Sunday, May 9th 2021   |

Say Little, Do Much

Solomonic

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

This Shabbat will be the first time this century(!) that the Haftarah for Parshat Miketz (I Kings 3:15-4:1) is to be chanted. As Shabbat Miketz almost always falls during Chanukah, its Haftarah is generally pre-empted by the holiday reading. The last exception to this rule was on December 30, 2000 (two days before the current century began!).

The Haftarah comprises the Biblical narrative of King...

Bull!

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Hillel and Shammai disagreed regarding the proper method for kindling Chanukah lights (Shabbat 21B). Hillel (establishing our own practice) taught that a single candle is lit on the first night, and that the number of candles is increased by one each night of the Holiday, culminating in eight lights on the final night. Hillel’s reasoning: “In matters of sanctity, we always increase rather that decrease.”

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ABC’s

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Alphabetical acrostics (poetic compositions in which verses begin with consecutive letters of the alphabet) are a familiar feature of Biblical literature. Such patterns are found in Psalms 25, 34, 111, 112, 119, and 145 (“Ashrei”)… as well as the final chapter of Proverbs (“Eshet Chayil”).

The mournful Book of Lamentations comprises an intricate series of acrostics, three of its five chapters beginning with the titular...

Rings

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The groom’s gift of a ring to his bride (nowhere mentioned in the Talmud!) has been a standard element of the Jewish wedding since at least the seventh century. The ring must have some intrinsic value, and should be made of plain metal: customarily without stones (Even Ha-Ezer 31:2). Some authorities state a preference for gold wedding rings… some, specifically for yellow gold, so as...

Weapons

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In his final message to his sons, Jacob upbraided Shimon and Levi: “Your weapons are tools of lawlessness” (Genesis 49:5). Jacob was apparently making reference to the brothers’ lethal vengeance against the Hivites and, in particular, Shechem, following his assault and abduction of Dinah.

A similar disdain for weapons and violence is evident in Mishnah Shabbat 6:4… “One may not go out on the Sabbath...

Privacy

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Today is the birthday of Louis D. Brandeis, born November 13, 1856. Brandeis was the first Jewish justice on the United States Supreme Court… nominated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

Among Brandeis’ great contributions to American jurisprudence was his pioneering assertion, as early as 1890, of a Constitutional “right to privacy” – which he called “the most comprehensive of rights and the right most...

Darkness

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The ninth of the ten plagues in Egypt was three days of palpable, impenetrable darkness. “One person could not see another… nor could anyone leave their homes” (Exodus 10:23). A moral lesson is herein discerned: “When a person does not see another, or chooses not to see him, darkness descends on the world” (Eshkol Ma’amarim). The dark days of the COVID pandemic remind us how...

A Prayer Before Voting

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

God Who commands us, “You shall not remain indifferent” (Deuteronomy 22:3); Whose Prophet taught us, “Seek the welfare of the community… and pray to the Lord on its behalf” (Jeremiah 29:7); I am about to cast my vote in America’s Presidential election. Be with me as I discharge this sacred duty… for, as President John F. Kennedy wrote:

“In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of...

Woke

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

As a child, I attended a Massachusetts public school in a community with proud, early Colonial Era origins. Our American History studies placed particular emphasis on the town’s Puritan founders and the religious idiosyncrasies of the New England Meeting House and its constituent worshippers.

We read an already antique text, “The Sabbath in Puritan New England” – with a vivid description of the “Tithingman” –...

Precision

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

To calculate Shabbat candle-lighting time, my father, of blessed memory, used a chart produced by the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory, listing the time of sunset throughout the year in Springfield, Massachusetts. We lived in nearby Northampton.

On this official document, in his distinctive handwriting, my father penciled in the phrase, “Add 1 minute for Northampton.” A cost accountant by day and a beloved...