Jewish Ways

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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Eating Milk after Meat

June 8, 2012

Observant Jews do not eat milk and meat together. But what does “together” mean? There are diverse customs on how long one should wait after eating meat before having milk. One hour, three hours and six hours are the main options.

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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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