Seliḥot is a service of penitential prayers that are recited on all fast days, periods of special intercession and during the penitential season, which begins before Rosh Hashanah and concludes with Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, literally meaning the "beginning (also head) of the year") is the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah includes sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram's horn), as prescribed in the Torah, and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a "sweet new year".
Yom Kippur is a day to practice self-denial and to atone for past sins, which are executed through fasting, prayer and repentance. In preparation for Yom Kippur, it has become customary to seek forgiveness from friends and relatives that may have been wronged throughout the year. It is also seen as a time to honor loved ones of blessed memory (Yizkor).
Sukkot is one of the three biblically based pilgrimage holidays. It is an agricultural festival that originally was considered a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest.
Shemini Atzeret is a solemn time and is one of the times during the year when we mourn together (Yizkor). Simḥat Torah is a joyful celebration, often symbolized by dancing. Simḥat Torah also celebrates completion of the reading of the Book of Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Torah) and starting from the beginning with the Book of Genesis.
Ḥanukkah commemorates the Maccabees’ defeat of the Syrians, which led to liberation of the Jews and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ḥanukkah also is known as the “Festival of Lights” because of the custom of lighting bright lights in celebration for eight days.
Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman in the days of Queen Esther of Persia. Purim is celebrated with a spirited reading of the M’gillat Esther; by dressing in costume; eating hamantaschen (three-cornered pastry, which some believe symbolize Haman’s three-cornered hat); and giving mishloaḥ manot (gifts) and charity to others.
Passover, or Pesaḥ, commemorates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. One of the major elements of Passover is the Seder meal. Another of the major traditions during Passover is the prohibition against eating ḥametz, leavened foods made of wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt. In place of ḥametz, Jews are commanded to eat matzah during Passover — an unleavened product of the five grains — which serves as both a reminder of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt and as a symbol of oppression. Passover is also when our community mourns together through the recitation of the memorial prayers in remembrance of those whom we have loved and lost (Yizkor).
Shavuot coincides with the date that G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. Shavuot also is one of the four times during the year when we mourn together (Yizkor).