Saturday, June 15th 2024   |

Say Little, Do Much

Capitulation

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

On this date, January 26, 1654 – 370 years ago today – Portugal decreed that Jewish residents had three months to leave Brazil. That edict is remembered as the Capitulation Protocol.  Twenty-three of the expelled families found their way to New York… then known as New Amsterdam.  The Brazilian refugees quickly organized themselves as a Jewish community, founding Congregation Shearith Israel. They maintained the Sefardi...

Law and Custom

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

On my very first day of Rabbinical School, my Talmud professor discussed “Minhag Avoteinu b’Yadeinu” – literally, “The custom of our fathers is in our hands.” This fundamental principle prescribes that (with notable exceptions!) we embrace precedented ancestral practice, handed down to us, as binding and authoritative… notwithstanding changing times and conditions. It does not mean (as one classmate proposed) that Jewish Tradition is delivered...

MLK

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

This week Americans celebrate the birth of a visionary civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Monday’s official federal holiday coincides with Dr. King’s actual birthday: January 15.

Let us remember that, just a week before his assassination (at age 39), Dr. King addressed a convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, saying, “Probably more than any other ethnic group, the Jewish community has...

Psalms

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In 1640, locksmith Stephen Daye of Cambridge, Massachusetts, published the first book ever  printed on the North American continent: “The Whole Booke of Psalms, Faithfully Translated into English” (popularly known as “The Bay Psalm Book”). Before this historic literary and religious milestone, Jews had already known (and drawn upon) the power of the biblical Book of Psalms (Sefer Tehillim) for millennia!

Psalms play a prominent...

New Nose

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As we anticipate the arrival of 2024, let us reflect on the wisdom of British theologian G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936):

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year...

Better Americans

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941), the first Jew named to the United States Supreme Court, was a prominent leader and spokesman for the American Zionist Movement.  He wrote:

“Let no American imagine that Zionism is inconsistent with Patriotism…A man is a better citizen of the United States for also being a loyal citizen of his state…Every American Jew who aids in advancing the Jewish settlement in Palestine…will...

Eichmann

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

On this date, December 15, 1961, Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the Holocaust, the Nazi genocide against the Jewish People, was sentenced to death by the State of Israel.  Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in a criminal organization (the Gestapo and the SS). He was also found guilty of crimes against Poles,...

Candles and Commandment

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Before lighting the Chanukah candles, we recite a blessing acknowledging that God has “commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights.”  When exactly did God do that?!  Where in the Bible can we find God’s commandment concerning this distinctly post-Biblical holiday observance?!

Some argue that God’s “command” – the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles – is a prime example of the constantly unfolding nature of Divine...

Festival or Feast?

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Chanukah is also known as “The Festival of Lights” – while Purim is referred to as “The Feast of Lots.” While on Purim there is a specific obligation to feast, no such requirement of a celebratory meal applies to Chanukah. (To be sure, a number of gastronomic customs are popularly associated with our commemoration of the Maccabean victory!) A variety of explanations have been offered...

Solomon Luria

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

This Shabbat – 12 Kislev 5784 – is the 450th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Solomon Luria (1510-1573), also referred to as “Maharshal” (standing for “Our Teacher, Rabbi Solomon Luria”)… and as the “Yam Shel Shlomo,” after the title of his most famous work (literally, “The Sea of Solomon,” in reference to the huge, brass water vat which King Solomon placed in the Temple: see II Chronicles...