Jewish Ways

The siddur party

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 14, 2013

The siddur party, or mesibat siddur, takes place toward the end of the first year of school once children have mastered the basics of reading. From Tel Aviv to California to Uzbekistan, children dress up, perform, and receive a new and decorated siddur from their teacher.

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Rejoicing in the month of Adar

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 7, 2013

Adar is the month of Purim, and we get into the Purim spirit at the beginning of the month. The Talmud tell us: “When Adar begins, we increase joy” (Ta’anit 29a). No other festival has such an official run-up period (though the fast of Tishah b’Av is the culmination of a mourning period.

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Learning in chevruta

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 4, 2013

Chevruta is Aramaic for friendship and is used to refer to learning with a partner. Both the learning and the partner are called chevruta, as in “I have a chevruta every morning”, or “He has been my chevruta for 20 years.”

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Women baking challah together

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 24, 2013

In the past few decades, baking challah has become a means of women coming together in prayer and introspection. The Mishnah lists the mitzvah of removing a bit of the dough and setting it aside in memory of the priestly gift of challah as one of the mitzvot especially for women (Shabbat 2:6).

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The prohibition against tattoos

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 18, 2013

It’s not Jewish to get a tattoo. This is not withstanding the range of “Jewish” images that are available like stars of David, kabbalistic sephirot or images of dancing Chasidim.

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Bride and Groom not seeing each other before the wedding

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 11, 2013

There is a widespread custom for the bride and groom not to see each other during the week before their wedding (or at least for a few days or, failing that, on the day of the wedding itself.) This is quite a recent custom, and the source is unclear.

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Glatt kosher

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 3, 2013

Glatt kosher is often understood to mean extra-super kosher. People may say that someone eats glatt if they will only buy products with certain kashrut certifications, or go to restaurants supervised by a particular authority.

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Putting on tefillin before barmitzvah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 27, 2012

Along with a new suit and all the other accoutrements for a barmitzvah boy is a pair of tefillin: two small black boxes holding parchments with biblical verses. According to halachah, the barmitzvah boy is expected to wear these on his left arm near his heart and on his upper forehead every weekday morning for the rest of his life as a reminder of his relationship to God.

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Nittal Nach, Christmas Eve

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 24, 2012

Nittel Nacht, or “birth night”, is Yiddish for Christmas Eve . From around the late 16th century, many Jews in Europe observed this night, principally by not learning Torah. With many of the locals running wild in the streets on Christmas Eve, it was not safe for Jews to be out, and most Jews did not have any books at home.

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Marrying under a chupah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 13, 2012

Jewish weddings have been done under a canopy or chupah since biblical times. Psalms 19:6 describes the rising sun as being like a “bridegroom merging from his chupah”.

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