Saturday, October 31st 2020   |

Commentaries

Off the Pulpit: The Pleasure of Ruins

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

More than 50 years ago, Rose Macaulay wrote a book about the delight we take in looking at archeological and antiquarian sites. In “Pleasure of Ruins” she catalogues the various reasons human beings like to look at the remains of other civilizations, from wonder at what they have accomplished to delight at having outlived them.

Visiting the oracle of Delphi when on sabbatical, I felt the strange...

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...

Xenophobia

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

The Yom Kippur confessional known as Vidui (“Ashamnu, Bagadnu…”), is an alphabetical acrostic: a sin for every letter from Aleph to Tav. When Rabbi Jules Harlow created a matching English acrostic for his 1972 High Holy Day Machzor, he included the sin of xenophobia – the irrational fear, disdain, and persecution of foreigners. (It was joked that Rabbi Harlow had little choice but to assign...

Off the Pulpit: It’s Really About Me

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

Despite the vitriol in our public debates, what you believe is less important than what your beliefs have made of you. The Kotzker Rebbe taught that you can stand under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, and say one hundred times “I betroth you” but until you say ‘li’ — “to me” — it means nothing.

;Our beliefs are theoretical until they touch us.

We find it...

Person in the Parsha: Ekev

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,...

The Last Paper

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

For 30 years I have been writing a “Musings” column of roughly two hundred words each week for The Jewish Week. In time these columns went out electronically as well, titled “Off The Pulpit” and now appear in the Times of Israel. The Jewish Week is going digital, so this will be the final column to appear in an actual “paper.”

This week leads up to...

Person in the Parsha: Va’etchanan

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

ANSWERING UNANSWERED PRAYERS

Did you ever really pray for something you wanted? I mean, really fervently, desperately, pray hard for something that was vitally important to you?

If you did, and I think we all pray this way at moments of urgency, you violated an anonymous piece of wisdom:

“Be careful what you pray for,...

Off the Pulpit: You are not your group

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

The Rabbis ask — why is God said to love the righteous? Because their worth is due neither to their heritage nor to their family. Not anyone, they goes on to explain, can be a Priest in the Temple or a Levite, but anyone, Jewish or not Jewish, can be righteous and therefore loved by God (Num R. 8:2).

This may be the crucial Jewish teaching for our...

Person in the Parsha: Devarim

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

WORDS, MERE WORDS

I have kept my time-worn copy of Roget’s Thesaurus in my personal library since I was in the seventh grade. It was given to me by my teacher, a Mr. Zeller, who introduced me to the beauty of language and who first stimulated my fascination with words. He taught me to use this thesaurus in order to use...

Off the Pulpit: The Holy Fire

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

In December 1950, a Polish construction worker unearthing the foundations of a building found a buried cannister. Miraculously, the legacy of a great spirit was preserved in that improbable vessel. Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw ghetto, who did not survive the war, posthumously gave his teachings to our world.

Known as the Esh Kodesh, Holy Fire, his is a mystical and complex...