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Angel for Shabbat

A Covenant for All Generations: Thoughts for Nitsavim-Vayelekh, September 20, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“Not with you alone do I make this covenant and this oath; but with those who stand here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with those who are not here with us this day” (Devarim 29:13-14).

As Moses approached the end of his life, he gathered all the people and affirmed the special covenant between God and Israel. He wanted everyone to understand that this covenant transcended time. It did not relate only to the generation then alive, but to all generations “who are not here with us this day.”

Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tavo, September 13, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When visitors first enter the sanctuary of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, they often gasp in awe and amazement at the sheer beauty and dignity of this sacred space. It is grand without being overly ornate; it is graceful, understated and powerful.

Years ago, I led a tour of visitors to the synagogue. Upon entering the sanctuary, almost all of our guests reacted as almost everyone does: what a beautiful synagogue! As our forefather Jacob said in a different context: How awesome is this place, this is nothing else but the house of the Lord, and this is the gate of heaven!

The Conversion Crisis: Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tetsei, September 6, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week’s Torah portion commands us emphatically: “You shall not pervert the justice due to the stranger” (Devarim 24:17). Rabbinic tradition has understood the word “stranger” (ger) to refer to proselytes…those who convert to Judaism. Indeed, the Talmud teaches that anyone who oppresses the proselyte thereby transgresses 36 (some say 46) commandments. There is no other commandment repeated so often in the Torah.

Justice, Justice: Thoughts for Parashat Shofetim, August 30, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Events of recent weeks have reminded us of what we have always known: people’s judgment is often skewed. Politicians and media personalities pander to their constituencies without strict regard for truthfulness or justice. Terrorists are treated sympathetically, while those fighting terrorists are vilified. Groups decide to boycott a democratic nation, while giving aid and moral support to the vilest of tyrannies.

Why does moral judgment often seem to stray so far from the dictates of reason and truth?

Spontaneous Remarks: Thoughts for Parashat Re’eh, August 23, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

I recently attended a funeral where one of the eulogizers was a grandson of the deceased. He began his talk by saying that he did not prepare any remarks because he wanted his words to be spontaneous. He then rambled on for five minutes, hemming and hawing, and saying nothing of consequence other than that he loved his grandmother and would miss her.

He apparently was so concerned about being “spontaneous” that he did not consider the feelings of the audience who had come to pay their respects to the deceased. He abused our time and our good intentions by not having had the courtesy to prepare some words in advance so that he could speak coherently.

Wake Up and See the Mountain: Thoughts for Parashat Ekev, August 16, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

My wife and I recently traveled to Seattle where I had the honor of speaking at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth—the congregation in which I was born and raised. It was a special experience for us to re-connect with so many family and friends in that very warm community.

One of the highlights of the flight to Seattle is viewing the majestic Mount Rainier as the plane approaches the city. The snow covered mountain is one of the awe-inspiring phenomena of nature. From the plane, we could not only see Mount Rainier but also could look southward to view Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood. What a tremendous experience! Oh Lord, how glorious are Your works!

Consolation and Commitment: Thoughts for Shabbat Nahamu, August 9, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“Be comforted, be comforted My people, says the Lord…Oh you who tells good tidings to Zion, get up onto the high mountain, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid…” (Isaiah 40: 1, 9).

During the three weeks between 17 Tamuz and 9 Av, the Jewish people experiences a period of mourning. We reflect on the tragedies of the past—the destructions of our First and Second Temples in ancient Jerusalem, the spiritual dislocation caused by prolonged exile, the physical toll of death and travail that have afflicted Jews through the centuries. We fast, we pray, we cry.

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.