Jewish Ways

Hitchapsut

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 16, 2011

Dressing up in costumes and masks is one of the best known Purim practices. In the days leading up the holiday, the streets of Jerusalem fill with children attired as Queen Esther, long-sidelocked Chasidim, IDF generals and Justin Bieber. Interestingly the custom is relatively recent. It is thought that dressing up on Purim originated among Italian Jews of the 15th century.

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Mishloach Manot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 10, 2011

Giving mishloach manot is one of the central mitzvot of Purim. Everyone should send at least one parcel containing at least two items of ready-to-eat food. The source for this is in Megillat Esther itself, which says that Purim should be observed by "sending gifts of food, each person to his friend" (9:22). The reason is to strengthen the bonds of love and friendship between us.

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Berachot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 3, 2011

Berachot are the Jewish way of saying thank you to the Source of all. From when we open our eyes in the morning to when we close them at night, on every drop of water we drink, on fragrant smells, rainbows as well as on most mitzvot we do. In an average day an observant Jew will say around 100. 

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Zimun

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 17, 2011

When three men or three women have a meal, they should say birkat hamazon, grace after meals together. This togetherness is forged by the experience of sharing a meal, and is sealed by the zimun, the invitation to bentsh collectively. One person says "rabotai nevarech", or in some circles, "rabosai, vir willen bentshen", or possibly even "guys let's bentsh", which is the direct English translation. Then the others present answer, confirming their wish to bless together.

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Hafsakah bein betziah l'netilah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 10, 2011

One is not meant to talk between netilat yadaim, washing hands, and breaking bread. This can be a strange and even intimidating custom for the uninitiated. After washing, the table falls silent, and insouciant attempts at communication before hamotzi may be met with grunts or gesticulations.

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Bizyon ochlim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 3, 2011

A special and distinctively Jewish facet of table manners is not to abuse food. We should not treat food in a way that is likely to lead to it getting gross or disgusting. So, the Shulchan Aruch teaches (Orach Chayim 171:1), don't put a slab of raw meat on a slice of bread; don't pass a container of liquid over bread if spillage would mess up the bread; and don't sit on a basket of figs or dates - though it's ok to sit on a basket of raw lentils or beans as they will not thereby be injured.

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Devarim hanohagim b'seudah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 27, 2011

Judaism believes in good table manners. The Shulchan Aruch devotes 12 lengthy sections to customs about behaviour at meal times.

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Sichah bateilah b'beit haknesset

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 20, 2011

Who defines Jewish ways - what Jews do, or what the books say that Jews should do? Around no issue is the gulf between these two greater than over question of talking in shul. This has been a battleground between rabbis and regular Jews for centuries. As much as rabbis inveigh against speaking in synagogue, Jews do. We are talkative people.

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Masa v'matan

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 13, 2011

After fixing time for Torah study, the classic halachic codes say that you should go to work. To quote the Shulchan Aruch, "Afterwards, he should go to his business, because all Torah study that is not combined with work will eventually be negated and lead to sin, for poverty takes a person away from knowledge of his Creator" (Orach Chaim 156:1). There is no mitzvah to be poor. For most people, a balanced and sustainable spiritual life includes working in the world. 

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Keviat Etim L'Torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 6, 2011

Torah study is important in Judaism. Judaism tells us how important more by describing the way in which it needs to be a regular part of our lives than by expanding on the spiritual and metaphysical benefits of Torah study (though it certainly does that, too).

The halachah is that we should each fix regular times for Torah study, morning and evening; whether times short or long; whether in a class or with a learning partner or alone; whether studying Talmud or halachah or Jewish thought.

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