American Rabbi and Author
American Rabbi and Author
Faith in God cannot be an obtrusive idea quietly asleep in the dormitory of our mind. It has to be acted out in the arena of everyday life. Faith in God is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. Faith in God is demonstrated not in diction but in action; not in our creeds but in our deeds. What we believe is illustrated in how we behave.
It was and it is to do all that can be done to eradicate an evil thing out of our civilization? a thing so incredibly wicked that it would not have been believable of modern man if it had not actually occurred. This evil, this wickedness began with intolerance and hate in a few men?s hearts. It spread until it almost wrecked the world. Now the obligation is to remember, not in hate, not in the spirit of revenge, but so that this spirit cannot ever flourish again so long as man remains on earth. And to this end, let us begin, each of us, by looking into our own hearts.
Those who have gone before us have accumulated a precious legacy for us to enjoy, to enlarge and to transmit. Ours is the privilege to keep faith with the past, to give meaning to our present, to insure our future.
Fate is what we are given. Destiny is what we make of what is given to us. We cannot choose our fate but we can shape our destiny. And in that choice lies all the difference? We are not only shaped by our environment; we shape it. We are not only the creatures of circumstance; we are also the creators of circumstance.
Life is a journey, not a destination, and happiness is not ?there? but here; not tomorrow, but today.
Through the door of sorrow we can enter into the suffering of others. Our human compassion is kindled. Our sympathies are awakened. It can elicit from us powers of fortitude and patience which, but for it, might never have been quickened into life. Sorrow can also help purge us of pettiness and selfishness. It can, thus, bring us closer to our fellow man and help make us taller people. God does, indeed, open to us a door at the time when He closes the door of sorrow.
For everything there is a time? We do not choose to be born; we do not choose the time to die. But we can choose our way of life. We are fully born when we choose to live nobly. We cannot hope to avoid death, but we can invest a part of ourselves in the things that never die, and thus live on beyond our mortal span?We harvest what has been planted before us. The harvest of a life sustains and nourishes those who survive? In the presence of death we are reminded that now is the time to break down the walls of estrangement that separate brother from brother, parents from children, husbands from wives, each of us from God. This is the time to build up the bonds of caring that draw us closer to one another in tenderness and in love? We weep also for the days we have wasted, for the thanks we did not offer, for the tears we did not wipe away, for the gifts we did not use, for the good we left undone. Let us laugh with the hope that sorrow will teach us to do better and live more wisely in the days ahead? Death reminds us that it is always time to seek the good in each other for each other. It urges us also to lose the pettiness and callousness that diminish our stature and shrink our horizons? This is the time to keep in treasured possession our faith in the God who heals the broken hearted and bind up their wounds. This is also the time to try to cast away the bitterness, resentment and anger death leaves in its wake? Now is the time for the mourners to fight against despair and hopelessness. May they do so in the stubborn hope that the time will surely come when they will again know serenity of spirit and inner peace.
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.
Through the portals of sorrow we can enter into the suffering of others. Our human compassion is kindled. Our sympathies are awakened. Grief can also help purge us of pettiness and selfishness. It can elicit from us powers of fortitude and patience which, but for it, might have never been quickened into life. Sorrow can thus bring us closer to our fellow humans and help introduce us to ourselves.
God is in the power of the human spirit to rise above tragedy, to go on after sorrow, and even to transmute suffering into song and pain into poetry. Got is in the great gift of memory that enables us to keep our loved ones alive and to take them with us as we journey in faith toward a beckoning brighter tomorrow.
Life?s most sacred dialogue, the human soul in communion with its God.
