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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Re-imagining Orthodoxy

Orthodox Judaism in the ideal is very different from Orthodox Judaism as it is today.

In the ideal, Orthodoxy is a beautiful way of life that inspires an abiding spirituality and an ethical lifestyle. It links us to thousands of years of Jewish texts and traditions, to time-honored mitzvoth and customs. At the same time, it allows us—and encourages us—to develop ourselves as thinking, feeling and creative human beings. At its best, Orthodoxy provides a worldview that is intellectually vibrant, compassionate, and inclusive. Torah and mitzvoth provide us with a framework for developing ourselves as full and vibrant human beings, drawing on the wide range of our talents and propensities.


Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge

The Jewish community underwent cataclysmic changes during the course of the nineteenth century. While most of world Jewry was religiously observant in 1800, a large majority were no longer devoted to halakhic tradition by 1900. Nineteenth-century Orthodox rabbinic leadership had to cope with the rise of Reform Judaism, the spread of Haskala, the breakdown of communal authority over its members, the defection of Jews from Torah and mitzvoth-and from Judaism altogether.


Eyes Open and Eyes Shut

Paul Gaugin, the famous 19th century French artist, commented: “When I want to see clearly, I shut my eyes.”

He was referring to two different ways of perceiving reality. With our eyes open, we see surface reality—size, shape, color etc. But with our eyes shut, we contemplate the context of things, our relationship to them, the hidden meanings.
With our eyes open, a dozen roses are 12 beautiful flowers. With our eyes shut, they may be full of memories and associations—roses given or received on our first date; roses at our wedding; roses growing in our childhood home's back yard; roses on our grandmother’s Shabbat table.


Attending Synagogue Services, Yes or No? A blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Here is an excerpt of a letter I received from a young person who was raised in an Orthodox home.

The Holy Day season is approaching and I dread it. Year after year, I’ve attended services with my family, sometimes at one synagogue and sometimes at another. We are supposed to feel awe and religious uplift during this season but I only feel frustration and discouragement.

In our shul, the lay leaders strut around like peacocks. The chazen doesn’t pray but only sings to show off his voice. The rabbi tells stories and jokes, and kisses up to the rich, and his sermons never make me feel closer to God. The Holy Day services are a charade of prayer, but not prayer.

What can I do? I don’t want to go to synagogue on the Holy Days…or maybe never.


The Provocative Readings on the High Holy Days

The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
Invites you to
Two Wednesday Morning Classes

With Rabbi Hayyim Angel

"The Provocative Readings on the High Holy Days"

This two-part mini-series will delve into the most difficult readings
of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur: the Binding of Isaac and the Book of Jonah. We will consider the text inside and explore ancient and contemporary interpreters in an effort to understand their central messages.

August 13: The Binding of Isaac
August 20: The Book of Jonah

When: 8:40 to 9:40 a.m. (doors open at 8:30 a.m.)

Where: Mezzanine of Apple Bank for Savings, Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets, New York; Please enter the revolving doors, turn left to the stairwell leading up to the Mezzanine level.


Mourning the Three Murdered Israeli Teenagers

The Torah records the reaction of Aaron when he learned the sad news of the tragic deaths of his sons: “Aaron was silent,” vayidom Aharon. Commentators have offered various explanations of Aaron’s silence. He may have been speechless due to shock; he may have had angry thoughts in his heart, but he controlled himself from uttering them; he may have been silent as a sign of acceptance of God’s judgment.

Within biblical tradition, there are a number of phrases relating to confrontation with tragedy.

“Min haMetsar Karati Y-ah,” I call out to God from distress. When in pain, it is natural to cry out to God, to shed tears, to lament our sufferings and our losses. To cry out when we are in distress is a first step in the grieving process.


Spanish Passports for Sephardic Jews? a Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Spanish government has indicated that it will offer Spanish passports to individuals of Spanish Jewish/Sephardic heritage. The ostensible motive for this gesture is the desire to redress a historic sin: Spain’s expulsion of Jews in 1492. Now, more than five centuries after this nefarious expulsion, Spain wishes to reach out to descendants of those Jewish victims and welcome them back “home” in Spain.

Some have praised Spain’s gesture of atonement. Others, though, have seen this new policy as a pragmatic move by Spain to attract Jewish business, investment and tourism.

Among Jews, some have been genuinely pleased with this show of Spanish friendship and reconciliation. Others have seen this as an opportunity to gain access to European markets and business.


Book Review: Mysteries of Judaism, by Israel Drazin

Mysteries of Judaism, by Rabbi Dr.Israel Drazin
Gefen Publishing House, 2014

Reviewed by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In this book, Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin offers a series of essays on a variety of topics. The early chapters of this book emphasize the rabbinic contributions to Judaism’s observance of holy days and festivals. While many think that our observances are based on biblical teachings, Rabbi Drazin makes the case that the Talmudic sages shaped our understanding and experiencing of these days. Especially after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, it was imperative for the rabbis to reinterpret and reframe basic elements in Judaism.


Preliminary Thoughts on the 9/11 Memorial Museum: Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

During the past week, there has been a lot of media coverage of the new 9/11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan. (I have not been to the museum, and this blog is based on my reactions to media coverage, not to the Museum itself.)

Obviously, this Memorial touches the hearts, minds and nerves of all Americans. Those of us who were in New York on that fateful 9/11 will never forget the horror of that day, the terrible loss of lives, the great acts of heroism on the part of so many who strove to help victims of the attack. None will ever forget how vulnerable we are to acts of terrorism.


Update from Rabbi Hayyim Angel, National Scholar, May 2014

To our members and friends

As Shavuot approaches, Torah study through our Institute continues full-throttle. I am grateful to have worked for the Institute as its National Scholar for nearly a year, and look forward to continuing to teach for many years to come as we promote our vision in communities and college campuses, and through our publications and online classes.
I thank all of you for your continued encouragement and support.

Here are some upcoming events:

We have begun a new seven-part series on the Book of Samuel at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan (68th Street and Amsterdam). It will be on the Wednesday evenings in May and June from 7:15-8:15 pm (with the


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