David Wolpe

Speed Kills

05/04/2010

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

04/27/2010

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

04/20/2010

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:

Beyond Left And Right

04/13/2010

Could the formula for advancing American political life have been developed in the 16th century, in the small mystical community of Safed in Israel? There, the kabbalist Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the hymn “Lecha Dodi” sung each Friday night as we greet the Sabbath. The next to last verse begins: “Break out, right and left.”

Charity, Through The Generations

04/07/2010

Each morning a father enters our morning minyan with his two daughters. Before he drops them off at our school, he and his daughters put some money in the tzedakah box. One morning another worshiper, Norm Pell, approached me and reminded me of a beautiful midrash. When the women and men of Israel gave tzedakah, what did their children do? They watched, and learned what it is to help those in need.

Standing Tall

04/01/2010

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.

Praise And Pain On Passover

03/24/2010

A well-known custom at the Passover seder instructs us to take a drop of wine from our cups for each of the plagues. We should not rejoice in the suffering of others, even our enemies.

The Limits Of ‘Stuff’

03/18/2010

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.”
 

Chumash As Cognitive Dissonance

04/26/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Is the Torah true? Does the God of Exodus really exist? And if the answer is no, is it a theological catastrophe or business as usual?

These existential questions underlie the striking range of newspaper commentaries on the Conservative movement's impressive new Chumash, Etz Chaim, its first new publication of the Torah and Haftorah readings since the 1930s.

Chumash As Cognitive Dissonance

04/26/2002
Special To The Jewish Week

Is the Torah true? Does the God of Exodus really exist? And if the answer is no, is it a theological catastrophe or business as usual?

These existential questions underlie the striking range of newspaper commentaries on the Conservative movement's impressive new Chumash, Etz Chaim, its first new publication of the Torah and Haftorah readings since the 1930s.

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