Jewish Ways

Salting Bread

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 6, 2012

At every Shabbat meal, we bless the challah and salt it before giving it to our family and guests. This custom harks back to the Temple rite. The Torah commands us, “With all your offerings, you must offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13).

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Teaching children to swim

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 30, 2012

Teaching kids to swim is, naturally, good idea and there might not seem to be anything particularly Jewish about it. However, when the Talmud states what parents should teach their children, the list comprises Torah, making an honest livelihood and how to swim (Kiddushin 29a) . Later on, the Gemara states that swimming is “life”, meaning a child’s life may depend on it.

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Wearing a kippah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 29, 2012

The kippah (or koppel/yarmulke in Yiddish) is the most obvious outward sign of Jewishness. Unlike Christians, who bear their heads as an expression of respect, Jews cover theirs.

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Blessing over thunder and lightning

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 15, 2012

There are blessings that we say when we hear certain things (good news, bad news) and blessings said on seeing certain sights (eg a wise person, a powerful ruler or a rainbow).

Most common among them are probably the blessings for hearing thunder and seeing lightning. On hearing thunder, we say shekocho ugevurato maleh olam, “His strength and might fills the world”. 

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Welcoming guests

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 8, 2012

Taking care of guests, hachnasat orchim, has been a big Jewish value ever since Abraham. Ore’ach means guest in Hebrew and comes from the Aramaic word orach, “way”.

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Prayer for the state of Israel

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 1, 2012

The prayer for the State of Israel is a focal point of the Shabbat morning service both in Israel and the diaspora.

In addition to praying for the welfare of the state and its leaders, the prayer contains the dramatic theological claim that Israel is “reishit tzmichat ge’ulateinu”, “the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.” 

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Covering eyes to say the Shema

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 25, 2012

Even before they can speak full sentences, many Jewish toddlers know to put a hand over their eyes during the recitation of the Shema. It is the best known hand gesture in Jewish prayer.

According to tradition, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi was the first to cover his eyes while saying Shema (Talmud Berachot 13b). The Shulchan Aruch codifies it as standard practice. 

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Rosh Chodesh

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 18, 2012

The start of every month, Rosh Chodesh, is a minor festival. As Numbers 10:10 declares: “And on your joyous occasions — your fixed festivals and new moon days — you shall sound the trumpets.”

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Public reading of the Torah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 11, 2012

Every Shabbat we read one parashah from the 54 of the Torah beginning today with Shabbat Bereshit. (Sometimes we double up, reading two parashiyot at a time). We finish up the entire cycle by the end of each Succot.

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Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 10, 2012

It is an ancient tradition for the Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit (the bridegrooms of the law), who are called up for the last and first aliyot of the annual Torah reading cycle, to give a kiddush. The earlier custom was to provide a whole feast and to do it on Simchat Torah. Now it is generally done on Shabbat Bereshit.

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