Angel for Shabbat

Wisdom of the Heart--Thoughts on Parashiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei, March 21, 2009

In describing the qualities of the men and women who aided in the construction of the Mishkan, the Torah repeatedly refers to them as "hakhmat lev", wise of heart. This may mean that they were particularly skillful, or creative, or excellent at following instructions. But the phrase implies a special quality that combines wisdom and emotion. These artists were technically proficient, but they also brought a genuine enthusiasm to their work. This combination of skill and piety led to the creation of the sacred space of the Mishkan.

A Thinking Judaism--Thoughts on Parashat Mishpatim, February 21, 2009

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.

University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

We are pleased to announce the establishment of a University Network,
open to Jewish university students looking for an intellectually
vibrant, compassionate, and inclusive Orthodox Judaism. We ask students
to register online on our website,,
and be sure to check the box indicating "student." Students will
receive free subscriptions to our journal, Conversations, and will also be
able to participate in the University Network online discussion group.

Thoughts on Megillat Esther--for Shabbat Zakhor, March 7, 2009

The reading of the Scroll of Esther is a central feature of the Purim holiday. We read it on the night of Purim as well as on the morning of Purim day. We all know the story of how the Jews of the ancient Persian Empire were threatened with destruction, and how they were saved through the efforts of Mordecai and Esther. Yet, there are a number of troubling questions that need to be addressed.

1. Mordecai is described as a strongly-identified Jew; yet, he asks Esther to conceal her Jewishness when going to the king's palace. Why?

The Power of Words

The Power of Words

(A Thought for Shabbat April 5, Parashat Tazria)

by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Torah portion this week and next week deal with a mysterious disease/impurity known as tsara-at, usually translated as leprosy. Rabbinic tradition links this malady to the sin of lashon hara--evil talk, gossip. Moses' sister Miriam was stricken with symptoms of this disease after she had spoken inappropriately about Moses.

The Talmud (Arakhin 15b) compares the sin of evil talk to idolatry, adultery and murder.