Jewish Ways

Public reading of the Torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 11, 2012

Every Shabbat we read one parashah from the 54 of the Torah beginning today with Shabbat Bereshit. (Sometimes we double up, reading two parashiyot at a time). We finish up the entire cycle by the end of each Succot.

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Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 10, 2012

It is an ancient tradition for the Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit (the bridegrooms of the law), who are called up for the last and first aliyot of the annual Torah reading cycle, to give a kiddush. The earlier custom was to provide a whole feast and to do it on Simchat Torah. Now it is generally done on Shabbat Bereshit.

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Not working on Chol Hamo'ed

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 27, 2012

Succot lasts seven days. But only the first day is a Yomtov (or the first two days in the diaspora) and carries the prohibition against doing any labour, with the exception of cooking and carrying. The subsequent five or six days are Chol Hamo’ed —the everyday days of the festival.

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The Synagogue Sermon

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 20, 2012

The sermons in shul over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are usually the longest and hopefully the most inspiring of the year. Week in, week out, however we are used to regular derashot, and, based on the amount of post-match analysis that the rabbi’s sermon receives, you would think that this is the most important part of the service.

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Checking mezuzot before Rosh Hashanah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 13, 2012

Having a scribe (sofer) inspect the parchment of the mezuzah before Rosh Hashanah is a common custom (even though, according to most rabbis, mezuzot need checking only once every three and half years).

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Sending Rosh Hashanah Cards

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 7, 2012

Sending Rosh Hashanah cards is a much-loved custom that crosses religious-secular lines. The first cards that we know of were sent in 14th century Germany. The custom really took off in Eastern Europe and the United States with the development of the postage stamp there around 1860-70.

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Aufruf

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 30, 2012

Aufruf, meaning “calling up” in Yiddish, is the custom of calling a bridegroom (chatan) up to the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding. After he has finished the blessings, people shout “Mazeltov” and throw sweets. Children rush to gather armfuls of them. Often the bride has a Shabbat Kallah at the same time, which is an informal send-off by her friends into married life.

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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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