web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 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.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Sections Stories

We studied his seforim together, we listened to famous cantorial masters and we spoke of his illustrious yichus, his pedigree, dating back to the famous commentator, Rashi.

Singer-Saul-Jay-logo-NEW

Jews who were considered, but not ultimately selected, include Woody Allen, Saul Bellow, David Ben-Gurion, Marc Chagall, Anne Frank, and Barbra Streisand.

Personally I wish that I had a mother like my wife.

What’s the difference between the first and second ten-year-old?

What makes this diary so historically significant is that it is not just the private memoir of Dr. Seidman. Rather, it is a reflection of the suffering of Klal Yisrael at that time.

Rabbi Lau is a world class speaker. When he relates stories, even concentration camp stories, the audience is mesmerized. As we would soon discover, he is in the movie as well.

Each essay, some adapted from lectures Furst prepared for live audiences, begins with several basic questions around a key topic.

For the last several years, four Jewish schools in the Baltimore Jewish community have been expelling students who have not received their vaccinations.

“We can’t wait for session II to begin” said camp director Mrs. Judy Neufeld.

Chabad Chayil wishes all a happy and healthy remainder of summer.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Harvey Rachlin

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Marc Shapiro

In his day, Rav Kook was the greatest writer of haskamot and pretty much everyone in the Lithuanian Torah world wanted his approbation.

But on the human level, public protest played a very central role. And that’s not my position – it’s the position of historians who are experts in this area.

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Israel is not the only issue that has drawn Jews closer to conservative Christians in recent decades. The culture wars have played a significant role as well.

What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

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: