Min haMuhvar

Reflections on the Current Conversion Crisis, by Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss

(This opinion piece was published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 21, 2016)

Let us begin with the facts: Converts whose conversions were conducted according to halachah, or Jewish law, are 100 percent Jewish.

In the eyes of God and Torah, they are full Jews, just as Jewish as any born Jews. Their Jewishness is not contingent on the Israeli Chief Rabbinate or anyone else. Halachic converts are Jewish, their children are Jewish, they are obligated to fulfill the mitzvot like all other Jews.

Prayer and Windows: Thoughts for Parashat Noah--by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Prayer and Windows: Thoughts for Parashat Noah

God’s instructions to Noah for building the ark include: “A light you shall make to the ark,” (Bereishith 6:16). Rashi, drawing on rabbinic tradition, offers two explanations of what this “light” was. 1) it was a window; 2) it was a precious stone.

A window provides direct light from the sun; a person inside the ark could see the skies above. A precious stone refracts light; a person inside the ark has light, but has no direct contact with the outside world.

Lies, Cries--Arise: Thoughts for Shemini Hag Atsereth, by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Psalm associated with Shemini Hag Atsereth/Simhath Torah seems to be a strange choice. It is Psalm 12, a Psalm that Martin Buber has described as a prophecy “against the generation of the lie.” The Psalmist cries out: “Help, O Lord, for the pious cease to be…They speak falsehood each with his neighbor, with flattering lip, with a double heart they speak.” The generation is led by oppressors who say “our tongue will make us mighty,” who arrogantly crush the downtrodden.

The Business of Life: Thoughts for Succoth--by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Eyes Open and Eyes Shut : Thoughts for Rosh Hashana, by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Paul Gaugin, the famous 19th century French artist, commented: “When I want to see clearly, I shut my eyes.”

He was referring to two different ways of perceiving reality. With our eyes open, we see surface reality—size, shape, color etc. But with our eyes shut, we contemplate the context of things, our relationship to them, the hidden meanings.

Beyond Tears: As We Approach Tisha B'Av

(This article by Rabbi Marc D. Angel appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, July 26, 2012)

Our ancient Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed in 586 BCE and 70 CE…and we are still fasting and crying! If this made sense during our many centuries of exile, does it still make sense today? After all, we now have a vibrant and strong Jewish State of Israel. With all our problems, shouldn’t we be enjoying our sovereignty and the first flowerings of redemption? Isn’t it time to stop fasting and crying for an exile that has functionally come to an end?

The Jews of Rhodes and Cos: In Memoriam

One of the great writers of the 20th century, himself a Holocaust survivor, was Primo Levi. In his book, Other Peoples’ Trades, he reminisces about his childhood home in Turin, Italy. In his nostalgic description, he remembers how his father would enter the house and put his umbrella or cane in a receptacle near the front door. In providing other details of the entrance way to the house, Primo Levi mentions that for many years “there hung from a nail a large key whose purpose everyone had forgotten but which nobody dared throw away (p. 13).”