Category Archives: Jewish life

Could the silk tallet make a comeback?

da-costa-tallet.jpg

Tallet corner with the arms of the da Costa family

Historically the tallet was most commonly made of wool or linen, and to this day in many orthodox Ashkenazi and Eastern Sephardi communities, wool remains the fabric of choice, mainly due to an opinion that only these two materials fulfill the original Torah command (others being only a rabbinical addition).

However, in Western Sephardi and Italian communities with access to the silk route luxuriant, lightweight silk tallets became the tradition, as a way of honouring and beautifying the mitzvah.

These silk tallets were often personalized for their owners with elaborately decorated squares at each corner, emphasizing the four fringes.

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Should a sick person change their name?

Name-Change

I was recently asked this question by a friend:

“Unfortunately, I have serious health problems and have just returned from a lengthy hospital stay involving an operation.

“I’ve heard of people changing their names in such situations and wonder whether I should consider it? Why do people do it? Is it to try and change their fortune? How would I go about doing it if I decided to?”

Here’s my reply…

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“Shabbat Hayom!” becomes sickening computer game

screenshot of Shabbat Hayom video gameAn Israeli developer has released a new video game which depicts chareidim as violent. In the ‘Shabbat Hayom’ video game, chareidim punch non-religious Jews without provocation.

Many of you will have seen the now viral video of a misguided (OK stupid) young chareidi man protesting the opening of a shopping mall in Ashdod (Israel) on Shabbat by yelling “Shabbat Hayom” (It’s Shabbat today!), in a monotone, about 40 times in rapid succession.

It’s a non-violent – pointless – protest, that is certainly not going to enhance anyone’s opinion of what Shabbat can be. It’s sad to see the words “Shabbat Hayom”, which to so many religious people denote peace and harmony and recall several beautiful Shabbat table songs, being used in this way.

But then it was turned into an Israeli video game…  Continue reading

Dr Spock and the priestly blessing

mr-spockNot only is Leonard Nimoy, the actor behind Mr. Spock, Jewish, but Spock’s famous “Vulcan greeting”, which is copied from the hand formation used for Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing) since the days of the Holy Temple, was his idea.

In the video below, Nimoy evocatively describes hearing the priestly blessing in the synagogue as a child, and how he came to use the unusual hand configuration on Star Trek. Continue reading

The seven circuits

skull

Judaism has many rituals to help transition the body and soul of the deceased, and no doubt also to help the living come to terms with their loss.

In the Sephardi world one of the important places where these rituals took place was the “House of the Circuits” (Casa de Rodeos or Rodeamentos). This building served the same purpose as the House of Tahara in Ashkenazi cemeteries, and was where the ritual washing of the body was performed. In the Sephardi tradition, after the body has been purified, the burial service starts with the men present walking seven times around the body. Continue reading

Keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEProblem keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries that use different calendars?

There are apps that help, but I wanted a physical book – like the birthdays books that used to be popular in my Gran’s day, but with Hebrew and Gregorian dates. I also needed more space than Gran’s little book had. So I designed this. Open it at the Hebrew end for Hebrew dates; English end for Gregorian dates. Problem solved! (Yes, you’ll need TWO bookmarks.) Continue reading