The modern era in the Western world has witnessed numerous assaults on the patterns of traditional religious life. Science has changed the way people think; technology has changed the way they live. Autonomous, human-centered theology has come to replace heteronomous, God-centered theology. Rationalism and positivism have constricted metaphysics. Respect for authority and hierarchies has been replaced by an emphasis on individuality and egalitarianism. The challenges of modernity are symbolized by such names as Darwin, Schleiermacher, Freud, Einstein, Ayn Rand.
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.
One of the most painful problems facing our community is the "Agunah" issue. An Agunah is a "chained" woman: she is legally married, but her husband has either gone missing, or is unwilling to grant her a divorce ("get") even when the marriage has collapsed. She is put in the untenable situation of being unable to move forward with her life; she cannot marry anyone else, since she is still tied to her missing or recalcitrant husband.
A glimpse at Sephardic life in the pre-Holocaust period. This article by Rabbi Marc D. Angel appeared in the Canadian Jewish News, September 17, 2009, and is reprinted with the permission of the editor, Mordechai Ben-Dat.
A message relating to the American Jewish experience. On September 12, 2004, a special service was held at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York (founded in 1654) to mark the Congregation's 350th anniversary. Since Shearith Israel is the first Jewish Congregation in North America, this occasion also marked the 350th anniversary of American Jewry. Rabbi Marc D. Angel delivered a sermon at the 350th anniversary service, reflecting on American Jewish history through the prism of the experience of Congregation Shearith Israel.
A powerful story of the Jewish spirit