Rabbi Wolpe: “So a Rabbi and an atheist walk into a podcast…” – The Portal

Check out The Portal Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “No text is self-explanatory”
    • Every religious text, no matter how literal, requires interpretation
  • If you’re going to judge a religion, you must judge it by how it’s lived, not by its literal text
    • People who are against religion use examples of it at its worst, but you have to look at both sides 
  • Extremism isn’t always a bad thing – the world’s best musicians, athletes, and artists all practiced every day for decades to become masters at their craft
    • However, being culturally extreme can be tremendously dangerous
  • A lot of stories in the Bible can be thought of as myths
    • BUT – “A myth is something that is not factual but is always true… I think there is a lot in religion that’s not factual but is always true.”
  • People have a responsibility to live a good life because their life is a gift – it’s also a responsibility to other human beings

Intro

  • David J. Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple. He was named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post.

Books Mentioned

Thoughts on Judaism

  • Instead of focusing on the “Does God exist?” debate, people need to focus on the question: “How do you create community and interdependence that people take seriously and is life-long?”
    • People may not need religion for meaning, but they do need community for a better life
  • Judaism is not a religion, it’s a religious family
  • Eric describes himself as a Jewish-atheist 
    • “The advantage of Christianity is that it’s portable, the advantage of Judaism is that it’s familial” 
  • “Judaism never believed in the plain reading of the text”
    • The Hebrew bible means what the Rabbi says it means
      • For example, it’s hard to say that the Hebrew Bible allows for gay marriage, but Rabbi Wolpe says it’s okay
      • “No text is self-explanatory” – Every text, no matter how literal, requires interpretation
        • The 10 Commandments states that thou shalt not murder, but what is murder? 
  • If you’re going to judge a religion, you must judge it by how it’s lived, not by its literal text
    • People who are against religion use examples of it at its worst, but you have to look at both sides 
  • As times change so do religions
    • There is no true orthodox religion 
  • Rabbi Wolpe says it isn’t his job to argue that Judaism is superior, it’s his job is to argue its excellence
  • Extremism isn’t always a bad thing – the world’s best musicians, athletes, and artists all practiced every day for decades to become masters at their craft
    • However, being culturally extreme can be tremendously dangerous
  • A lot of stories in the Bible can be thought of as myths
    • BUT – “A myth is something that is not factual but is always true”
      • “I think there is a lot in religion that’s not factual but is always true”
  • People have a responsibility to live a good life because their life is a gift – it’s also a responsibility to other human beings
  • It’s possible that a person’s religious faith is genetic – some people are born more skeptical while others feel a strong connection with religion
  • Every religion/culture has this sense that they’re special and are the chosen ones
    • Ex. It would be weird if Italians didn’t think Italian food was amazing
  • People need to accept both sides of cultures/religions
    • America does terrible things sometimes but it has also given the world a lot of amazing technology
    • These days, everyone is a crusader for the black side or the white side instead of looking at all of the shades in between 
  • With every new discovery, you will discover vast realms of ignorance
  • Christianity gave us the Separation of Church and state, something Judaism/Islam could not have done
    • Because Christianity was build upon the existing Roman government, it avoid the government piece

Quotes To Ponder

  • “Tradition is the democracy of the dead”
    • We have a responsibility to all of the generations that preceded us to transmit information to the generations following us 
  • “Jews don’t listen, they wait”
  • “Focused attention is our greatest resource”
  • “Expressions of gratitude is something religion does very well”
  • “When people have no cultures in common all the talk turns to politics and politics swallows everything. And because America doesn’t have a common culture anymore, nobody watches the same shows or reads the same books… so everything becomes politics, including relations between religions.”
  • “Half of Isreal’s population comes from the Middle East”
    • Their culture, food, and music is all from the Middle East
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