Sunday, August 9th 2020   |

Commentaries

Off the Pulpit: Empty Seats

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

I have a book called “Synagogues Without Jews.” It contains photographs of synagogues, many of them beautiful, where the Jewish community no longer exists. All that remains is the empty sanctuary. It bears mute, eloquent testimony to the destruction of Jewish communities across the globe.

In this week when we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, there are once again synagogues without Jews. The pandemic has...

Person in the Parsha: Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

IT’S ALL COMMENTARY

I am proud of my large library of Jewish books.

My collection, which my wife half-jokingly refers to as my addiction, began on my 11th birthday with a gift from my maternal grandparents, may they rest in peace. They bought me the then recently published Shulzinger edition of the Five Books of Moses surrounded by numerous traditional commentaries. Those volumes...

Off the Pulpit: Freedom first

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

Passover is done, but may I bring one more word about matzah?

Rabbi Simcha Bunim, a great chasidic master, once pointed out the strange sequence in the seder. Matzah represents freedom and the bitter herbs slavery. The seder begins with the Israelites enslaved. Why then do we eat matzah before maror, the bitter herbs?

His answer was that we need to appreciate freedom before we can...

Person in the Parsha: Tazria-Metzora

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“GOING AT IT ALONE”

“No man is an island.” “It takes a village.” These are just some of the clichés that are used to convey the importance of social groups, of the realization that people cannot “go at it alone.”

But just as it is vital that each of us learns that we are ultimately limited in what we can...

Off the Pulpit: A Truth of Life

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

“There was not a house in which there was not death.” The Torah says this with regard to the Egyptians, but it is also a universal truth. Sooner or later in every house in which there is life there will be death.

We avoid confronting that reality. For most of human history people died in the streets or at home. Modern arrangements have made death remote...

Person in the Parsha: Tsav

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“INCREASING GRATITUDE

There are certain phrases or expressions that many of us find hard to say. “I love you” is one of them. Another such phrase is “thank you”.

Although these words are difficult for us to pronounce, they each reflect powerful emotions and, when finally uttered, have an unbelievable impact upon the person to whom they are addressed. It is wonderful...

Off the Pulpit: This Seder Is like the first

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

When we sit down to Passover seders, we read about the oppression in Egypt and try to imagine ourselves as enslaved. We often forget that we are celebrating a holiday first celebrated before liberation.

The very first night of Pesach the Israelites were anxious and scared and knew that what was happening had no precedent in history. They hoped for a miraculous deliverance but had not yet...

Person in the Parsha: Vayikra

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

“FORGIVING FALLIBILITY”

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” These are rare words indeed, but I heard them pronounced clearly by a woman I once worked for, and whom I still admire.

She was the superintendent of a small school district just outside of Washington, DC. Several of the school districts in that geographical area were under a...

Off the Pulpit: Ancient Wisdom For A Modern Pandemic

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

The sin of the golden calf is very strange. The Israelites thought that Moses would be on the mountain for forty days and he did not come down until a day later, on the forty-first. In that single day they built and worshipped the calf.

Imagine the scene. Did no one say — “Wait, maybe he was delayed! Maybe he took a nap, or found the climbing difficult,...

Person in the Parsha: Vayakhel-Pikudei

By RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

What is life all about?

One answer to that question is that life is all about beginnings and endings. Birth and death, marriage and divorce, Hopeful anticipation and inglorious defeat.

Most commonly, beginnings are bright. Even the pessimists among us cherish new beginnings and find promise in them. A new leaf is exciting, encouraging, and full of possibilities.

Yet, beginnings...