Jewish Ways

Blessing over scents

May 31, 2012

The rabbis single out smell as the uniquely soulful sense. “What is something that the soul enjoys but not the body? It is the scent” (Talmud Berachot 43b). Perhaps its intangibility distinguishes scent from other pleasures.

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Reading the Book of Ruth on Shavuot

May 24, 2012

Alongside the episode of giving the Torah, on Shavuot we also read the seemingly less spectacular story of Ruth.

However, even without a smoking mountain or the Ten Commandments, Ruth is still a powerful tale of embracing Judaism.

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Flowers on shavuot

May 18, 2012

Florists in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world will be busy next week in the run-up to Shavuot. Why do we celebrate the festival of receiving of the Torah and of bringing the first fruits (bikkurim) to the Temple by decorating synagogues with flowers?

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Visiting the sick

May 10, 2012

When we're sick, we need to feel that others care and are ready to give of their time to us.

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The ban on tattoos

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 3, 2012

My sister-in-law recently posted on Facebook a picture of woman's arm bearing a black Jewish star surrounded by fire.

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Not eating meat with fish

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 26, 2012

One of the lesser-known donts of Jewish law is not to eat meat and fish together. Religious people will avoid eating them at the same time, but will have them at the same meal, though usually with a break between them.

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Saying "Half Hallel" on the last days of Pesach

April 11, 2012

On the last days of Pesach, we recite only half of Hallel (Psalms 113-8), even though we are celebrating awesome miracles - the splitting of the Red Sea and the end of Egyptian tyranny over Israel.

Why this subdued commemoration of such a liberating event? The Babylonian describes the angels as bursting out in song after the splitting of the Red Sea (Megillah 10b). God, however, rebukes them

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Searching for the afikoman

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 29, 2012

Where do kids get off stealing the afikoman and then demanding a gift for its return? The Talmud (Pesachim 109a) recommends taking away the matzot to keep the children awake. Later commentators suggest allowing children to hide the afikoman and giving them presents as a way to keep them involved in the Seder until the very end.

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Lighting shabbat candles

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 15, 2012

The mitzvah to light Shabbat candles derives from the Talmud: Rabbi Yehuda says, "Lighting a candle for Shabbat is not optional and is way of honouring the Shabbat" (Shabbat 25b).

Before electricity, Shabbat candles ensured that there would be some light in the house during the Shabbat and that no one would sit in darkness.

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Facing East in Prayer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 8, 2012

"My heart is in the east (mizrach) and I am at the end of the west." So lamented Yehuda Halevi, the greatest medieval Jewish poet.

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