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Minhag Yerushalayim, the Custom of Jerusalem with Dr. Avi Rockoff

Past Sessions
Sunday, March 6, 2022 3 Adar II 5782 - 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM - Zoom
Sunday, February 27, 2022 26 Adar I 5782 - 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM - Zoom
Sunday, February 20, 2022 19 Adar I 5782 - 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM - Zoom
Sunday, February 13, 2022 12 Adar I 5782 - 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM - Zoom

Anyone who spends Shabbat in Jerusalem cannot fail to notice that a siren goes off to signal the start of Shabbat a lot earlier than Shabbat starts anywhere else (40 minutes before shkiah, sunset, compared to 18 minutes in the US). Why?

The answer this question gets is, “Zeh Minhag Yerushalayim”—“This is the Jerusalem custom.” 

How is a Jerusalem custom different from all other customs? And how does a practice get to be a “custom” (rather than an idiosyncrasy, or a mistake)?

There have always been minhagei makom, local customs, but Minhag Yerushalayim, the custom of Jerusalem, is perhaps most widely familiar. This is not just because Jerusalem is central to Jewish peoplehood and religious life, but because many people visit there and actually see unfamiliar practices that are explained as, “Well, that is Minhag Yershalayim.” Other than early hadlakat nerot, the ones most often observed involve daily birkat kohanim (duchening), and certain funeral practices.

This class will sketch an overview of minhag, religious custom, from the standpoints of origin, halachic status, and social practice. We will then review a dozen or so Jerusalem customs, familiar and otherwise. We will cover their nature, scope (which Jerusalem subgroups practice them), origin (if known), and social implications. 

We will also discuss a number of authorities and personalities, some not well-known, who have analyzed, codified, harmonized with halacha, or objected to minhagei Yerushalayim or minhagim in general.

Participants are encouraged to share stories of particular customs in the places and communities where they have lived or visited.

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Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783