USA Today Profiles Rabbi David Wolpe

From yesterday’s newspaper:

LOS ANGELES — Who loves questions more than Rabbi David Wolpe?

That’s a trick question. Wolpe has incontestable faith in questioning — about science, history, evil, tragedy, mystery, and most of all about God. They are "all questions that could open doors," he writes in his new book, Why Faith Matters.

And if "some questions had answers beyond what I could know," that would be all right with Wolpe, 50. He has encountered much of the tragedy and the mystery.

He has seen his mother struggle for 30 years with a stroke that left her unable to speak. His wife survived a rare cancer after the birth of their daughter. Then Wolpe developed a brain tumor. Four years after the tumor was removed, he was stricken with an unrelated, incurable form of lymphoma, which is now in remission.

In the past 11 years he has become a nationally known leader of Sinai Temple in Beverly Hills, a Conservative synagogue with 2,100 families. He has taught on theology and religion and science at the University of California-Los Angeles and studied Torah weekly with Kirk Douglas.

Before Sinai, he taught and wrote six other books. including a succinct handbook, Why Be Jewish?.

But he says that as he lay sidelined by chemotherapy, a question emerged: "Wow, I’m facing mortality. Is there something more I really want to say?"

Why Faith Matters is his answer. It addresses two great threats that have troubled him in recent years. The first is that the only choices on religion appeared to be cold denial or flaming fanaticism.

He was "infuriated" by a wave of best-selling books by atheists, including Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, all glibly sure that God does not exist and that faith is for fools, he says.

"What’s so appalling is the idea that there is no mystery that won’t yet be solved. That if we don’t know it all yet, we will," Wolpe says.

The other is the threat of violent religious fundamentalism that turns belief into a scourge, he says.

"The tremendous good that is done by faith in this world is sometimes overlooked or belittled. But most of those who are able to stand up to tyranny and hatred feel that they do so because they are empowered by a force beyond themselves," he writes.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in R. David Wolpe and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.