We have many mitzvoth, customs and traditions. At first glance, all these things may seem to be enormous burdens, overwhelmingly difficult to observe. But once we do observe the mitzvoth, they become part of the fabric of our lives--and we find that they are essential to our physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
Angel for Shabbat
People wear uniforms…athletes, police, firefighters, surgeons, clergy. Graduates don caps and gowns. Marching bands have their uniforms. Top hats and tails, formal gowns, business attire…each uniform is meant to define a particular role or a particular occasion. When people dress casually so that they think they are not wearing uniforms…they are wearing casual uniforms! The way they dress is meant to reflect their conformity with or rebellion from the current fashions.
The aspiration of a truly religious person must be to develop the power of giving; to be genuine, honest and kind. If we are to make our contributions to God's sanctuary--and to society--we must do so with purity of heart, selflessness and humility. We must aspire to real religion.
This week's Torah portion begins with God commanding Moses : "And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them." Rashi comments that God instructed Moses not to teach the Israelites by rote, but to explain the reasons for the laws. If the people had the opportunity to study the reasons behind the laws, they would more likely internalize and fulfill them.
Each individual is expected to draw on his/her best strengths and talents in order to fulfill his/her distinctive mission in life. If one internalizes the feeling of having been chosen to accomplish great things, one can live with vision, energy and sense of purpose.
Angel for Shabbat, Parashat Yitro
by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
The Revelation at Mount Sinai was a national experience for all the people of Israel—but it also was very personal. Each Israelite heard the same words—but in different ways!
Angel for Shabbat, Parashat Beshallah
by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Q. What is the text of an Emergency Alert sent out by a Jewish Organization?
A. Start worrying! Details to follow.
This joke reflects an ongoing reality of Jewish life. There always seems to be something to worry about, some crisis that is about to erupt, some threat to our survival. Even when we don't yet know the details, we are called upon to get into the worrying mode.
The experience of having been enslaved in Egypt had a profound impact on the future character of the people of Israel. The Torah reminds us to be compassionate to the stranger--for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. It commands us to treat others with kindness and humanity--because we had been treated with cruelty and inhumanity when we were slaves in Egypt.
When human beings treat each other as objects, humanity suffers. When human beings see their kinship with other human beings and treat each other with respect, humanity begins its process of redemption. We can retain our own humanity only when we recognize the humanity of each of our fellow human beings.
The Torah reminds us not to judge success or strength by external numerical standards. The Israelites were not strong even though they multiplied in prodigious numbers. A hollow oak tree is not strong even if it is ancient and massive. No nation, community, institution or individual can be deemed to be strong unless the inner life is healthy.