Jewish Ways

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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Sitting on low chairs on Tishah b'Av

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 12, 2013

On Tishah b’Av, we rearrange the furniture of the synagogue. The curtain hanging before the ark is removed, and people sit on low chairs and benches. Some sit on the floor. These are marks of mourning. As in the shivah period after a personal bereavement, sitting low down is an expression gesture of abasement and grief.

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Seudah Shlishit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 7, 2013

It’s important to eat three meals on Shabbat and the Talmud promises all kinds of spiritual rewards to those who do so (Shabbat 117b-118a). Seudah Shlishit,  the third meal, eaten on Shabbat in the late afternoon, tends to get short-changed, or even forgotten, particularly in the winter when Shabbat ends early.

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Protecting people's privacy

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 30, 2013

There is a strong presumption in favour of privacy in Jewish law. One may not build a window directly opposite your neighbour’s house from which you can peep into his home (Talmud Baba Batra, 2b). Lengthy sections of tractate Baba Batra deal with hezek re’iyah, damage caused by a prying eye.
 

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Not marrying in the Three Weeks

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 23, 2013

The upcoming fast of the 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of three weeks of mourning culminating in the fast of the 9th of Av, in memory of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and Romans.

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Shorter form of the Amidah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 16, 2013

There is a short version of the weekday Amidah, which can be said when one is very pushed for time.

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Oppressing someone with words

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 9, 2013

Reminding people of an embarrassing incident or of their chequered past, or even putting them in an awkward position by volunteering them for a favour or job that they do not want to or cannot do are examples of ona’at devarim, verbal oppression. It is rooted in the verse, “Do not oppress one another, but fear your God” (Leviticus 25:17).

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