Increasing lights is an appealing concept, both aesthetically and spiritually. When we cast light on a problem, we clarify the issues. The more light we enjoy, the less we succumb to shadows and illusions.It is all too easy to make mistaken judgments by chasing shadows rather than realities.
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We must, however, ask ourselves how our halakhic system treats people who do not believe, and are not expected to believe, that this system applies to them. To this, our answer is that such people are not to be held liable or excluded as a result of their non-compliance with this system. Omer mutar accurately describes today’s reality. It is perfectly descriptive and non-judgmental, and should be a major part of our inclusive discourse.
How is wonder supposed to help us overcome the decisive religious and theological questions that we often grapple with? For Rabbi A. J. Heschel, the sense of wonder is so overwhelming that it conquers our doubts and questions about evil and meaning in a world that often seems absurd. Significantly, he is not on a quest to ultimate solutions, but rather “to find ourselves as part of a context of meaning.”
Within the Orthodox world, reverence toward heroes and the Sages must be balanced with fidelity to the biblical text, commitment to prophetic integrity, and commitment to truth in scholarship. The Torah teaches both particularistic and universalistic values, and it is critical to adopt both in a faithful religious worldview.
Even before the current pandemic, some had the feeling that "large synagogues" were facing serious problems. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein wrote an important article highlighting the importance of large synagogues. Looking beyond the pandemic era, we need to think carefully about our synagogues...and our community as a whole.
Rabbi Dr. Sabato Morais (April 13, 1823-November 11, 1897) was described by a New York Yiddish newspaper as “without doubt…the greatest of all Orthodox rabbis in the United States.” This encomium was written several years after the death of Morais, when a full picture of his life and accomplishments could be written with historical perspective. Today he is hardly remembered...but he should be!
Jews need to put aside their frightened mentality and recognize the age in which we live. We have a choice of how to see the world: Is Abraham the start of monotheism, a father of many nations, blessed among people, or is he an “ivri” (literally other bank of the river) someone who dwells alone or in opposition?
Professor Joshua Berman (Bar-Ilan University) recently published a very important book on the interface between critical biblical scholarship and traditional Jewish faith. I reviewed his book in Tradition (Spring 2020), the journal of the Rabbinical Council of America. Enjoy the review, and I recommend the book!
Rabbi Hayyim Angel
The Jewish Press newspaper has a bi-weekly feature in which questions are posed to a group of rabbis. Rabbi Marc Angel is one of the respondents. Here are his answers to several recent questions.