A couple of them come to mind I would like to share.
Dutch Chief Rabbi Meir Just OBM was a man of understatements. A rabbi of short stature but of international greatness. Born in Hungary, he left this world much too early at the age of 102. He rests on the Mount of Olives. He did our chuppah. After signing o the ketubah, he said: We now proceed with the throwing of rice. A small bowl of uncooked rice stood on the table between us. My wife-to-be was afraid to get it in her sheitel; I was worried it would get into my beard. You know what this is for, he asked. I said: Sure, for fertility. Nothing insignificant because, together, we were already over 80. And for livelihood, he said. His hand went to the bowl. He took out three kernels of rice and placed them on the table. The ‘throwing of rice!’ One of my children recently said: And you had three children.
Reb Shlomo Carlebach, known for his songs, guitar playing, dancing, and stories, often advocated love and pleaded against hate. He even warned against hatred for evil people. Many a child and grownup enjoy making lots of noise when the name of Haman is read from the Esther scroll. Stamping, clapping, rattling, firecrackers, etc. But he would only do so at the first mention of Haman. That’s it. When overdone, hatred can jump from against the wicked to relationships between good people.
I was new to religious Judaism when I heard: You could say: ‘Why do all these small things? That must be for very committed Jews.’ But, hey, if you won’t even do the small things, how will you get to the big things? My current rabbi says: You can always make a small improvement. That’s how you can build progress. One word of anger less. One cigarette less.
At the end of the Hoshannah Rabbah morning service, the day before Simchat Torah, the custom is that beat five willow branches bound together against the floor. Some do that in the synagogue, others outside. Some beat as if it is a rug to clean. In Amsterdam, we did this in the synagogue. Five light taps on the floor. It would be common, after that, to maybe find one leaf on the floor. Not like in a forest.
The kiddush has the words: ‘And on the seventh day, He stopped, and revived.’ If you put a dot in the B, ב, you changed Shavvat into Shabbat, and you say totally something else: And on the seventh day it was Shabbat and He revived. Then, the Prayers have: ‘A remembrance of the Deeds of the Beginning (of Creation).’ If you put a dot in the B, it absurdly means: ‘At the Beginning (of Creation), there is a remembrance of the deeds.’ Or take: ‘He blesses His People (and their friends) with peace.’ Put a dot in the B and it becomes: ‘In peace, He blesses His People (and their friends). Before you drink the grape juice, you hopefully honor: ‘the Creator of the fruit of the vine.’ But if you omit the dot in the P, פ, and say not’ P’ree,’ but ‘F’ree’, atheistically, you say: ‘The vine is the creator of the fruit.’ Just like the culinary difference between “Let’s eat grandma” and “Let’s eat, grandma.”
Recently, someone in shul, younger than me but already on pension too, looked worn out. After the service, I told him: May Hashem soon return to you your energy and happiness. He immediately smiled and said: ‘Does it look so bad?’ It did. Reb Shlomo called that: I fixed him. I did nothing big. The next day, I saw him on my way out. He came to the second Minyan: I overslept. He looked guilty. I said: May it be for your health. He said: Amen. Small things. Have a nice day. Enjoy the holidays. Today is the death day of Rabbi Nachman ben Simchah of Breslav. Let’s be happy in his honor.