Author: Yossi Belz

Tallit – Prayer Shawl Guide

What is the Prayer Shawl/Tallit? A Prayer Shawl is known in Hebrew as Tallit and henceforth we will refer to it as such. The Tallit is worn by Jewish males over their clothes. When is the Tallit worn? The Tallit is worn during the daily morning prayers in the week, on Shabbat and on festivals. What does the Tallit look like? The Tallit has the appearance of a large white blanket with a few black stripes running lengthwise on both the right and left side of the Tallit. There are knotted fringes attached to each of the four corners of the Tallit which are actually the whole reason for wearing the Tallit. Where does the Tallit originate? In the days of the Bible and even after, people would wear four-cornered garments and in the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, the Jewish people are commanded to attach special fringes to the corners of their garments. The Oral Law later gave instructions on how to tie the fringes, who should wear them and when. Already by Talmudic times the Tallit was referred to as a prayer shawl. Nowadays, it is not the accepted practice to wear four-cornered mantles so Jewish men wear Tallitot (plural of Tallit) so as to fulfill the commandment of placing fringes on the corners which, when looked at, are meant to remind one of G-d and His...

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Menorah

The Menorah is one of the oldest Jewish symbols. The Menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum that was lit in the Temple by the priests every evening. The description of the Menorah can be found in the book of Exodus, 25:31-40. In the vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 4:1-6), Zechariah sees a Menorah and G-d says “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit.” This vision hints to the fact that the Menorah is meant to remind the Jewish people of their mission in the world; to be a light unto the nations. This mission is not to be accomplished by force but by setting an example- by living lives of morality, purity and justice. In Jewish houses of prayer (Synagogues), there is a lamp that is constantly alight (called in Hebrew Ner Tamid-meaning Eternal Flame) which represents the Menorah. The nine-branched candelabrum lit on the festival of Chanukah is commonly similar in appearance to the candelabrum from the Temple because Chanukah is the commemoration of a day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days in the Temple...

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What is a Mezuzah?

What is a Mezuzah? Mezuzah is a Hebrew word meaning doorpost. However, it is used to refer to the parchment contained in a small case attached to the doorposts of Jewish homes worldwide. The Mezuzah serves as a constant reminder of G-d’s presence and of every Jewish person’s obligations towards Him. What is the source for attaching a Mezuzah to the doorpost? The book of Deuteronomy contains a part of Jewish daily prayers known as Shema. It is found in the sixth chapter of the book, verses four until nine. In the passage, among other things, G-d commands the Jewish people to heed his words, to love Him and to be constantly aware of him. In the passage there is a reference to writing “these words” on one’s doorposts. Rabbinical interpretation of the Biblical Source came to understand this to mean that Jewish people are obligated to literally attach these Biblical verses to one’s doorpost. Therefore, a hollow container holding a couple of paragraphs that are written on parchment are found on most traditional Jewish house’s doorposts. On the back of the scroll is written one of the names of G-d, Sha-dai which is also an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean “Guardian of the Doors of Israel’. The Mezuzah protects the inhabitants of the home whether they are at home or not. The scroll is rolled up...

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Sounding of the Shofar or Trumpet?

Arthur L. Finkle If we believe archeological findings, the frieze on the Arch of Titus in Rome, depicts the captured hatzotzerot (trumpets) from the Jewish Second Temple being borne in triumph among the other sacred objects. Further, we see the symbol of the Shofar as a symbol of Judaism in the archeological record (Capernaum synagogue – Ist century CE; Ephesus 2-3rd centuries; Rome – 2-5th centuries; etc.) in the early centuries of the Common Era. Ambiguity of Words There are, nevertheless, several ambiguities in whether the written words a trumpet and a Shofar. A case in point are the Hebrew words “Keren” (Horn) and Jubal (Jubilee) The word ‘Shofar’ comes from an old Semitic root (cf. Akkadian ‘sapparum’ meaning wild sheep or goat). At first, as has been indicated, the word ‘karen’ does not seem to have been used by itself. Later through the explanation of the Mishnah c 200CE), a horn could become a Shofar if it were constructed according to Mishnaic and later Talmudic direction. The hatzotzerot, in contrast, seem to have been interchanged with the Shofar. In Tractate Rosh HsShanah, it termed when ‘duty days’ were taken in turns, the Shofar and trumpets played the same calls. Confusion by Performing the Same or Similar Tasks The Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 54 provides a description of the priests lowering trumpets during pauses in the Levitical singing n the...

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Medical Issues of Shofar Sounding

Shofar sounding is akin to Trumpet playing is the sense that the two principal attributes are the embouchure (musculature of the lips and facial muscles), the wind generation and the agility of the tongue. Insofar as wind generation, we come upon the Valsalva maneuver – a physiological response to holding one’s breath and bearing down (as in childbirth). The trumpeter’s Valsalva is modified because air is released through the resistance of a .144-inch-diameter hole at the mouthpiece throat and through 5 feet of brass tubing. The respiratory tract pressures generated by trumpet players have been measured and are impressive. Mouthpiece pressure on the lip during normal playing has been measured at 5 to 10 pounds. Higher-register playing produces greater pressure. In the case of a shofar the aperture is materially less than .144 inches but not as many feet does the wind have to travel unless the shofar is Yemenite. Brass Instrument Pathology Problems inside them mouth such as canker sores, braces or “bump” can sideline a player for days. Playing with a cold or worse is also not good for the wind generation. And it may lead to dizziness, decreases the velocity of air generation (decreasing the tonality of the instrument) Mucous is not the only possible pathological hindrance to a trumpeter’s airflow. Asthma decreases the volume and velocity of exhaled air. Smoking-related obstructive lung diseases such as...

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