As we experience the weeks of consolation, we are reminded that mourning is a process. It begins with God being in Heaven--remote from us--, but goes on to enable us to restore our relationship with God as being close to us. Isaiah announces God’s own promise: be comforted My people. I am here with you. Redemption will come.
Angel for Shabbat
Much human misery is the result of people betraying themselves by adopting artificial personae. They are so anxious to impress or blend in with others that they lose their own selves in the process. Even worse, they come to believe that they actually are what their masks portray them to be. For them, falsehood becomes truth. They no longer have the ability to distinguish between who they are and who they are pretending to be.
Is it really fair to blame ourselves and our sins for all the sufferings we have undergone? How about those wicked nations and people who have tortured, murdered, exiled and humiliated us? Whatever sins were committed by the Jews of Temple days, weren't the sins of the Babylonians and Romans far worse? Instead of blaming ourselves, shouldn't we be blaming the vicious enemies who perpetrated such evil against us?
Angel for Shabbat, Matot-Masei
by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
It is said that when Alexander the Great reached the peak of his career by conquering the entire known world—he broke down and cried.
One explanation for his crying is that he realized that there were no more battles for him to undertake. His best achievements were in the past. He had climbed to the top and had nowhere else to go. He cried in frustration.
Moses is seeking a leader who will be genuine, reliable and trustworthy. He asks for a leader who takes personal responsibility for each member of the community. He wants a real leader, not a false image of a leader. He wants a leader with an honest countenance, not one with a fake smile. He wants someone who actually believes in his mission, not someone who pretends to be a leader and goes through the charades of leadership for p.r. purposes.
When making important decisions, one must make pragmatic judgments based on as much fact as possible. To base decisions on wishful thinking and the aid of glib soothsayers is to follow the leadership style of Balak. Failure is an inevitable result.
Are our rabbis and synagogues mission-directed, or only function-directed? This is a question we ignore at our own spiritual peril.
Our goals should be to strive for genuine truth and to make the best decisions. We are more apt to achieve these goals if we think calmly and carefully, if we try to factor in all relevant information...and if we do not allow ourselves to be swept up by the fears, anxieties and judgments of others--even if they are the majority.
It is natural and normal for people to have different outlooks and to approach life from different moral matrices. But when we assume that all truth and righteousness is on our side, and that there is no truth or righteousness on the other side—then we enter into hostile relationships that are destructive to the overall fabric of society.
Orthodoxy needs to foster the love of truth. It must be alive to different intellectual currents, and receptive to open discussion. How do we, as a modern Orthodox community, combat the tendency toward blind authoritarianism and obscurantism?