This coming Shabbat is known as Shabbat haGadol—the great Shabbat recalling the Israelites’ preparation for their redemption from Egypt. Just as the ancient Israelites were redeemed from their cruel oppressors, so we pray that today’s Israelites will be redeemed from their oppressors. We pray that all humans will strive honestly and sincerely to remove the “strange gods” of hatred, hypocrisy and malice from within themselves.
Angel for Shabbat
Let us call to mind the image of Elijah the prophet and his ongoing significance to us. Elijah reminds us how vital it is for religion to stay in touch with reality; for parents to stay in touch with their children; for children to turn their hearts back to the traditions of the older generations.
Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, once said: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.” I assume he was referring to top echelon employees who would have major executive responsibilities. If these people shared his values and work ethic, then he would be ready to work for them. If they lacked those qualities, he would not hire them.
“A constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not go out” (Vayikra 6:6). This week, our family is observing the anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law, Rabbi Paul E. Schuchalter, of blessed memory. He had served for many years as rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Suffern, New York. He also served as Jewish Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Hospital. Upon his retirement, he remained active in his rabbinic work, teaching and counseling.
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.
During this covid 19 crisis, we see the whole and the broken tablets of humanity. Both are part of the human reality. But the Torah reminds us to think ahead, to look to better times. It calls on us to pick up the broken pieces and regain our sense of balance and commitment to the future.
Here are two "Angel for Shabbat" columns, one for the 7th day of Pessah on how to worry properly; and one for the upcoming Shabbat on the sounds of silence...and screams.
Although there are those who promote the impurity of Metsora, there are also many who promote freedom and creativity, beauty and harmony. Life is an ongoing struggle between Tazria and Metsora.
The hope for religion is the growth of religious institutions that actually take their parishioners seriously, that don’t insult their intelligence, that speak to their spiritual needs. Educated people are not—or should not be—looking for a religion that depends on ignorance and subservience, or that fosters superstitious beliefs and practices.
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, Rabbi Marc Angel offers an interpretation of the first Mishna of the Talmud.