Jewish Ways

Observing yahrzeit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 6, 2014

It is a very widespread custom to observe the Hebrew anniversary of a parent's death, yahrzeit (from the German, yahr, "year", and zeit, "time"). It is common to light memorial candles and say prayers in shul; some visit the grave.


Thanking the rooster

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 1, 2014

The first of the fifteen Birkot Hashachar (dawn blessings) that are said first thing in the morning thanks God for “giving the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night”. The wording is from Job 38:36 –“who gave understanding to the rooster [sechvi]”.


Wearing a kittel at a wedding

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 25, 2014

At my wedding, I wore a new M & S suit with a white robe on top called a kittel. 

This way, I matched with my wife’s outfit. Wearing a white kittel is also supposed to help the bride and groom match spiritually, too. White symbolises purity and freedom from sin. Your wedding day is like a little Yom Kippur, a day when all previous mistakes are forgiven and we get to make a new start.


Missing a day of counting the Omer

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 19, 2014

We count the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot as days of preparation from the exodus from Egypt to receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Every night of the Omer, we bless “Who has commanded us to count the Omer” and then announce the appropriate day of the Omer and the total number of weeks that have gone by. 


Mutual responsibility

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 11, 2014

The Talmud teaches, “All Israel are responsible [areivim] for each other”. Rashi explains that we have a duty to respond when we see others doing harmful things. Jews have a common spiritual identity and destiny.


Deciding charity priorities

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 4, 2014

How should we decide to whom to give charity? The Shulchan Aruch , based on biblical and talmudic sources, states that poor relatives come first, next neighbours, then people in the same city, and then the poor in Israel (Yoreh Deah 251:3). With the mitzvah of giving tzedakah, the halachah is that we should prioritise those near to us.  


Eating mezonot on planes

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 27, 2014

Halachah requires ritual hand-washing before eating bread. However, getting up to wash your hands before a meal on a flight can be a hassle and disturb other passengers. Cue the expanded use of the hybrid known as mezonot bread. This is bread that is made with juice and therefore is like cake.


Smoking on Yomtov

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 20, 2014

Today it is accepted that one may smoke on Yomtov (if you light up from a pre-existing flame — one may not kindle a fire on Yomtov.) But historically many authorities did not allow it and it is at least questionable whether it should be permitted today.


Reading the Haggadah on Shabbat Hagadol

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 11, 2014

Preparation is key to having a meaningful Seder (and to many other things too. If you keep Shabbat, you don’t start preparing for it ten minutes before candle-lighting time).

Consequently, there is an old custom to the Great Shabbat, to reacquaint ourselves with the ideas and practices of the Seder (Rama, Orach Chaim 430:1).


Storing in a geniza

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 6, 2014

Genizot, storage rooms for holy books and objects (lignoz, in Hebrew, means to hide or put away, are particularly busy in the days before Pesach, when people want to clear out their homes. 

The Sages thought it inconceivable that we would simply throw away a holy book or object when it no longer filled its purpose.