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Angel for Shabbat

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.

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).