Tuesday, December 1st 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much

Rings

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The groom’s gift of a ring to his bride (nowhere mentioned in the Talmud!) has been a standard element of the Jewish wedding since at least the seventh century. The ring must have some intrinsic value, and should be made of plain metal: customarily without stones (Even Ha-Ezer 31:2). Some authorities state a preference for gold wedding rings… some, specifically for yellow gold, so as...

Weapons

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In his final message to his sons, Jacob upbraided Shimon and Levi: “Your weapons are tools of lawlessness” (Genesis 49:5). Jacob was apparently making reference to the brothers’ lethal vengeance against the Hivites and, in particular, Shechem, following his assault and abduction of Dinah.

A similar disdain for weapons and violence is evident in Mishnah Shabbat 6:4… “One may not go out on the Sabbath...

Privacy

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today is the birthday of Louis D. Brandeis, born November 13, 1856. Brandeis was the first Jewish justice on the United States Supreme Court… nominated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

Among Brandeis’ great contributions to American jurisprudence was his pioneering assertion, as early as 1890, of a Constitutional “right to privacy” – which he called “the most comprehensive of rights and the right most...

Darkness

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The ninth of the ten plagues in Egypt was three days of palpable, impenetrable darkness. “One person could not see another… nor could anyone leave their homes” (Exodus 10:23). A moral lesson is herein discerned: “When a person does not see another, or chooses not to see him, darkness descends on the world” (Eshkol Ma’amarim). The dark days of the COVID pandemic remind us how...

A Prayer Before Voting

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

God Who commands us, “You shall not remain indifferent” (Deuteronomy 22:3); Whose Prophet taught us, “Seek the welfare of the community… and pray to the Lord on its behalf” (Jeremiah 29:7); I am about to cast my vote in America’s Presidential election. Be with me as I discharge this sacred duty… for, as President John F. Kennedy wrote:

“In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of...

Woke

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As a child, I attended a Massachusetts public school in a community with proud, early Colonial Era origins. Our American History studies placed particular emphasis on the town’s Puritan founders and the religious idiosyncrasies of the New England Meeting House and its constituent worshippers.

We read an already antique text, “The Sabbath in Puritan New England” – with a vivid description of the “Tithingman” –...

Precision

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

To calculate Shabbat candle-lighting time, my father, of blessed memory, used a chart produced by the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory, listing the time of sunset throughout the year in Springfield, Massachusetts. We lived in nearby Northampton.

On this official document, in his distinctive handwriting, my father penciled in the phrase, “Add 1 minute for Northampton.” A cost accountant by day and a beloved...

Hosanna!

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

“Hosanna” is used in English to signify “a jubilant shout of praise or adoration.” Famously invoked by Frank Lloyd Wright (“Hosanna! A client!”) and in a Paul McCartney song title and lyrics, “Hosanna” finds its earliest origins in Biblical Hebrew.

The Psalmist (118:25) exclaims, “O Lord – Hoshia Na – Deliver us!” That verse is included whenever Hallel is sung, and when the Torah Scrolls...

Tents

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Many congregations conducted this year’s High Holiday services under open-walled tents: a wise health and safety precaution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a chaplain serving the Boy Scouts of America, I conducted countless outdoor services under canvas. This year’s Holidays – so very different from years past – thus nevertheless had a comforting familiarity!

Tents have an honored place in Jewish history.

Abraham...

Remember

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Yom Kippur’s “Martyrology” service is a moving tribute to those Jews who, in times of persecution throughout history, gave their lives for our faith. In unsparing, graphic detail, the liturgy describes the tortured deaths of Rabbis Akiba, Chanina ben Teradyon, Yehudah ben Bava, and other Sages.

The Martyrology takes its Hebrew name from the Biblical verse with which it opens: “Eileh Ezkerah – These I...