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Angel for Shabbat

Thoughts for Yom Kippur

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Fasting and praying are important ingredients of Yom Kippur and are signs of repentance for our transgressions against God. But, as is well known, Yom Kippur does not provide atonement for sins committed against human beings.

Maimonides teaches (Laws of Repentance, 2:9): “Repentance and the Day of Atonement only atone for sins between human beings and God, but interpersonal sins are never forgiven until a person has made restitution and appeased the one whom he has wronged….Even if he merely belittled a person with words, he must appease him and go to him until he is granted forgiveness.”

Changing the Channel: Thoughts for Rosh Hashana

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In his short story, “The Last Channel,” Italo Calvino portrays a man who has been deemed to be insane. When this man watched television, he kept clicking his remote control button without watching any program for more than a few seconds. At some point, he started to take the remote control panel outside his house. He clicked it at buildings, stores, banks, neon signs, and at people.

Thoughts for the Season of Teshuvah: In Memoriam, Rabbi Abraham Shalem (1928-2014)

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The theme of Shabbat Teshuvah is repentance. This does not refer only to those who are not religious who now need to repent. It refers to each of us, whatever our religious level is. Each one of us is called upon to examine our weaknesses and deficiencies and to make a determination to improve ourselves during the coming year.

When we contemplate our personal religious lives, we often find ourselves thinking of those people who have had a strong positive impact on us—our parents and grandparents, relatives, rabbis, teachers, pious and righteous individuals. In many ways, these role models have helped us fashion our individual philosophies, attitudes and behaviors. When we contemplate repentance, we draw on their strengths and insights; we strive to emulate them at their best.

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.