Jewish Ways

Reading Kohelet on Succot

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 18, 2013

Why do we read Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), a book that flirts with the idea that life is futile and proclaims, “utter vanity, all is vanity” (1:2), on Succot, which is supposed to be a joyful holiday?

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Yizkor

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 13, 2013

Yizkor, a prayer in which we remember parents who have died, is said before the mussaf service in shul on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Pesach and Shavuot.

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Why we have two days Rosh Hashanah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 4, 2013

Rosh Hashanah is the one festival about which Israelis cannot say that they have it easier than the diaspora with only one day of Yomtov. Rosh Hashanah here is two days, like all the Yomtovim in the diaspora.
(OK, there’s Yom Kippur, but two days of Yom Kippur was always a non-starter due to the potential dangers of fasting for 49 hours.)
 

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Teshuvat Hamishkal

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 1, 2013

Teshuvat Hamishkal is a mystical practice prescribing repentance to make amends for a particular sin.

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Barmitzvah prayer recited by parents

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 23, 2013

Barmitzvah observances and celebrations are pretty new in Judaism. They do not appear in the Talmud and begin to take shape in the Middle Ages. 

One of the first mentioned is the blessing said by a father on his son’s barmitzvah, Baruch Shep’tarani...meaning, “Blessed be the One who has exempted me from this one’s (ie his child’s) punishment.”

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Praying on planes

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 20, 2013

In March 2011, an Alaskan Airlines flight was met at LA airport by fire crews, foam trucks and FBI agents because three Jews on board were praying in tefillin, which, in our super-security conscious times, were judged by the crew to pose a terrorism risk.

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Dancing at weddings

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 11, 2013

Dancing is part of every traditional Jewish wedding. But what makes Jewish wedding dancing unique, and different from jazz, hip-hop or disco is that it’s not about you, or your partner or an audience of spectators. The dancing is to bring joy to the bride and groom.

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Keeping safe

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 4, 2013

“You should be most careful for your souls,” warns Deuteronomy 4:15. The rabbis took this to mean that we should not deliberately endanger our lives and health.

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White tablecloths on Shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 28, 2013

These days, a white tablecloth is an essential Shabbat accessory. However, it began as an Ashkenazi custom. The Talmud tells us that we should have our table set and our beds made (for sitting on — in those days beds were multi-purpose) before Shabbat begins. In the Middle Ages, wealthy homes began using ornate white tablecloths for festive meals.

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Baking bread without milk

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 21, 2013

It has long been a custom for Jews not to have bread made with milk. The reason is that you might forget. Half way through your two-day loaf, you might mistakenly use a couple of slices to make a salami sandwich. Bread, being a staple food, needs to be parev, able to be eaten with anything.

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