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Posts by Gabriella Tzin

Asher Yatzar: Blessing The Lord for All Functions


There is a traditional Jewish blessing for just about everything; therefore, it is not surprising that there is even a blessing upon exiting the restroom. The blessing, “Asher Yatzar,” is translated into English as “He Who Formed.” Despite what you might think, the blessing is more complex than simply thanking God after performing one’s bodily functions. In fact, the real purpose of this unique blessing is to thank the Lord for creating mankind with many intricacies, as well as for the miracle of allowing our bodies to function properly on a daily basis. In essence, it is a way to…

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Cat Lover? Jerusalem is for You


One lesser-known fact about Israel is its abundant cat population. When visiting the Holy Land, one can see the plentiful amount of felines meandering around the city streets, begging for food, or diving in dumpsters for a meal. Whether you are fond of cats or not, many have speculated how these small carnivores got to Israel in the first place. Before the 1930s, the cat population in Israel was considered minimal, however, after the British Mandate, the population exploded. Due to a rat epidemic throughout the country, the British supposedly imported numerous felines in order to neutralize their rodent problems.…

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Lecha Dodi: Welcoming Shabbat the Bride


Lecha Dodi” is translated into English as “Come my Beloved,” and it is a traditional Jewish song that is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat service held on Friday nights. It was written in the sixteenth century by Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, who later joined the Kabbalistic movement in Tzfat. In Talmudic times, Shabbat was perceived as a bride, and the day itself was thought of as a wedding ceremony.  An example of this can be seen in the Talmud from Shabbat 119a: “The Gemara now returns to the issue of delight in and deference to Shabbat. Rabbi Ḥanina would wrap himself…

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The Jewish Blessing Upon Hearing Bad News


Receiving bad news, such as the injury or loss of a loved one, can be shocking, confusing, and agonizing. In traditional Judaism, however, receiving bad news is used as yet another opportunity to praise and bless the Lord. The principle of blessing God despite hearing devastating news comes from Berachot 54a in the Talmud, where it explains that one must recite a blessing for the bad things that happen to him just as he does for the good. The idea is elaborated even more in reference to Deuteronomy 6:5: “One is obligated to recite a blessing for the bad that…

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The Jewish Blessing for Children


One of the most meaningful and valuable Jewish customs takes place during the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat prayers, it is the blessing over the children. This special blessing is traditionally recited either before or after Kiddush and is typically said only by the father, though in some homes the mother also joins in or recites it instead. Likewise, when the blessing is being recited, the father or mother will often place a hand on top of each child’s head, adding further depth and meaning to the ritual. The blessing originates from the Priestly Blessing which is found in Numbers 6:22-26:…

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Thunderstorm Blessing: A Reminder of God’s Power


Nothing portrays the vast might of our Creator quite like a thunder and lightning storm. Though the bright flashes and piercing thunder may cause some to tremble, the extraordinary power that is displayed by thunderstorms sends an important message. There are many teachers in Judaism who have tried to speculate the reason why God created thunder and lightning as they do not have a very clear purpose. What possible use could these startling flashes of light and deafening crashes of thunder have? An answer to this question can be found in the Talmud Berakhot 59b: “Thunder was created only in…

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The Blessing Upon Seeing a Rainbow


In Judaism, the phenomenon of seeing a rainbow is considered a special, amazing event, thus ensuing the need to recite a blessing upon seeing one. Rainbows are regarded highly as they serve as a reminder to the covenant that God made with Noah after destroying all living creatures with the flood. “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me…

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A Rare Snowstorm in Jerusalem

Snow in Jerusalem

When people think of the weather in Israel, the picture that often comes to mind is of a hot, dry desert. While it is true that the climate is typically quite warm throughout most of the year, the temperature can drop drastically in certain regions during the winter season. As a matter of fact, it got so cold this last Wednesday evening, that we even experience a small snowstorm in Jerusalem. The storm occurred on Wednesday afternoon when the clear sunny skies started turning an ominous, dark grey color. The wind started to howl, the rumbling of thunder could be heard,…

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Shalom Aleichem: Peace Be Upon You

If you have ever participated in a Jewish Kabbalat Shabbat meal, then you have most likely heard the infamous song, “Shalom Aleichem (שלום עליכם).” This traditional song has been a central part of Friday night Shabbat liturgy for many years and is prevalent in most sects of Judaism. Its purpose is to signal the start of Shabbat as well as to usher peace and wholeness into the home. Shalom Aleichem was originally a poem that was written by kabbalists (believers in Jewish mysticism) in the city of Tzfat towards the end of the 16th century. It is found in the Talmud…

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Birkat Hamazon: Grace After Meals

