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Angel for Shabbat

Resisting the Bullies: Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tissa, March 7, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When the Israelites pressed Aaron to make them an idol of gold, the Torah informs us: “And all the people broke off the golden rings which were in their ears and brought them unto Aaron” (Shemoth 32:3). It seems that “all the people” participated in idolatrous behavior.

Yet, when it came to contributing to the building of the Mishkan, the sanctuary of God, the Torah states that donations were to be given only by those with generous hearts, “of every person whose heart was willing” (Shemoth 25:2). The donations came not from “all the people” but from a smaller group of willing donors.

Light for Our Synagogues:Thoughts for Parashat Tetsaveh, February 28, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring unto you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually” (Shemot 27:20).

The Ner Tamid (eternal light) was a basic feature of the Mishkan as well as of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Symbolizing the Almighty’s constant presence and providence, the Ner Tamid has been a vital component of our synagogues throughout the generations.

In many communities, the lighting of oil lamps in the synagogue was a sign of respect for the beauty and holiness of the sanctuary. This custom derived from a verse in the book of Isaiah (24:15): “Therefore with lights show honor to the Lord.”

Facing our Faces: Thoughts for Parashat Terumah, February 21, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In his book, “Creativity, The Magic Synthesis” (Basic Books, 1976), the late psychiatrist Dr. Silvano Arieti discussed the process of creating a work of art. The artist perceives something directly and then attempts to interpret it through imagery. Various processes are at work. “Preceding thoughts and feelings about an object affect the way he perceives it directly. In other words, past experiences of the object—everything he knows and feels about it—influence the way he sees that object” (p. 194).

Misleading is Also a Form of Lying: Thoughts for Parashat Mishpatim, February 14, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The New York Times of February 6, 2015, included a long article under the caption: “Strains Grow Between Israel and Many Jews in the U.S.” The article focused on unhappiness with the monopoly of Israel’s Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in matters of marriage, divorce and conversion to Judaism.

The Possibilities of Impossibilities: Thoughts for Parashat Yitro, February 7, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In a recent sermon, Rabbi Shaul Robinson of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City referred to an amazing incident in the life of Dr. George Dantzig (1914-2005), one of the greatest American mathematicians of the 20th century. In 1939, when Dantzig was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, he arrived late to class one day. The professor had written several problems in statistics on the blackboard.

Dantzig assumed that these problems were a homework assignment. He copied them into his notebook and then worked on them over the next few days. When he turned them in, he mentioned to his professor that the problems were a bit more difficult than usual and he apologized for handing in the assignment late.

Arms and Minds: Thoughts for Parashat Beshallah, January 31, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In the first verse of this week’s parasha, we learn that God led the Israelites out of Egypt through a longer route, “lest they regret [their departure from Egypt] when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” If they had taken the more direct route toward the Promised Land, they would have had to confront the Philistines in battle. God “worried” that the Israelites would be daunted by war and they would run back into the slavery of Egypt.

But the very next verse informs us that “the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.” Apparently, the Israelites gathered weapons before departing Egypt, so that they would be ready to face enemies that confronted them.

With Our Young and With Our Old: Thoughts on Parashat Bo, January 24, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When Moses demanded that Pharaoh release the Israelites so that they could go and worship God, he insisted: “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters…” (Bereishith 10:9).

A Hassidic interpretation of Moses’ words plays on the Hebrew: “binareinu uvizkeineinu nelekh.” Instead of translating “binareinu” as “with our young,” it is translated as “with our youth.” The meaning is: even as we advance in years, we carry our own youth within us i.e. we retain the enthusiasm and idealism of our younger days. We may appear to be old physically, but mentally and emotionally we are still energized by our own inner child.

War Crimes!--Thoughts for Parashat Vaera, January 17, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Imagine how modern media might report charges of war crimes in the biblical story of Egypt and the Israelites. Here is how Pharaoh’s position might be presented.

Spiritual Friction: Thoughts for Parashat Shemot, January 10, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When Albert Einstein was a little boy, his father showed him a compass. The needle pointed north no matter which way Einstein turned the compass around. This amazed the child. In his autobiography published in 1949, Einstein recalls his feelings on that occasion. “The needle behaved in such a determined way and did not fit into the usual explanation of how the world works. That is that you must touch something to move it. I still remember now, or I believe that I remember, that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. There must be something deeply hidden behind everything.”

Thinking about a Midrash: Thoughts for Parashat Vayhi, January 3, 2015

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

As Jacob neared his death, he instructed his son Joseph: “please do not bury me in Egypt” (Bereishith 47:29). Joseph was compelled to take an oath to bring Jacob’s body to the burial place of his fathers in the land of Canaan.

Rashi, citing the Midrash on this verse, offers several reasons for Jacob’s insistence on not being interred in Egypt. One of them has Jacob worrying “lest Egypt will make me into [a shrine] of idolatry.”