Friday, September 24th 2021   |

Say Little, Do Much

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...

Say Little, Do Much: Poverty

By JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Sages”), records the favorite teaching of Yossi ben Yochanan: “Open wide the doors of your home, and welcome the poor as members of your household.” This generous sentiment seems to have inspired poet Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched...

Say Little, Do Much: Heart

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

“The Holy One desires the heart,” the Rabbis say (Sanhedrin 106B). They define prayer as the “Service of the Heart” (Ta’anit 2A). Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther somewhat idiosyncratically echoed this principle: “Faith is under the left nipple.” In our relationships to God, our inner life matters a great deal: our faith, our beliefs, our hopes.

The Sages articulated a very different approach in...

Say Little, Do Much: Friendship

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Patrick Henry famously prayed: “Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” His celebrated concluding line echoed Joseph Addsion’s 1713 play “Cato”: “The hand of fate is over us… It is now a time to talk of aught but chains or conquest, liberty or death.” Henry’s either-or formulation, however, can be traced to...