By opening with the story of creation, the Torah teaches that one must have a living relationship with the natural world in order to enter and maintain a living relationship with God. Jewish spirituality flowers and deepens through this relationship and is organically linked to the natural rhythms of the universe. To a great extent, Jewish religious traditions serve to bring us into a sensitive relationship with the natural world.
A popular quip has it that "I love humanity; it's the people I don't like." It sometimes seems easier to love an abstract concept like humanity, or the Jewish people, or the community--rather than to love actual individuals. After all, individual human beings are not always pleasant or nice, courteous or considerate.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is Orthodoxy's most eloquent response to the challenges of modernity and to the critics of Modern Orthodoxy. A Torah giant of the highest caliber, the Rav was also a world-class philosopher. In his studies in Lithuania, he attained the stature of a rabbinic luminary. At the University of Berlin, he achieved the erudition of a philosophical prodigy.
As we are in the season of Yom Hashoa, I think of Rembrandt’s superb Large Self-Portrait. It cast a spell on me when I first saw it. But on Yom Hashoa it invites thoughts that penetrate deeper into my very being. When trying to do the impossible—imagining what happened to members of my family and to millions of other Jews who perished in the Holocaust—Rembrandt’s self portrait awakens me from my slumber.
Rabbi Hayyim Angel reviews an important new book by Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn.
You do things that shouldn’t be able to be done. You endure things that shouldn’t be put up with. That is part of the existential job description of what it means to be a Jew. And I cannot imagine a greater privilege than the opportunity to be part of it all.
The Jewish Press newspaper has a bi-weekly column in which a panel of rabbis is asked to comment on relevant questions. Rabbi Marc D. Angel is one of the respondents and here are his replies to some of the recent questions.
Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible: Exodus (Regnery Faith, 2018)
Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Far from being only a necessary skill for entering the work force or getting into law school, literature that includes the broadest possible range of voices and experiences itself fulfills a Torah value. Without it, we would be hard pressed truly to internalize the basic fact of God’s spark in every human soul.
(This article is excerpted from Marc D. Angel, Remnant of Israel: A Portrait of America’s First Jewish Congregation—Shearith Israel, Riverside Books, New York, 2004.)