Time: The Thoughtful Thief. Time has been called a thief. There is much truth in that designation. Time robs us of our loved ones, steals the spring from our steps, the bloom from our cheeks, the smoothness from our skins. But, if Time is a thief, he is not without a core of compassion. For everything he takes, he thoughtfully leaves something behind. In place of loved ones, he leaves undying and enduring lessons. The bloom he stole, Time replaced with lines he gently etched in the bright moments of shared laughter and somber moments of chastening sorrow. If we can no longer run as quickly as we did yesterday, we can stand today with greater poise. And while Time was stealing the smoothness from our skins, he was giving us the opportunity to remove the wrinkles from our souls. Time does something else, too. Time converts knowledge into wisdom, energies spent into experience gained. Times leaves us richer for what we have had. And Time thoughtfully permits us to use the fire of youth to drive the engines of age. We can be young and old at the same time. We can be young enough to believe in people, but old enough not to expect more from them than we are prepared to give. We can be young enough to enjoy pleasure, but old enough to know that we miss the whole point of living if pleasure is all we pursue. We can be young enough to acquire a new idea and old enough to surrender an ancient prejudice. We can be young enough to strive for success, but old enough to treasure the things that money cannot buy. We can be young enough to want to be attractive, but old enough to appreciate the beauty that is manufactured inside ourselves. We can be young enough to seek companionship, but old enough to appreciate solitude. We can be young enough to crave happiness, but old enough to know that the harvest of happiness is usually reaped by the hands of helpfulness. We can be young enough to want to be loved, but old enough to strive to be lovable. We can be young enough to pray as if everything depended on God, but old enough to act as if everything depended on us.
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.
Materio-Sclerosis ? an insatiable hunger for the acquisition of things, more things, more expensive things!
To believe in God is to have faith that He will give us, amidst all vicissitudes, the strength to endure, and the power to hold on and see it through, the capacity to translate even our trials and our tribulations into moral and spiritual victories.
A college education has great value. It does not give value to existence. It enriches it. It should broaden one?s perspectives and deepen one?s understanding. It should equip one to make a more effective us of his life and to make a more worthwhile contribution to the community. Bit it doesn?t give value to existence.
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?
One of life?s unavoidable coercions is the obligation to spend our entire lives with ourselves. We are our own inescapable neighbors. It is therefore an act of elementary wisdom to develop kindly feelings for that neighbor. You shall love your neighbor who is yourself.
To make God the vital center of our lives in the hour of triumph means to regard ourselves under obligation to return to Him a portion of the physical and financial means with which He has blessed us? To put God in the middle of life means to make the whole enterprise, the whole business of life meaningful. Unless God is at work at the very core of life, what sense does the whole thing make?
A genuine friend is not one who rehearses all our virtues. We already know them quite well, thank you. A good true friend is one who cares enough about us to call attention in a gentle way to our faults. That?s a friendship worth cultivating.
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.
One of the real perils of growing older is that we tend to think less and less. We feel that we know all the answers? The mind and the soul become wrinkled. The function of prayer is not to enable us to acquire what we should like to possess, but rather to become what we are capable of being.
Trouble and sorrow naturally make us think of ourselves. But after the first impact of the blow has worn off, our emotional recovery depends on our ability to forget ourselves. And there is no better way of forgetting about ourselves than by thinking of and serving others. The road of service leads in time to the green pastures of healing.
A Prayer for Graduates: Lord of the Universe, Dean of the University of Life: You have given us minds that can stretch with knowledge, spirits that can deepen with understanding and hearts that can overflow with gratitude. We thank You for our sons and daughters who have grown in mind and in spirit, and we are abidingly indebted to their teachers who have patiently and hopefully nurtured that growth. As our graduate go forth from this school into Your University of Life, keep them ever mindful that among the required courses in Your curriculum are firm loyalty, constant kindness, soft compassion and wide tolerance. Teach them the lessons they must learn by heart and the less the heart must learn. May they never forget that it is important to know not only how to make a living, but also how to make a life. We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. May they always remember the harvest of happiness is reaped by the hands of helpfulness, and the City of Contentment is located in the State of Mind. The whole world was not enough for Alexander the Conqueror, but a tub was sufficient for Diogenes. Keep them from any enterprise for which they would hesitate to ask Your blessings. Help them to become all that they are capable of being. May they live up to their own highest expectations and make the most of their native endowments. Help them to understand that more important than mastering any skill is mastering themselves; more crucial than controlling others is self-control. May they learn to prize integrity above luxury, principle above expediency, value above valuables, worth above wealth. When life tests their courage and their character, may they pass with highest grades. Impress upon the tablets of their minds that service is the tuition they must pay for the seat they occupy in life?s classroom. May they measure the rewards of service not by what they get for it, but by what they become through it. Help them, O God, so to live that their names may be worth of being on Your Roll of Honor. Amen.
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.