Author: Yossi Belz

What is a Shofar?

The Shofar, a trumpet or horn, was used in ancient Israel to summon assemblies, to rally troops and signal in wars, to announce important events, and at holidays such as Rosh Hashanah. In the Bible The Shofar is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament Hebrew Bible, translated as “trumpet” in the King James translation. Numbers 10 specifies that two Shofarot must be made of silver and used for summoning the assembly, by the sons of Aaron the priests. They should be used to announce gladness, sorrow and to sound alarms. Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1 specify that the Shofar must be blown on first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) (the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year), which shall be a Sabbath holiday. The book of Joshua, Chapter 6, relates the famous story of how the walls of Jericho were brought down by the blowing of trumpets. The Shofar is also mentioned in Psalms 81, which calls for blowing the Shofar to announce the new moon. In Later Times The Shofar is discussed in the Talmud and later rabbinic writings. Though following the destruction of the temple it was forbidden to play musical instruments, rabbinical authorities ruled that the Shofar is not a musical instrument. Making a Shofar It is usually fashioned from ram’s horn, but it can also be made from the horns of other animals,...

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Judaism and Judaica

Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. Judaica are the objects and text used in the Jewish religion and produced by Jewish culture. In this guide, we shall present articles describing major beliefs and practices of the Jewish religion, and discuss objects of Judaica and how they are used in the Jewish religion and culture. A Religion and a People The Jewish religion, unlike Christianity for example, is inseparable from the Jewish people and is center and starting point for all Jewish culture. According to Daniel Boyarin, the underlying distinction between religion and ethnicity is foreign to Judaism....

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How to buy Mezuzahs

What is a Mezuzah? The Mezuzah (Me-zu-zah’ – accent on last syllable – plural Mezuzot ) is a small case containing a small hand written parchment scroll (called a klaf). The scroll contains the words of the “Shema Yisrael” prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13. Shema Yisrael means “Hear O Israel.” The first sentence declares, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is they God, the Lord is one.” It is the Jewish confession of faith. The parchment of the Mezuzah is hand lettered. It is prepared by a specially trained scribe and must be perfect. It should be examined periodically to ensure that it is in order. Where to place the Mezuzah According to some authorities, the Mezuzah must be placed on every doorway except closets and bathrooms. According to others, it must only be placed on the entryway of the house. Some view the Mezuzah as a good luck charm, but respected authorities deride this view as superstition. To buy Mezuzot: 1. If you are going to put Mezuzahs on every doorway in your home, count the number of doors and archways in your home to decide how many Mezuzot you will need. A mezuzah should be mounted on every doorway, including front and back gateways if you have them, but excluding the bathroom and small closet doors. 2. Choose a practical size that suits your needs. Mezuzot...

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Origin of the Shofar

Real Origin of the Shofar’s Significance: The Rabbi’s Rule Arthur L. Finkle Although the Mishnah cites the origin for the sounding of the Shofar based in the Hebrew Scripture, the actuality is that the Mishnah and Talmud regularized and legitimatized the Shofar’s predominance at both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur after the destruction of the Second Temple. Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 3:3 cites that the Shofar is played on Yom Teruah (Day of Blasting or Rosh HaShanah) because it was sounded at the special sacrifice at Rosh HaShanah. Additionally, it was sounded on Yom Kippur to announce to Jubilee Year (every 50 years, Jews could reclaim their sold lands; Jewish slaves were freed; debts forgiven; etc.). Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 3:3 says in part: The Shofar [blown in the Temple] at the New Year was [made from the horn] of the wild goat, straight, with its mouthpiece overlaid with gold. And at the sides [of them that blew the Shofar] were two (that blew upon) trumpets. The Shofar blew a long note and the trumpets a short note, since the duty of the day fell on the Shofar. The Mishnah thus emphasizes that in Rosh HaShanah symbolized the Shofar; the trumpets, the other special days. However, Hoenig does not trace a specific sacrifice relating to the sound of the Shofar at the Temple ritual for Rosh HaShanah. Zeitlin traces the history...

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Kippah Guide

The Kippah, which is also known as a yarmulke or skullcap, is a circular piece of cloth used to cover the head. The Kippah is a symbol worn by Jewish men to show modesty and fear of God. Jews, who believe in the existence of the Creator and His presence everywhere, behave modestly and respectfully towards Him and accept upon themselves the yoke of God. The covering of one’s head is an expression of this belief. On the contrary, walking bareheaded symbolizes egotism and immorality. Kippah in the Torah The Torah does not command us to wear a head covering and this whole concept first appears in the Shulchan Aruch (codification of Jewish law) where it says that “one should not walk around bareheaded” out of respect for God. The details of this mitzvah is to cover the head with any form of covering, such as a Kippah, hat or cap etc., and that one should not walk 4 cubits (2.5 m, 8.20 ft) without a head covering. It is understood from the Talmud and Midrash that only the real righteous people at the time wore a Kippah. However, in the later years it was perceived not only as a stringency which is related to the important people of the nation but as a duty for all observant Jews to wear a Kippah. Size of the Kippah There is...

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