In May 1992, Rabbi Marc Angel was among a group that spent five days in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The visit brought the group together with descendants of the Sioux sage, Black Elk. The culmination of this intensive week was a memorial gathering at the cemetery in Wounded Knee, the resting place of victims of a horrific massacre of Sioux Indians in 1890, when Black Elk was still a child. Rabbi Angel delivered this eulogy at Wounded Knee.
We stand at the mass grave of men, women and children—
Indians who were massacred at Wounded Knee in the
Orthodox Judaism in the ideal is very different from Orthodox Judaism as it is today.
The tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the homeless: they make us uncomfortable.
Compassion demands that we care for them and help relieve their sufferings. But pragmatism pushes us in a different direction. The beggars and the needy are nuisances, impinging on our quality of life. They cost us money, effort and time. And they never seem to go away.
The needy are a weight on our consciences as individuals and as a society.
When addressing a halakhic question, each posek (halakhic decisor) attempts to arrive at a decision that is objectively true. The posek will study and analyze the available halakhic literature, with the goal of understanding the halakha as clearly and accurately as possible.
In his book, The Perspective of Civilization, Fernand Braudel utilizes a concept that he calls “world-time.” Braudel notes that at any given point in history, all societies are not at the same level of advancement. The leading countries exist in world-time; that is, their level of advancement is correlated to the actual date in history. However, there also are countries and civilizations which are far behind world-time, whose way of life may be centuries or even millennia behind the advanced societies.
When I served as President of the Rabbinical Council of America (1990-92), I asked Rabbi Moshe Tendler to develop a health care proxy for the RCA, that would take into consideration issues relating to halakhic organ donation.
I can still hear the voices of my grandparents, parents and elder relatives speaking and singing in Judeo-Spanish. Although they have passed away years ago, I still feel their presence especially on Shabbat and holidays and at family celebrations.
Rabbinic bureaucracy is the problem, not the solution. Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, wrote this article which was published in the Forward newspaper, January 8, 2010.