Jewish Ways

Tzitzit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 9, 2010

Putting on a four-cornered garment bearing tzitzit is the next mitzvah that men do in the morning after netilat yadayim (hand-washing). The mitzvah of tzitzit is mandated by the verses from Numbers 15: 37-41. The Torah there requires that one of the strings on each corner be dyed in techelet, an azure-coloured dye. (Today there is still uncertainty over whether we can correctly identify the type of sea snail from which techelet is derived.) 

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Netilat Yadayim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 2, 2010

One of the first things an observant Jew in the morning is to wash her hands. It is good to do this as soon as possible after getting out of bed. Some people even have a bowl and basin next to their bed so that they can do netilat yadayim at once.

The way is to pour three cups of water over each hand and then say the blessing, al netilat yadayim . (It doesn’t need to be three full cups. In israel we have a water shortage and it is fine to use less water.) 

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Birchot hashachar

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 25, 2010

Birchot Hashachar are a series of blessings acknowledging and giving thanks for the daily experiences that we encounter anew each morning. When we awaken, open our eyes, dress, sit up, stand on firm ground, put on shoes, don a hat and walk, there is a blessing for each of these moments.

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Asher yatzar

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 18, 2010

Asher Yatzar is the blessing that observant Jews say after coming out of the loo. The first time that you see someone apparently mumbling to themselves outside the bathroom door, it can be a curious sight. But reciting Asher Yatzar is a characteristically Jewish act of recognising the spiritual in the mundane. 

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Tikkun hatzot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 12, 2010

It is an odd thing that the first page of the Shulchah Aruch, the binding code of Jewish Law, devotes space to a custom that most observant Jews today do not follow. Tikkun hatzot is the practice of rising in the middle of the night to pray and lament over the destruction of the Temple and the continuing exile of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.

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Modeh ani

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 8, 2010

The twelve words of Modeh Ani are the first prayer uttered in the morning. They thank God for restoring our life and soul to us at the dawn of a new day. The words of Modeh Ani do not contain any name of God, which means that we can say Modeh Ani i immediately on opening our eyes, without needing to first get up and wash our hands.

The prayer is apparently quite recent. Its first recorded mention is in a late 16th-century commentary on the siddur by the Safed kabbalist, Rabbi Ibn Makhir. But saying it daily has been adopted almost universally.

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Hashkamat haboker

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 1, 2010

There is a Jewish way to get up in the morning - at once!

The Shulchan Aruch code famously begins with the words, "A person should be mighty as a lion to rise in the morning in order to serve his Creator, so that he should awaken the dawn." Not like a sloth or a turtle, as one of my kids recently suggested. Not after turning over, smacking the snooze button, and promising oneself only another 10 more minutes under the duvet, but now.

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