Oct 12, 2020
Newsweek Magazine once called Rabbi Wolpe the most influential rabbi in America. He is the Senior Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and he's the author of eight books including one about King David and another gem called Why Be Jewish? I don't remember the last time I enjoyed preparing for an interview so much. I'm named after King David, but until this interview, I hadn't explored the history of my name in more than a decade.
This interview touches on various parts of Judaism including how rabbis should interpret the Bible, what we can learn from King David, and how Judaism anchors us when a loved one dies. There were two parts that I'll always remember. The first was a discussion about the concept of aloneness in Judaism. On one hand, the book of Deuteronomy says: “It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that I have set my heart upon you and treasured you—indeed, you are the fewest.” On the other, community is everywhere in Jewish life and the first thing God called not good in the Bible is loneliness — “It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18).” Secondly, I enjoyed our conversation about repentance in the Jewish faith and how you must repent after a loved one dies but also have to stop after 11 months. If this conversation interests you, I recommend his sermons on YouTube and the book I mentioned before called: Why Be Jewish?
3:15 - How Jews have uniquely struggled with their identity and the way they present themselves.
5:56 - How the heroes of the Jewish culture have changed over time and what makes them heroic.
8:26 - What makes Judaism different from Christianity.
11:39 - The interpretation of the Bible and how Judaism reconciles its eternal nature with the changing interpretations over time.
14:43 - The most meaningful traditions in Jewish people's lives and why Rabbi Wolpe sees the Jewish mourning rituals as some of the most powerful.
19:24 - Why many Jewish people converted to Buddhism in the Modern era.
22:11 - Why the decline of religious people throughout the world may indicate a decline in art being created.
25:52 - The power of a culture of togetherness and why Rabbi Wolpe believes that Judaism was unique in being welcomed to America with open arms.
29:02 - Yom Kippur and why Judaism uniquely holds a ritual of confession not only for each person's sin but also from the sins of the Jewish people.
31:01 - One of the biggest differences between classical Christianity and Judaism.
34:35 - What separated Maimonides from other prominent Jewish philosophers.
36:39 - What Heschel meant in that the collapsing of space is seen as the collapsing of time.
38:45 - Why we should always take care of our "big rocks" first before anything else.
44:56 - Why modern life and technology can cause people to lose touch with the transcendent and the world around us.
49:09 - Why Rabbi Wolpe feels that introducing children to religion at an early age is important to their understanding of it.
54:20 - The origin of the Jewish style of dry humor.
1:00:05 - What about King David drew Rabbi Wolpe to study him so deeply.
1:04:34 - Why it's impossible to change the age of a boy's transition into a man through a bar mitzvah.
1:07:01 - What it means to Rabbi Wolpe to be a Rabbi.