Celebrating the Jewish Year: The Fall Holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot


Named a 2007 National Jewish Book Award Runner-Up in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.

JPS’s holiday books take us through the joys, spirit, and meaning of the seasons. Blending the old and the new, they ground us in the origins and traditions of each holiday and open up to us ways we can add our own expression to these special days. Although synagogue ritual is touched upon, the real focus here is on our personal ...

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Named a 2007 National Jewish Book Award Runner-Up in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.

JPS’s holiday books take us through the joys, spirit, and meaning of the seasons. Blending the old and the new, they ground us in the origins and traditions of each holiday and open up to us ways we can add our own expression to these special days. Although synagogue ritual is touched upon, the real focus here is on our personal connections to each holiday and our home observance.

As we move from season to season, Paul Steinberg shares with us a rich collection of readings from many of the Jewish greats—Maimonides, Rashi, Nachmanides, Shlomo Carlebach, Marge Piercy, Elie Wiesel, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Arthur Green, and others—and he guides us in discovering for ourselves the many treasures within each text. The readings teach us about the history of each holiday, as well as its theological, ethical, agricultural, and seasonal importance and interpretation; others give us inspiration and much food for thought. These stories, essays, poems, anecdotes, and rituals help us discover how deeply Jewish traditions are rooted in nature’s yearly cycle, and how beautifully season and spirit are woven together throughout the Jewish year.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Week

“Organized with much thoughtfulness, [the author] includes a richness of materials for each holiday. . . . There’s much good and inspiring writing here.”—Jewish Week

The Reporter
“Those looking for one book to help them understand the fall holiday season would do well to read Celebrating the Jewish Year.”—The Reporter


Midwest Book Review

“A superb addition to personal, family, school and community library Judaic Studies reference collections, Celebrating the Jewish Year is very highly recommended and informative reading that will help the reader to create a memorable holiday experience for themselves and their loved ones that will be enhanced in both meaning and spirit.”—Midwest Book Review
National Jewish Post and Opinion
“This is the kind of book where a reviewer says ‘every family should own one.’ All three volumes will make excellent contributions to the celebrations of our Jewish holidays.”—Sybil Kaplan, National Jewish Post and Opinion
Publishers Weekly

Steinberg, a rabbi and educator, calls the Jewish holidays "fundamental expressions of our spirituality." In Judaism's holistic approach, he says, spirituality encompasses the interaction of a person's intellectual, emotional and physical aspects, so the holidays "tie us to history, the earth, the Jewish people and God." This first of three volumes explores Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Each section discusses a holiday's biblical origins, ideology and customs, followed by writings from Jewish thinkers throughout history, contemporary perspectives and alternative meditations. What makes this volume stand out from other holiday guides is an additional section with sacred texts presented in and inspired by Talmudic format. Steinberg examines each text at three different levels-literal, interpretive and personal. He doesn't shy away from questioning practices that may seem outmoded, but challenges readers not to abandon them abruptly. His careful, thorough and reasoned explanations will deepen understanding of each holiday's history and tradition, allowing celebrations to become, in fact, more celebratory. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Midwest Book Review

...superb introduction especially recommended for anyone seeking to enrich their personal understanding before attending a Jewish holiday celebration.

The Jewish Leader

This is really a terrific guidebook for friends and family members because it is such an enjoyable read that can be used at the basic and in-depth levels.

The American Israelite

Whatever you are doing for the up and coming High Holiday season, make the purchase of this book one of the top priorities on your list.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780827608429
  • Publisher: Jewish Publication Society
  • Publication date: 7/2/2007
  • Series: Celebrating the Jewish Year Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 1,389,259
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Steinberg is a rabbi and the director of Jewish studies and Hebrew at the Levine Academy in Dallas, Texas. He holds master's degrees in both education and rabbinic studies and was ordained from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. He is the author of The Study Guide to Jewish Ethics (JPS, 2003), articles on Hebrew Bible and Jewish education, and a monthly column on the spirit of Jewish holidays and family in the Texas Jewish Post.

