web analytics
January 29, 2015 / 9 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


An Angel’s Soft Touch

book-angel-for-shabbat-2

I admit: I often find it difficult to read divrei Torah on the parshah. Some take outlandish midrashim at face value, ignoring mefarshim like the Rambam and the Ibn Ezra who insist that we should interpret them metaphorically. Others evince gross ignorance of history, making definitive claims about ancient times on the conjecture of a famous rishon or acharon. Still others provide cringe-worthy displays of narrow-mindedness and provincialism (vis-à-vis non-Jews and our mission as the chosen people on this earth). Many, alas, feature all three.

For this reason, I feel grateful when I come across a volume like Angel for Shabbat: Thoughts on the Weekly Torah Portions, Volume 2 by Rabbi Marc Angel, rabbi emeritus of the historic Spanish Portuguese Synagogue. The book is not a masterpiece. I can think of other books more profound or inspirational. But it is reasonable, moderate, and thoughtful – qualities which unfortunately are not as common in Western Orthodoxy as they once were.

The 100 divrei Torah in this book originally appeared online and were distributed via e-mail. Unsurprisingly, therefore, many of them address contemporary issues. For example, on Parshat Mishpatim (and elsewhere), Rabbi Angel berates Israel’s chief rabbis and others for making life increasingly difficult for would-be converts to Judaism. On Parshat Vayigash, Rabbi Angel scolds 40 Israeli rabbis who signed a proclation prohibiting Jews from selling land in Israel to non-Jews.

These criticisms are not unexpected coming from the pen of one of Left-Wing Modern Orthodoxy’s most prominent rabbis. What may surprise readers, though. are Rabbi Angel’s many conservative divrei Torah advocating, what some would call, “old-fashioned” values.

For example, in a dvar Torah on Parshas Vayeshev, he addresses an article a Stern College girl wrote two years ago in a school newspaper in which she unburdened herself, confessing a moral failing. Many at the time supported the student, praising her “courage” in discussing a topic that many prefer to speak about behind closed doors.

Not so Rabbi Angel. He quotes the Rambam who writes, “[S]ins between a person and God need not be publicized, and it is brazen to publicize them; rather, one should repent before God, blessed be He.” Rabbi Angel sees the student’s article as reflective of a larger trend in American society where “[e]xhibitionism seems to be fashionable.” He argues for a return to modesty, privacy, and self-respect.

In another dvar Torah, on Parshas Balak, Rabbi Angel largely rejects introducing more egalitarianism or congregational singing in synagogues. The problem in modern synagogues, he writes, is not uninspiring services, but the loss of “intimacy with God. God is simply not a real presence in many of our lives…[e]ven if we observe the commandments, study Torah, and say our prayers….”

Advancing a similar theme on Parshas Naso, Rabbi Angel writes, “The external forces of secularization have taken a toll on our internal spiritual lives. We – wittingly or unwittingly – adopt a secular lifestyle that is dressed up in religious garb. … [T]he essence of holiness is missing.” The solution, Rabbi Angel writes in an essay on Parshas Kedoshim, is “to take Judaism more seriously, to reconnect with the Almighty, to infuse life with the fullness of Torah learning and observance. We don’t want gimmicks or short-term and short-sighted suggestions that aim at inflating our egos.”

While most of the book is filled with similar ruminations on life, society, and the Jewish community, Rabbi Angel engages in some traditional homiletics as well. For example, on Parshat Chukas, Rabbi Angel asks the classical question: Why do the kohanim who prepare the parah adumah ashes and water become impure when these very same ashes and water make impure Jews pure?

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “An Angel’s Soft Touch”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hezbollah, designated by the US as a terrorist group, and a US Army tank.
Hezbollah Army Video Shows Off US Army Equipment [video]
Latest Sections Stories
Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

Respler-012315

I find his mother to be a difficult person and my nature is to stay away from people like that.

Here are some recipes to make your Chag La’Illanot a festive one.

Does standing under the chuppah signal the end of our dream of romance and beautiful sunsets?

We aren’t at a platform; we are underground, just sitting there.

Dr. Lowy believed passionately in higher education for both men and women and would stop at nothing to assist young students in achieving their educational goals.

It’s almost pointless to try to summarize all of the fascinating information that Holzer’s research unearthed.

The special charm of these letters is their immediacy and authenticity of emotion and description.

Why is there such a steep learning curve for teachers? And what can we, as educators and community activists, do better in the educational system and keep first-year teachers in the job?

Teachers, as well as administrators, must be actively involved in the daily prayers that transpire at a school and must set the bar as dugmaot ishiot, role models, on how one must daven.

Often both girls and boys compare their date to their parents.

We love the food, the hotels, and even the wildlife. We love the Israelis.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

Richard Dukas

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

The reality is that civility is less important than clarity, and right now only very few people on the Left are interested in having a civil conversation about the merits of particular policy solutions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/an-angels-soft-touch/2013/12/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: