WASHINGTON — Following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her colleagues on the bench wrote tributes to the late justice, with Justice Stephen Breyer calling her a “woman of valor” and a “rock of righteousness.” On Friday, during a ceremony at the capitol remembering her life, a female rabbi who spoke characterized her as “our prophet and North Star.”
However, some disagree that Ginsburg represented God’s righteousness, and others said that they were “uncomfortable” with the characterization of the justice as a “prophet.”
“I heard of Ruth’s death while I was reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish at the Rosh Hashanah service. I thought: a great justice; a woman of valor; a rock of righteousness; and my good, good friend,” Breyer wrote. “The world is a better place for her having lived in it. And so is her family; her friends; the legal community; and the nation.”
On Wednesday, during a service at the Supreme Court where Ginsburg lie in repose, Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel in Washington — whose husband once clerked for Ginsburg — first suggested that the justice could be likened to a prophet.
“To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity or a clear path for education, and despite this, to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different — that is the job of a prophet,” she said.
On Friday, Holtzblatt made her remarks even more lucid, stating, “Even as our hearts are breaking, we must rise with her strength and move forward. She was our prophet, our North Star, our strength for so very long. Now she must be permitted to rest after toiling so hard for every single one of us.”
She then presented a prayer that the memory of Ginsburg would “forever and ever be a blessing,” and that God would likewise “give us the strength, the bravery and the unbreakable resolve to pursue justice.”
In commenting about her characterization as a “prophet,” some found Holtzblatt’s words to be over-the-top.
“My Jewish husband, already entirely uncomfortable with this whole weeklong funeral extravaganza: ‘She was our what now?'” one posted to social media.
“A prophet? Oh, come on, guys. This is getting out of hand,” another stated.
“It’s a very inappropriate overreach to anoint her as a ‘prophet.’ It’s enough to stop at ‘inspirational,'” a third wrote.
The site Twitchy, which said that it found Ginsburg to be a “pretty amazing woman,” still remarked, “That said, the cult-like worship of RBG is bizarre and creepy.”
Others defended the word usage, as one stated, “Jewish belief holds that people who die on Rosh Hoshanah ARE a special being in God’s eye; someone who WAS sent by God to lead the people. RBG definitely did that.”
Another argued, “Prophet need not have religious connotation. RBG certainly looked to the future and predicted many important changes,” and one contended, “‘Our prophet,’ not the prophet. The definition includes ‘inspired teacher,’ which she certainly was.”
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, “The name ‘prophet,’ from the Greek meaning ‘forespeaker’ (πρὸ being used in the original local sense), is an equivalent of the Hebrew, which signifies properly a delegate or mouthpiece of another (see Ex. vii. 1), from the general Semitic sense of the root, ‘to declare,’ ‘announce.'”
Merriam-Webster similarly defines prophet as “one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will,” but also gives the alternate meanings of “one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight” or “an effective or leading spokesman for a cause, doctrine, or group.”
Others expressed disagreement with Breyer’s characterization of Ginsburg as a “rock of righteousness.”
“I have no respect for anyone who thinks they have the right to make abortion birth control,” one wrote. “All these women think they are emboldened by their 4 or 5 abortions that put out videos on how wonderful it is. God will be ultimate judge in the end.”
“68,000,000 children killed in the womb since 1973,” another stated.
Noah Webster, the author of the first American dictionary, defined righteousness as, “Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness as used in Scripture and theology, in which it is chiefly used, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion.”