American Rabbi and Author
American Rabbi and Author
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.
Spiritual income from Judaism: (1) A sense of life?s worthwhileness and high potential worth. (2) A feeling of personal dignity as a creature of the Divine. (3) An awareness of belonging to a proud people and participating in a significant adventure. (4) A high ethical sensitivity which restrains and directs. (5) A round of holidays and a system of ritual which raise existence into living and redeem life from monotony and drabness.
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.
A young man who was depressed by the evil, the suffering, the misery of the world complained to his rabbi: ?Why did God ever make such a world? Why, I could make a better world than this myself.? His rabbi answered quietly: ?That is exactly the reason God put you in this world ? to make it a better world. Now go ahead and do your part? I don?t know why God put us in an unfinished world. Perhaps life would have no purpose in a finished world.
How do I go on? The only honest answer is, ?I don?t know how to go on but I do know that others have gone on and you are probably as wise, as brave, and as strong as they.?
The challenge of life is to go on despite pain, to paint, as Renoir did with the fingers crippled by arthritis and to say as he did: ?The pain passes, the beauty remains.? The challenge of life is to be alive to its beauty, its joy, its? infinite possibilities. The challenge of life is to confront it with courage and wonder, to accept it for the precious gift that it is, to make the most of it while it is ours, and to leave the world a little richer for our having been here.
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.
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.
How does time become holy? It becomes holy when a part of it is given to others, when we share and care and listen. Time is sanctified when we use it ? to forgive and ask forgiveness; to remember things too long forgotten and to forget things too long remembered; to reclaim sacred things too casually abandoned and to abandon shabby things too highly cherished; to remember that life?s most crucial question is ? how are we using time?
The eye designed for beholding virtue we have trained upon ourselves. This eye also works very well. IT looks at weakness and sees strength.
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.
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.?