Jewish Ways

Reading the Megillah in a leap year

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 16, 2014

If this were not a leap year, then today, the 14th of Adar I would be Purim. In a leap year, however, an extra month of Adar is inserted so as to align the lunar calendar of Judaism with the solar calendar of the seasons(Otherwise, Jewish holidays would move around the year, instead of staying anchored in their accustomed times.)

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Stopping saying Kaddish

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 7, 2014

The Ashkenazi custom is to stop saying Kaddish for a close family member 11 months after their death. Although the period of mourning is a year, there is a tradition that judgment for the righteous takes 11 months, whereas for the guilty it lasts a year (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 17a). We want to give our relatives the benefit of any doubt and so stop after 11 months.

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Making kiddush on whisky

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 1, 2014

It is common for people to make kiddush over whisky or other spirits on Shabbat morning whether at home or in shul. Ideally, we should make kiddush on wine. On Friday night you cannot use drinks other than wine or grape juice; if you don’t have either, you should make kiddush on bread. 

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Blessing the New Moon

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 26, 2014

On the Shabbat before the start of a new month, we announce the precise day of Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month) and bless the month just before mussaf.

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Not throwing out bread

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 21, 2014

In religious areas of Jerusalem you can often see double plastic-wrapped bags of leftover bread or challah next to garbage dumpsters. Rather than throwing the bread in the bin, people prefer to place it where someone poor might come and take it. 

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Women's zimun

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 12, 2014

Reviving the practice of women’s zimun was one of the first innovations of Orthodox feminism. However, according to most, there was no real innovation involved; it was a normative practice that had fallen into disuse. 

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Shabbat morning kiddush

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 5, 2014

For some Jews, the kiddush on Shabbat morning is central to Judaism. One mordant observer remarked that single-malt whisky is one of the main forces for cohesion in the North American Jewish community today.

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Stone setting

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 27, 2013

Placing a stone over a grave is an ancient Jewish custom.

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Shir Hama'alot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 27, 2013

For centuries, Ashkenazi Jews have been saying, or singing, Psalm 126 before Birkat Hamazon, the grace after meals.

The theme of Psalm 126 is the return to Zion and an end to exile: “When the Lord restores the fortunes of Zion, we will see it as in a dream . . . they who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.” 

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The Priestly Blessing

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 15, 2013

In Israel and most Sephardi communities outside Israel, the Cohanim, priests, bless the people after the morning service every day.

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