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Angel for Shabbat

The "Bil'am Effect:" Thoughts for Parashat Balak, July 4, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Torah records in great detail how Balak hired Bil’am to curse the Israelites, and how Bil’am ultimately ended up blessing the children of Israel instead. This story is peculiar, in that the Israelites themselves had no awareness of the actions of Balak nor of the words of Bil’am. If the Torah had not recorded this episode, we would have had no knowledge of it at all.

If this story had no impact on the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, perhaps it is intended to provide an important lesson for all future generations. What might that lesson be?

Talking to a Rock: Thoughts for Parashat Hukkat, June 27, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week’s Parasha includes one of the most perplexing episodes in the Torah. The Israelites complain bitterly that they have no water to drink, that they will die of thirst, that they should have remained in Egypt rather than suffer such a terrible fate. God tells Moses and Aaron to gather the people, to speak to a rock, and that water would come forth from the rock to quench the people’s thirst. Moses calls the people “rebels,” smites the rock twice, and water emerges in abundance. God then informs Moses and Aaron that their lack of faith led to their not sanctifying God’s name in the presence of the Israelites.

Resilience: Thoughts for Parashat Korah, June 20, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In the opening pages of his book “The Upright Thinkers,” Dr. Leonard Mlodinow reports an incident in his father’s life as an inmate in a Nazi concentration camp. The elder Mlodinow was then a young Polish Jew, who had not received formal education past seventh grade. In the camp, he met an older inmate, a mathematician, and they struck up a friendship.

A Model of Genuine Religious Leadership:Thoughts for Parashat Shelah Lekha, June 13, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“And the Lord said to Moses: How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? I will smite them with the pestilence and destroy them, and will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (Bemidbar 14:11-12).

What a great offer! God tells Moses that He will destroy all the Israelites and create a new nation, a greater nation, from Moses himself.

Second Chances: Thoughts for Parashat Beha’aloteha, June 6, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

One of my uncles, who was quite overweight, was told by his doctor that he must go on a strict diet. The doctor prescribed some pills for my uncle to take each day to help him in his weight loss program.

Several months passed and my uncle had not lost one pound. When I asked him about his diet, he replied that his doctor was a quack. “He prescribed pills for me but the pills didn’t work at all. They killed my appetite.”

No, I am not making up this story.

My uncle, like so many people, want to continue their lifestyles—even when unhealthy—rather than make serious changes that require self-sacrifice. My uncle wanted to take the pills to lose weight, but he didn’t want to lose his appetite in the process. He wanted to eat fattening food but not get fat.

The Blessing of Wholeness: Thoughts for Parashat Naso, May 30, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Many people feel the need to be noticed. They dye their hair neon green, or they wear immodest clothing, or they say things that are intended to shock. They will do anything to keep the limelight focused on themselves: they will tell a stream of jokes, they will speak without listening to others, they will take “selfies” and send them to anyone and everyone they can think of. The message they convey is: NOTICE ME.

Underlying this thirst for attention is the deep feeling of unworthiness, the fear of not being noticed. Also underlying this exhibitionism is the desire to stand above the crowd, to be distinguished in some way from the normal run of humanity.

The Joys of Boredom: Thoughts for Parashat Bemidbar, May 23, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This Shabbat marks the wedding anniversary of my late parents Victor and Rachel Angel, of blessed memory, who were married on May 23, 1937. They were wonderful parents whose impact on their family continues to be strongly felt after all these many years.

One of their special qualities was their keen gratitude for the blessings they enjoyed. They valued quiet and calm appreciation of the wonders of life; they lived happily, gratefully, and without jealousy or envy.

The Virtue of Empathy: Thoughts for Behar-Behukottai, May 16, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

I recently attended a daily minyan but could hardly concentrate on my prayers. What was the problem?

One of the worshipers chanted all his prayers in a loud tone of voice, generally a paragraph or two behind the hazzan. The more I tried to focus on my own prayers, the more the loud voice of this person distracted me. Instead of experiencing the prayers with a feeling of spiritual elevation, I found myself feeling annoyed, even angry.

The "Nones" Don't Have it: Do We? Thoughts for Parashat Emor, May 9, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Professor Daniel C. Dennett of Tufts University recently published an article, “Why the Future of Religion is Bleak.” He argues that religious institutions have survived historically by controlling what their adherents know, but today that is next to impossible. He points out that the influence of religion has been waning, especially in Europe and North America. In the United States, one out of six Americans identifies as a “None,” a person without a religious affiliation. And the number of Nones is on the increase.

Bad news: Professor Dennett is right. The number of “Nones” in the world has grown rapidly during the past several decades.

Disruptive Innovation: Thoughts for Aharei Mot-Kedoshim, May 2, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The business analyst, Clayton M. Christensen, distinguished between two types of innovations. A sustaining innovation builds on a company’s basic business by improving its products and providing better value. A disruptive innovation creates a new market that displaces earlier technologies. Sustaining innovation focuses on improving existing products; disruptive innovation moves in a new, unexpected direction that radically changes the market. Sustaining innovation is evolutionary; disruptive innovation is revolutionary.