glass was broken, and a great party ensued.

I want to let you in on a few secrets.

Secret number one, as we have begun to see, is that the marriage ceremony is more than just a ritual. It’s a spiritual process in which each component has its own role, identity, and profound significance. Secret number two is that these component parts of the marriage ceremony have conceptual counterparts in the yearly cycle of the Jewish holidays. And secret number three is that when taken together, in the context of early Jewish history, a wedding-holiday paradigm emerges that enables us to understand the holidays on a plane very different from what we are accustomed to. The Jewish holidays, it turns out, are far more than the commemorations of significant historical events. Rather, they are the metahistory of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, and contained within this metahistory are the keys to accessing the great potential of that relationship.

“The period of the patriarchs and matriarchs [Abraham, Sarah, and so on.] was like the courtship and engagement that was followed by the Exodus and the giving of the Torah which was the wedding.”

---- Commentary of Malbim, Jeremiah 2:2

“The day when the Torah was given at Sinai was the wedding day of God and the Jewish nation.”

---- Commentary of Rashi and Tsror Hamor, Song of Songs 3:11

 “God became wedded to the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus and through the giving of the Torah. The consummation took place when God’s presence enveloped them.”

---- Commentary of Eliezer Rokeach, Talmud, Kiddushin

The key to understanding the Jewish holidays lies in being able to see beneath the surface and understand them as a framework for the most transcendent of all relationships: the relationship between the Creator of the universe and the nation of Israel.(For a discussion on the origins, development, and meaning of this relationship see Judaism in a Nutshell: God.)   

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