Sinai Temple

Speed Kills

05/03/2010 - 20:00

Seeing something I have written in print always evokes the wish that I could snatch the words back, if only for a moment, to correct or change them. Manuscripts of notable novels and poems are almost always indecipherable squiggles, cross-outs, arrows, editing marks. Second, third and fourth thoughts are essential for clarity and elegance of expression. As the great Thomas Mann put it, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Tells Tell All

04/26/2010 - 20:00

Have you ever climbed to the top of a tell? A tell is a pile of old civilizations, massed atop each other. Such hills mark the landscape of Israel, reminding us that civilization is less about building than about rebuilding.

The Choice Is Ours

04/19/2010 - 20:00

The Talmud teaches, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except reverence for heaven (Berachot 33b).” In other words, there is much we do not choose in this world, but we do choose our posture toward what we are given. For a characteristically wise and elegant formulation of this, listen to the words of the superlative essayist, Joseph Epstein:

Standing Tall

03/31/2010 - 20:00

God’s first words to the prophet Ezekiel are: “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak to you” (Ezek. 2:1). Reaching our full human height we are most ready to encounter God.

When a Jew has suffered a loss and tears a garment in mourning, the tearing takes place while the mourner stands upright. Confronting the pain and puzzlement of loss, standing upright signifies dignity and hope.

The Limits Of ‘Stuff’

03/17/2010 - 20:00

Here it is. The essential religious message in three words: stuff is inadequate.
Materialism is insufficient to explain the world. There is more to you than synapses. The marvelous, multicolored universe is not just an accident of ancient chemistry, or a random collection of molecules. There is an animating spirit that moves the world, barely glimpsed. Soul force comes from within us, but more, it moves through us. Because we only have words, we call it “God.”

The Ties That Bind

06/17/2008 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

As powerful as the bond that tied the Jewish people to God was the one that tied the Jewish people to one another.  Although Jews certainly quarreled — at times viciously — there was a depth to the care that Jews took of one another in ages past that should still touch and inspire us. In his memoirs, the great Yiddish writer Y.L. Peretz expresses it by capping a sad story with one, memorable line.

Both Sides Of The Coin

06/10/2008 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

The Talmud teaches (Bava Kamma 97b) that Abraham’s coins displayed an old man and woman on one side, and a young man and woman on the other.  From this we learn three things:

1. Abraham thought of himself and his wife as one. Similarly,
    when at the outset of Abraham’s journey God said, “Lech
    L’cha”— you go (in the singular) — he went with Sarah.

2. Both youth and age are valuable. Each has its merits and its

Lost And Found

06/03/2008 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

The French writer Andre Malraux opens his autobiography, “Anti-Memoirs,” with the story of meeting an old comrade — a soldier with whom he fought in the war many years ago. The man subsequently became a priest. He told Malraux that from years of listening to confessions he had learned two things about human nature: that people have more trouble than he imagined and that “there is no such thing as a grown-up.”

With, And Without, Child

05/27/2008 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Rachel is devastated by her barrenness and cries out to Jacob: “Give me children or I shall die!” Jacob retorts sharply to Rachel’s outburst. Why?

The renowned R. Isaac Arama explains: In the creation story, woman is given two names — Ishah (Woman) and Hava (Eve). The first name teaches that, like a man (Ish), a woman has all the possibilities and responsibilities of bringing wisdom and goodness into the world.  The second name Hava is additional, the potential of actually bearing children, for Hava means “mother of all life.”

First-Class Men

05/20/2008 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

A poignant comment from historian John Lukacs in his book “A Thread of Years”:

“Of the many differences between the movie ‘Titanic’ and history, one in particular is telling. In the movie, as the ship is sinking the first-class passengers (all third-class human beings) scramble to climb into the small number of lifeboats. Only the determination of the hardy seamen — who use guns to keep the grasping men at bay — gets the women and children into the boats.

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