On Yom Kippur, a Rabbi Reflects on the Generations

As his Yom Kippur sermon this year, Rabbi David Wolpe shared with his congregation a letter he had just written to his father, himself a pulpit rabbi, who died seven years ago. Among other recollections, family dinners—always at 5:30, in case his father had to return to the synagogue—stand out:

If you ask what I miss most about my childhood it isn’t the field or the basketball court, it’s the dinner table. That’s when we would get stories—everyone from Samuel Johnson to Rebbe Naḥman [of Bratslav] to your teachers at the seminary. Just the other day I told someone your story about [the Jewish Theological Seminary’s distinguished professors] Alexander Marx and Louis Ginzberg and the elevator. How Ginzberg, whom you and your classmates called “the old man” and you always thought of as the greatest scholar you had ever known, invited Marx for Shabbat. And Marx realized that he lived on an upper floor so he asked Ginzberg if it was permitted to use the elevator on Shabbat and Ginzberg said “no.”

So Marx dutifully trudged up all the many flights of steps, only to see Ginzberg stepping out of the elevator. “I thought you said it was not allowed!” exclaimed Marx. “But I didn’t ask,” said Ginzberg.

You loved that story. But you loved so many stories, relished them, rolled them around your tongue. One would lead to the next. . . .

One thing I knew would happen and could not change is that every day there are things I want to ask you. Sometimes I think I might know the answer but would still like to ask you. . . .

And then there are sudden glimmers. How often since you are gone have I opened a book in my library and discovered your notes or underlining on the pages? It brings me closer to you, although it is agonizing sometimes that I cannot ask—what were you thinking when you wrote this? Why did you read this, and did you like it? And now every time I underline a book I wonder as well: will [my daughter] Samara have the same experience one day, open this book and wonder what I was thinking?

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Family, Jewish Theological Seminary, Religion & Holidays, Yom Kippur

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict