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Chol Hamoed

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JewishTreats.org

Most holidays in western society last for a single day, which is often extended into the weekend. And while most people are aware that Chanukah is celebrated for 8 days, many people are surprised to learn that both  Passover and Sukkot are also week-long holidays. The Torah explicitly states (in Leviticus 23) that these two holidays shall be observed for seven days. (Note: The holiday[s] following Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are independent of Sukkot.)

The first two days of Passover and Sukkot (only the first day in Israel) and the last two days of Passover (only the last day in Israel) and the Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah festival that immediately follows Sukkot (observed as one day in Israel, two days elsewhere) are observed as Yamim Tovim, Festival Days. Yamim Tovim are observed in the same manner as Shabbat except that one may cook (using a pre-existing flame) and carry in public areas. The remaining days in between are known as Chol Ha’moed–weekday of the festival.

During Chol Ha’moed, it is customary to continue the holiday spirit and avoid unnecessary work. Many people refrain from mundane chores such as laundry. Some people do not work and avoid shopping except for essentials for the holiday. In synagogue, the Torah is read and Hallel (festive Psalms of praise) and Mussaf (the additional service) are recited.

On Chol Ha’moed of Passover, one maintains the prohibition against eating chametz (leaven), but it is not a requirement to eat matzah. On Sukkot, the requirements to dwell in the sukkah and the mitzvah of the four species continue throughout Chol Ha’moed.

During Chol Ha’moed people offer special greetings to each other by saying either “Gut Moed,” which is Yiddish for “Good Festival,” or “Moadim L’Simcha,” which is “Holidays for Happiness,” or “Chag Sameach,” which is Hebrew for “Happy Holiday.”

This Treat was last posted on April 9, 2012

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