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L’shem Yichud
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Many people have the custom to recite a special declaration of intent prior to performing many mitzvot or reciting certain prayers. This kabalistic formula is known as the “l’shem yichud”, its name taken from the opening words of the declaration.  This formula expresses one’s intention to fulfill a mitzva for the sole sake of serving […]
Vatikin
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Although the term “vatikin” is used in a number of Talmudic contexts, the word as it is commonly used today refers to the practice of reciting the shacharit prayers at sunrise.[1] We are taught that ensuring to recite the shema moments before sunrise and then commencing one’s shemoneh esrei exactly as the sun rises over […]
Transporting a Torah Scroll
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One is not supposed to transport a Torah scroll from its regular location to be used in another location for a single or other temporary use.[1] Indeed, one should not remove a Torah from the synagogue sanctuary even if it is to be used in another room in the building, if this is not normally […]
Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek
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Upon completion of each of the five books of the Torah in the course of the Shabbat morning Torah reading, it is customary for everyone present to shout out loud: “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” which means “Let us be strong, let us be strong and let us strengthen others as well.”[1] It is interesting to note […]
Yisachar or Yisaschar?
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Although the name of Yisaschar is always written with a double “sin” (referring to the letter of the Hebrew alphabet – not to be confused with “transgression”), there are differing customs on how the name is to be pronounced when it is read in the course of the Torah reading. These conflicting customs are noted […]
Mi Sheberach
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The “mi sheberach” prayer which is customarily recited at the Torah on behalf of one who is ill is actually an ancient formula. This mi sheberach is unique because in most other prayers where a person’s name is mentioned, it is usually the person’s father’s name which is used. In the mi sheberach for those […]
Holding the Torah
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On distinctive occasions when two (or more) Sifrei Torah are removed from the Ark for the day’s Torah readings, it is customary to appoint someone in the congregation to hold the additional Torah until it is needed. There’s no denying, however, that most people prefer not to be appointed with the task of holding the […]
Aliya to the Torah – Calling by Name
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It is an ancient[1] custom to call a person by his Hebrew name, along with the Hebrew name of his father, when calling him to the Torah.[2] Although there was once a custom not to call those already standing around the Torah by name when awarding them an aliya (such as the one reading the […]
Praying with a Minyan
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It is somewhat unclear whether or not praying with a minyan is truly an obligation or merely a recommended or meritorious practice. The confusion lies in the wording of the Shulchan Aruch in which Rabbi Yosef Karo writes that “one should make an effort to pray with a minyan”.[1] Nevertheless, many contemporary halachic authorities insist […]
The Placement of the Torah Reading
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One will readily notice that whenever the Torah is read at shacharit it is read after the central prayer, the shemoneh esrei, has been recited. Yet, on occasions when the Torah is read at mincha, it is done so before the shemoneh esrei. Why the difference? It is explained that ideally the Torah should always […]