Musings

God Bless Funeral Directors

06/25/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

A word for a profoundly Jewish but often disrespected profession: God bless funeral directors.

As a rabbi, I have marveled for many years at the skill and care of funeral directors. My father, a rabbi in Philadelphia, would often recount how his friend, Joseph Levine, would care for those who were bereaved and frightened, and gently guide them. I have seen the same care repeatedly in my own years conducting funerals and meeting with families who had suffered a loss. Death is the most sensitive time; when a funeral director is unkind, the results are devastating. But day after day, a mortuary worker must speak with families whom he or she does not know, and be warm without being cloying, caring without presuming too much, discuss financial arrangements at a time when the family can barely add two and two.

Rabbi David Wolpe

And Then…

06/18/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Rabbi Moshe Taub pointed out to me that of the 85 sentences in the Book of Ruth, all but eight begin with “and.” Parataxis is the name scholars give to the practice of recounting a string of happenings without explanation or causality. E.M. Forster wrote, “The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot.” Children tell plotless, paratactic stories: “And he said. And I said. And then...”

Rabbi David Wolpe

Blessings Before And After

06/11/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

The Talmud teaches us (Berachot, 21a) that the requirement to say a blessing after a meal comes from a verse in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:10), and to recite it before the meal comes from a logical imperative. But the reverse is true with Torah study; the source for reciting a blessing before is from a verse (Deut. 32:3).

Rabbi David Wolpe

From Suffering, Compassion

06/05/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Virgil’s Dido declares, “I have known sorrow — and learned to help the sad.” In that simple declaration is much of the secret of human wisdom. Our own experience should move through an internal sifting process of learning and growth, and school us into a means for helping others.    

Rabbi David Wolpe

Windows To The Soul

05/28/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

One should pray in a room that has windows. In the Talmud, R. Hiyya Bar Abba cites the book of Daniel, (6:11): “and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem (he prayed).”

Rabbi David Wolpe

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few

05/21/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

People sometimes say that they have no regrets. I confess I am at a loss to understand the statement.

All of us go through life learning as we go along, as if we were taking piano lessons, but our practices too are in public. As a result, we hit lots of wrong notes and make many, many mistakes. We learn from them, it is true. Too often, since people learn from their mistakes, they think there is no reason to regret them.    

Rabbi David Wolpe

From Despair To Possibility

05/14/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

For the first time on this year’s Israel Independence Day, there were over six million Jews living in the land of Israel. More Jews live in Israel than were murdered in the Shoah.

Rabbi David Wolpe

Family Feud

05/07/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Famously, we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But in the preceding verse we are advised, “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Lev. 19:17-18). Why are we commanded to love our neighbor and only commanded not to hate our brother?

Rabbi David Wolpe

Something Borrowed…

04/30/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Once, right before Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter was seen scurrying about, trying to get a cat to enter his home. His students were puzzled — why was their famous teacher bothering with a cat, and why on the eve of the holiest day of the year?

Rabbi David Wolpe

A Name, A Soul

04/24/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

The Book of Exodus, in Hebrew, is called “Sh’mot,” or names. Yet the first extended story, about the slavery from Egypt, records none of the names of the Egyptians save for the midwives, Shifra and Puah. (Although some commentators claim them as Jews, it seems clear the Torah intends them to be taken for Egyptians). Even Pharaoh is a title, not a name — one of the reasons it is so difficult to determine which Pharaoh should be associated with the time period.

Rabbi David Wolpe
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