Jewish Ways

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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Eating mezonot on planes

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 27, 2014

Halachah requires ritual hand-washing before eating bread. However, getting up to wash your hands before a meal on a flight can be a hassle and disturb other passengers. Cue the expanded use of the hybrid known as mezonot bread. This is bread that is made with juice and therefore is like cake.

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Smoking on Yomtov

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 20, 2014

Today it is accepted that one may smoke on Yomtov (if you light up from a pre-existing flame — one may not kindle a fire on Yomtov.) But historically many authorities did not allow it and it is at least questionable whether it should be permitted today.

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Reading the Haggadah on Shabbat Hagadol

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 11, 2014

Preparation is key to having a meaningful Seder (and to many other things too. If you keep Shabbat, you don’t start preparing for it ten minutes before candle-lighting time).

Consequently, there is an old custom to the Great Shabbat, to reacquaint ourselves with the ideas and practices of the Seder (Rama, Orach Chaim 430:1).

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Storing in a geniza

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 6, 2014

Genizot, storage rooms for holy books and objects (lignoz, in Hebrew, means to hide or put away, are particularly busy in the days before Pesach, when people want to clear out their homes. 

The Sages thought it inconceivable that we would simply throw away a holy book or object when it no longer filled its purpose.

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Burning chametz

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 31, 2014

The custom today is to make a bonfire of your leftover chametz on the morning before Pesach. This is based on a biblical commandment to “remove leaven from your houses”. The Talmud states that “removing leaven” according to the Torah is simply declaring all your chametz null and void (Pesachim 4b). The sages add to this the command of biur, the physical destruction of, chametz.
 

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Kissing the mezuzah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 23, 2014

Many people touch the mezuzah and kiss it when they pass through door. The source of this practice is a story in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 11a) about the famous convert and biblical translator Onkelos. His uncle, the Roman emperor, peeved by Onkeles’s conversion, sent three different delegations of soldiers to return his nephew to Rome. But each time, Onkelos converted them to Judaism.
 

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Giving charity instead of food on Purim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 14, 2014

Recently, people have started sending cards on Purim saying, “I’m making a donation to this charity in your name instead of mishloach manot”, (the gifts of food parcels to friends that are among the mitzvot of Purim).

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