My Conversation with Rabbi David Wolpe

by on February 15, 2017 at 10:24 am in Books, Current Affairs, Education, History, Law, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

One of my favorites, David was great, here is the link to the podcast, video, and transcript.  Here is the opening summary of the chat:

Named one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of our time, Rabbi David Wolpe joins Tyler in a conversation on flawed leaders, Jewish identity in the modern world, the many portrayals of David, what’s missing in rabbinical training, playing chess on the Sabbath, Srugim, Hasidic philosophy, living in Israel and of course, the durability of creation.

Here are a few bits:

WOLPE: So as my friend Joseph Telushkin says, “Polygamy does exist in the Bible, it’s just never successful.” David does have many wives, and very strained and interesting and complex relationships with women. David has the most complicated and most described relationships with women of any character in the Hebrew Bible.

Those qualities that can be negative, in David are to some extent positive. One of the things that draws David out of the charge of simple narcissism is that he really listens, he pays attention — he pays attention to women over and over again. He listens to what they say and changes himself because of it. And that’s not a characteristic of men in the ancient world or the modern one that you can rely on.


COWEN: So again, I’m an outsider in this dialogue, but say I were thinking of converting to Judaism and I were asking you about Hasidic philosophy. Now in terms of some social connections, I probably would fit better into your congregation than into a Hasidic congregation. But if I ask you, on theological grounds alone, is there a reason why I should be hesitant about Hasidic philosophy? From the point of view of theology, what do you think is the greatest weakness there, or your biggest difference with it, given how much you like Heschel?


COWEN: How would you alter or improve rabbinical training?

WOLPE: I’ve given this a lot of thought. Let me just mention one area. When I speak to rabbinical students, I tell them all the time that the single most valuable commodity you have as a rabbi . . . you can answer that yourself, and then I’ll tell you what I think: your voice. Most people are going to come in contact with you when you speak to them. Not all of them, but most. There’ll be more people who come to your services than the number of people at whose bedside you will sit as they die.

And yet, most rabbis — most people — don’t know how to speak.

There is much more at the link, including about Israeli TV, where to visit in Israel, whether King David parallels Trump, the future of biblical commentary in a world of context-less social media, whether Canadian Jews are more likely to stick with the faith, whether Los Angeles is underrated, what is beautiful and significant in Islam, and the Iran nuclear deal and the settlements, among other topics.  Self-recommending…

And again, here is David Wolpe’s most recent book David: The Divided Heart, which was the centerpiece for the first part of the discussion.

1 Talmudist February 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

, the future of Mishnah in a world of context-less social media

I don’t know what you mean, but “Mishnah” is the wrong word here.

2 rayward February 15, 2017 at 10:46 am

Rabbi Wolpe, a leader in conservative Judaism, supports what’s called biblical criticism. No, conservative Judaism doesn’t mean what you think it means, and biblical criticism doesn’t mean what you think it means. Given Cowen’s affinity for ambiguity, the conversation with Rabbi Wolpe must be stimulating. I intend to listen.

3 Ray Lopez February 15, 2017 at 1:38 pm

The Jews are good in this area, being critical about the holy books, I think there’s something about a guy wrapping his arm in a leather strap while he reads the holy books of Judaism that comes to mind. Something about a commentary being akin to the scripture that even God cannot challenge comes to mind (or maybe it’s a joke). But just like in Christianity you have several schools, some less critical than the others.

4 Demosthenes February 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

The natural law tradition is much more Protestant than suggested. Grotius, for instance.

5 Thelonious_Nick February 15, 2017 at 11:09 am

“whether King David parallels Trump”

Hmm, let’s test this out:

“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Flynn! My son, my son Flynn! If only I had resigned instead of you–O Flynn, my son, my son!”

Nope, don’t think so.

6 Thiago Ribeiro February 15, 2017 at 11:24 am

But does Caesar parallels Trump? Et tu, Flynn? (No, I have no idea which is the vocative of “Flynn” – Flynne, or Flynnus, maybe?). Maybe he is more like Cicero: “Quousque tandem abutere, Flynnus, patientia nostra?”

7 anon February 15, 2017 at 11:37 am

Maybe there is a Western. Red River? With Ivanka yet to rebel, as Matt.

(I just watched “Call of Heroes.” Pretty good, and what seems like a Chinese cultural take on “High Noon.”)

8 JA February 15, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Read recently an old Encylopaedia Brittanica on Julius Caesar: to summarise from memory, Caesar went up against a corrupt establishment and laid the foundations of a new, authoritarian political system that resolved or suppressed the irreconcilable differences between social and political classes. This was the culmination of almost one hundred years of internal conflict and three civil wars.

9 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Good thing we have electoral and other non-civil-war means at our disposal to kick out the bums if/when they get too corrupt.

But there’s this two-party strangehold on the political system, so …

10 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 9:12 pm

… maybe a way to make it easier for third and fourth parties to have a reasonable shot at some seats would help things out.

