Book Learning

If you ask yourself whether Jews really deserve the appellation “people of the book,” consider the following: every synagogue is architecturally designed to highlight the ark, which contains a book;

in praise of the scholar in the Talmud it was said, upon his interment that, “a scroll of the law was buried today.” And for the most famous meal of our tradition, it is not enough to eat and drink and talk — one must read out of the Haggadah, which is a book.

A used Haggadah is distinguished by wine stains. For even at the moment when we symbolically re-enact the Exodus, we do so with a book in hand. As we remember the plagues, the books stand beside our plates. We clear them off to eat, to be sure. But the moment we are done, the books return.

Now I am sure that the seders of the future (or the present, for all I know) will feature wine-stained Kindles and iPads. Disputes about the proper melody for “Ehad Mi Yodea” will be adjudicated by Googling. Still, it is ultimately about the book, a bound ark that carried the essence of a tradition across lands and time to lay open in our hand as we heed the ancient rabbinic command: “Go and learn.”

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at


About the Author
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, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.