Jewish Rituals

Vayikra: Please don't pass (on) the salt.

Vayikra: Please don't pass (on) the salt.
Why do we sprinkle salt on the challah when we say motzi? According to this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the first in the book of Torah by the same name (in English, Leviticus), no meal offering could be brought to G-d without salt. (... Continue Reading »

Vayakhel: Kindleh, baby, kindleh!

Vayakhel: Kindleh, baby, kindleh!
Each Erev Shabbat, Jewish women around the world light candles and recite the following blessing (in Hebrew): “You are Blessed, Adonai our G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, Who has Sanctified Us with His Commandments, and Commanded Us to Kindle t... Continue Reading »

Terumah: Paying our "voluntary" dues

Terumah: Paying our "voluntary" dues
When I became bar mitzvah in the Fall of 1968, my father, z”l, had recently completed two terms as President of the local synagogue.  That must be why my speech was about the "ten percent tithe."  Donations wouldn&rsquo... Continue Reading »

Mishpatim: It's "That Time of Month."

Mishpatim: It's "That Time of Month."
This Shabbat, Mishpatim, is also “Shabbat Mevarechim” -- the Shabbat on which “we bless.”    What do we bless (or sanctify)?  The new month that begins during the coming week.  In this case, the mon... Continue Reading »

Sh'mot: No Harm, No Foul

Sh'mot: No Harm, No Foul
When Moses approaches the burning bush, G-d instructs him to remove his sandals because he stands upon “holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5).  But G-d doesn’t explain why Moses shouldn’t wear sandals upon holy ground.  Why not... Continue Reading »

Yayechi. Tradition: A Democracy of the Dead

Yayechi. Tradition: A Democracy of the Dead
Twice in this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the last in the book of Genesis, the dying extract promises from those who will outlive them.  First, Jacob solicits Joseph’s promise to remove his bones from Egypt and bury them in the Pr... Continue Reading »

Yom Kippur: Oh, Happy Day!

Is Yom Kippur a solemn day, or a happy one?  It may seem a strange question.  Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of Jewish prayer, humility, repentance, and self-denial, including fasting.  How, therefore, can it be “happy?” &n... Continue Reading »

Ha'azinu: Who are we? Q&As About Jews and Judaism

As I noted last week, I am again conducting High Holiday services aboard a cruise ship in Europe.  The ports are beautiful.  Yet, as Barbara and I walk the streets and admire the architecture – especially the magnificent churches and ... Continue Reading »

Ki Tavo: "Altaring" our habits

Ki Tavo: "Altaring" our habits
I read recently that the number of calories we eat is determined more by habit than hunger.  To lose weight, therefore, it’s vital to create healthier “automatic” eating habits (e.g., use smaller plates, eat with the non-domina... Continue Reading »

Re'eh: Fame! Remember My Name (for a blessing)!

Re'eh: Fame! Remember My Name (for a blessing)!
Why do we bury damaged or illegible Torah scrolls and prayerbooks?  And why is there a Jewish tradition of not writing out the word “G-d?”  Both practices derive from this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh.  In it, Mo... Continue Reading »
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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb