Angel for Shabbat

For Shabbat June 28--Korah

Thoughts on Parashat Korah

by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Korah foments a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and is depicted in Jewish history as an arch-villain and trouble-maker. The Pirkei Avot describes Korah's rebellion as having been conducted "shelo leshem shamayim", not for the sake of Heaven. Like many demagogues, Korah appeals to the masses and tries to turn them against the existing leadership. Korah argues: all the congregation is holy--why should power reside only in Moses and Aaron?

For Shabbat July 12, 2008--Balak

Thoughts on Parashat Balak

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Balak, king of Moab, hired Bil'am to curse the people of Israel. Balak feared the advancing Israelites, and believed that Bil'am had the power to curse enemies and thereby destroy them. The Torah portion describes Bil'am's various attempts to curse Israel--but each time, God put words of blessing into his mouth. He simply was not able to curse Israel.

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.