This ancient harvest festival follows quickly on the heels of the High Holy Days. At Temple Ohav Shalom, a sukkah, provided for us by our Men’s Club , is open to the congregation families to use for their own informal meals. Sukkot services are held on the eve of Sukkot and on the first morning of the holiday. It is always the congregation’s pleasure to gather in the temple sukkah for the Oneg Shabbat that falls during the festival. The atmosphere, with the crisp autumn air and seasonal foods, make it an especially festive time.
Shavuot and Kabbalat Torah
The festival that marks the pivotal event of the Jewish people – the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai – is important to our congregation for another reason. It is the time when our older teens mark the completion of their studies in our religious school. Formally known as their Confirmation, this service is a time when these youths participate in a Kabbalat Torah service and ceremony. They lead the service, make a statement of the faith, which they have composed on an individual basis, and read from the Torah. It is an inspiring service held on the eve of Shavuot or on the Shabbat morning that falls closest to that day.
For those who wish to say Kaddish for their loved ones, Yizkor services are held at Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot.
Simchat Torah/Sh’mini Atzeret
Simchat Torah is the 8th day of Sukkot and is a celebration of concluding and resuming the annual cycle of the Torah readings. During worship services, the congregation joyously celebrates with singing and dancing for the tradition of 7 hakafot (processions) of the Torahs around the sanctuary. Included in the worship for this holiday is Yizkor, the memorial service to remember parents and loved ones. In a perfect cycle, the Torah takes us from the beginning of time to the end of the Moses’s journey. At this service, our congregants start seated in the sanctuary, but end dancing outdoors with our Torah scrolls. It is a joyful night for all.
At Temple Ohav Shalom, we mark the 8 day winter festival with a community lighting of individual Chanukiot at the Shabbat service during the festival. The congregation also holds a delightful Chanukkah dinner complete with latkes, songs and dreidel games.
Although these 8 nights that delight are observed primarily in our family’s homes, our families would never miss the chance to gather for a potluck Channukah supper, sponsored by the Women of Ohav Shalom . The social hall is ablaze with the light cast by dozens of Chanukkah candelabras and the tantalizing fragrance of potato pancakes tempts everyone away from their low-carb regimen. It is a night of celebration, friendship and great food.
In celebration of the story of Esther, members of the temple (young and old) don costumes and listen to a lively Purim Schpiel on the night of this festival. The evening culminates with the reading of the Megillah. Elvis, a frail elderly women (who strangely resembles one of our male congregants) and others have all been rumored to make spontaneous appearances. The popular Purim Carnival, complete with games, prizes and hamentaschen, is held on the closest Sunday and is sponsored by the Women of Ohav Shalom .
Spring brings relief from the challenge of a Pittsburgh winter and Passover is always a part of the season’s change. The temple typically provides a community Seder on the second night of Passover. (See the temple calendar.) Passover services are held on the morning of the 2nd day and on the morning of the 7th day.
On this solemn day, we gather with our older school children to remember, to mourn and to mark a time we must never forget. Central to our service is a visit by the congregation to the Temple Ohav Shalom Holocaust Memorial Garden where the Six Million Martyrs are memorialized with a powerful and moving sculpture.