This is a time of renewal, a time of re-assessment of where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. While this is a time for personal reflection and re-commitment to Torah and halakha, it is also a time to pray for and reach out to those who have drifted away and have become spiritually complacent.
Angel for Shabbat
Scholars have found that many people have optimistic and energizing starts…but they often cannot follow through on their good intentions. Daily prayer each morning can help us start strong…and stay strong.
Angel For Shabbat, Parashat Vayikra
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.
The destruction of the Temples in antiquity were a serious blow to the Jewish People. But the Jewish religious genius has taught us to overcome tragedies, to remember them, but to dream of better days yet to come. In this spirit, I am offering an interpretation of the first Mishna of the Talmud.
After services, ask yourself: “Am I better after synagogue than I was before synagogue? Am I greater, if only a bit, after services and sermon than I was before services and sermon?”
Real religious teachers not only teach us the dos and don’ts of Judaism; they teach us how to approach our holy texts and observances with a sense of awe. “Muzak” types of religious teachers give the external impression of teaching religion but they lack content and authenticity.They do not convey a grand religious vision but are satisfied to present anecdotes and platitudes that don’t inspire and don’t allow us to grow or to think for ourselves.
Everyone needs to be reminded of the Divine commandments relating to upright and honest dealings. Why? Because people sometimes have tendencies that lead to dishonesty and immoral behavior. The Torah gives a powerful reminder to rise above negative tendencies, and to live honest lives.
Golden calves do not bring redemption. Painted pianos do not produce good music if the piano is out of tune. Fakes and demagogues cannot lead us to a promised land. If we succumb to falsehood, we will surely pay the consequences.
Since those olden times, we have been involved in a never-ending series of campaigns—for our synagogues, schools, charitable institutions etc. A day hardly goes by when we are not solicited by one worthy cause or another. Although we must necessarily make priorities in determining our contributions, we generally have the feeling that we are generous and kind people who contribute to the best of our ability.
A Talmudic passage (Sotah 11a) offers an imaginary scenario relating to Pharaoh's decision to enslave the Israelites and murder their male babies. Bilam advised in favor of these evil decrees and ultimately died a violent death. Job remained neutral, and was later punished with horrible sufferings. Yitro opposed Pharaoh’s decrees, had to flee, and was ultimately rewarded.