Jewish Ways

Saying barechu

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 20, 2014

Communal prayer begins with the chazan's exclaiming "Barechu et Adonai Hamevorach", "Bless God, the Blessed". Before that, the morning prayer opens with blessings and praises that may be said by an individual and do not need a minyan.


Saying baruch shem k'vod

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 13, 2014

The first paragraph of Shema, one of Judaism's two central prayers, consists of verses from Deuteronomy chapter 6. Except that after the first line, Shema Yisrael, another line is interpolated, "Baruch shem k'vod" that does not appear in the Bible.

According to the Talmud, Jacob feared that his children might have strayed, spiritually (Pesachim 56a).


Finding a mistake in a sefer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 6, 2014

It's one of those dramatic shul moments. The reader is sailing along with the Torah leyning on Shabbat morning, when suddenly he stops mid-verse. He squints at the Torah scroll, frowns and calls over the rabbi.

The rabbi bends over to examine the scroll and signals that it should be rolled up, put back in the ark and another scroll brought out for the rest of the reading.


Blessing over a meal

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 30, 2014

Many people who are not in the habit of saying berachot before and after eating during the week will make kiddush and hamotzi on Friday night.


Praying in English

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 23, 2014

The sages were sympathetic to those who did not understand Hebrew. They list prayers that may be said in another language: Shema, Grace after Meals and the Amidah. Most rabbis rule that if absolutely necessary, people may recite everything in their own language.

That does not mean that we needn't bother with Hebrew.


Naming the Hebrew months

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 14, 2014

The names of the Hebrew months that we use now were not known until after the Babylonian exile. The Torah refers to months by their number and place in the order of the year. Pesach, we are told, takes place in the first month (Nisan) while Yom Kippur and Succot are in the seventh (Tishri).


Calling up the children to the torah on simchat torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 7, 2014

Simchat Torah is the only time of the year when children are called up to the Torah, for the Kol Hane'arim ("All the Youth") aliyah.

As the girls and boys stand around the Torah with a tallit spread above their heads, the congregation sings Jacob's blessing to his grandsons, "The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm bless the lads" (Genesis 48:16).


Repetition of the amidah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 2, 2014

Is the job of the chazan to pray with the community or for them? This is an argument in the final mishnah of tractate Rosh Hashanah. The rabbis say the chazan does not discharge the obligation to pray for a person who knows how to read.


Praying according to your nusach

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 23, 2014

Nusach means "version" and refers to the wording and style of prayer. Sephardi and Ashkenazi nusachim subdivide into groups such as Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, and even English.

Rabbi Isaac Luria (the 16th-century kabbalist) taught that the nusachim reflected different ways of reaching God and were all needed.


Finding a place for prayer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 18, 2014

The Talmud teaches: "Whoever designates a permanent place [makom kavua] for his prayer, the God of Abraham assists him."

The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish law) recommends having a regular synagogue and a makom kavua there.

Abraham is the model for someone who prayed repeatedly in the same place.