Friday, July 30th 2021   |

Say Little, Do Much

Et tu?

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Tonight begins Tu B’Av (the fifteenth day of Av), also known as Yom Ha-Ahavah, the “Day of Love.” Our ancestors celebrated this “minor” holiday with unrivaled joy, with singing, dancing, match-making, and a principled recognition that love transcends superficial physical, social, and economic differences (Ta’anit 4:8).

Today, Tu B’Av has enjoyed a resurgence as an auspicious day for romance, marriage proposals, weddings.

Tu B’Av celebrates...

Unfinished

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In mournful remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, it is customary to leave part of a wall in one’s home conspicuously unfinished: unplastered, unpainted, unpaneled, etc. An unfinished area of one square “cubit” is prescribed (OH 560:1… a cubit is generally calculated as between 18 and 22 inches). Some provide such a one-square-cubit area painted black. These memorials are referred to as “Zecher L’Churban”...

Wonders

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The birth of the mighty Samson is foretold to his astonished parents through repeated angelic visitations (Judges, Chapter 13). A “most awe-inspiring” angel (13:6) informs the heretofore childless couple of the son to be born, of his life-long Nazirite vow, and of his destined, heroic, military leadership. The grateful pair offer a sacrifice, using a rock as a makeshift altar.

The Hebrew text continues, “Mafli...

Redemption

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

“Who has a share in the World to Come? Whoever joins the ‘Redemption’ blessing to the Amidah” (Berachot 4B). We proceed without pause or interruption – not even saying “Amen!” – from the final blessing following the morning Shema [“Ga’al Yisrael” – praising God as “Redeemer of Israel”] to our individual recitation of the Amidah. So critical is this principle, Rabbi Yochanan suggests, that compliance...

Idolatry

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Years ago, I toured Poland with a group of rabbis representing all “denominations.” We saw what remains of the most notorious Nazi concentration and death camps. We offered tearful memorial prayers at the crematoria at Auschwitz, then found ourselves at the selection platform at Birkenau.

Our guide suggested that one among our group, the grandson of a survivor who had endured the infamous selection process,...

Love

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Shema, the most fundamental and sacred statement of Jewish faith and theology, is recited daily – during both morning and evening worship. At each recitation, the Shema itself is preceded by an extended blessing celebrating God’s love for the Jewish People. During Shacharit (morning) prayers, that introductory blessing begins, “Ahavah Rabbah…” – “You have loved us with great love….” In the evening, the parallel...

Funerals

By RABBI JOSEPH PROUSER

The distinctive simplicity of traditional Jewish funerals – modest, wooden casket (“a plain pine box”) and linen shrouds – is generally traced to Rabban Gamliel, the first century Sage, Sanhedrin Head, and grandson of Hillel the Elder. Rejecting ostentatious funeral rites among wealthy Jews – and the resulting embarrassment of those of lesser material means – Gamliel insisted that he be buried in simple shrouds…. firmly...

Shul

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Notwithstanding the many Hebrew terms for Jewish houses of worship (See “Say Little, Do Much: Synagogue,” January 25, 2019), one of the most intimate and affectionate names for the synagogue is the Yiddish “Shul.”

Derived from the German “Schule” – school – “Shul” stresses the time-honored role of the synagogue as a place of shared learning, a center for passionate Jewish study. The synagogue –...

Aggadah

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In his Reference Guide to the Talmud, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz defines “Aggadah” as all aspects of Rabbinic literature which (in contradistinction to “Halachah”) are “non-normative” – that is, not explicitly pertaining to matters of law – and “therefore not subject to any final, definitive ruling.” This includes “all the theological and philosophical discussions, stories about individuals, ethical guidance and other such subjects.” Midrash Aggadah includes...

Converts

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

We are commanded to be loving to those who convert to Judaism: those who adopt our faith with sincere conviction. Maimonides emphasizes that this love is over and above the obligation to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mitzvot, Positive Commandment #207).

Conversion to Judaism is, however, all too often a highly contentious and politicized area of contemporary Jewish life. Which rabbis (or others) are qualified...