Taking Responsibility for Your Judaism

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by R. Gil Student

Reviewing “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility,” by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky. Gefen Books. 2018. 320 pages. ISBN-13: 978-9652296498.

The order of the nesi’im, the tribal princes in the desert, teaches us the single most important lesson in life. Rashi (Num. 7:11) says that Moshe was not sure whether the twelve nesi’im should offer their sacrifices in order of the birth of their tribal ancestors, the twelve sons of Yaakov, or in the order of their marching in the desert. God answered that they should follow the order of the marching. In this easily overlooked technical comment, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, in his recently published second volume of “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility,” sees a fundamental truth. Your actions are much more important than your pedigree. Your ancestors made your past but you make your future.

This constitutes a basic concept of Western society and also the fundamental principle of the Torah’s commandments—the ability to choose your own destiny. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). With this right to choose our own paths comes the responsibility for that decision. When we choose well we prosper in the broadest sense of the word and when not, we suffer the consequences of our own making. The responsibility thrust upon each and every one of us in the modern world can be overwhelming. Yet the power of choice is a testament to the importance of each person, emblematic of the individual’s divine image.

Rabbi Pruzansky has emerged as a powerful voice for personal responsibility. His provocative essays and lectures instruct an embattled people to fight the forces of distraction and deflection. We must not blame others for our failed choices nor for our failure to choose. We are better than that; we are made in God’s image; we are God’s chosen people. By blaming others we diminish ourselves, our independence and our strength to overcome adversity.

Continued at The Jewish Link of NJ: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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