Thursday, September 16th 2021   |

Say Little, Do Much

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...

Rock

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The State of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, signed 73 years ago today, asserted faith in “the Rock of Israel” (Tzur Yisrael). That judicious wording satisfied both secularists and Religious Zionists among the Declaration’s signatories.

“Tzur Yisrael” is a phrase familiar from the daily liturgy. Chanukah celebrants customarily praise God as Ma’oz Tzur – “Rock of Ages.”

A rock suggests safety, permanence, reliability, strength, refuge, a...

Naomi

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The first time Naomi speaks (indeed, the first words spoken by anyone in the Book of Ruth), she addresses her devoted daughters-in-law (and fellow widows), Ruth and Orpah: “Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me” (Ruth 1:8). In their commentary on the Biblical Book, Professors Tamara...

Lag

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Lag B’Omer (that is, the 33rd day of the Omer), observed today, is a minor festival… and a cheerful break from the mournful, 49-day “Sefirah” period between Passover and Shavuot.

Some identify the holiday’s origins in the Biblical miracle of Manna – said to have first appeared on this date… sustaining our ancestors of the Wilderness Period.

Lag B’ Omer is also observed as the...