Janet Greenstein Potter is the editor of several JPS publications, including the National Jewish Book Award Finalist Wise and Not So Wise, Praise Her Works, Zayda Was a Cowboy, Sarah's Journey, and The Kids' Catalog of Animals and the Earth, a book about the environment and the Jewish tradition.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xv
Introduction     xvii
Framework of This Book     1
Heart, Mind, and Celebration
The Spiritual Cycle of the Jewish Holidays     5
Reason, Faith, and Jewish Observance     6
Origins of the Jewish Calendar
Seeing the Moon     13
Setting the Calendar     14
A Fix for the Two-Day Fix     15
Naming the Months and the Days     16
Rosh Hashanah
The Head of the Year     23
Rosh Hashanah in the Bible     24
The Month of Elul: A Footpath to Mercy     26
Is It Two Days or One Long Day?     29
Food and Other Customs on Rosh Hashanah     30
Pathways Through the Sources     33
Midrash Rabbah: Presence and Pardon     33
Jerusalem Talmud: God's Partners     34
High Holiday Machzor: The Decree     34
The Zohar: A Shofar's Harmony     35
Moses ben Jacob of Coucy: Self-Mastery     36
Or Ha-Chaim: Gentle Justice     37
Mei Ha-Shilo'ach: The Original Intention     38
The Rebbe of Strelisk: Heeding Advice     38
Rav Kook: Sacred Freedom     39
Arthur Green: Returning to Wholeness     40
Interpretations of Sacred Texts     42
Judgment and Injustice     42
Remembrance and Compassion     44
The Shofar and Prayer from the Heart     46
Significance of the Holiday: Some Modern Perspectives     48
From Obscurity to Prominence   Reuven Hammer     48
Remembering Creation   Paul Steinberg     50
A Clarion Call to Fixing the World   Elliot N. Dorff     53
The Days of Awe and Israel   Miriyam Glazer     55
The Shofar: A Cry into Eternity   Will Berkovitz     57
Alternative Meditations     59
Singing Creation into Being   Shlomo Carlebach     59
Facing the Music: A High Holiday Meditation   Shefa Gold     59
Hagar and Sarah, Sarah and Hagar   Rosellen Brown     61
Yom Kippur
The Day for Spiritual Second Chances     65
Yom Kippur in the Bible     66
Days of Awe     71
Erev Yom Kippur: The Threshold of Sanctity     72
Yom Kippur and Self-Denial     75
Pathways Through the Sources     77
Mishnah: Between God and Fellow     77
Maimonides: Perfect Repentance      77
Zohar: The High Priest's Intervention     79
Yehudah Ha-Levi: Attending to the Spirit     79
Kitzur Shulchan Arukh: Observance and Practice     80
The Maggid of Mezritch: Discovering Unity     81
The Rebbe of Lizensk: Forgiving God     83
Franz Rosenzweig: To Stand before God     84
Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Unforgivable     85
Erich Fromm: No Judgment Without Love     86
Interpretations of Sacred Texts     88
Festivity and Marriage     88
Sin and Confession     90
Truth versus Mercy     92
Significance of the Holiday: Some Modern Perspectives     94
An Evolution in Rite and Prayer   Cheryl Peretz     94
Repentance, Confession, and Atonement   Bradley Shavit Artson     97
Moral Freedom and Responsibility   Elliot N. Dorff     99
Accepting the Decree   Miriam Burg     102
Alternative Meditations     105
Elul   Judith Sarah Schmidt     105
The Ritual of the Scapegoat   Ellen Frankel     107
Meditation before Yom Kippur for One Who Cannot Fast   Simkha Y. Weintraub     107
A Carnival at the Gates: Jonah and Laughter on Yom Kippur   Rachel Adler     108
A Merging of Worlds     117
Sukkot in the Bible     118
Symbols of Sukkot     120
The Heavenly Guests     128
The Water Ritual     130
Three "Last" Days     134
Reading Kohelet     138
Pathways Through the Sources     141
Midrash: A New Reckoning     141
Midrash Rabbah: Prolonging the Celebration     143
Rashi on Kohelet: The Joy of Now     143
The Zohar: Hosting the Divine     144
Sefer Ha-Hinnukh: The Power of Four     145
Moses Chaim Luzzatto: Engulfed in Light     146
The Rabbi of Kamionka: The Etrog's Glow     147
Samson Raphael Hirsch: Minding What We Share     147
Elie Wiesel: Joy under Adversity     149
Interpretations of Sacred Texts     150
Materialism and Redemption     150
Prayer and the Powers of Rain     152
The Law and the Lesson of Fragility     154
Significance of the Holiday: Some Modern Perspectives     156
History and Tradition Interwoven   Joel Roth     156
Harvest and New Seed   Arthur Waskow      159
Open to the Earth and All Humanity   Arthur Waskow     164
The Season of Our Rejoicing   Miriyam Glazer     165
Never-ending Joy   Alan Abrams     168
Alternative Meditations     170
Imagining Zaydeh's Sukkah   Harold M. Schulweis     170
That Tzaddik's Etrog   S. Y. Agnon     172
New Rituals for Simchat Torah   Jill Hammer     175
Guidance along the Way
Is It Law or Custom?     181
Exploring Traditional Sources     182
Endnotes     197
Glossary     219
Contributing Authors     235
Index     239
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