Jewish Ways

Adding time to Shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 6, 2014

In Britain, we are used to beginning Shabbat early in the summer so that dinner will not be too late; beginning to eat at 9.30 just doesn't work for most families. But, how do the rabbis justify declaring the start of Shabbat on Friday afternoon before sunset?

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Engagement party

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 26, 2014

In Charedi circles, an engagement party is called a vort, Yiddish for "word." This refers to the words of Torah and blessing usually said at the gathering.

When a couple first announce their engagement, they might arrange a l'chaim, a simple party.

The vort, on the other hand, is a planned engagement party, usually bigger than the informal l'chaim.

Today in Israeli Charedi circles, peopl

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Owning a pet dog

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 22, 2014

Conventional wisdom has it that Jews don't much like dogs. Some put this down to bad historical experiences. 

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Praying with feet together

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 15, 2014

When we pray the silent Amidah (the "standing" prayer), we stand straight with  our feet close together. As the Shulchan Aruch says, "One next to the other, as though they were but one," in order, it explains, to be like the angels.

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Observing yahrzeit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 6, 2014

It is a very widespread custom to observe the Hebrew anniversary of a parent's death, yahrzeit (from the German, yahr, "year", and zeit, "time"). It is common to light memorial candles and say prayers in shul; some visit the grave.

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Thanking the rooster

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 1, 2014

The first of the fifteen Birkot Hashachar (dawn blessings) that are said first thing in the morning thanks God for “giving the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night”. The wording is from Job 38:36 –“who gave understanding to the rooster [sechvi]”.

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Wearing a kittel at a wedding

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 25, 2014

At my wedding, I wore a new M & S suit with a white robe on top called a kittel. 

This way, I matched with my wife’s outfit. Wearing a white kittel is also supposed to help the bride and groom match spiritually, too. White symbolises purity and freedom from sin. Your wedding day is like a little Yom Kippur, a day when all previous mistakes are forgiven and we get to make a new start.

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Missing a day of counting the Omer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 19, 2014

We count the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot as days of preparation from the exodus from Egypt to receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Every night of the Omer, we bless “Who has commanded us to count the Omer” and then announce the appropriate day of the Omer and the total number of weeks that have gone by. 

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Mutual responsibility

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 11, 2014

The Talmud teaches, “All Israel are responsible [areivim] for each other”. Rashi explains that we have a duty to respond when we see others doing harmful things. Jews have a common spiritual identity and destiny.

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Deciding charity priorities

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 4, 2014

How should we decide to whom to give charity? The Shulchan Aruch , based on biblical and talmudic sources, states that poor relatives come first, next neighbours, then people in the same city, and then the poor in Israel (Yoreh Deah 251:3). With the mitzvah of giving tzedakah, the halachah is that we should prioritise those near to us.  

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