It is precisely now when the Rabbanut is losing standing amongst Israelis, that it is doubling down and attempting to consolidate its power by introducing stricter ordinances not only in Israel, but in the diaspora. This effort must be rejected by all. We believe that Israeli and diaspora Jewry want—and deserve—a rabbinate that is intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive.
The prophet disdains those for whom God’s presence is comfort and security; to him it is a challenge, an incessant demand. God is compassion, not compromise; justice, though not inclemency. The prophet’s predictions can always be proved wrong by a change in man’s conduct, but never the certainty that God is full of compassion.
It is intrinsic to human nature to strive to emulate God, and everything that creates a distinction from God makes us feel uncomfortable. Therefore, seeing Judaism as merely a set of commandments creates a negative view of the human soul. The commandments are necessary, but only after a person moves freely in the direction of ideals. Self-restraint must stem from freedom, and not the other way around.
Thinking Jews should be standing up for a genuine modern Orthodoxy that insists on functioning in contemporary world-time. While facing modernity has its real challenges, not facing modernity will lead Orthodoxy into a cult-like existence-- out of touch with reality, out of touch with the needs of thinking and feeling human beings…out of touch with Torah itself.
There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of God’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call. It may take a lifetime to learn how to find these things, but once we learn, we realize in retrospect that all it ever took was the ability to listen.
(This article originally appeared in “Sephardica: Hommage a Haim Vidal Sephiha,” Peter Lang Publishers, Berne, 1996.)
Those causing flight delays and making passengers and crew members uncomfortable, should consider how their stringent behavior impacts others and be stringent in the mitzvah of loving their fellow as themselves.
Rabbi Marc D. Angel delivered this sermon on July 26, 2014 at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth in Seattle, Washington. On that Shabbat, the community marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from the islands of Rhodes and Cos in July 1944, nearly all of whom were murdered in Auschwitz. We post this article in observance of Holocaust Memorial Day, May 2, 2019.
We need to give members of our community space, at whatever faith stage they are, to experience that stage and to attain the convictions of that stage, free from outside interference, free from judgment, and free from any of the messages or behaviors on the part of others that might threaten their physical, emotional, economic, or spiritual safety.
My father’s voice was one of “moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.” He spoke out in the prophetic tradition, and we are proud that he represented the Jewish people to the world. After the devastation of Europe, he gave us back our souls, reminding us of the greatness of Judaism and urging us to study more deeply, pray with greater intensity, and always remember what we stand for.