Tuesday, September 22nd 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much

Breaches

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Isaiah Berlin, the twentieth century political theorist, historian, and champion of liberty, was a Knight Commander of the British Empire and received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong commitment to civil rights. He traced his ancestry directly to Shneur Zalman of Lyadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism. Berlin wrote:

When one is engaged in a desperate defense of one’s world and its values, nothing can be...

Shrouds

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Throughout my childhood, my father regaled me with stories of the intense piety of his maternal grandmother – my great-grandmother – Esther Malkah. The seemingly mystical quality of our family forebear was enhanced by the fact that Esther Malkah shared her name (meaning “Queen Esther”) with the heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther (the “Megillah”)… and that her Yahrzeit was observed on Ta’anit Esther:...

Promotion

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Israelites who, during the Second Temple Period, were particularly scrupulous in observance of ritual purity and tithing were called “Chaverim” – friends, comrades, members of an elite fellowship. Many farmers, and rank-and-file manual laborers, typically unable to maintain the same level of ritual purity (due to their geographical isolation and, in great part, their agrarian lifestyle and constant work in the fields), were termed amei...

Distance

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

An imaginative Mishnah (Tamid 3:8) teaches: “From Jericho, they could hear the sound of the Temple gate opening” – many miles away – in Jerusalem. They could also hear the Temple herald; the flute and cymbals accompanying the sacrificial service; and the singing of the Levites. “Some say that from Jericho they could even hear the High Priest uttering God’s Name on Yom Kippur!” Even...

Coin

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Once central to everyday Jewish piety, the Laws of ritual purity have, for the most part, fallen into desuetude. These ancient practices, however, still offer considerable wisdom and guidance concerning challenges confronting us in the twenty-first century. Mishnah Kelim 12:7, for example, teaches:

“If a dinar (a coin of limited value) became defective or worn, and was fashioned into an ornament to be hung around...

Weeks

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

There is considerable meaning and moral insight in the very name of the Festival of “Shavuot” – the Feast of “Weeks” (beyond the mere timing of Shavuot relative to Passover).

Days, months, and years are measures of time based in astronomical reality. The Earth takes 24 hours (one day) to rotate. The moon takes a month to revolve around the Earth (hence the term “month”)....

Warning

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Biblical law of personal damages (Exodus 21:28-29), codified by the Rabbis (Baba Kamma Chapter 1), teaches that an ox which fatally gores a person is itself put to death. Its flesh may not be consumed… but its owner is not otherwise punished. If, however, the ox has a history of such lethal behavior… if it is “mu’ad” – known as a “goring ox” –...

Anniversaries

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Talmud contemplates the powerful legacy of historical anniversaries: “Good things tend to recur on a date with a history of auspicious good fortune, and misfortune tends to befall us on dates with a history of tragedy” (Taanit 29A). We mourn on the Ninth of Av, with its long history of Jewish national catastrophes… while we celebrate the Seder on the anniversary of the Exodus...

Pebbles

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

When visiting a cemetery, it is customary to place small stones or pebbles atop the monuments of those whom we have come lovingly to remember. Some understand this practice as an act of kindness to the bereaved: subsequent visitors, seeing the pebble left behind, will realize they are not alone in their grief… that someone shares in their sense of loss and has been touched...

Originality

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Simon Greenberg (1901-1993) was a congregational Rabbi, Seminary administrator, and architect of Conservative Judaism. He observed: “Our ancestors have made it quite difficult for us to be original.”

Rabbi Greenberg understood that, though contemporary Jews may think we are living in novel times with unforeseen and unprecedented challenges requiring new solutions… the rich, accumulated wisdom of Jewish Tradition offers specific guidance and perspective on the...