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Shemini Atzeret=Taking Care of Your Own

October 10, 2012

In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read during this festival of Sukkot, we find those immortal verses which began with: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven …” And then we are told: “Eit lachabok v’eit lirchok machabak – there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” I have done one of them in regard to Rabbi David Wolpe. Today I am happy to do the other.

Rabbi David Wolpe is one of the leading and most important rabbis on the American scene. He is the rabbi of the prominent Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. He is highly respected not just by his congregants but by his rabbinic colleagues for his writings, his insights and sermonic ability. It was one of his sermons some years back that I felt a need to distance myself from. At that time Rabbi Wolpe made the news when he delivered a sermon questioning whether the exodus from Egypt really happened, pointing out that archaeologists had not found any proof to support its having occurred. The sermon really bothered me. Rabbi Wolpe, a Conservative rabbi, in my mind was putting to question the whole underpinnings of Judaism. If the exodus didn’t happen, then the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai could not have happened as well! It would put to lie the words of the first commandment: “I am the Lord thy God who took you out of the land of Egypt.” Without the exodus, how could there be the revelation? And I raised the even greater theological question: if the exodus never happened, then why do we Jews refrain from eating bagels for eight days? For me, questioning the exodus is to question the whole meaning of Pesach and much more.  READ MORE

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