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.
Angel for Shabbat
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!
Who is thinking about our souls? Who is investing the time and thought to foster a religious life that is deep and strong, that can withstand popular pressures and market demands? Who is reminding us that when it comes to the human spirit, instant gratification is not the path to long- term growth and development?
If people come to think that the religious establishment is corrupt and is susceptible to undue external influence, then the foundations of religious life are seriously eroded. If religious leaders sell out their independence in the desire to curry favor with this or that religious "in-group"--then Judaism and the Jewish people suffer the consequences.
We all may have good intentions; but we also have the uncanny ability to come up with rationalizations why we cannot fulfill these good intentions. We find excuses justifying why we can't attend minyan, or can't contribute more to charity, or can't spend time learning Torah, or can't find more time to spend with our families, or can't invite guests to our homes etc.
The "tam" accepts Jewish belief and ritual, but his/her question isn't about what to do--but about why. The "tam" wants to understand how the laws and customs increase one's closeness to God, how they enhance spirituality. The "tam" is saying: yes, I'll do what the religion requires, but I need something more. I need to know the inner spirit of what the religion demands of me.
Golden calves do not bring redemption. Painted pianos do not produce good music if the piano is out of tune. Fakes and demagogues cannot lead us to a promised land. If we succumb to falsehood, we will surely pay the consequences.
Whatever kind of work we do, we can see it as a job, or a career--or a calling. A shift in vision, a shift in attitude--and we can become different and better and happier people.
This is a time of renewal, a time of re-assessment of where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. While this is a time for personal reflection and re-commitment to Torah and halakha, it is also a time to pray for and reach out to those who have drifted away and have become spiritually complacent.