Angel for Shabbat

Can a Scandal Help Reshape Jewish Philanthropy? Thoughts for Shabbat Vayesheb, December 20, 2008

This Shabbat's Torah reading begins by informing us that Jacob dwelled in the land where his fathers dwelled. Rashi comments that Jacob thought he had finally found some peace and quiet, after a lifetime of suffering and conflict. Yet, no sooner did Jacob settle down than a new tragedy befell him. Strife among his sons led to the disappearance of his beloved son Joseph.

Jacob's experience is repeated endlessly in the lives of human beings. We face a crisis, we overcome it, we think we can relax, and then another crisis arises. It seems that we can never let down our guards.

Standing Tall: Thoughts on Parashat Vayiggash

This week's Torah portion includes an enigmatic little episode. "And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: How many are the days of the years of your life? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh: The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh."

Eulogies--for the Living: Thoughts on Parashat Hayyei Sarah, November 22, 2009

When Sarah died, the Torah tells us that Abraham came "to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her." Rabbi Haim David Halevy, late Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, noted that this passage seems to describe things in the wrong order. Normally, we would expect that a person weeps when learning of the death of a loved one; then, at a later point, the mourner offers words of eulogy. Yet, the Torah states that first Abraham eulogized Sarah, and then afterwards he wept.

In Search of Wholeness: Thoughts on Parashat Terumah, February 28, 2009

In relating the instructions for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the parasha indicates that the Tablets of the Law (the Ten Commandments) are to be placed in the ark. The ark was to become a central feature in the spiritual life of the people of Israel, and the Tablets were to be an ongoing reminder of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. We know, however, that there were two sets of Tablets given at Sinai. The first were shattered by Moses when he descended the mountain and found the Israelites worshipping a golden calf.

Purification: Thoughts for Shabbat Parah

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
In ancient times, one who came into contact with the dead body of a human being was considered to be ritually impure and needed to undergo a purification process involving the ashes of a red heifer. It should be remembered that it is a mitzvah to care for a dead body and to participate in a proper funeral and burial. Thus, becoming ritually impure was a “normal” fact of life which occurred to almost everyone.

Messengers and Messages: Thoughts for Shabbat Hanukkah, December 12, 2009

A young man--a convert to Judaism--shared with me some of his frustrations. He had sacrificed mightily to become Jewish. He became estranged from his biological family, many of whom have strongly anti-Jewish attitudes. He changed his lifestyle to conform to the dictates of halakha. He put up with insensitive comments from rabbis and members of the Jewish community.