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Jewish Holidays: Books About Them

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Dos Yom-Tov Buch (The Holiday Book). By Hayyim Schauss. Published by the author. New York.

If you are one of those Jews who wishes, whenever Jewish holiday comes around, that he really knew what it is all about, get your self a copy of Hayyim Schauss’ new work, “Dos Yom-Tov Buch.”

You could take a year to read the volume, digesting one chapter at every holiday. But you won’t. You’ll read the whole book the first night, and you’ll keep it to read again and again, for it is a valuable handbook.

In “Dos Yom-Tov Buch” Dr. Schauss, who is an eminent historian and author of a number of works in Yiddish on Bible criticism and Jewish history, interestingly tells not only how Jews the world over celebrate each holiday but also how they observed the day in the past and what the historical significance of each custom and command carried out is.

In the section on Passover, for example, Dr. Schauss tells us, among other things, that Passover is the oldest and most important of the Jewish holidays. Because it is so old it bears the imprint of many a Jewish generation and many a period in Jewish history. Originally a one-night primitive nature holiday celebrated outdoors, it has gradually become the intimate eight-day celebration of deliverance we know today.

The most absorbing material in the “Yom-Tov Buch” is that which treats of the metamorphosis of the various holiday customs. Thus the custom of going to Palestine for Passover, increasingly observed today by Jews throughout the world, dates back to the days just before the second destruction of the temple, when Jews from all over the Orient poured into Palestine to celebrate Passover in the holy city, which was wealthy and hospitable in those days.

Dr. Schauss contrasts the gorgeousness of the Passover days in Palestine with the fear and trembling in which the Jews of Europe celebrated Passover during the Middle Ages, when ritual blood murders were frequent. He tells us that the Marranos cut off from Jewish life and with only their knowledge of the Bible to guide them, celebrated the holiday in the manner observed when the Jewish people was nomadic.

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