There are 2 characteristics that mark all Jewish holidays.
The first is that every holiday centres around the whole people of Israel. The Sabbath commemorates the Creation of the world; Pesach marks the liberation of the whole people; Shavuoth commemorates the giving of the Law to the whole people; Sukkot is a reminder of the harvest that the Jewish people gathered in days, or the protection of G-d for all the people during their wanderings in the wilderness; Hanukah and Purim preserve the memory of the delivery of the Jewish people from destruction. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur centre around the entire people praying to G-d for forgiveness of sins and for the renewal of life.
The second characteristic of all Jewish holidays is that they are of a religious nature. There are no secular holidays in Jewish life, all the holidays are “feasts of the Lord.” Jews link themselves and their time to G-d. The rhythm of time – sunup and sundown, moon rising and moon going down, winter, spring, summer, fall – is G-d’s. The rhythm of life – birth, circumcision, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, marriage, death – is G-d’s. The Zohar, explains it like this: “Whenever the Jews on earth rejoice in their festivals, they give praise to the Lord. They put on fine clothes, and pile their tables with good food. So the angels ask, “Why do the Jews pamper themselves so much?” And G-d answers, “They have a distinguished Guest today. I am with them.”
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