Birkat Hamazon: Grace After Meals

Birkat hamazon (ברכת המזון) is the traditional Jewish blessing known in English as the Grace After Meals. Its purpose is to thank God for providing food, for the Land of Israel, as well as for His unwavering kindness towards His people. Likewise, part of this blessing serves as a type of plea to the Lord, asking Him to swiftly rebuild the city of Jerusalem, for continued sustenance, and for the coming of the Messiah. According to halacha (Jewish religious laws), one must say this blessing after eating a meal that included an olive-sized piece of bread or matzah made from…

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Birkat Hagomel: A Prayer of Thanksgiving


The Jewish prayer, “birkat hagomel,” is traditionally recited after one has survived a dangerous journey or recovered from a serious illness or accident. During the days of the Temple, it was obligatory to bring a thanksgiving offering before God when one survived a life-threatening situation. Now that the Temple no longer stands, however, the birkat hagomel is said in place of making a sacrifice as a proclamation of gratitude. The birkat hagomel originates in the Talmud, and is recited for a variety of situations. These occasions include being freed from jail, recovering from a serious illness, traveling at sea or…

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The Shehecheyanu: A Blessing to Commemorate Special Occasions


There is a traditional Jewish blessing that’s sole purpose is to mark specific appointed times as well as special occasions, it is called “shehecheyanu (שהחינו).” Literally translated, it means “Who has given us life,” and it is to be recited after one has experienced something new or unusual as a way of showing gratitude to God. The shehecheyanu blessing can be found in the Talmud, signifying that it has been used for over 2000 years. It is traditionally recited for the following holidays: the beginning of Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Chanukah. It is not…

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The Traditional Jewish Prayer Upon Awakening

Waking up in the morning can be a difficult task for some, though the traditional Jewish ideology on arising can bring a new perspective to it. This customary Jewish prayer upon waking up is called “modeh ani (מודה אני).” It has a more recent origin as it was written in the 16th century commentary on the Siddur, “Seder Ha-Yom” written by the early Acharon Rav Moshe Ibn Makhir. This particular prayer is rather short in comparison to others, consisting of only one sentence. In traditional Judaism, it is obligatory to say a concise prayer of thanksgiving upon opening your eyes…

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Mi Shebeirach: The Traditional Jewish Prayer for the Sick

When there are sick people within our community or family, it is our duty to lift them up in prayer and ask for healing and restoration for them. The traditional Jewish prayer for the ill is known in Hebrew as the “mi shebeirach (מי שברך),” and its purpose is to ask for blessing, mercy, and strength for those facing illness. Though its specific origin is not clear, it dates back as far as the Middle Ages. Often times, this prayer is recited in synagogues during the time of the Torah service as a way to remember and lift up individuals…

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Caring for the Sick and Elderly in Our Community

One significant part of the work we do within our local community in Jerusalem is caring for the sick and elderly.  We believe it is of utmost importance to give support to our brothers and sisters in need, whether it is through prayer, visitation, or offering practical help. This fundamental ideology can be seen in many places throughout the Bible, including in these two passages: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) “But if anyone…

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The Traditional Jewish Traveler’s Prayer

Before embarking on a journey, regardless of whether it is a trip by way of car, airplane, or boat, there is a traditional Jewish prayer that is often recited. This unique prayer is known as the Traveler’s Prayer in English, however in Hebrew it is called “tefilat haderech,” (תפילת הדרך). The origin of the Traveler’s Prayer is found in the Gemara, which is part of the Talmud or oral law. This prayer serves as a request for a safe and peaceful journey that is free of all trouble. It asks the Lord to watch over the travelers while on their…

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Our Strength in Times of Trouble

When times of trouble strike, where do you run to? In whom do you find comfort? More often than not, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, it is easy to shut out everything and to get lost in the predicament. It can be challenging to turn to God with our burden and to cry out to Him for help. Even though it is not always simple to do so, it is essential to bear in mind that the Lord understands our every trouble and distress. He waits on us eagerly to turn to Him so that He can…

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Unity: The Reason We Commemorate Sukkoth Every Year


Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana. This Shabbat is Sukkoth, and therefore there is a special reading from the Torah. The unique portion focuses on the Exodus from Egypt and touches on the reason for the commandment of the commemoration of Sukkot. In addition, it highlights the importance of educating our children as well as the values ​​of the four species. Why are We Instructed to Build a Sukkah? First of all, what exactly is a sukkah and what purpose  does it serve? “Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born…

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The Unique History and Symbolic Nature of the Feast of Sukkoth


 Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam. The young men of our congregation were very busy building a large sukkah or booth on the rooftop of our building.  This community sukkah is about 1300 square feet and it covers a large portion of our building’s roof.  Our entire congregation and many guests will help us celebrate and commemorate this important feast later on.  Sukkoth is one of the three pilgrimage feasts commanded by God.  In addition, we know from the New Testament that Yeshua and His disciples also made pilgrimage to Jerusalem…

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