Say Little, Do Much

Questions?

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz describes the Talmud as “perhaps the only sacred book in all of world culture that not only permits, but even encourages the student to question it.” As soon as they are able, we ask our youngest children to ask the Four Questions...
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Synagogue

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The synagogue has many Hebrew names, indicating its multiple functions. It is a Beit Tefillah (House of Prayer). The synagogue is a Beit Midrash (House of Study). The Sages decried as a deadly sin referring to the synagogue as a Beit Am (House of the...
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Hate

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Preservation of life and health is such a primary Jewish value that virtually all Commandments and religious obligations are thereby rendered secondary. The dangerously ill must eat on Yom Kippur. Emergency transportation and medical care must be provided on the Sabbath. The truly pious eagerly...
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Choreography

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Upon concluding the “Amidah” (the central prayer of each daily service, recited standing), we customarily take three steps back, and bow right and left – thus humbly taking our leave (as it were) of the Divine Presence we have been addressing. So critical is this...
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Blessings

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

When Jewish parents bless their daughters on the eve of Sabbath and Holidays, or at life’s significant milestones, we invoke the Matriarchs: “God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.” But in compliance with an explicit Biblical directive (Genesis 48:20) based on the precedent...
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Unknown

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Every volume of Talmud begins on page 2. The final page of Tractate Yevamot is 122B, but that daunting tome comprises only 121 folios. One who masters its contents must nevertheless concede not ever having finished page 1. American naval hero John Paul Jones declared,...
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Merry

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Too often, Jews react to the Christmas season and its customary greetings with unnecessary discomfort.

The Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yeba, understood the Mishnah to teach that Jews properly greet non-Jews on their religious holidays (Gittin 62A). Maimonides codified Yeba’s insight: such holiday greetings are to...
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Healing

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

When Miriam was stricken with leprosy (Numbers 12:13), Moses cried out to God on his sister’s behalf: “Please, God. Please heal her!” His brief prayer prefigured the “Mi She-Berach” – the formulaic petition for healing often included in congregational worship or said at an ailing...
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Triplicate

By JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Rosh Chodesh Tevet always coincides with the sixth day of Chanukah. This year, that celebration falls on Shabbat, occasioning a day of uncommon pageantry and procedural complexity. Shabbat morning services feature the reading of three separate Torah Scrolls: one each for the weekly Portion, the reading...
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Counting

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

An ancient ritual protocol demands we not directly count people in establishing the presence of a minyan (a quorum of ten) for public prayer. Some obviate this prohibition by assigning to each worshipper a single word from Psalms 28:9 (Hoshiya et amecha…), comprising exactly ten...
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