Jewish Ways

Saying Elohai Neshamah in the morning

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 20, 2013

The prayer Elohai Neshamah, whose first line in English reads, “My God, the soul that you breathed into me is pure” is one of the first things we say after rising in the morning. 


Not greeting mourners at a shivah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 13, 2013

It is a big mitzvah to comfort the bereaved, for example by visiting mourners at the shivah house. It is normal to feel awkward around death and not to know what to say. The Jewish laws of mourning are carefully crafted to allow mourning and ultimately healing to happen, but sometimes they can be followed in a way that has the opposite effect.  


Reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 6, 2013

The start of a new month is a joyful time in Judaism. The Torah speaks of Rosh Chodesh together with the major holidays: “And on your joyous occasions, your fixed festivals and new moon days…” (Numbers, 10:10).


Eating in a succah on Shemini Atzeret

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 25, 2013

The eighth day of Succot, Shemini Atzeret, is its own festival. Outside Israel, it has to share the stage with the extra day of Succot added on for diaspora Jews to avoid doubt about the proper date of the holiday. This is the only time in the Jewish year when two festivals overlap. How do we observe both holidays without compromising the integrity of either one?


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?



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.


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.)


Teshuvat Hamishkal

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 1, 2013

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


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.”


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.