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Angel for Shabbat

Being True to Oneself: Thoughts for Parashat Lekh Lekha, November 1, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(Much of this essay is excerpted from my book, Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life.)

During the course of a lifetime, a person may wear many masks. In order to curry favor with others, one adopts their attitudes, opinions, styles and behavior patterns. Above all, one wants to belong, to play an acceptable role. At the same time, one also has a separate individual identity within, the hard kernel of one’s own being. When one loses sight of his separateness from the masks he wears, he becomes the masks; i.e., a superficial, artificial human being. A person may go through life without examining carefully who he really is. One simply becomes an assortment of ever-changing masks, living life on the surface.

Noah's Advice: Thoughts on Parashat Noah, October 25, 2014

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In sorting out the genealogical information in the early chapters of Genesis, it turns out that Noah and Abraham were alive at the same time. Abraham was 58 years old at the time of Noah’s death. (Interestingly, the numerical value of the name of Noah is 58!)

Did Abraham and Noah know each other? The Torah does not so indicate, and Midrashic literature sheds little light on this question.

Here are some of my speculations on this topic.

On Becoming Human: Thoughts on Parashat Bereishith

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them the following instruction: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Bereishith 2:16-17). It did not take long, though, for Adam and Eve to eat of this forbidden fruit, having been tempted by the serpent to do so.

But they did not die upon eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Above Tragedy: Thoughts for Simhat Torah

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(This is the first sermon I delivered from the pulpit of Congregation Shearith Israel, Simhat Torah 1969. Forty-five years have passed since that first sermon, and yet the ideas within it continue to ring true.)

We have spent many months reading about the life of Moses. Today, in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Torah, we read about his death—a very agonizing scene. Moses, the great leader, teacher, and prophet, climbs to the summit of Mount Nebo and looks out over the horizon at the Promised Land. As he stands silent and alone, God tells him: “You are beholding the land that I have promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saying, ‘I shall give it to your descendants.’ See it with your eyes. You shall not cross into the land.”

Happiness: Thoughts for Succoth

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Torah informs us that the festival of Succoth commemorates God’s providence over the Israelites during their years of wandering in the wilderness. An old question is: why was this holiday scheduled to begin specifically on the 15th day of Tishri? The dates for Pessah (15 Nissan) and for Shavuoth (6 Sivan) are clearly linked to historical events—the day of the Exodus and the day of the Revelation at Mount Sinai. But the wandering in the wilderness was ongoing for 40 years, with no particular historic connection to Tishri 15?

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!