Jewish Ways

Welcoming the ushpizin into the succah

October 11, 2011

Every night of Succot we welcome into the succah one of the Ushpizin, the seven mystical visitors. They are Abraham (the fist night's visitor), Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David.

Ushpizin means guest in Aramaic. Each night a prayer is said to welcome the appropriate guest.


Eating before Yom Kippur

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 6, 2011

It is a mitzvah to eat and to have a big meal (at least one) before Yom Kippur, according to the Shulchan Aruch. Big yes, but heavy, no; we do not want to arrive at shul for Kol Nidre feeling over-full, complacent or arrogant.

It is good to get home early and to break off other activities, even Torah learning, to do this.  One reason for the mitzvah is to fill up for the fast.


Visiting cemeteries

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 27, 2011

Many people have the custom to visit the graves of their parents before Rosh Hashanah.

The origin of this practice is in Talmud (Ta'anit, 16a), which teaches that on communal fast days of repentance and reflection,people used to go and pray in cemeteries.


Annulling vows

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 22, 2011

Kol Nidre, the prayer we say on Yom Kippur eve pleading for release from vows, is very famous. Hatarat nedarim, the halachically effective process for annulling such vows, which many Jews perform just before Rosh Hashanah, is much less so.

Here is how it is done.


Asking for forgiveness

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 15, 2011

Another essential Jewish practice associated with this time of the year is asking forgiveness of those whom one may have wronged.


Saying Selichot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 8, 2011

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 17a) teaches that when Moses begged for forgiveness after the sin of the Golden Calf, God wrapped Himself in a tallit, so to speak, and taught Moses the words that the Jewish people should use wherever they wished to pray for forgiveness in the future.


Blowing the shofar in Ellul

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 1, 2011

Already at the end of August, the morning shofar blasts sound from shuls announcing that summer is ending and Rosh Hashanah is around the corner. Every day after shacharit during the month of Ellul, the shofar is sounded. As the Mishnah Berurah explains, Ellul is a time of special love and closeness between us and God.

The 40 days from the beginning of Ellul until Yom Kippur correspond


Fixing a mezuzah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 25, 2011

There is a widespread notion that a mezuzah - which it is a mitzvah to fix to the right doorpost of every room in your house except the bathroom - is a sort of Jewish good luck charm, a source of protection for the home. The passage from the second paragraph of the Shema that speaks of mezuzah implies as much, saying "in order that your days shall be long, and the days of your children".


Eating meat on shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 18, 2011

Should observant Jews be vegetarians? On the one hand, as the ethical and environmental costs of meat production become better known, eating meat becomes harder to defend. On the other hand, eating meat has value in Judaism.


Breaking a glass

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 11, 2011

The most famous custom in memory of the destruction of the Temple is the bridegroom smashing a glass at the end of the wedding ceremony.  Some Eastern communities broke a piece of pottery. There was a custom in Russia of throwing the glass against a wall instead.