Yom Kippur

Lasting Treasures

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.

Each Yom Kippur we read about the martyrdom of Rabbi Hananiah Ben Teradyon. As he is wrapped in a scroll by Romans and set on fire, his students ask him, “What do you see?” His answer: “The parchment is burning but the letters are ascending to heaven.”

At that agonizing moment, Rabbi Hananiah had the comfort of knowing that his teachings would endure. He had anticipated by 2,000 years the wise words of William James, that “the great use of life is to spend it on something that outlasts it.”

Continual Confession

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.

Most Jews believe that Judaism encourages confession once a year on Yom Kippur. They are unaware of the confessional that is part of the daily service.

When We’re Gone

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.

Vladimir Nabokov opens his autobiography, “Speak Memory,” by recalling a scene in a home movie in which he saw his own family before his birth; his mother was pregnant and happy, but looking at his crib waiting for him, it had the “smug, encroaching air of a coffin.”

The world prepares for our entrance, and over the course of life prepares us for our exit. Things existed before we appeared and will continue after. Although we cannot know what awaits us, we do know our power to leave the world changed.

Sontag’s Israel

Special To The Jewish Week

Although she continued to write film criticism throughout her life, Susan Sontag’s filmmaking career was fairly brief, basically consisting of three feature films made between 1969 and 1974 (she also made a telefilm for RAI in 1983). After  two fiction features, “Duet for Cannibals” (1969) and “Brother Carl” (1971), Sontag turned her hand to documentary and what would prove to be her most overt statement on Jewish matters, “Promised Lands” (1974). That rarely shown film is getting a weeklong run beginning on Feb. 4.

“Avatar” And Blue Palestinians

It’s probably just a coincidence that the blue-skinned, endangered aliens from the planet Pandora in the mega-hit “Avatar” are called the Na’vi, which is Hebrew for prophet. It couldn’t be that non-Jewish writer and director James Cameron took the term deliberately to make a point that in these victimized, ultimately triumphant underdogs we were to see a glimpse of some conflict in the offing. Could it?

Probably not. But it is one of the things to ponder about a movie that borrows so much of its essence, while leaving so much to interpretation.

Breathing Pressurized Air

Special to the Jewish Week

Being a congregational rabbi during the High Holidays is an experience in pressure unlike anything else that occurs during the course of a Jewish year. Jews you never knew were in your neighborhood (and some you did) seem to come out of the woodwork and find their way into synagogue services, sometimes changing the nature of the congregation entirely. Often, just to make their presence known, they decide that this might be the right time to get to know the rabbi.

The Cleansing Power of Prayer

Special to the Jewish Week

As I write this, the stock market is taking its first halting, spasmodic steps away from the abyss and back towards some kind of healthier state of being.  Of course, now that I’ve written that, it will probably go down a few hundred points today just to prove how little I understand how these things really work.  I readily admit that.  But we do seem to have eased away from the bleakest, most hopeless feeling that we’ve all known these past few weeks.

Easing on Down the Road…Sukkot is All Uplift

Special to the Jewish Week

The days between Yom Kippur and the beginning of Sukkot offer a welcome opportunity for a change of mood.

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