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Posts by Rabbi David Wolpe

Wake The Spirit


If you serve God in the same fashion as you did yesterday it is regression, taught the Hasidic master, the ‘Yehudi’ (Jacob Isaac ben Asher). “For a person is always in the aspect of becoming, and not standing.” Much of life is about mastery of routine. We learn from the time we are young how to accomplish certain tasks without thought. The danger is that routine takes over our spiritual life as it takes over the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the route we take to work. Remaining alive inside is to be an ever growing soul;…

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God Is Not Your Business Partner


The first chapter in the bible in which God’s name does not appear is the 23rd chapter of Genesis. The chapter recounts the negotiations that Abraham strikes with Ephron to buy Me’arat haMachpela, the land on which Sarah and Abraham and their descendents will be buried. This is the first parcel of land that a Jew purchases in Israel. Perhaps the Torah is offering a subtle lesson. Why is God’s name not mentioned? When it comes to commerce, land and politics, people invoke God, usually to justify whatever position they would have taken anyway, but the Torah is more honest….

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Fear, Love and Sacrifice


Our sages speak of both love of God and fear of God. Fear is more akin to awe. Think of the way people respond in a movie when they first see Godzilla or an alien: they are paralyzed for a moment with amazement that such a thing exists. Similarly, we should have a sense of awe, wonderment tinged by being overwhelmed, at the reality of God’s presence. But of course equally present is the love that makes awe bearable. We are not only subjects of God’s love, but God’s eternal love — ahavath olam — as our prayers teach us….

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You Can Take it With You


As the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, Moses remembers the promise to carry Joseph’s bones to the land of Israel (Ex. 13:9). The Rabbis note Joseph’s original double phrasing to his family: “Hashbeah Hishbiah” — ‘you shall surely promise’ — because the promise is to be carried down through the generations. A commitment can be taken with you, from one age to the next, with a sense of continuity and sanctity. Indeed the oath sworn to Joseph does not end there. For Moses, who took upon himself the fulfillment of the task, would never have the privilege of entering the…

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Scars of a Lion


“You shall arise as a lion each morning to do the will of your Creator.” That stirring sentence opens the Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish code of law. It reminds us that at the heart of the Jewish tradition is the conviction that there are things worth fighting for. In a more peaceful age, it is easy to dismiss the necessity of fighting. Acceptance has a long and noble tradition, but unwise appeasement has a long and ignoble one. Everybody who cherishes some value in this world has to be willing to bear the consequence of defending that value, or it…

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Mothers


The word describing the basket in which Moses is placed as an infant is “tevah,” the same word used to describe Noah’s ark. Many commentators draw the parallel between the man who saved the world and the man who saved the Jewish people. But who made the ‘tevah’? In Noah’s case, he made it at God’s direction to save himself. But in Moses’ case, it was made by his mother at her own initiative. She fashioned a sort of ark, not to save herself, but to save her child. Moses is then rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. Perhaps the story is…

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Anger


The sages of our tradition were very wary of anger. Rabbah, son of R. Huna, said: “When one loses his temper, even the Divine Presence is unimportant in his eyes” [Nedarim 22b]. While not denying the possibility that righteous anger can exist, repeatedly the Rabbis warn against anger, which is like a boiling pot that overspills and scalds everyone nearby.  Anger exemplifies the wisdom of what Emerson teaches: “Our moods don’t believe each other.” We say things, and often do things, in anger that we would never do in calmer moments. Yet words spoken in anger cannot be recalled; forgiven perhaps, but rarely forgotten. Keeping a leash on our fury is…

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