The Meaning of Jewish Holidays

Why are Jewish holidays different from all other holidays?

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Secrets of 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 meta-history of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, and contained within this meta-history 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.

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Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf is the award-winning author of eleven books, including the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit and Judaism In A Nutshell: ISRAEL.