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Learning about Pesach

March 11th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Learning about Pesach)

Pesach (פסח) is the Jewish holiday that falls in the spring, usually in late March or early April. It is the holiday that celebrates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Jews were slaves in Egypt for 210 years. They were forced to build cities for the Egyptian Pharoh (פרעה). The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel, and 8 outside of Israel. One of the hallmarks of Passover as it is called in English is that bread and other products that are made with yeast are not eaten the whole week.

The events leading up to the actual Exodus are described in the Bible, in the book of Exodus (שמות). Moses (משה) lead the people out of Egypt and they received the Torah on Mt. Sinai  (הר סיני).

Cleaning for Pesach

We celebrate Pesach by first cleaning out our houses from all forms of breads (לחם), cakes and cookies. This often takes some time especially for families with many children, because you never know where all the hiding places may be.

Search for the Bread

Next we do a search for the bread. This is lots of fun for the children because they take a piece of bread, wrap it up in a piece of paper, and then hide 10 small pieces around the  house.  When all the pieces are found by the father, it is put aside for burning the next day.

The Seder (הסדר)

The most important part of Pesach is the Seder. The family gathers around the table, which has been set fit for a king, with special table settings, four cups of wine (יין), the seder plate with the different symbolic foods. The service is read from a special book called the Hagadda (הגדה), that tells the story of the Exodus. At certain places in the seder, a symbolic food is eaten. First is the parsley, then bitter herbs (מרור) and then the Matza (מצה), the special unleavened bread, that is made without yeast and is not allowed to rise. The seder can take a long time, and it is not uncommon for families to stay up very late. The festive meal is then served with many traditional foods such as chicken soup, kugels and very tasty Pesach desserts.

In Israel the children are on vacation from the week before Pesach until the 8th day. It is a time for families to spend time together.

Pesach is a great time to visit Israel, the weather is very pleasant, lots of cultural activities are organized and the atmosphere is great, you can even enjoy a kosher lepesach pizza or pasta! Get ready for your trip to Israel with Hebrew conversation lessons via Skype.

Vocabulary about Pesach





הר סיני








February 17th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Purim)

Purim (פורים)  is the Jewish holiday of joy. Everyone is happy (שמח) on Purim! There are many customs (מנהגים) of Purim that are very interesting. This is the one holiday in the Jewish calendar which happened outside Israel in Persia, but it is a beloved holiday by kids and adults alike.

In Israel, Purim is a bit  like the European Carnival, but comes later in the year. The date (תאריך)  in the Jewish calendar is the 14th of Adar, and in Jerusalem the 15th. The celebrations take place in the early spring usually in late February or early March. The kids start by getting their parents to go to the toy stores and buy costumes (תילבושת). Traditionally kids used to make their own to dress up as Queen Esther, Mordechai or King Asuerus. Now kids dress up as traditional characters, but also you will find Batman, Ninjas, lots of Policemen and Soldiers.

In school, there is no real learning the week (שבוע) of Purim. The schools run a Shuk Purim where games of skill and chance are played by throwing balls, or darts, hopefully magnetic, and most everyone wins a prize.

Purim Day  is celebrated in Israel by first listening to the Megilla (מגילה), the book of Esther,  being read aloud in the synagogue, in the evening. This a very noisy affair. Then everyone goes home to have a Purim Party (סעודת פורים). There are special Purim songs that are sung, and one of the most surprising  features for a Jewish holiday is that it is permitted to get drunk (שיכור).

The next day we go again to the synagogue to hear the Megilla, and then you exchange food gifts (משלוח מנות) with your friends and neighbors. Donations (תורמות) of money to the poor is given out on Purim Day so that the poor can be happy as well.

Have fun on Purim!

Vocabulary about Purim





December 5th, 2012 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Chanukah)

Chanukah ( חנוכה,) is the holiday that commemorate the re dedication of the Temple  (בית המקדש) after the war with the Syrian Greeks.

How is the Chanukah celebrated?

Chanuka is celebrated by lighting candles at sundown during 8 nights, starting from the 25 of the Hebrew month of Kislev. (כסלו) The Menora, called Hannukiah (חנוכיה)  in Hebrew, is placed in a window (חלון) that is visible from the street. In Jerusalem, many people also light outside  the doorway of the houses, with olive oil  (שמן זית) candles, placed inside a glass box. The purpose of this custom is to publicize the miracle to the passers by.

The Miracle of Chanukah

The most quoted miracle (נס) is the one that happened after the war between the Maccabees and the Syrian Greeks was finished and the High Priest ( כחן הגדול) returned to the Temple to begin the worship and light the 7 branched Menora. They found only one flask of olive oil that had the stamp of the former High Priest. There was only enough oil to keep the Menora burning for one day. The miracle was that instead of only one day of burning, the oil lasted for 8 days. This was just enough time for new oil to be prepared from the picking of the olives to the pressing and refining. The Halacha  (הלכה) of the Temple was that the Menorah had to be kept lit 24 hours a day, and usually new oil was needed each night.

The other observances of Chanukah are additions to the Blessing after eating bread, and special Torah readings in the synagogue. Children are traditionally given money “Chanuka gelt”  (דמי חנוכה) and in modern times, they are given gifts each of the 8 nights.

Vocabulary of Chanukah


בית המקדש




שמן זית


כחן הגדול


דמי חנוכה


Celebrating Rosh Hashana

September 13th, 2012 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Celebrating Rosh Hashana)

Rosh Hashana (ראש השנה)  is the Jewish New Year. In Israel Rosh Hashana is a two day holiday, just like it is all around the world. It is a time of joy, but also of introspection. We look at our deeds from the past year and start the process to begin anew.

In Israel, Rosh Hashana is celebrated by eating special foods. After the Evening Service at the synagogue, the family has a “Seder.” (סדר)

The Kiddush (קידוש) blessing is said on the wine, and the blessing is said over the Challah(חלה) loaf, but instead of putting salt on the Challah, it is dipped(לטבול) in honey (דבש).   Each person takes a piece of bread with honey and takes a bite.

Significant Omens for the New Year

There are many foods that are considered good luck omens. Apples(תפוח), fennugreek, or carrots(גזר), leeks or cabbage(כרוב),  beets(סלק), dates(תמר), gourd (רוביא), pomegranate(רימון) and fish, and the head of a sheep (כבש) or fish(דג) are the most important foods. Each food has a special blessing said over it by all the people at the table. Some of the omens are positive and some are negative. For apples we wish each other a good and sweet New Year. For the Carrots or fenugreek, we want our merits to increase. Pomegranates are especially good, may our merits be as many as there are seeds in this fruit! The negative omens, beets, leek, and dates, signify that our enemies be decimated, removed, or consumed. The last omen of the Seder is the fish and the head of a sheep or a fish. These signify that we be fruitful and mulitply like fish and the head of the fish, that we should be like the head and not the tail. 

Have fun during Rosh Hashana, and remember to eat a bit of each food to savor the special flavor of the Sweet New Year!  May you have a Sweet New Year(שנה חדשה) with lots of blessings(ברכות) and new opportunites to learn Hebrew at Live-Hebrew.net! 

Vocabulary of Rosh Hashana

ראש השנה
שנה חדשה