Tuesday, September 22nd 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much

Hinneni

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

I have presided over congregational High Holy Day services for well over 30 years. As a rabbi, I have delivered sermons, offered commentary, and served as Torah reader. I am, however, no cantor! Happily, I have been blessed with the partnership of gifted, creative, and devoted Chazzanim – true musical talents.

On one memorable occasion, however, I realized just moments before Musaf that my cantor...

9-11

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today we mark the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Some 3,000 innocents lost their lives in those tragic events – including the 227 civilians aboard the four airplanes used in the attacks. Many first responders, striving to save the lives of strangers, were killed in the line of duty.

September 11, 2001 coincided with 23 Elul 5761....

Names

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

There is an old custom of changing the name of a seriously ill patient, in hopes of altering that individual’s fate and reversing any lethal divine decree that may be in place. I have personally officiated at such rituals.

In selecting the “new” or added identity, some take the first suitable name mentioned in the weekly Torah Reading. Others choose names based on their meaning:...

Jokers

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that “the greatest Jewish tradition is to laugh. The cornerstone of Jewish survival has always been to find humor in life and in ourselves.”

This view finds classical support in the Talmudic account of Rabbi Broka, the Sage who encountered Elijah the Prophet in a marketplace (Taanit 22A). Availing himself of Elijah’s unbounded, transcendent wisdom, Broka asked the Prophet if,...

Sounds

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Shofar is sounded every weekday in Elul to herald the approach of Rosh Hashanah. While an expert can induce a rousing spiritual experience with a powerful Shofar blast, Jewish Law insists that “all sounds produced with the Shofar are valid.” Euphonious tones… as well as squeaks, sputters, groans, gravelly rasps, and jarring squawks: all Kosher (Rosh Hashanah 27B; OH 587:1)!

This principle reminds us...

Mezuzah

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

There is a widespread folk belief that the mezuzah on the doorpost of one’s home protects those within from danger. Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi offered this interpretation when he sent a Persian potentate a mezuzah as a gift (Yerushalmi Peah 1:1). Onkelos made a similar assertion when he explained the meaning of Mezuzah to the Emperor Hadrian (Avodah Zarah 11A). Note: both Sages’ comments were directed...

Smoldering

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

On the Ninth of Av, we fast to recall the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. We customarily refrain from eating meat even on the Tenth of Av… when the ruins of the Temple continued to smolder. For this reason, Rabbi Yochanan considered 10 Av the more suitable day for national mourning (Ta’anit 29A). The meaning of this protracted process of grieving is suggested by...

Smugglers

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Mishnah Kelim 17:16 teaches: “The crossbeam of a balance or a leveling rod that has a concealed compartment in which metal can be concealed, or a carrying yoke that has such a compartment for money, or a poor man’s walking stick that has a compartment to hold water (or other beverages), or a staff that has a compartment in which one might hide a Mezuzah...

Epidemiology

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was born in Worms, Germany 800 years ago, in or around the year 1220. He was a great communal leader, Talmudist, Tosafist, and liturgical poet. He maintained a yeshivah at his own expense, training many students who themselves went on to become leading rabbinic luminaries. Prominent among these was “the Rosh” – Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel.

Rabbi Meir was, infamously, kidnapped...

Cathedrals

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Abraham Joshua Heschel observed: “the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.”

How so?

The Sabbath, like a great cathedral, provides sanctuary to wandering souls and spiritual searchers.

Like a great cathedral, faithful Shabbat observance promises a vivid sense of God’s majesty.

The vast, towering edifice of Sabbath Law is daunting in its scope, magnificent in its complexity, intricate in its artistry… too much to be absorbed...