“The Vote,” the best show in town, opened at 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 29 and, after 23 acts, closed down 60 minutes later. During that one hour, speakers, actors, musicians, singers and dancers commemorated the day, 65 years ago, when the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
Republicans and Democrats may not have much common ground this election year, yet their national conventions shared one feature: Both gatherings were blessed from the podium by prominent American rabbis.
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple is officially the top rabbi in America, according to Newsweek and the Daily Beast. The sixth annual installment of the “Top 50 Rabbis” list, published on April 2, included rabbis who head religious movements, rabbis who lead political and community organizations, and rabbis known for their scholarship and teaching.
There are lots of 'drashim about Chanukah, the candles, the menorah and the Maccabees. Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe offers a new and fascinating look at the significance of the ceremonial candlelighting.
For every 100,000 babies born, 6,500 mothers die in the Badakhshan region of Afghanistan due to unavailable or inadequate medical care. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, violent conflicts over control of its rich mineral deposits have killed more people than the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur combined.
As we get older, we no longer ask so many questions aloud. Our questions become more private: Why? Why are we on this earth? Events occur, and we ask: Why me? Or, why not me?
>Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) was arguably the leading Jewish intellectual institution in the United States. It was home to a cadre of scholars whose research and publications in the areas of Bible, Talmud, history and Jewish philosophy helped shape the thinking of a large cross-section of American Jewry.
"It is not in our hands to explain the prosperity of the wicked or even the sufferings of the righteous." So said Rabbi Yannai in the Mishna some 2,000 years ago. The Talmud (Kiddushin 39b) insists "there is no reward for mitzvot in this world." We have had a long time to read and understand the Book of Job, and we know that the calculus of reward and punishment is more perplexing and agonizing than we can know.
Than we can know, but not, apparently, than Rav Ovadiah Yosef, a former chief rabbi of Israel, can know. Rav Ovadiah is an ilui, a genius of halacha.
His memory is astonishing, his range remarkable. Unfortunately, his theology is appalling.
I have never been to the Kabbalah Centre, never studied with one of their teachers, and cannot comment on their practices. My sole direct exposure was to watch a videotape produced by the center, "The Power of Kabbalah: A Documentary," from 1996, in which they claim, among other things, credit for producing the Oslo accords -- credit which they may be presently inclined to disavow. But no matter. I spent an infuriating hour reading "Becoming Like God" by Rabbi Michael Berg. If I can succeed in persuading one person not to buy this confused, contradictory, intellectually disreputable and Jewishly perverse volume it will be well worth the exasperation.
"I heard the rabbi is dying of brain cancer."
That was the word flying around the shul. I should have expected it. Rumors were rife, and they were uncomfortably close to the truth.
Last Oct. 23, I was speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, to inaugurate the new Hillel building on campus. At dinner, I sat beside my parents.
As I spoke, I felt a little strange, nervous and hot. I had trouble keeping to my train of thought. It occurred to me that I was coming down with a cold.
As I sat down after my speech, my father asked, "Is there anything wrong?"
"No," I said, and that is the last thing I remember.
Rabbi David Wolpe, the senior rabbi at Sinai temple for the last seven years, has been diagnosed with a brain lesion.
During High Holiday services at Sinai Temple this year, Rabbi David Wolpe stood in front of his congregation with a pledge card, and encouraged everyone to make a pledge. Instead of there being dollar amounts to be folded down, this pledge card had months and the words "I care. And I'm going."
It wasn't money that Wolpe was looking for, but a commitment to go to Israel.
There is no better place to understand the powerful forces and fault lines of American identity than Washington. I arrived in the evening at Dulles Airport, and my cab driver, I soon discovered, was Iranian. As we drove, he told me his life story: He had been an ambassador to Moscow under Khomeini, the man who "ruined my country."
How did he feel about being in America?
In the late Middle Ages, some Jews first banned and then instigated the burning of the books of Maimonides, the greatest philosopher Judaism ever produced. The book burning of 1232 was one episode in a controversy that lasted for some two centuries. The fight was not over Maimonides as an individual, for all agreed he was a great scholar and a pious man, rather the dispute centered on his incorporating Greek learning into his philosophy. Maimonides revered Aristotle; he called him "the philosopher." His opponents attacked him and the intellectual battle raged.
Right after Pesach last year, Ziony Zevit got a string of phone calls in Jerusalem, where he was on sabbatical from his position as a professor of biblical literature and Semitic languages at the University of Judaism (UJ).
We were together in a small room, about 10 of us. Four of us were from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. I stood with Jimmy Delshad, our temple's past president; his wife, Lonnie, and Temple Treasurer Kam Hekmat, as well as two members of an L.A. fact-finding mission, David Rubin and Dr. Mark Barak. We were bending over the scroll of a Torah, along with five rabbis, all dressed in combat fatigues. Each rabbi was scrutinizing it with an erudite eye.
As a Sephardic Jew representing a heritage of tolerance, intellectual honesty and tradition, my perspective on the recent "Exodus controversy" -- which is not rooted in anger, name-calling or popular "marketplace theologies" which have characterized certain responses in this city -- is that of the classical Sephardic Bible commentators, whose method has been described as "the persistent demand for logic."
Rabbi David J. Wolpe, along with his wife and 6-month-old daughter, arrived in Los Angeles from New York on June 30.