American Rabbi and Author
American Rabbi and Author
Aristotle ? Anybody can become angry ? that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way ? that is not within everybody?s power and is not easy.
Happiness cannot be overtaken by those who pursue her. Happiness is a by-product of cheerful, honest labor dedicated to a worthwhile task? We cannot have happiness unless we give of ourselves? If it is true that we cannot get happiness unless we give it, it is also true tha twe cannot give it without getting it. Happiness has correctly been compared to a perfume. You cannot pour it on others without getting a few drops on yourself.
Life is a journey, not a destination, and happiness is not ?there? but here; not tomorrow, but today.
The eye designed for beholding virtue we have trained upon ourselves. This eye also works very well. IT looks at weakness and sees strength.
We do have choices and we create our own world by the choices we make.
At the White House Conference on Child Study, there were listed nineteen requirements, the first of which reads: ?For every child, spiritual and moral training to help him stand firm under the pressure of life.?
He had been living for decades with a woman whose heart hungered and ached for a word of appreciation ? a word which this prolific writer of words had never been kind enough to utter. Did he not rob her by failing to give her what she so much needed to have?
Life is brief, but we must determine its quality. Indeed, precisely because of its brevity, we must be very discriminating as to what we put into it.
The ledger of Democracy is the sum total of the lines contributed by each of its citizens ? whether they be occupants of high political office or humble workers in a factory or on a farm. Each of us makes a contribution to the volume of America. What kind of passages are we writing?
We want to run from unpleasant duties, from nagging responsibilities, from life?s complexities and confusions. We want to run from harsh realities, from our fears and anxieties, from an accusing conscience. We want to run from boredom and bewilderment of existence.
Avoid getting hung up on yourself. A person all wrapped up in himself makes a very small package, and paradoxically a very heavy one to carry. Your life will become most worthwhile when you find a cause or purpose or person to which to dedicate a vital portion of yourself. Your life will be as worthwhile as the things to which you dedicate it? There is no shortage of causes which can benefit from your allegiance and in turn help you find high purpose and exhilarating adventure in the privilege of being alive.
Help us to convert our convictions into conduct and commitment. Help us to narrow the gap between our principles and our practices, between our aspirations and our actions.
Life would become drab indeed and quite insipid to our taste if the years of our lives were not kissed each with its own charms and capacities, each with its unique colors and shadings. Life?s beauty comes precisely from the changing configurations and patterns of the years, from God?s great mercy in constantly closing and opening doors for us.
The moment of bereavement is the most dreaded of all moments. So deeply do we fear separation from those we love that we try desperately to prevent the very thought of it from stealing into our consciousness. When in unguarded moments it succeeds in breaking through, we hasten to expel the unwelcome intruder. It is therefore not altogether strange that sorrow finds us emotionally unprepared and perhaps even rebellious and resentful.
What has my life meant so far? What can it mean? What am I worth? Those who have discarded God will give us no comforting answers. You and I are here for no conceivable purpose, going nowhere in particular on a journey which is full of sound and fury but signifies absolutely nothing. You and I are, as one of them put it, ?Only a bundle of cellular matter on its way to becoming manure,? and life in the words of another, ?is a nightmare between two nothings.? But when God becomes the vital center of our lives, we get an entirely different set of answers. Your life and mine become infinitely precious because there is a spark of divinity aglow within us. ?Each one of us is a priceless mosaic in the design of God?s universe.? We are here at God?s orders rendering a command performance. And what we do with our lives is of everlasting significance. Life is an unending adventure towards the goal of becoming human. The cyclone of which we spoke at the beginning derives its extraordinary driving power because, as the poet said, in its heart ?is a place of central calm.? If we are to live our lives with courage, with compassion and with conviction we need God in our hearts to give our lives a place of central calm.
But even while we pray for life, we are mindful of the perils and uncertainties of life. The very spelling of the word calls attention to the vast contingencies with which life is fraught. IN the very middle of the word LIFE, there is IF. IN the middle of every life there is a big IF? Once we realize how central a position IF occupies our life as we look backwards, it takes only the most superficial reflection to grasp the role of IF in our life as we look ahead. Indeed, overwhelming uncertainty has become the dominant mood of our time.
Here is where the Divine playwright enters. God is the true Hero of the Exodus. For it is God who enables a stammering, tongue-tied Moses to be the vehicle for the greatest words ever uttered by a human being. It is God who takes an inflated tyrant and cuts him down to size. It is God who converts an oppressed, downtrodden horde of slaves into 'a kingdom of priests and a holy people.' Every year at Pesach time the descendants of those ex-slaves retell and reenact this ancient drama, making it the longest running play in history.
Life?s most sacred dialogue, the human soul in communion with its God.
The most compelling reason no one can predict the future is that the future does not exist? We have freedom of will to determine the shape of tomorrow by what we do today.
When we are engulfed by the black night of despair it is worth remembering that if we do not give up, if we cling to the precious thread of life, the blackness will be conquered by the dawn when the sun will be aflame in the east, bright with all sorts of unsuspected possibilities.
Character is distilled out of our daily confrontation with temptation, out of our regular response to the call of duty. It is formed as we learn to cherish principles and to submit to self-discipline. Character is the sum total of all the little decisions, the small deeds, the daily reactions to the choices that confront us. Character is not obtained instantly. We have to mold and hammer and forge ourselves into character. It is a distant goal to which there is no shortcut.
Holiness is a crucial dimension of daily living.
Living life at its best means keeping on speaking terms with my conscience, to do nothing to outrage it or to inflict pain upon it. When my acts do violence to my moral or ethical standards, I sustain a loss for which no pleasure or material gain can compensate me, for I shrink in moral stature. When I keep my friendship with the best in me, I achieve a serenity which cloaks life with gentle beauty.
The most fateful choices are made in tragic loneliness. In the valley of decision, we stand alone, accompanied by our haunting fears and our stubborn hopes, by dread despair or gritty faith. Yet, though we appear to stand solitary, in truth we are accompanied by the tall and brave spirits who have stood where we stand and who, when torn between ?No? and ?Yes? to life and its infinite possibilities; by those who have had the wisdom to focus not on what they had lost but on what they had left; by those who understood that fate is what life gives us and that destiny is what we do with what?s given; and by those who, therefore, grasped the liberating truth that while we have no control over our fate, we do have an astonishing amount of control over our destiny.
When we learn to look upon the humble ground on which we stand as holy ground, we have acquired the greatest encouragement we need to fertilize it and make it productive. We discover the poetry that is ambushed in the prosaic, the glory that is embedded in the commonplace, the opportunity that is hidden in the thicket of thorn bushes.