Jewish Ways

Wishes for a safe journey

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 23, 2012

To someone beginning a journey we say, “Leich l’shalom”, “Go toward peace”. The Talmud finds biblical endorsement for this phrase: Jethro told Moses “Leich l’shalom” when Moses set off for Egypt. And we all know that his trip was a success.

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Praying in a community

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 21, 2012

Judaism places great value in communal prayer or tefillah b’tzibbur. The rabbis quote many biblical verses to show that praying as a group is more powerful than praying alone.

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Shabbat Nachamu

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 6, 2012

The Shabbat after Tishah b’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, meaning the Shabbat of comfort. It is named after the first words of the haftarah from Isaiah 40, “Comfort, comfort my people”. 

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Singing about Elijah at the end of Shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 27, 2012

After reciting havdalah at the end of Shabbat, many people sing “Eliyahu Hanavi”, a song about the prophet Elijah and our hope that he may arrive soon to herald of the coming of the Messiah. (As Malachi prophesies, in the haftarah read before Pesach, Elijah will be sent before the “great and awesome day of the Lord”.)

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Blessings over Torah study

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 20, 2012

Torah every morning: “Who has commanded us to engage in the words of Torah”, “Make the words of the Torah sweet in our mouths,” “Blessed are You, Lord, Giver of the Torah.” 

These berachot are a combination of acknowledgment of the mitzvah of Torah study, prayer to make our learning inspiring and thankfulness to God for giving us the Torah.

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Pidyon Haben

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 12, 2012

About one in 10 Jewish families will need to pidyon haben, when their first baby boy is 31 days old. The qualification is that you need to have a son, delivered naturally (not by caesarian) who is the firstborn of a mother who did not previously have a miscarriage. Neither parent must be the child of a Cohen or a Levi.

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Kissing the Torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 6, 2012

In Judaism, kisses are not just for people. They are also for mitzvah objects. Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz, the 17th-century scholar, records the custom of kissing the matzah at the Seder and the walls of the succah on Succot for the sake of chibuv hamitzvah, affection for the mitzvah.

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Blessing over fire at Havdalah

June 28, 2012

Plaited candles are not only beautiful but part of the havdalah ritual marking the end of Shabbat. In addition to blessing on wine and spices, we recite, “Blessed are You . . . who creates lights of fire”.

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Correcting the Torah reader

June 21, 2012

In some congregations if the Torah reader makes a mistake, the entire congregation will yell the right word. In fact, it is the job of a special gabbai (synagogue official) called a somech (supporter) — and not anyone else — to stand next to the reader (ba’al koreh) and correct his reading when necessary.

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Reading the sidrah twice

June 14, 2012

According to the Talmud, a person “should always complete his Torah portion with the community and study the Torah twice and the translation once” (Berachot 8a). 

In the first century, Onkelos, the most famous convert of the era, penned the official Aramaic translation to which the Talmud refers. Even nowadays his masterpiece is still printed in almost every Chumash. 

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