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Knowledge Base
Tue, 07/15/2014 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

Professor Louis Ginzberg was the greatest scholar of rabbinic Midrash in his day, with a vast range of learning in many languages. My father told me that once, at a reception at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where Ginzberg taught, a woman approached him and in the course of discussion, began arguing with him about a point in Midrash. After a long, fruitless argument, Ginzberg said, “Why don’t we check the ‘Jewish Encyclopedia’ — would you accept that as an authority?” The woman agreed.

They checked the encyclopedia and, of course, Ginzberg was proved correct. As he closed the book, he said, “Yes, that’s what I thought I wrote.”

In our day, Internet searches and the ubiquity of information make scholarship a somewhat different enterprise. Nonetheless, the person who studies and memorizes and synthesizes vast amounts of information is different in essence from the one who looks it up. Ginzberg was not correct simply because he wrote the article, but because he had spent a lifetime living Midrash. Let your children see you reading, studying, learning. It is not enough to get tidbits from a smart phone. We sacrificed the garden not for the screen of reference, but for the tree of knowledge.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe

Rabbi David Wolpe

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Forget the interpretations given prominence in this article. While we have a WAR on Israeli soil and forever after, go to the Orthodox sources and scholars to get THE correct interpretation of our beloved teachings. Give it a go.

And yet Albert Einstein synthesized a number of current ideas floating among his contemporaries at the age of 26. The tree of knowledge must in fact grow. We climb on the shoulders of knowledge. Take Isaiah for instance.

Oh I'm just giving you a hard time. Don't mind me, Rabbi.


As I sit hear on my computer reading tibits online, I am shaking my head in agreement as I read your brief article. Thank you for sharing. Your wisdom that has been passed on to you by your mother and father and nurtured with so much study, contemplation and acceptance of change and rejection of intolerance is valued by those of us who follow you. Your opinion is not just valued, it is in demand. Thank you again.


I agree with Jon Gurkoff, he expressed my thinking, precisely.

This is an awesome article. My father is a voracious reader, it rubbed off on me.