David Wolpe
David Wolpe

Honoring the ‘And’

Can one combine Torah and secular study, religious devotion and participation in the world? In a letter written shortly before his death, Rabbi Shagar (Shimon Gershon Rosenberg) put it this way:

“It should be interpreted in the vein of Franz Rosenzweig, who described the ‘and’ as the keystone that supports the entire edifice and imbues it with meaning.”

It is easy to put up hard and fast walls and ignore the reality that everything we are and think interpenetrates, that we are raveled as rugs. As another great Jewish thinker, Rabbi Harold Schulweis, once wrote: “Beware of split thinking, schizophrenic thinking! When you are confronted with ‘Either/Or,’ think again! Look for ‘Both/And.’ Yes, there is night and light, but there is one day. Yes, there is evil and good, but one person. There are broken Tablets and whole Tablets, but both are placed in the Aron Kodesh, the holy ark.”

In a divisive time, we are pushed toward exclusions: Either this must be, or that must be. But the world is not so simple and rarely is reality so divided. As we strive to a greater synthesis and deeper understanding, honor the “and.”

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.