7. Why the Prophets Are Important, May 20, 1983
The Eternal Dissident
In this Friday evening sermon, Beerman reveals the source of his admiration for the Hebrew prophets, on whom he frequently drew for inspiration throughout his career. Beerman juxtaposed the ethos and mission of the prophets to the ethos and mission of the Five Books of Moses. On his view, the Bible was devoted to the law and to instructing Jews how to observe it. The prophetic writings, by contrast, were dedicated to encouraging responsible moral behavior. In a sense, Beerman was giving voice
... was giving voice to a rather common tenet of Reform Judaism in its classical nineteenth-century form. That is, the essence of Judaism lay not in the laws and ritual prescriptions of the Talmud or Bible, but rather in the ethical dictates and demands of the Israelite prophets. At the same time, his reliance on the prophets drove his deep commitment to social justice, as it did for other notable Jewish thinkers over the course of the twentieth century whom he admired, including In traditional Judaism the five books that make up the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, are considered to be especially holy. We take out the scroll of the Torah, which we keep in a very central place in the sanctuary. We read their sections in order, Shabbat after Shabbat, we read from Genesis to the very final verse of Deuteronomy year after year. But not so with the books of the prophets. We don't read through all of the prophetic books from beginning to end. For a long time prior to the past few months we have not been reading them at all at Leo Baeck Temple. But even in the traditional synagogues, custom is that only a small part, selected from the prophets, called the Haftarah is read from week to week. They are considered to be holy, but certainly not on the same level as Torah.