Saturday, September 19th 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much

Salt

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

It is customary, when beginning a meal by reciting Ha-Motzi, to dip the bread in salt. We are reminded thereby that our homes are temples, our tables altars of God, subject to the Torah’s command: “You shall season your every meal offering with salt; you shall not omit from your meal offering the salt of your covenant with God…” (Leviticus 2:13).

Salt may be intended...

Judges

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In closing, the Declaration of Independence invokes “the Supreme Judge of the World” – reprising Abraham’s plea before God: “Will the Judge of all the World not do justice?!” (Genesis 18:25). Liturgical images of God as Judge include the High Holy Day prayer, l’El Orech Din: “God Who Dispenses Justice.”

Upon receiving unwelcome tidings or, specifically, news of a death, we recite the blessing Baruch...

Sevens

By RABBI JOSEPH PROUSER

In certain games of chance, the number seven is considered particularly lucky. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the number seven is a recurring feature. God rests on the seventh day, the culmination of creation. Noah brings seven pairs of pure animals onto the Ark. The Menorah at the heart of the Tabernacle (and, later, Temple) had seven branches.

The seventh year is marked as a Sabbatical; seven...

Compromise

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

First Lady Barbara Bush said, “I hate that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.” Jewish ritual provides a ready reminder that achieving compromise, thoughtfully accommodating disputants in a debate or disagreement, can be an admirable virtue… in the service of household peace, and communal and societal amity.

The Mezuzot we place on our doorposts contain a parchment on which a scribe has penned the...

Procrastination

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

“Ein ma’avirin al ha-Mitzvot,” the rabbis teach us: “Do not bypass Mitzvot.” We are not to pass up the opportunity to perform a Mitzvah – even momentarily. So, for example, the karpas, the green vegetables which are dipped and consumed at the beginning of the Seder, are placed at the side of the Seder plate nearest the Seder leader. Thus the Seder officiant need not...

Godliness

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The opening chapter of Genesis introduces us to a theological assertion critical to Jewish morality: human beings are created B’Tzelem Elohim, in the Divine Image. The Torah insists that this Godly imprint is an egalitarian enterprise: “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God were they created; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

What does it mean to carry the...

Fathers

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

With the celebration of Fathers Day and the onset of summer this week, beach season begins. Among the Mitzvot – the sacred obligations — which a father owes his son is, according to the Sages, to teach him how “to swim in the sea” (Kiddushin 29A: this in addition to providing for his circumcision, redemption of the firstborn, and religious education – and to preparing...

Camp

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As countless youth prepare for Summer camp, we do well to remember the wisdom of Deuteronomy 23:15 – “Let your camp be holy; let God not find anything unseemly among you.” Originally in reference to maintaining sanitary facilities and latrines (!) in a military encampment, the medieval sage Ibn Ezra applies this admonition to “anything unseemly, in deed or in speech.”

The Chofetz Chayim understands...

Say Little, Do Much: Truth

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Jewish folklore is replete with tales of the “Golem” – a magical creature (sometimes erratic and tragically lacking in discernment) brought into being from inanimate matter through the mystical offices of leading sages. The 16th century Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague is most famously associated with this fantastical creature.

The Golem’s central purpose was to protect the Jewish community from danger. The creature was, significantly,...

Say Little, Do Much: Democracy

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

This Memorial Day, we remember the storied 1945 eulogy preached by Lieutenant Roland Gittelsohn, a United States Marine chaplain, for American casualties at Iwo Jima. Noting the racial, social, and religious diversity of the fallen, Rabbi Gittelsohn observed: “Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group...