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The Conclusion of Shemoneh Esrei
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Following the blessing of “sim shalom” at the conclusion of every shemoneh esrei, there is a supplementary paragraph which contains a number of inspirational readings. This paragraph, beginning with the words “Elohai Netzor”, is actually adapted from the personal prayers of the Talmudic sage, Mar son of Ravina.[1] It is said that the fundamentals of […]
Heicha Kedusha
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The standard structure of the shacharit and mincha service is for the congregation to first recite the shemoneh esrei quietly, followed by the chazzan who then repeats it out loud. There are two reasons why the sages instituted a public repetition of the shemoneh esrei.[1] It seems that the primary purpose for this enactment was […]
Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto L’olam Va’ed
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It was the great sages of Israel who established the many blessings which we have in our liturgy today. Each of these blessings is recited on the very specific occasion for which it was intended. The most common these blessings are the blessings over food and drink which are recited many times each and every […]
Hashem Elokeichem Emet / El Melech Ne’eman
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The shema is comprised of 245 words. There is a tradition which strongly encourages one to ensure that the words of the shema total 248, the number of limbs in a person’s body.[1] In order to accomplish this, the one leading the services repeats the last three words of shema, “Hashem Elokeichem Emet”, thereby bringing […]
Brich Hu or Amen?
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There are a number of different customs as to how one should respond to the “brich hu” in the kaddish. According to some customs, the proper response is “brich hu”, while others respond “amen.”[1] Others have the custom to respond “brich hu l’eila min kol…” and actually recite the entire remaining section as part of […]
The Kaddish
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The first thoughts that often come to mind at the mention of “kaddish” are those in association with death and mourning. Contrary to this common misconception, the kaddish is not related whatsoever to death, the deceased, or the afterlife. There is not even a single mention of death in the kaddish. In fact, the original […]
Swaying During Prayer
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The practice of making odd and irregular swaying movements during prayer is a unique phenomenon which is virtually exclusive to Judaism. It is generally understood that individuals engage in these movements in an effort to deepen concentration and intensity when praying. The origin of swaying during prayer, often referred to by its Yiddish name, shuckling, […]
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 […]