Jewish Ways

Taking three steps back at Amidah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 26, 2013

Before the Amidah, the custom is take three steps back and then three steps forward. The idea is to step into a place of prayer, a different headspace that is more than a few inches distant from where you were, in which you know that you are standing before the Creator.


Writing 'with God's help' on letters

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 19, 2013

From personal letters to business cards to emails, one comes across the Hebrew letters bet-heh or bet- samech-daled in the upper-right corner. They stand for “with God’s help” in Hebrew and Aramaic, respectively b’ezrat Hashem, or biseyata d’Shmaya.


Writing a sefer Torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 12, 2013

The last thing that Moses commands the people is to write down the Torah (Deuteronomy 31:9).  This commandment is not only for the élite but for everyone. 

What’s the point of this mitzvah? Is it to spread Torah learning or to reconnect with the Sinai experience?


Israel's Bible competition

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 6, 2013

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, understood that the thriving existence of the Jewish nation must be rooted on a love of the Bible and its values and goals as a people based on its 24 books. Accordingly, he instituted the International Bible Contest and made it a centrepiece of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations.


What not to talk about on Shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 27, 2013

It is not enough to leave the computer and other accessories of weekday life untouched on Shabbat.  “It is forbidden . . . even to talk about them; for instance, to discuss with his partner what to sell on the morrow” (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 24:1).


Not mentioning dew in the Amidah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 22, 2013

After Pesach, Jews in Israel switched from mentioning geshem, rain, in the second blessing of the Amidah prayer, speaking of tal, dew, instead. As the rainy season ends, we no longer invoke God’s power to bring rain.  


Praying three times a day

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 13, 2013

Like anything worthwhile, prayer takes practice to get the hang of it. Once a week isn’t enough (though I know that some people find it more than enough). Traditionally, Jewish men pray three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening.


Yom Hashoah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 8, 2013

The 27th of Nisan is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel and the day is also observed in Jewish communities worldwide. The choice of this day was not an obvious one. In 1949, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate announced that the existing fast of the 10th of Tevet would also the day for remembering the Shoah.



By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 29, 2013

The day after Pesach is observed in Israel as Maimouna. It has become a celebration of North African Jewish culture, a sort of Sephardi pride day. The festivities begin in the evening as soon as Pesach is out, with people eating newly baked bread with a special ceremony for making the first dough after Pesach. (Like a more authentic, Moroccan version of queuing up outside Carmellis.)


Not giving a eulogy in Nisan

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 24, 2013

Nisan is the month of Pesach, the holiday celebrating our freedom from Egypt. It’s the beginning of spring (though not necessarily in England), a month of renewal and rebirth.