Sunday, January 29th 2023   |

Say Little, Do Much

Sharansky

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today is the 75th birthday of Natan Sharansky. Born in Donetsk, Ukraine, Sharansky has rendered stellar service to the Jewish People.  After gaining international acclaim as a refusenik, persecuted and imprisoned in the former Soviet Union, Sharansky immigrated to the State of Israel.  There he has served in a number of critical roles: Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Housing,...

Ready?

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Mishnah (Shabbat 3:7) discusses final preparations to be made in one’s home before welcoming the Sabbath.  One is instructed to say three things: 

First: “Have you tithed?” This, to be sure the produce one is to eat during Shabbat is actually permissible for consumption.

Second: “Have you arranged an Eruv?”  Depending on the type of Eruv, this ritual permits carrying objects in a public...

‘J’Accuse!’

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

125 years ago today, on January 13, 1898, French novelist and playwright Émile Zola published an open letter to the President of France, decrying the miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for treason.  Forged evidence was produced in his secret trial, which primarily leveraged the virulent antisemitism of the times. Alleged to have sold military secrets to Germany, Dreyfus, a French Jew...

Insurrection

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Talmud (Shabbat 17A) records a polarizing debate between Hillel and Shammai about ritual purity in the preparation of wine.  Shammai taught that grapes gathered for pressing are susceptible to ritual impurity and must be placed in ritually pure vessels.  Hillel ruled such requirements overly restrictive.  Perhaps uncharacteristically, Hillel mocked Shammai’s stringency… deeply offending his colleague.  Shammai angrily threatened yet more stringent rulings.

The Talmud...

Henrietta Szold

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Henrietta Szold (1880-1945) was the eldest of Rabbi Benjamin Szold’s eight daughters. She served as editor of Marcus Jastrow’s still popular dictionary of the TalmuD, as the first editor of the Jewish Publication Society and launched publication of the first American Jewish Yearbook. For years she taught Hebrew School in Baltimore, also offering classes in adult Jewish education.

She was the first woman admitted to...

Macabre

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The word “macabre” – meaning “disturbing, morbid, vividly evocative of death” – is associated historically with the danse macabre… an allegorical medieval morality play, depicting death personified (often as a skeleton) and his victims.  Danse macabre – as a genre – can refer either to staged performances or to graphic art and painting.

There is considerable evidence that danse macabre itself derives from an early...

Latkes

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The festive food most closely associated with Chanukah is – among Ashkenazim, at least – the latke: a potato pancake fried in oil… and thus serving as an apt reminder of the miracle of the cruse of olive oil used to re-light the Menorah in the Temple following the Hasmoneans’ defeat of their Syrian-Greek foes. 

The word “latke” may well come from the ancient Greek...

Tzitzit

By RABBI JOSEPH PROUSER

In ancient Rome, boys wore a youthful tunic, a “toga praetexta” – trimmed in purple – until reaching puberty, when (around age 14) they would don the “toga virilis” to betoken their attainment of maturity.  That practice has striking parallels to  (and may well have had a formative influence upon) the Jewish custom of first wearing a Tallit (or “Tallis”) upon becoming Bar Mitzvah (and, increasingly,...

Golda

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today, 8 Kislev, is the yahrzeit of Golda Meir (1898-1978), the only woman to serve as Prime Minister of Israel…  the fourth woman in history to serve any country in that capacity.  Golda was, as indicated by the title of a new biography by Pnina Lahav, often “The Only Woman in the Room.”

Golda’s family emigrated from Kyiv, Ukraine to Milwaukee… where she took a...

Hospitality

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

My father grew up as the youngest of eight children in a pious, Yiddish-speaking home which, he proudly recalled, was known throughout the local Jewish community as “Avraham Avinu’s House.” This flattering appellation was earned through his parents’ storied hospitality… and the resulting tendency of itinerant charity solicitors to arrive at the Prouser home just before dinner time.

Hospitality (in Hebrew, Hachnasat Orchim) is an...