Tuesday, October 27th 2020   |

Say Little, Do Much: Anonymity


I have noted previously in this column that God’s name appears nowhere in the Book of Esther. Countless Seder celebrants cite the parallel exclusion of Moses from the Passover Haggadah. Moses’ conspicuous absence may be a tribute to his self-sacrificing leadership. Defending Israel from divine wrath after the golden calf debacle, Moses says: “If You forgive their sin, well and good! If not, erase me from the book You have written!” (Exodus 32:32).

Moses’ “erasure” from the Haggadah is a clever commemoration of this loving sentiment… just as the “absence” of God in Esther actually calls our attention to the miraculous nature of the events depicted therein.

Parshat Shemini, read this Shabbat, provides the fundamental Biblical source of the Dietary Laws. Yet, the Hebrew word “Kosher” never appears in this Parshah, nor elsewhere in the entire Torah! Ironically, it first occurs in the “godless” Book of Esther! There it refers not to matters gastronomic, but to “fitting, appropriate, proper” action. Parshat Shemini marks the precise mid-point of the Torah. The conspicuous absence of the term “Kosher,” where you would most expect to find it, reminds the attentive reader that it is principled devotion to “fitting, appropriate, and proper” personal conduct that is the very heart of the Torah’s vision.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and is the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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