Friday, September 30th 2022   |

Say Little, Do Much

Wiesel

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The late Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, professor, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was born on this date – September 30, 1928.  In “Night” (the most acclaimed of his 57 books), Wiesel detailed his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz and Buchenwald… and his theological responses to that trauma.  As this anniversary of his birth coincides with Erev Shabbat Shuva, anticipating Yom Kippur, we recall...

Gedaliah

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The day following Rosh Hashanah is Tzom Gedaliah – a “minor” fast commemorating the assassination of Gedaliah ben Ahikam, whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed governor of Judea following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.  A scion of the Davidic line, Gedaliah was murdered by fellow Jews – including chief assassin Yishmael ben Netaniah, also of royal family pedigree (II Kings 25:25-26; Jeremiah 41). ...

Profanity

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

A “grawlix” is a series of symbols (such as @#$%!) used as a stand-in for profanity or swearing in written communication. The term was coined in 1964 by cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey; Hi & Lois), who also popularized the practice. The use of a grawlix acknowledges that some forms of verbal expression are improper, scandalous, unnecessarily offensive, salacious.

In response to then Vice President...

Treasure

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

On September 9, 2013 (nine years ago today), an archaeological team led by Dr. Eilat Mazar uncovered a priceless treasure in the historic “Ophel” area (see Chronicles 27:3) adjoining Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.  Dating to the seventh century CE, the “Ophel Treasure” included gold earrings, a silver ingot, thirty-six gold coins, and – most notably – a gold medallion bearing images of a seven-branched menorah, a...

Schoolchildren

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As children return to the daily routine of a new school year after diverting months of Summer vacation, we gratefully recall the efforts of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla. He instituted the ordinance that “teachers of children should be established in each and every province and in each and every town.”  Students were to be enrolled for instruction beginning at age six or seven (Baba Batra...

Consolation

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The seven Sabbaths between the mournful fast of Tishah B’Av – and Rosh Hashanah, with its hopeful promise of a new beginning – are punctuated by Shva d’Nechemta: the “Seven Haftarot of Consolation (or Comfort).” All seven are drawn from the Prophet Isaiah.

It is significant that the consolation offered during this critical period in the Jewish calendar finds expression primarily through the liturgical reading...

I Don’t Know

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

An anonymous Talmudic Sage wisely taught: “Accustom your tongue to saying ‘I do not know,’ lest you get caught up in a web of lies” (Berachot 4A).  The fact that this maxim’s author remains unidentified is instructive… perhaps even artful: we are forced to admit that “we do not know” who it is… thus following the unspecified rabbi’s counsel!

Recognizing what we do not know...

B”H

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

There is a custom of writing the Hebrew letters Bet-Hay (represented in English as B”H) at the top of any written document or correspondence. That abbreviation stands for B’Ezrat Hashem (“With the help of God”). 

A variation on the practice is to write the Aramaic equivalent: Bet-Samech-Dalet (BS”D – B’Siyata D’Shmaya: “With the help of Heaven”).  This gesture acknowledges that all we have accomplished or...

Forty

The first tragedy to befall the Jewish People on Tishah b’Av was God’s decision that the generation that departed Egyptian slavery would wander the wilderness for forty years (Taanit 4:6).  That harsh (if precisely calibrated) punishment was imposed in response to the faithless, defeatist report of the Israelite spies who, after 40 days of reconnaissance, still despaired of Israel’s ability to conquer the Promised Land. This, despite God’s repeated assurances...

Aaron

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today, “the first day of the fifth month” – Rosh Chodesh Av – is, according to this week’s Parshah, Aaron’s Yahrzeit (Numbers 33:38).   Moses’ elder brother was his spokesman to Pharaoh; it was Aaron’s staff that was miraculously turned into a serpent; Aaron partnered with Moses in bringing about the ten plagues.  Aaron was Israel’s first High Priest and progenitor of the hereditary priesthood. During...