Angel for Shabbat

Spiritual Yearning:Thoughts on Parashat Eikev, July 31, 2010

I recently attended Shabbat morning services at a synagogue that was having a "Carlebach Shabbat". A group of "Carlebachians" led the services, and sang many of the prayers to music composed by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

I happened to be sitting next to one of the organizers of this Shabbat event, and I asked him: what does a "Carlebach Shabbat" service provide, that seems to be lacking in the "regular" synagogue service? He pondered for a few moments, and then answered in one word: "Yearning".

I have been pondering this response ever since.

University Network Update

Shalom. I hope you've been having a good summer, and I wish you all the best. Here are a few items of importance for members of the University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.

1. Please make sure that we have your correct mailing list on file. You may go to our website,, and check your My Account page. We plan to mail out the new issue of Conversations (Orthodoxy and Ethics) in early September, and it's important that we have your correct mailing address.

Doing the Good and the Right: Thoughts for Parashat Re'eh, August 7, 2010

"...for you will do that which is good and right in the eyes of the Lord..."

In several places, the Torah reminds us of the general commandment to do that which is good and right in the eyes of the Lord. This is often understood to refer to the proper observance of mitzvot, and the requirement to act "lifnim mi-shurat ha-din" i.e. to behave even more compassionately than demanded by the strict letter of the law. Since the mitzvot are a reflection of God's wisdom and mercy, they should be fulfilled in a spirit of wisdom and mercy.

Exile and Redemption: Thoughts for Shabbat, August 21, 2010

Life is filled with choices. We have all made fateful decisions which have determined our road of life. We chose a school to attend, a career, a spouse, a lifestyle, friends, a level of religious observance. Indeed, everything we are today is the result of the many choices we have made throughout the course of our lives.

We may look back at our various decisions and ask: were they right or wrong? Should I have done this or that? Am I living my true life, or have I actually taken the wrong path, a path not true to myself, to who I really am?

Religion and Charlatanism: Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tavo, August 28, 2010

What is the difference between a genuine religious leader and a charlatan?

A genuine religious leader tries to bring people closer to God, tries to inspire people to intensify their spirituality so that they may approach God and live in the spirit of holiness. A genuine religious leader tries to foster receptivity to a religious worldview, empowering the individual to draw on his/her inner resources in the quest to come closer to God.

Listening for Our Inner Song: Thoughts on Parashat Lekh Lekha, October 31, 2009

(This Angel for Shabbat column is sponsored by Yossie and Linnie (Tovli) Simiryan, in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the passing of Reb Shlomo Carlebach.)

After going to battle to save his nephew Lot, Abraham meets with the king of Sodom. The king offers Abraham the booty from the war but Abraham declines to take anything for himself. Abraham introduced his response with the words: "I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth..." Most commentators take this to mean that Abraham took an oath.

The Charisma Conundrum: Thoughts on Parashat Vayera, November 7, 2009

Some years ago, I learned about a doctoral dissertation that explored the nature of charisma. The author spent many hours talking with and observing individuals who were widely regarded as being very successful in their interpersonal relationships. Among the group of charismatic people were clergy, doctors, teachers, businesspeople, and a bartender.

What qualities did these individuals have that made others feel attracted to them? What was at the root of their charisma? Why were these men and women so highly regarded among their peers?

Thoughts for Thanksgiving 2009

online discussion group for University Network members

Shalom. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday, and wish you a happy Hanukkah in advance.

We now have about 150 members in our University Network, with students from throughout the US as well as several other countries. Our group continues to grow, and we hope you'll invite your fellow students to sign up for the University Network by going to our website