Work Restrictions and Other Obligations on Jewish Holidays
We are pleased to present the following information not only for the edification of our website visitors but also as a concise resource that can be shared with schools, employers and others who might wish to better understand the days on which observant Jews face work restrictions or religious obligations of other kinds. Please note that the following is intended for informational purposes only. One should contact their own rabbi with any questions regarding the practical application of Jewish law.
The Jewish day begins in the evening, which is why the Sabbath starts before sunset on Fridays and concludes after nightfall on Saturdays; the same is is true for all Jewish holidays. All Jewish holidays and observances, with the exception of some fasts, begin on the evening preceding the first day. (Fasts that do not begin the preceding evening commence with the morning's first light.) Before Jewish holidays with Sabbath-like restrictions, it is necessary for all normal business, school and secular activities to cease with sufficient time to allow for adequate preparations. This is typically several hours before sundown on the eve of the holiday.
Actual holiday restrictions go into effect approximately half an hour before sundown on the eve of the holiday. Some restricted activities include all forms of vehicular travel, writing, direct use of electrical devices, measurements and any preparations for, or discussion of, normal weekday activities or responsibilities. The use of phones, computers, email, etc. is prohibited on Sabbath and holidays.
Some activities, such as cooking and carrying, that are forbidden on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, are permitted on the other holidays.
Restrictions end approximately one hour after sundown of the last day. No travel or restricted activities are permitted until then.
Holiday restrictions cannot be relaxed for business or school needs; they are only overridden in circumstances that present a danger to a human life.
Fast days include special prayers and extended synagogue services both in the morning and afternoon. Both food and water are forbidden until approximately one hour after sunset. Except for Yom Kippur, Jewish fast days are not observed on the Sabbath and their dates of observance are adjusted accordingly. Fasting might be suspended for certain individuals based on medical necessity; consult your rabbi.
Following is a list of:
Holiday - Duration - Approximate Timing in the Secular Calendar - Restrictions
Tu b’Shevat - One day - January - No restrictions
Taanit Esther (fast) - One day - March - No work restrictions
Purim - One day* - March - Limited restrictions on work
Pesach (Passover - Festival) - Eight days** - April - Sabbath-like restrictions on the first two and last two days, except for certain work involving food preparation and carrying. Non-essential work prohibited on the intermediate days.
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) - One day - April - No restrictions
Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) - One day - April - No restrictions
Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) - One day - April - No restrictions
Lag b’Omer - One day - May - No restrictions
Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) - One day - May - No restrictions
Shavuot (Festival) - Two days*** - May - Sabbath-like restrictions, except for certain work involving food preparation and carrying.
Shiva Asar b’Tammuz (fast) - One Day - June-July - No work restrictions
Tisha b’Av (fast) - One Day - July - Limited work restrictions through mid-day; full-day restrictions not only against eating and drinking but also against washing, anointing, marital relations and wearing leather shoes.
Rosh Hashanah (High Holiday) - Two days# - Sept-Oct - Sabbath-like restrictions, except for certain work involving food preparation and carrying.
Tzom Gedaliah (fast) - One day - Sept-Oct - No work restrictions
Yom Kippur (High Holiday) - One day - Sept-Oct - All Sabbath-like work restrictions. In addition, there are special restrictions against eating and drinking, washing, anointing, marital relations and wearing leather shoes.
Sukkot/Shmini Atzeret (Festival) - Nine days‡ - Oct - Sabbath-like restrictions on the first two and last two days, except for certain work involving food preparation and carrying. Non-essential work prohibited on the intermediate days.
Chanukah - Eight days - December - Tradition limits work only during the time that the Chanukah candles are lit.
Asarah b’Tevet (fast) - One day - Dec-Jan - No restrictions
*In some cities in Israel, the day after Purim is observed instead; this is called Shushan Purim. In each locale, the other day is observed as a quasi-holiday.
**In Israel, seven days, with Sabbath-like work restrictions only on the first and last.
***In Israel, one day.
#Even in Israel.
‡In Israel, eight days, with Sabbath-like work restrictions only on the first and last.