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Angel for Shabbat

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.”

The Faith of the Generations: Thoughts for Parashat Vayigash, December 27, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

After 22 years of separation, Jacob was finally to be re-united with his beloved son Joseph. Jacob and family came to Egypt where Joseph had risen to a position second only to Pharaoh.

The Torah reports the long-awaited reunion of father and son. “And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen: and he presented himself unto him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while” (Bereishith 46:29). Joseph was obviously very emotional to once again see his father.

The Source of Wisdom: Thoughts for Parashat Mikkets, December 20, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

When Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph said: “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Bereishith 41:16). Later, when Joseph did interpret the dreams—seven years of abundance to be followed by seven years of famine—he not only explained the dreams but offered a practical plan of action. His plan was so impressive that Pharaoh appointed him to implement it. “And Pharaoh said to his servants, can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the spirit of God?” (41:38)

Clearly, both Joseph and Pharaoh detected God’s role in the interpretation of the dreams. Yet the text makes no mention of God intervening by giving Joseph a prophetic message. What role did God play in this story?

Guilt and Redemption: Thoughts for Parashat Vayeshev, December 13, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In his play, “All Our Sons,” Arthur Miller portrays a family coping with a deep secret. The head of the family, Joe Keller, was a manufacturer of engines for airplanes. During World War II, the government needed war materiel and Keller’s business boomed. In the midst of heavy production, a batch of engines came out with cracks. These cracks were covered up superficially, and the engines were sold to the government. The defective engines led to the deaths of 21 pilots.

When the government investigated the matter, Keller managed to get exonerated, shifting the entire blame on to his partner—who was imprisoned. Keller and family continued to live well; Keller’s son Chris totally believed in the innocence of his father.

The Mitzvah of Accepting—not Rejecting—Converts to Judaism: Thoughts on Parashat Vayishlah, December 6, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“And the sister of Lotan was Timna” (Bereishith 36:22).

This seemingly irrelevant piece of genealogy has an important underlying message according to the Midrash. Timna had wanted to convert--to become part of the people of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Yet, our forefathers did not accept her into the fold. The rejected Timna then became the concubine of Elifaz, son of Esau, and gave birth to a son: Amalek! The arch-enemy of the people of Israel was the child of a rejected convert! Had Timna been accepted into the Israelite nation, there would have been no Amalek.

This ancient lesson has continuing meaning in our days, when the conversion crisis in the Orthodox world is a burning issue. The following is drawn from an article I wrote, published in Hadassah Magazine, November 2008.

Confronting Our Enemies: Thoughts for Parashat Vayetsei, November 29, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

“And Jacob went on his way, and angels of God met him. And Jacob said when he saw them: ‘This is God’s camp.’ And he called the name of that place Mahanaim” (Bereishith 32:2-3).

These concluding verses of this week’s Torah portion raise several questions. The angels that met Jacob are not reported to have said or done anything, only to have appeared. What was their mission? What did their presence accomplish? Jacob acknowledged that the visit of the angels made this spot “God’s camp;” why then did he name the place Mahanaim, camps, in the plural?