11 Thomas February 15, 2017 at 3:59 pm

“I hate Trump so now I am against incoming Administrations talking to foreign countries. I was totally fine when Tulsi Gabbard lobbied for Bashar al-assad and when Barack Obama promised the Russian reset for help from Russia in getting elected. Also, Trump made Flynn resign so Trump should resign. Also if Trump didn’t make Flynn resign then Trump should have resigned.”

12 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 9:15 pm

There might be a less logical and more irrational way of putting things, but if there is it would take some serious effort to craft it.

13 Thomas February 16, 2017 at 1:52 am

Hmm. Seems pretty logical to me. Did you care when D’s did it? No. Do you care when Trump’s Admin did it? It’s the end of the world. In fact, now you guys are talking ‘treason’. To pretend that the left advocates allegience to the American State and its government? Ha! Incredible. Trump responded by firing the guy, something B.O. didn’t do for any of his scandal ridden executive appointees and officers. Thelonius hack is a hack.

14 Troll me February 18, 2017 at 7:46 pm

(points fingers elsewhere with vague “they did it too” innuendo …)

Your genius logic must be escaping me then. It seems more like a sequence of mutually contradictory statements intended to communicate something to the effect of “the other guys are the real hypocrites” … I dunno, that’s about all I can figure out of it ….

15 Ray Lopez February 15, 2017 at 1:43 pm

The rabbi speaks the truth: “I tell them all the time that the single most valuable commodity you have as a rabbi . . . you can answer that yourself, and then I’ll tell you what I think: your voice.”

To become a good Greek Orthodox priest you must be a good singer, since the liturgy is sung. A squeaky, mousy voice won’t cut it. Nor will a voice like Maria Callas do, unless you have the balls to back it up. Balls as in XY chromosomes (women not allowed to be priests, but they can be in the choir, in Greek Orthodoxy).

Bonus trivia: the villain in this year’s “Bachelor” reality TV series is a hot blonde Greek-Am girl, she’s LOL funny, my sister says (I don’t watch it). She’s apparently wealthy and has a nanny as a bodyguard / chaperone so obviously she’s just doing the whole shtick for publicity. Possibly she’s not even that sexually active and just faking the whole thing, not uncommon with women, though a few preview outtakes of her shows she’s pretty hot and aggressive.

16 guiness on a sunny afternoon February 15, 2017 at 2:04 pm

cf, von neuman and wolfram

17 guness on a sunny afternoon February 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm
18 guinness on a sunny afternoon February 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm

can’t say, these comments, are apropos, to the conversation, just jumped in here, and went with the flow, of a pleasant artist. on this piecemeal spaceship, we find ourselves in; making due, knitting air, keeping the tender little garden of eden going, while we figure out how to expand into that big old dead space, the friken universe. and we are all special.

19 guinness on a sunny afternoon February 15, 2017 at 2:20 pm

& u r lucky2 get this kind of observation, little papinos’

20 Jack February 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Terrific interview. Thank you. Maybe Joseph Epstein in the future?

21 another nomination February 15, 2017 at 10:12 pm

or Frederic Raphael …or ideally both at the same time

22 Lexical Mentat February 15, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Good work Tyler.

23 Ryan T February 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm

This was a really interesting interview. RDW is also a natural speaker, which maybe helps here, as I suspect he’d agree. The engineer who edited in the ending theme did a good job.

24 Daniel Frank February 15, 2017 at 11:52 pm

This was sensational! Thank you Tyler! Very impressive and informative.

25 Cliff February 16, 2017 at 1:22 am

“It’s what a great American rabbi who passed away not so long away, Harold Schulweis, used to call metaphysical racism.

COWEN: But if it’s correct, I’ll accede to it. I’m a reasonable man.”

26 Thomas Sewell February 16, 2017 at 2:58 am

Very interesting interview. I happen to be speaking in church this Sunday and am going to steal an expanded version of the part on Manasseh for the middle third of my talk. 🙂

27 Ryan T February 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Listening to the Miller pod now. Its comments are closed, but I just wanted to say that it’s good.

I began to think about who I’d like to see you speak with next.

On food, Michael Pollan seems a natural choice. You’ve seemed skeptical of his work in the past, so I’d really enjoy a conversation between the two of your. Anthony Bourdain might be interesting, though I’m less confident of this.

History. Ellis would be great. I think historians have been under represented (not represented at all so far) on the pod.

Authors. Franzen seems like he might be wonkish enough to do this pod. Beyond that, I’d encourage you to seek out science fiction writers if possible. Stephenson and Gibson are obvious choices, but I think Robert Charles Wilson or Ted Chiang could be good. Murakami would be awesome, though perhaps he’s too famous for this still new pod.

Media. Bill Simmons seems the obvious choice, though perhaps he’s too “big” or too west coast now for this new pod. I’d really like to see conversations with foreign correspondents, too, though I can imagine that might be tougher to arrange.

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