The Jewish Press publishes a bi-weekly feature in which several rabbis are asked questions relating to Jewish observance and Jewish values. One of the respondents is Rabbi Marc D. Angel. Here are Rabbi Angel's responses to the first 4 questions in this series of articles.
Our view is that we always must keep conversations alive, rather than allowing those who dogmatically espouse one or the other side of a debate to shut down dissent or alternative viewpoints from within tradition.
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.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading Religious Zionist rabbi in Israel, recently proclaimed that women should not be engaged in political life. His statement--bolstered by a group of other rabbis--has been sharply denounced by many Israelis, including other Israeli rabbis. One of the early proponents of women's involvement in positions of political leadership was Rabbi Benzion Uziel (1880-1953).
We post this article on the life and thought of Rabbi Benzion Uziel, one of the great religious leaders of the 20th century. When he passed away on September 4, 1953, he was mourned by hundreds of thousands of Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Jews and Arabs. A remarkable personality, Rabbi Uziel proclaimed that Judaism is not a narrow, confined doctrine limited only to a select few individuals. It must thrive with a grand vision, always looking outward.
At what point does charisma become dangerous? In a community (and a wider world) where an elusive quality called “spirituality” is constantly sought as representing the “authentic” in the religious quest, how can the individual, or the community, or the responsible leader, distinguish the teacher with integrity from the predator?
In a list of new developments in Judaism in the twenty-first century, one would have to include the search for Jewish spirituality. This includes the discovery of spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and prayer—often adapted from Eastern religions. In this essay, I will examine this phenomenon by employing a method of investigation that attempts to address contemporary issues through textual study called “Textual Reasoning” (http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/tr/).
During the Sefira period between Pessah and Shavuot, a variety of stringent customs have arisen. Prohibitions have emerged relating to listening to music, shaving, hair cuts and more. When did these practices arise and how are they to be observed today?
Centrist Orthodox Jews are overwhelmingly not only pro-Israel but view the State of Israel as having religious significance and, thus, pray in synagogues that recite the prayers for the Welfare of the State and for the Israel Defense Forces. At the same time, some leaders of Centrist Orthodoxy have become increasingly assertive and acerbic, and they attempt to define Centrist Orthodoxy in more rigid terms.
(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.)