Musings

Lost And Found

06/04/2008
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

05/28/2008
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

05/21/2008
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.

The Disease Of Conceit

05/14/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Most of what we are — our intelligence, our drive, our lineage, our land — are gifts. We did not create them, and when we take pride in our abilities or inheritance, we are denying the true Source of blessing. A self-made man, as Mark Twain said, is as likely as a self-laid egg.

Lasting Treasures

05/07/2008
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.”

Setting Limits

04/30/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Right before World War II, the renowned Rabbi Morris Shapiro delivered this verdict on American Jewry — it has learned to make Kiddush, he said, but it has not yet learned how to make Havdalah. In other words, America understands the blessing over the wine, the blessing of abundance, but the blessing for the end of Shabbat, the blessing of limitation, of distinction, is not yet understood.

Good Luck

04/23/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Napoleon is reputed to have asked only one question in hiring an officer — “is he lucky?” While hard work and piety can do much good in this world, mazel is indispensable.

Helicopter Parents Ground Their Kids

04/16/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

On Passover children ask questions and parents provide the answers. At times parents must also learn to stop providing answers.

The mystical concept of tsimtsum posits God’s self-limitation in order to create the world. For anything else to come into being there had to be a space of not-God, a space available for creation to flourish.

Along Together

04/09/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Since we have destroyed the experience of solitude — the television hums, and you can chat with a hundred people online and believe you have a community — we are making it far too easy to be alone. It is now harder to risk the real friction of closeness and relationship. Why trouble yourself when you can have a smooth, deleteable friendship online with someone you need never really know?

Contemplate This!

04/02/2008
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

In his essay on the great Jewish scholar, the Vilna Gaon, Louis Ginzburg wrote that the Gaon “declared it to be a religious duty and inviolable obligation of every person to fix a certain time of the day for reflection and meditation.” Ginzburg, himself a great scholar, and the Gaon agree: both insist there comes a time to put the books away.

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