Jewish Ways

Cherem d'rabbeinu gershom

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 21, 2011

It is circa 1000 CE, and sending letters to people in other cities and even countries has never been simpler. However, along with these amazing advances, comes a new potential problem, invasion of privacy. How can you trust the messengers not to read your mail? 

Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah (the "Light of the Diaspora", 960 - 1040) knew that as the greatest Ashkenazi leader of his day, he h

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Birkot hanehenin

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 14, 2011

Before we eat even the smallest bit of food, Jewish law requires us to say a blessing thanking God. Mishnah Berachot lists the various berachot: "How do we bless on fruit?

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Tefillat haderech

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 7, 2011

When setting out on a journey, one says the tefillat haderech, asking God to "guide our footsteps toward peace". The halachic obligation to say this prayer kicks in once one is about a kilometre out of the city and beyond any homes.

Journeys have figured big in Jewish history. For Jacob, the road was particularly perilous.

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Batmitzvah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 30, 2011

Batmitzvah is the coming of age ceremony for Jewish girls of 12. From that age they are considered morally responsible for their actions and legally obligated to fulfil mitzvot. So far, no different from boys (except for the age).

As to the content of the ceremony, that is much less clear (at least in Orthodox communities, most of which do not have women reading from the Torah).

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Limmud pirkei avot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 23, 2011

Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, is a tractate of the Mishnah that comprises advice from the sages on ethical, political, and spiritual matters. Hillel's dictum encapsulating the conflict between self-interest and helping others, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

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Shelo listor beit haknesset

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 16, 2011

Jews do not destroy synagogues.

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Shiur chomesh b'tzedakah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 10, 2011

Giving tzedakah, charity, is arguably the most important positive mitzvah. How much should one give? The classical sources say that 10 per cent is average; giving 20 per cent is the best way to do the mitzvah. (Rambam: Laws of Gifts to the Poor, 7:5). Modern writers translate this into a one-off gift of a fifth of one's assets and then a fifth of one's annual income.

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Ugat gevinah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 2, 2011

Every Jewish holiday, of course, needs to have its distinctive food. Matzah on Pesach, hamantaschen on Purim and cheesecake on Shavuot. The reasons for cheesecake, however, are more obscure than those of festive foods. I found seven different reasons for the custom of eating milk foods on Shavuot, suggesting that no one knows for sure what the reason is.

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Birkat hanatan mikvodo

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 26, 2011

There are blessings in Judaism for seeing a king or queen. The one for seeing a non-Jewish monarch runs: "Blessed are you… who gives from his glory to flesh and blood" .The one for a Jewish king is worded slightly differently. It is not currently relevant, and probably won't be until the Messiah comes.

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Hatavat chalom

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 19, 2011

Hatavat chalom is an ancient Jewish dream practice that is still used. If you have a bad dream, or one that worries you for some other reason, then the Talmud recommends hatavat chalom. First you bring together three friends; the Rama, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, specifies that they should be people who like you.

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