But Who Am I, and Who Are My People?: A Rabbi's Reflections on the Rabbinate and the Jewish Community

Article excerpt

by Marc D. Angel. Ktav Publishing House Inc., 2001. 181 pp. $25.00.

Rabbi Angel has written a very moving and sensitive account of his rabbinate and his service to the Jewish community. Angel is the rabbi of the historic Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in New York City in 1654. A widely known author, essayist, communal leader and scholar, he is a very articulate Orthodox Jewish spokesperson.

Rabbi Angel writes about himself and his rabbinical career with insight, passion, candor, and warmth. As a framework for his book he has chosen the paradigm of the kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) symbolism of the ten divine emanations through which, the mystics believe, God created and sustains the world. These sefirot, emanations, such as chesed, compassion, gevurah, strength and binah, discernment, become models for Rabbi Angel as he strives to deal with the extremely complex and challenging role of being a rabbi in today's world.

In his book, Rabbi Angel refers to three titles given to rabbis in the Sephardic community, of which his congregation is a part. These are marbitz Torah, "disseminator of Torah," chavayr ha-ir, "friend of the city," a leader who exercises leadership in a friendly, congenial manner, and chacham, "sage," one wise and knowledgeable in the ways of the world as well as a scholar and interpreter of Jewish wisdom.

Rabbi Angel, throughout his distinguished career, has striven to exemplify these titles, and, as a widely respected spiritual leader, he has succeeded in his efforts. His book is free of pomposity and self-service. It is written in a humble, yet assertive fashion, as he clearly articulates his views and opinions concerning the Jewish issues and problems of the day. …

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