Friday, October 30th 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much

Say Little, Do Much: Anonymity

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

I have noted previously in this column that God’s name appears nowhere in the Book of Esther. Countless Seder celebrants cite the parallel exclusion of Moses from the Passover Haggadah. Moses’ conspicuous absence may be a tribute to his self-sacrificing leadership. Defending Israel from divine wrath after the golden calf debacle, Moses says: “If You forgive their sin, well and good! If not, erase me...

Say Little, Do Much: Priorities

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In my youth, I was privileged to attend a truly outstanding congregational Hebrew School, under the leadership of Rabbi Asher Bar-Zev. I remember vividly sitting among particularly unruly and inattentive Hebrew high school students, when the Rabbi abruptly called our lesson to an early termination, citing the principle “Derech Eretz Kadmah l’Torah” – “Courtesy, civility, and proper comportment must precede Torah study.”

Our ill-mannered behavior,...

Say Little, Do Much: Action

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The title of this weekly column, “Say Little, Do Much,” is (while partially in reference to its brevity) taken from Pirkei Avot 1:15, where it is listed as a favorite teaching of Shammai. Shammai was not entirely original in his perspective. To Confucius is attributed the similar maxim, “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” Confucius was a Chinese...

Say Little, Do Much: Need

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

By time we say “Kol Dichfin Yeitei v’Yeichol, Kol Ditzrich Yeitei v’Yifsach” at our Seders (“Let all who are hungry come and eat, all who are in need come and observe the Passover”), we have already recited Kiddush, drunk the first cup of wine, ritually washed our hands, eaten “Karpas” (the green vegetable), and prepared the Afikoman! Why invite needy guests to join us so...

Say Little, Do Much: Mosaic

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

This Shabbat, March 17, is a day of unusual pageantry. We begin the Book of Leviticus. It is (additionally) both Rosh Chodesh Nisan, inaugurating the month in which we celebrate Passover… and Shabbat Ha-Chodesh – the third of four special Torah readings anticipating that Festival. The rare confluence of these milestones necessitates the reading of three separate Torah Scrolls!

This Sabbath, many of our neighbors...

Say Little, Do Much: Rasha

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The most misunderstood among the Seder’s four children is the “Rasha.” How self-defeating to deem such a child “wicked!”    The Rasha’s “offending” question, “What does this ritual mean to YOU?” is entirely appropriate. All Seder participants are obligated to find ourselves in the ritual, “as if we each went forth from Egypt.” It is the parent’s fundamental Seder role to articulate precisely “what this...

Say Little, Do Much: Bitterness

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

We eat maror, the bitter herb, as one of the indispensable elements of the Passover Seder. As unpleasant as the experience might be, we must actually be sure to taste the bitterness. The rabbis teach, “Bala Maror Lo Yatza – One who simply swallows the maror whole has not fulfilled the Mitzvah” (Pesachim 115B).

We have a religious and moral obligation personally to taste, to...

Say Little, Do Much: Sanctity

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

“Maalin Ba-Kodesh, V’Ein Moridin – In matters of sanctity, we increase, and do not decrease.” This principle has numerous applications. Most famous is Hillel’s ruling (Shabbat 21A) that we increase the number of candles each night of Chanukah, while Shammai would have us begin with eight and decrease. A Kohen who serves temporarily as High Priest may not thereafter resume his lesser role as an...

Say Little, Do Much: Miracles

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER 

David Ben-Gurion mused: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles.” Jews have many opportunities to recognize and celebrate miracles. On Chanukah, we recall the miraculous Hasmonean victory and we re-enact the miracle of oil each night. We recall the miracle of Manna and its double portion – Lechem Mishneh – with two Challot every Shabbat. On Purim, we...

Say Little, Do Much: Suspicion

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Resh Lakish was a sage with a past. Before his rabbinic career, he led the brutal life of a Roman gladiator. In later life, Resh Lakish was a model of piety, integrity, and personal honor. It was said that anyone with whom he was willing to converse in public could, on that basis alone, be trusted in business even in the absence of witnesses (Yoma...