Judaism's 613 commandments symbolize the entirety of Jewish observance, but the tone and texture of the cycle of the Jewish year is often determined by custom. Halakha itself defines the relationship between the two in the halakhic statement that "a custom may (sometimes) set aside a halakha." In his six best-selling volumes in Hebrew on the subject, Rabbi Sperber has not only shed light on specific customs, but has demonstrated how tightly customs are woven into the fabric of Jewish life. In this volume he presents selections from the first four volumes, organized according to the cycle of the Jewish year. He explains the whys and wherefores of many of the customs which have sharpened the impact of the Sabbath and festivals. He provides fascinating insights on customs which have grown up around the prayers, especially those which are determined by numerology, counting words and letter; he also examines the history of the use of shemurah matzah, the customs governing mourning during the counting of the Omer, spreading plants and flowers in the synagogue during Shavuot, the prohibition of drinking wine and eating meat during the "Three Weeks," or of eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah, and many other customs.
by Daniel Sperber