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Off The Pulpit: Current NewsletterRabbi David Wolpe   "The Story of Rabbi Hiyya"
by Rabbi David Wolpe

Judaism may seem abstract, but the things that keep it alive are very concrete. If you cannot pay for food and clothes, for the lights and the rooms, the desks and the books, the ideas have nowhere to take root. This deep truth is expressed in a powerful story about Rabbi Hiyya. 
The Talmud relates that once in frustration Rabbi Hanina said to Rabbi Hiyya, "How can you argue with me? If the Torah were ever forgotten from Israel, I could reconstruct it with my logic." Rabbi Hiyya’s reply? "Perhaps, but I ensure it will not be lost. I cultivate flax, spin thread, twist ropes, and prepare traps by means of which I catch deer. The flesh of these I distribute among poor orphans, and I use the hides to make parchment, on which I write the Torah. Provided with this I go to places where there are no teachers, and instruct the children" (Ket. 103b). 
Rabbi Hiyya reminds us that Torah requires a practical bent. Synagogues and schools depend upon contributions. Ideas need homes just as people do. We can understand why the author of the Mishna, Rabbi Judah the Prince, exclaimed "How great are the works of Rabbi Hiyya!" 

pdf filedownload here

pdfThe Story of Rabbi Hiyya

Judaism may seem abstract, but the things that keep it alive are very concrete. If you cannot pay for food and clothes, for the lights and the rooms, the desks and the books, the ideas have nowhere to take root. This deep truth is expressed in a powerful story about Rabbi Hiyya.  

  ...click here to read more

pdfThe Jewish Thing to Do

Jews venerate memory. So important is memory to Jews that one characterization of God in our prayers is Zochair kol Hanishkachot — the one who remembers everything forgotten. To be God is to have the gift of perfect memory.  

  ...click here to read more


Mark Twain wrote of his experience in church: "I couldn't wait for him to get through. I had four hundred dollars in my pocket. I wanted to give that and borrow more to give. You could see greenbacks in every eye. But he didn't pass the plate, and it grew hotter and we grew sleepier. My enthusiasm went down, down, down — $100 at a time, till finally when the plate came round I stole 10 cents out of it." 

  ...click here to read more










pdfMoses Did Not Take a Selife

When Moses came down from Sinai, the Torah teaches, "He did not know that his face was aglow (Ex. 34:29)." 

This is one of the most inspiring verses in the Torah, awaiting our age to reveal its full depth. Today the slightest sliver of charisma is noted, celebrated and selfied. We are all acutely conscious of our gifts, and encouraged not only to exercise them, but to trumpet their existence to the world. If our faces were glowing, it would be on twitter before the veil lowered.  

  ...click here to read more

pdfMartin Gilbert, in Memoriam

Martin Gilbert, who recently passed away, completed the official biography of Winston Churchill and wrote many other books on Jewish, general, and British history. But he was also an extraordinary mensch. I experienced his kindness myself.

  ...click here to read more

pdfLimp, Skip, Fly

The Hebrew word "Pesach" denotes a holiday, and refers to the angel of death skipping over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. But the same word that means skipping also means "lame." Hidden in that similarity is a deep lesson. 

  ...click here to read more








pdfAstonishing Endurance

History can change by very slim margins: had Blucher been a little late to Waterloo or, as Pascal put it, had Cleopatra's nose been longer, the world would have been different. 

  ...click here to read more

pdfIs Judaism Optimistic?

The philosopher Schopenhauer criticized Judaism for being an optimistic religion. One could make a case for Judaism's pessimism based on a history of suffering, or even on certain verses from the Tanach, (e.g. Ecclesiastes 7:1: "the day of death is better than the day of birth"). Nonetheless Schopenhauer was right. Judaism is, in the end, optimistic.

  ...click here to read more

pdfHow Much $$$ Do You Need?

In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Tolstoy tells of a man who discovers that for a small fee, he can have as much land as he can walk around in a single day. Driven by greed, the man wakes early, walks so far that he cannot get back to his starting point, and in the end dies of a heart attack brought on by the effort. He is buried in a six foot plot of land, thus ironically answering the title's question. 

  ...click here to read more


pdfWatching the Detectives

I am a great fan of mystery novels. I have read more than I can count, along with books about the history of the genre, and have many favorites. Part of the joy is that mysteries both illuminate extremes of human character and satisfy our craving for justice, usually with a clever puzzle thrown in. From Poe's Dupin, often reckoned the first fictional detective, through Holmes and the golden age of Bentley, Christie, and up to Rex Stout, PD James, Connolly and Jo Nesbo today, the detective usually represents, however imperfectly, the thirst for what is right. 

...click here to read more











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