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Angel for Shabbat

Fear or Freedom: Thoughts for Parashat Devarim, August 2, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In his book, “The Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky divides the world into two kinds of societies: fear societies, and free societies. Fear societies are tyrannies which rule by terrorizing their subjects, by restricting freedom of speech and movement, by instilling fear so that people will not voice opposition to the rulers. Fear societies are controlled by tyrants who are not hesitant to brutalize their people in order to quash dissent.

The Trek to the Promised Land: Thoughts for Parashat Mas’ei, July 26, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week’s Torah portion offers a detailed description of the travels of the Israelites during their forty year sojourn in the wilderness. It lists the name of each stop on their route from Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.

War and Peace: Thoughts for Parashat Matot, July 19, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

War is ugly. It has been a scourge of humanity from time immemorial and it continues to plague humanity today.

War entails fighting and killing enemies. It entails a vast commitment of resources to mobilize and arm one’s forces and to strengthen one’s defenses. It involves heavy financial, social and psychological costs. It entails casualties and loss of life.

War is surely a messy and ugly affair. Peace is so much nicer.

Smile! No, I Mean Really Smile! Thoughts for Parashat Pinehas, July 12,2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

I recently needed some dental work. As I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, I noticed a rack of brochures dealing with various dental procedures. Having a little time on my hands, I decided to look more closely at these brochures.

Macro, Micro, and Balanced Perspectives: Thoughts for Parashat Balak, July 5, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Standing on a mountain and gazing down at the Israelite camp from a distance, Bil’am offers magnificent words of blessing and praise. “None has beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has one seen perverseness in Israel; the Lord his God is with Him…(Bemidbar23:21) How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel (24:5).” Bil’am had come to curse the Israelites, but ended up blessing them for their virtues.

After informing us of Bil’am’s lofty praises of Israel, the Torah provides a close up view of the Israelite camp: “…and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bow down to their gods…and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel (25:1-3).”

Leadership and "Gloomititis": Thoughts for Parashat Hukkat, June 28, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people strove with Moses and spoke saying: would that we had perished when our brethren perished before the Lord! And why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness to die there, we and our cattle? And why have you made us come out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place…And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tent of meeting, and they fell on their faces…” (Bemidbar 20: 3-6).

Criticism or Contempt: Thoughts for Parashat Korah, June 21, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week’s Torah portion begins with the words “Vayikah Korah,” and Korah took. But the verse never tells us what Korah took! Our classic commentators offered their explanations.

Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra opines that Korah “took men” with him in fomenting rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Rashi explains that Korah “took himself to one side” in order to dissent from the current Israelite leadership. Ramban explains that Korah “took counsel with his heart” to rise in rebellion.

Majorities Are Often Wrong: Thoughts for Parashat Shelah Lekha, June 14, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

My late friend and mentor, Professor Mair Jose Benardete, once told me: “You don’t determine truth by counting bonnets!” When seeking truth, one must not be swayed by numbers, by majorities. History has proven time and again that multitudes are often wrong, that lonely dissenting individuals frequently are the great spiritual and cultural heroes of humanity.

Remembering Chayim Borukh: Thoughts for Parashat Beha’alotekha, June 7, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Torah informs us that Aaron the High Priest lit the Menorah exactly in accord with God’s command (Bemidbar 8:3). Our commentators wonder: why would the Torah need to state that Aaron followed the instructions? We would surely have expected him to heed God’s command!

Rashi notes that Aaron is being praised for not having deviated from the rules. Although he may have had an inclination to be innovative or creative in his assignment, his virtue was that he fulfilled his task exactly to specification.

Ramban suggests that Aaron fulfilled this mitzvah himself, rather than assigning it to his sons who also were eligible to do the lighting. Aaron felt a personal joy and satisfaction in his performance of the kindling of the Menorah in fulfillment of God’s command.

Orthodoxy and Diversity: Thoughts for Shavuoth

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(This essay by Rabbi M. D. Angel originally appeared in Liber Amicorum, a book of essays in honor of Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, published in Jerusalem, 2006.)

The Talmud (Berakhot 58a) teaches that one is required to recite a special blessing when witnessing a vast throng of Jews, praising the Almighty who is hakham harazim, the One who understands the root and inner thoughts of each individual. “Their thoughts are not alike and their appearance is not alike.” The Creator made each person as a unique being. He expected and wanted diversity of thought, and we bless Him for having created this diversity among us.