Jewish Ways

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.


Zecher l'chorban

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 4, 2011

We are in the nine-day period leading up to Tishah b'Av when we remember and mourn the destruction of Jerusalem 1,931 years ago. But as well as these annual rituals there are other commemorative practices that are mandated year round. Some of these have fallen into disuse. For example, the Shulchan Aruch states that we should not play or hear musical instruments until the Temple is rebuilt.


Cherem rabbeinu gershom 2

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 28, 2011

Rabbenu Gershom's most famous ruling was his outlawing of polygamy.


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


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?


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.



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).