The very term “Spirituality” has in recent years acquired negative connotations. In Judaism, it is often associated with an expression of religious fervor devoid of halakhic content or commitment. It conjures up New Age pseudo-religion, unreliable, inconsistent, flaky sentimentality. To borrow a Christian bon mot, “Mysticism,” it is often asserted, “starts in a mist and ends in a schism.” Nevertheless both rationalism and mysticism are equally integral elements in Jewish, indeed all, religious life. It is the relationship between them that I want to explore in this essay.
God communicated to people through prophecy for nearly the entire biblical period, from Adam until Malachi. According to a prevalent Jewish tradition, prophecy ceased with Malachi, not to be renewed until the messianic age. In this article, we will consider a few traditional explanations of why prophecy ceased and some spiritual implications for Judaism over the ensuing 2,500 years and counting.
Overview of Malachi
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.
The current religious educational system encourages people to accept the authority of the major Torah scholars of the generation and to obey them unquestioningly, thereby creating a culture of dependency and submission. We must return to and deepen appreciation of independent thought, personal freedom and individual empowerment. Talmudic tradition and adjudication teach us that no Rabbi, no matter how great, is sacred nor should he be revered as a Lord over us.
It is well known that all mitzvoth fall into two major categories: those between humans are God-bein adam laMakom, and those between humans and their fellows-bein adam leHaveiro. The question we wish to discuss here is which of these two categories is, as it were, more weighty.
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.