Jewish Ways

Hagbah: Lifting the Sefer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 19, 2012

Hagbah is one of the most dramatic and potentially heart-stopping moments in the synagogue service. After the Torah reading, the heavy scrolls are raised high in the air for all to see.

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Sanctifying the moon

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 12, 2012

Sanctifying the new moon, Kiddush Levanah, is a prayer recited once every month sometime during its first half - ideally at the conclusion of Shabbat. You should be able to actually see most of the moon. People go outside and bless God for "creating the Heavens… setting for them laws and times...

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Fast of silence

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 29, 2011

A "speech fast" (ta'anit dibbur) is one of the more radical tools in the arsenal of self-improvement developed by Jewish pietists over the centuries. Words, the medium that most express our divine uniqueness, are so easily devalued. Empty chatter is everywhere, but real conversation is rare.

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Lighting candles outside

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 22, 2011

In Jerusalem, most people light their Chanucah lamps outside their front doors or at the entrance to apartment buildings. They place them in pretty glass-fronted boxes, which allow the lights to be seen from the road, while protecting them from wind and rain. 

Halachic sources teach that we should, preferably, light outside the front door on the left.

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Spinning the dreidel

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 15, 2011

Dreidel is a four-sided top used to play a children's gambling game on Chanucah. Each side is inscribed with one of the letters nun, heh, gimmel, shin, standing for nes gadol hayah sham, "there was a great miracle there". In Israel shin for sham is replaced by peh for poh, meaning here - the miracle was "here". 

This is how you play.

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Bensching with wine

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 8, 2011

Many people have the custom of saying grace after meals on Shabbat while holding a full cup of wine in their right hand. At the end of bensching, they say the blessing on wine and drink. Some sources say that one should do this after every meal. The predominant view is that while it is a good thing to bensch, with a cup of wine, it is not necessary.

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Saying shehechiyanu

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 1, 2011

Many people's favourite blessing, shehechiyanu, thanks God "who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment".

We say shehechiyanu on significant occasions like weddings and Jewish festivals but also on more private moments like wearing new clothes or getting a promotion at work.  Anything new and good in your life is legitimate grounds for a shehechiyanu.

Eating

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Blessing hagomel

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 24, 2011

You say this blessing out loud in shul if you have emerged from any one of four potentially threatening events, a dangerous journey, a sea voyage, illness (even if not life threatening) and imprisonment.

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Blessing on a rainbow

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 17, 2011

There are blessings for all sorts of occasions. On seeing a rainbow in the sky you say, "Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, is faithful to the covenant, and keeps his word" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 229:1).

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Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 10, 2011

Aliyah l'regel, literally ascent on foot, was a central practice of Judaism almost from its origins. The Bible declares, "Three times a year shall all of your males appear before the Lord your God". On Pesach, Shavuot and Succot, many thousands of familes (and not just males) would go up to celebrate the holidays in Jerusalem.

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