Thursday, September 23rd 2021   |

Commentaries

Off the Pulpit: A Typical Jew?

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

The sinew of paradox runs through Jewish history. Were Jews and gentiles separate in the Middle Ages? Well yes, but there are also rules about hiring a gentile wet nurse on the sabbath which suggests a degree of intimacy between the two that would shock casual assumptions. Were Jews pious? Well yes, except that from ancient times until today we find innumerable examples of assimilation and...

Person in the Parshah: Shoftim

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“DARWIN AND THE MUSSAR MOVEMENT“

Ethics is a subject about which we all have many questions. What makes an ethical personality? How do we make ethical decisions in complicated circumstances?

Personally, there are two specific questions that have always been of concern to me. One is, “How does one get started upon the process of becoming a...

Off the Pulpit: Why I love mystery novels

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

From the moment I read my first Agatha Christie and my mother gave me a John MacDonald, I’ve been hooked on mysteries. From Holmes to Bosch, I read classic, golden age mysteries, international mysteries, noir, psychological puzzles, police procedurals, spy novels.

I’ve even contributed an essay or two to compendiums about mystery literature. There are established reasons of course: such books have a clear plot and...

Person in the Parsha: Re’eh

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

ACQUIRING FAITH“

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), invariably is read near the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the last month of the year before Rosh Hashanah. It has a special place in religious life because it is viewed as a time to prepare oneself for the process of divine judgment, which...

Off the Pulpit: Breaking the glass

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

Before the groom steps on a glass to conclude the wedding ceremony, there is a tradition of reciting part of the 137th Psalm, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem…”

The most immediate explanation of this is that stepping on the glass commemorates the tragedies of Jewish history, particularly the destruction of the Temple. So as we mark the destruction and exile, we promise not to forget.

...

Person in the Parsha: Eikev

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“DISCIPLINE AND SUFFERING“ 

As a parent, grandparent, and psychologist, I am often considered to be something of an expert on parenting and child-rearing. In that capacity, I have frequently been asked to review or give an opinion about any of the plethora of books on the subject of raising one’s children.

Like in any genre, there...

Off the Pulpit: Reason and Passion

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

The Spanish existentialist philosopher Miguel De Unamuno once explained the difference between conventional philosophy and existentialism by reworking the classical syllogism. Students in logic are taught that Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore Socrates is mortal. But the existentialist says: I am a man; all men are mortal. Therefore, I will die.

The first is a conclusion of logic. The second is of...

Person in the Parsha: Va’etchanan

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“WHAT. ME? WORRY?!“

I am a worrier. My friends and family tease me about it.

I sometimes worry about personal matters, and sometimes about professional concerns. More often, I worry about things that are going on in the community or in the world. 

I worry about the economy, and I worry about Iran’s development...

Off the Pulpit: Toothpaste and Travel

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

In my house growing up we only used used Crest toothpaste. That may seem a negligible datum, but in fact it shaped my childhood. I learned that no other toothpaste was used by smart, responsible people. When I visited another child’s house and saw Colgate, or one of the unserious toothpastes like Ultrabright (the very name suggests frivolity) I knew those parents were not as wise as...

Person in the Parsha: Devarim

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“THE PATH TO ELOQUENCE”

It is an experience common to all freshmen. One comes to a new campus, knows no one, and tries to orient himself by identifying the senior students who seem to have prestige. Then, he tries to connect with these campus big shots.

This was my experience precisely when, many years ago, I explored...