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Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays Hardcover – August 7, 2017
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About the Author
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is one of the world's leading Jewish thinkers and moral voices of our time, laureate of the 2016 Templeton Prize. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, King's College London and Jews' College, Rabbi Sacks served as chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 until 2013. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought, his work has included a new English translation and commentary for the Koren Sacks Siddur, the first new Orthodox siddur in a generation, as well as powerful commentaries for the five Koren Sacks Mahzorim.
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He discusses five Jewish holidays in this volume: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pessah, and Shavuot. His goal is to make the holidays meaningful for the average reader. His subtitles for the five holidays are: The Anniversary of Creation, Seeking Forgiveness, Season of Joy, Finding Freedom, and The Greatest Gift.
Taking Rosh Hashana as an example, among much else, he writes about the number seven in Judaism signifying holiness. Rosh Hashana is a celebration of the universe as God’s work. The blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana is our way of participating in God’s coronation, that God is our king. This holiday is the start of a period of national rededication, a covenant-renewal ceremony. It is a time of national return to God. Rosh Hashana tells us that life is short and we must learn how to make the most of it. It reminds us that every breath we take is a gift from God. It teaches us that we are free and that life is meaningful. These and other ideas are found in the holiday prayer book, the Machzor, which Rabbi Sacks explains.
The book is filled with a wealth of explanations, such as the biblical scapegoat procedure, what happened at Sinai, the difference between Maimonides and Nachmanides in regard to repentance, how does Yom Kippur change us, the meaning of Kol Nidrei, and much more.
If you own the Machzorim already, this volume will be redundant (I do not believe anything in this volume is exclusively printed here). If you are looking for a How-to guide, this is not the right book. But if you are looking for an introduction to the meaning and message of the holiday, and a perspective on why the holiday is relevant for us today, how we can use the holiday to lift ourselves up and grow from the experience, Rabbi Sacks does that as well as anyone I have come across.