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Wolpe Critique
Tue, 04/12/2011 - 20:00

I’ve been a fan of Rabbi David Wolpe’s column for some time, finding it a succinct and wise commentary on many areas of Jewish life. I was, however, disappointed with his column,” The Flexible Torah” (April 8), which cites the Talmud Bavli (Taanit 20a) and the discussion of the flexibility of a reed, used for the writing of Torah scrolls. “It is surprising,” he writes, “for those who think the Torah rigid and inflexible that even the implement used to shape its letters is chosen for flexibility.” Later in the column he laments that “some people have tried to nail down the corners of Torah, mak[ing] it rigid and certain, a mechanical series of behaviors rather than a living, changing organism.”

Rabbi Wolpe’s comments are a thinly veiled (and often repeated) criticism of what today is known as Orthodox Judaism. However, his comments are simply based on many commonly held misconceptions of Orthodoxy. For example, how can a tradition that includes such varied expressions as Chabad, Yeshiva University and the haredi yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J, be considered rigid, inflexible and mechanical? Anyone with the most basic understanding of Torah-true Judaism knows this to be anything but the truth.

Perhaps Rabbi Wolpe feels that this criticism is the best way to save the ailing Conservative movement. As has been widely reported, declining membership, increasing intermarriage and problems at the Jewish Theological Seminary have many in the movement understandably concerned. I would, however, suggest that a look inward is more appropriate.
Stuart Sigman

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I find Mr. Sigman's claims rather silly. The exhortations not to treat Judaism as a rigid system go back to the prophets, and Mr. Sigman's imaginings of what Rabbi Wolpe meant are simply his own projections onto Rabbi Wolpe's words. The rabbi has never suggested that all of orthodoxy is rigid, and is far too knowledgeablr to make a claim that foolish. Mr Sigman needs to dial down his paranoia and stop reading his own agenda into another's words.