Say Little, Do Much

Commentary

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The first time I examined a volume of Talmud, I was twelve years old. The late Rabbi Harold Bell, then Director of Connecticut Region USY, was spending Shabbat with my home congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts. He opened a Talmudic tome and showed a group of...
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Elul

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, is a period of personal reconciliation and spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days, the process of repentance, and the inauguration of a productive new year. The name of this Hebrew month — spelled alef-lamed-vav-lamed — is said to...
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Honey

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

There are numerous symbolic foods associated with Rosh Hashanah. The most popular of these is honey… into which we typically dip either apples or challah (or eager fingers!). The meaning seems clear. We aspire to a year of sweetness… of good things and good news,...
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Lifesavers

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

It is a fundamental principle of Jewish Law that, should any of its specific requirements or Commandments conflict with the interests of preserving human life and health, they are suspended in favor of lifesaving action. A critically ill or injured person must be driven to...
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Lamentations

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As a young college student, I served as Shamash in the Jewish Theological Seminary Synagogue. My first assignment was to coordinate services for Tisha B’Av, the fast day recalling destruction of the Temple. I prepared thoroughly, familiarizing myself with all the day’s liturgical procedures and...
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Eternity

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The final verse of the last song of the Passover Haggadah – Chad Gadya – reports: “the Holy One comes and slaughters the Angel of Death.”

God’s destruction of death is limited neither to messianic visions nor to a future era. Death is defeated not...
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History

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The first prescribed liturgy in Jewish tradition – the first official prayer – was neither a petition for divine assistance nor a statement of praise or thanksgiving to God. The first official liturgy (Deuteronomy 26:5-10), recited upon presenting the first fruits of the harvest to...
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Lies

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

According to 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant, “By a lie, a man… annihilates his dignity as a man.” Kant’s contemporary, Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz taught: “Habitual liars have an inclination to idol worship and heresy, for truth and faith embrace one another.” In The Adventures...
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Grasshoppers!

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The pessimistic report of the Israelite spies who, at Moses’ behest, surveilled the Promised Land included a lament about its allegedly formidable inhabitants (Numbers 13:33): “We felt like chagavim, like mere grasshoppers in comparison!”   Notwithstanding our diminutive numbers, perceiving ourselves as insignificant, powerless bugs can...
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Independence

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

George Washington was a pioneering, passionate champion of religious diversity and freedom. His favorite Biblical verse, cited some four dozen times in his public statements and private correspondence, was Micah 4:4 – “Every man shall sit under his vine or fig tree, with none to...
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