As we experience the weeks of consolation, we are reminded that mourning is a process. It begins with God being in Heaven--remote from us--, but goes on to enable us to restore our relationship with God as being close to us. Isaiah announces God’s own promise: be comforted My people. I am here with you. Redemption will come.
Angel for Shabbat
The goal of Torah is not to enslave us but to liberate us; it is not to undermine our basic humanity but to bring out the best in us. It demands dignified observance of religious ceremonies and rituals; but it also demands a spirit of love and kindness in our interpersonal relations.
True religious leadership is not manifested in seeking power or control, nor in seeking honor or public accolades. Just the opposite! A genuine religious leader, like Moses, must exemplify humility and self-sacrifice.
When teaching the words of our Sages, we need to have the literary tact to know how they used language. If we teach hyperbolic statements as being literally true, then we not only misconstrue the teachings of our Sages, but we unwittingly mislead our students into believing problematic things. As they grow older and wiser, they may say to themselves: if our Rebbis were mistaken on this, perhaps they were mistaken on many other matters.
There are two basic paths to the Almighty: Torah and Nature. These are not mutually exclusive paths, but are complementary. When we study Torah, we study the word of God. When we experience the beauties of nature, we confront the awesome creations of God. A proper religious worldview entails proper appreciation of both Torah and Nature, and sees the ultimate harmony and unity of both.
Economists speak of the “principle of revealed preferences.” This principle teaches that we can better predict what people will do based on their current behavior patterns rather than on what they say they will do. People most accurately reveal their real selves by their deeds, not by what they espouse.
Torah Judaism demands not only a keen commitment to truth, but also a keen sense of responsibility to human beings.
When the Israelites gathered around Mount Sinai to experience the awesome Revelation of God, each of them heard the same words—but in different ways! The Midrash teaches (Shemot Rabba 29:1) that God spoke “bekoho shel kol ehad ve-ehad,” according to the individual abilities of each listener. The universal message of Torah was made direct and personal.
In the face of past tragedy, silence may often be the appropriate and wise response. No words can change what has already happened. But in the face of contemporary evil, silence is morally repugnant. One must scream out, one must protest, one must demand justice.
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
“And you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Vayikra 19:18).
Rabbi Akiva considered this verse to be a great principle of the Torah. Indeed, it is widely considered to be the “golden rule” that is at the root of human morality and civilization.
The only problem is: is it really possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? In some special cases, the answer is yes. But in many cases, it would seem to be unlikely, if not impossible, to love others as oneself—especially if they are unlovable!