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Angel for Shabbat

Synagogues, True and False: Thoughts for Parashat Aharei Mot, April 12, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In writing about the sin of Nadav and Avihu which led to their tragic deaths, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of the Sephardic Education Center offered these comments:

Talking without Conversing: Thoughts for Parashat Metsora, April 5, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

I recently took a taxi to the airport and the driver did not stop talking for the entire ride. Every now and then, I said “umhum” or “yes” but other than these few utterances, I do not think I said a single word. The driver told me of his family’s origins, about someone in his family who was ill, about his vacation plans, about traffic problems…and on and on and on.

When we finally arrived at the airport, I paid my fare and opened the door of the taxi to get out. The driver turned to me with a broad smile on his face and he said: “I really enjoyed our conversation this morning. Thanks so much for making my day!” I smiled back, left the cab, and wondered where in the airport I could find a few aspirins.

Body and Soul Language: Thoughts for Parashat Tazria, March 29, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

It was said of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the great kabbalist of 16th century Safed, that he was able to see into people’s souls when he looked at their faces. By looking into one’s eyes, he could gain clear insight into that individual’s personality. For this reason, many people were ashamed to appear before Rabbi Luria, believing that he could detect their character flaws and inadequacies.

Strange Fire: Thoughts for Parashat Shemini, March 22, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, offered a “strange fire” on the altar, an offering that had not been commanded by the Lord. As a consequence of this sin, a fire consumed them. This terrible tragedy occurred during the ceremonies dedicating the Mishkan (sanctuary).

What was the nature of the transgression of Nadav and Avihu? Why was their offering of a “strange fire” so serious as to merit the death penalty?

Mordecai and His Critics: Thoughts for Purim

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Who could be more successful, more beloved, more worthy of respect than Mordecai? He was a superhero who stood up for the dignity of the Jewish people, who was largely responsible for averting Haman’s evil decree to annihilate the Jews, and who rose to be the king’s viceroy.

He was not only successful and powerful. He also had fine moral qualities and good values. The Megillah informs us that Mordecai—in spite of his lofty position—was characterized by “seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed (Esther 10:3).” He was a warm, conscientious and thoughtful leader.

Who could possibly not like Mordecai?

The Chosen: Thoughts for Parashat Tsav, March 15, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When I was a student in Yeshiva, one of my Talmud teachers offered a parable to our class.

Imagine that a general assembled his best soldiers and told them he needed to choose one of them for a vital mission. The mission would require tremendous skill and courage. But it was very dangerous. If the recruit would succeed in this mission, our people would be saved. If, though, the recruit failed, the results would be disastrous.

The general cast his eyes over the group of soldiers and then pointed to one of them: “You are the one! I appoint you!”

Do A Good Deed: Thoughts for Parashat Vayikra, March 8, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

A popular Judeo-Spanish proverb teaches: Aze bueno y echalo a la mar. Do a good deed, and cast it into the ocean. The idea is: do what is right and don’t expect any thanks or reward. The motivation for doing good…is the doing good itself, not the anticipation of gratitude or benefit. Nevertheless, deep down in our hearts, it is difficult not to feel hurt if our goodness is not acknowledged.

In “Notes from the Underground,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s narrator says: “I’m even inclined to believe that the best definition of man is—a creature who walks on two legs and is ungrateful. But that is not all, that is not his principal failing; his greatest failing is his constant lack of moral sense…and, consequently, lack of good sense.”

Darkness, Light and Shadows: Thoughts for Parashat Pekudei, March 1, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The chief architect of the Mishkan (sanctuary) was Bezalel, named specifically by the Almighty to undertake this sacred task. The Torah describes Bezalel as a person filled with the spirit of God “in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Shemot 35:31).

In this week’s Torah portion (as in previous Torah portions), Bezalel’s name includes reference to his father, Uri, and his grandfather, Hur. Because of the unusual inclusion of his grandfather’s name, the Midrash suggests a special reason why Hur was mentioned.

Themes of Shabbat: Thoughts for Parashat Vayakhel, February 22, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week’s Parasha begins with Moses gathering the people of Israel and reminding them of the sanctity of the Sabbath. As they are busy with the construction of the Mishkan (sanctuary), they are not to lose sight of the overarching lessons of Shabbat.

The holiness of Shabbat is not observable objectively. Unlike Rosh Hodesh or the seasonal festivals, there is no clear pattern in the natural world which would indicate that the seventh day of each week should be sacred. There is no scientifically observable difference between time on the Sabbath and time on any other day of the week. Shabbat is sacred and special only to those who are spiritually attuned to its sanctity.

Light and Peace: Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tissa, February 15, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

On Sunday night, February 9, 2014, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the inaugural event of the Centennial celebration of Congregation Or V’Shalom in Atlanta, Georgia. The Congregation dates back to 1914, when two groups of Sephardim from Turkey and Rhodes merged their organizations—Or Hahayim and Ahavath Shalom—into one community. Many of the current members of Or V’Shalom are descendants of the founders’ generation, and many others have joined the congregation, attracted by its warmth and vitality.