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Rabbi David Wolpe
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Off The Pulpit: Current NewsletterRabbi David Wolpe   "Parataxis"
by Rabbi David Wolpe


Rabbi Moshe Taub pointed out to me that of the eighty-five 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 that, "the queen died and the king died" is a story; "The queen died and the king died of grief" is a plot. Children tell plotless, paratactic stories: "and he said. And I said. And then..." 
 
Parataxis impels the reader to interpret. We are left to fill in the "why." When a sentence suddenly breaks the paratactic pattern, we take notice. One pasuk in Ruth that does not begin with "and" is "Where you die, I shall die." 
 
We read the book of Ruth on the Shavuot morning of Yizkor. Death breaks the continuity of "and." Why do eight sentences in the book begin otherwise? Perhaps because the eighth day is what happens after things are done — after the seven days of creation, the Brit Milah after a full week of life. While a usual harp has seven strings, the Talmud teaches, the harp of the messiah will have eight strings. Eight represents eternity. Life is piled on life until the "and" ends. For each sentence, as with our faithful ancestor Ruth, we find and transmit the meaning.

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Kids Today
The World’s Most Humble Man
The Angel’s Blessing
Knowing What’s Best
Returning Home
November 2008
Return to Top
God's Gift or Our Own?
Fleeing From God
A Childhood Snapshot
The Story of a Fateful Vote
October 2008
Fate and Faith
Socrates and Abraham
Hakarat Hatov
Failing Better
Coming Down the Mountain
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Restoring Wholeness
Why Faith Matters
Come Back Soon
Judging People by Potential
August 2008
When Will the Messiah Come?
Don’t Cry Out Loud
The Indispensable Community
Beast and Human
July 2008
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A Shattering Statement
Anguish and Art
Who Needs a Messiah?
Safe in Hebrew
Cellphones and Torah
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Joy to the World
Tied to One Another
Both Sides Now
Children of the Wilderness
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Titanic Difference
I'm So Proud of Me
Fads and Forever
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In Need of Mazel?
Passover and Parenting
Screens and Solitude
Stop — For God's Sake
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Face to Face
Sinning Every Day?
The Testimony of Children
Before and After
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Starting out in the Evening
What You See and What You Hear
Come with Us for Israel’s Sake
Good Fortune
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A Path for Life
Double Vision
If I Were a Rich Man
Getting Your Facts Straight
Arrogance and Imperfections
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