Cultural Rituals

We welcome you to Sinai Temple. We hope you enjoy the variety of worship services that we offer and the warmth of our community. This guide is a compilation of the rituals and customs that you will find in our synagogue community and we’ve designed it to make you more comfortable. If you have any additional questions, please approach one of our ushers or come and introduce yourself to the Rabbis and Cantor following services. Enjoy the music, words of Torah, and community we provide.



In front of you at the center of the bimah (pulpit), is the aron kodesh, the holy ark. In the ark are a number of Torah scrolls. Each scroll contains the Five Books of Moses. We read a portion from the Torah every single Shabbat, and special selections during our festival holidays.

The Torah is dressed in sacred vestments, with crowns, breastplates, and jewels. This is the way we show our respect and honor to these scrolls.

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Every male that enters our sanctuary is required to cover his head with a kippah, a head covering. A kippah symbolizes the heightened holiness of the acts of worship and study carried out during our service. As you can see, there is no size or color requirement for a kippah. Enjoy the array of kippahs that you see. Females may also wear a head covering as well.

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In the pew before you, there are two books. The smaller blue book is called the siddur, the prayerbook. It consists of all of the prayers that we will recite on Shabbat, including Psalms, Rabbinic writings, and English translations.

The larger red book is called the chumash, literally the five books. This contains the Torah, the portion from the scroll that we will read aloud. In it, you will find the original Hebrew text, English translations, and Rabbinic commentaries, both old and new. Explore these ancient teachings that add meaning to our lives each and every day.


Shema: This is the verse from Deuteronomy that is the declaration of our faith. “Hear O Israel, The Lord Our God, the Lord is One.” We recite this in the morning and in the evening. It is also the prayer that we recite when we take the Torah from the ark.

Amidah: This is our central prayer. After the Cantor leads us in the musical rendition, there is a silent devotion. The congregation reads either the Hebrew or English or offers personal prayers and reflections.

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Study Source: Each week, a Rabbi offers words of inspiration from our Biblical and Rabbinic tradition at the conclusion of the Torah reading.

Dvar Torah: This speech is given by the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and is the interpretation of the Torah reading through this young person’s eyes.

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Candy: At the conclusion of the rabbi’s charge to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the Cantor and Rabbi bless them with the Priestly Blessing. As the child walks back to their family, they are showered in candy representing the sweetness we feel at that time.

Clapping: In our Shabbat services, we discourage clapping after a job well done. Instead, we say yashar koach, may you go in strength.

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On Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat apples dipped in honey. It is also customary to say the shehecheyanu, a blessing over something new, whether it be a piece of fruit, or a new article of clothing.

The Sephardic tradition also includes a Rosh Hashanah seder, which includes: dates, small beans, leeks, beets, gourds, pomegranates, apples and honey, and the head of a fish.


This is the holiest day of the Jewish year. We fast and gather as a community to atone for the misdeeds of the past year and pray for a year of blessing ahead.


We go outside of our homes and build temporary shelters called sukkot, which we eat in for seven days. This symbolizes the Jewish journey in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. We also take hold of the four species, the lulav (palm branch), etrog (citron), hadas (myrtle), and arava (willows), which represent different parts of our body and different traits of our character.


This is the eighth day of Sukkot, which comes to symbolize a “stop” in our calendar. God commanded us to take a break before we leave the last month of celebrations in the Jewish calendar. We recite Yizkor, the memorial prayers of those who have passed away during our morning services.


We conclude the reading of the Five Books of Moses by throwing a communal party for people of all ages. We dance around in circles as we renew the cycle of learning Torah once again.


We celebrate the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, on their way to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. During this festival of freedom, we are reminded that we were once enslaved, and are gracious for the lives we live today.


Rice: Is considered kosher for Passover by Sephardic Jews. It was a tradition among Egyptian Jews to purchase all the Passover rice one month before the holiday. For some families that meant buying about forty pounds of rice. The rice would be placed in the middle of the table and the family would sift and wash the rice then divide it into eight portions for the eight days of Passover. Rice is part of a group of legumes known in Hebrew as “kitniyot.” These foods are considered kosher for Passover by Sephardic Jews and include corn, millet, string beans, green peas, lentils, split peas, soybeans and chickpeas. There is also an opinion that permits rice for Ashkenazic Jews as well.

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On Shavuot, we celebrate giving of the Torah and revelation on Mount Sinai. It is a custom to eat dairy products on this holiday. We also read the book of Ruth.