Tells Tell All

Have you ever climbed to the top of a tell? A tell is a pile of old civilizations, massed atop each other. Such hills mark the landscape of Israel, reminding us that civilization is less about building than about rebuilding.
What is true for many civilizations throughout centuries is true for a single civilization through the years. There is always erosion and collapse. Sustaining the blessings we have requires constant rebuilding. Chanukah, after all, is the holiday not of the dedication of the Temple, but of rededication. Rededication and rebuilding is constant in societies and civilizations.
Rebuilding is also a constant throughout our lives. Life is flux and change. Some things remain the same, but much requires rediscovery and rebuilding. We make new configurations of the qualities we have, much as a new culture takes the material from all that went before. In time, our lives are as tells: the new built on the old with unimagined possibilities unfolding.
There are ruined buildings, said the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, but there are no ruined stones. The raw material of societies and personalities endure. We must renew, always renew; what we build may be different than what went before, but from the top of the tell there is a beautiful view.

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


Signup for our weekly email newsletter here.

Check out the Jewish Week’s Facebook page and become a fan!  And follow the Jewish Week on Twitter: start here.


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.