Knowledge Base

Professor Louis Ginzberg was the greatest scholar of rabbinic Midrash in his day, with a vast range of learning in many languages. My father told me that once, at a reception at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where Ginzberg taught, a woman approached him and in the course of discussion, began arguing with him about a point in Midrash. After a long, fruitless argument, Ginzberg said, “Why don’t we check the ‘Jewish Encyclopedia’ — would you accept that as an authority?” The woman agreed.

They checked the encyclopedia and, of course, Ginzberg was proved correct. As he closed the book, he said, “Yes, that’s what I thought I wrote.”

In our day, Internet searches and the ubiquity of information make scholarship a somewhat different enterprise. Nonetheless, the person who studies and memorizes and synthesizes vast amounts of information is different in essence from the one who looks it up. Ginzberg was not correct simply because he wrote the article, but because he had spent a lifetime living Midrash. Let your children see you reading, studying, learning. It is not enough to get tidbits from a smart phone. We sacrificed the garden not for the screen of reference, but for the tree of knowledge.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe

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.