Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Sidney Greenberg

American Rabbi and Author

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him."

"If we devoted as much energy to getting away from sin as we do to getting away with sin, how much nobler we would become."

"War determines not who is right but who is left."

"A waste far more worthy of our tears is the enormous energy within us that never gets channeled, the love that is never expressed, the kindness that never surfaces, the compassion and tenderness that are never awakened."

"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."

"Death is not a period which brings the sentence of life to a full stop. It is only a comma that punctuates it to the loftier existence."

"Even while we mourn the death of a loved one, there is room in our hearts for thankfulness for that life… Sober reflection can also lead us to a more sympathetic appreciation of the vital role death plays in the economy of life. Life’s significant and zest issue from our awareness of its transiency, its “fragile contingency.” The urge to create, the passion to perfect, the will to heal and cure – all the noblest of human enterprises grow in the soil of human mortality."

"Every day we shall see about us evidence of human pettiness, greed, self-centeredness. But if we observe carefully we also see human nobility, generosity, self-surrender and genuine religious conviction and action. The cynic remembers only man’s faults – that is why he remains a cynic. The wise man remembers his brother’s virtues. Which shall we choose to remember?"

"Every one of us is endowed at birth with all sorts of magnificent possibilities and potentialities. There is a capacity for idealism, a yearning for truth and beauty and nobility, a sensitivity to the hurt of others and to the dreams and needs of our fellow man. In the hopeful dawn of youth we feel these stirrings within us and we promise to bring them to life. And yet so often as the years pass by we permit these promises to be swept under the rug of expediency. We chalk them up to immaturity and we go on to live “more realistically.”"

"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."

"From the Mahzor Hadash: There is holiness when we strive to be true to the best we know. There is holiness when we are kind to someone who cannot possibly be of service to us. There is holiness when we promote family harmony. There is holiness when we forget what divides us and remember what unites us. There is holiness when we are willing to be laughed at for what we believe in. There is holiness when we love – truly, honestly, and unselfishly. There is holiness when we remember the lonely and bring cheer into a dark corner. There is holiness when we share – our bread, our ideas, our enthusiasms. There is holiness when we gather to pay to Him who gave us the power to pray."

"God is waiting for us to stop waiting and begin to do now all the things for which this day was made."

"Greatness is a matter not of size but of quality, and it is within the reach of every one of us. Greatness lies in the faithful performance of whatever duties life places upon us and in the generous performance of the small acts of kindness that God has made possible for us. There is greatness in patient endurance; in unyielding loyalty to a goal; in resistance to the temptation to betray the best we know; in speaking up for the truth when it is assailed; in steadfast adherence to vows given and promises made. God does not ask us to do extraordinary things. He asks us to do ordinary things extraordinarily well."

"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 that we 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."

"Happiness is a by-product of cheerful, honest labor dedicated to a worthwhile task… We cannot have happiness unless we give of ourselves…"

"Holiness is a crucial dimension of daily living."

"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?"

"If we wait until circumstances are precisely right for us to achieve and accomplish something, then nothing ever will be achieved or accomplished. Neither we nor circumstances are ever precisely right."

"Is there then no reward for living a life of rectitude and uprightness? There is, indeed. We are rewarded not for our good deeds but by our good deeds. The reward for doing good is becoming a better human being. The greatest compensation for any good deed is simply to have done it."

"Life is a journey, not a destination, and happiness is not “there” but here; not tomorrow, but today."

"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."

"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."

"One kind act will teach more love of God than a thousand sermons."

"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."

"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."

"Religion is a quiet dimension of daily living; it is not a spectacular explosion."

"Shortage of listeners is much greater than the shortage of speakers!"

"Moving with the times does not mean surrendering timeless truths or abandoning the accumulated decencies of the centuries."

"Small souls help the world by what they do, great souls, by what they are."

"Some of the most sacred promises are made without words in the silent sanctuary of the soul."

"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."

"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."

"The most isolating form of loneliness is not to be apart from people; it is to be apathetic to them, to be indifferent to them, to feel unrelated to them."

"There is no security like the untroubled conscious."

"Time converts knowledge into wisdom"

"We are rewarded not for our good deeds but by our good deeds. The reward for doing good is becoming a better human being. The greatest compensation for any good deed is simply to have done it."

"We do have choices and we create our own world by the choices we make."

"Faith in God may be an elective in our university of daily living. In the presence of death it assumes crucial significance."

"Where sorrow is concerned, not repression but expression is the wholesome discipline."

"Among the humble and great alike, those who achieve success do so not because fate and circumstance are especially kind to them. Often the reverse is true. They succeed because they do not whine over their fate but take whatever has been given to them and go on to make the most of their best."

"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. "

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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.?"

"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."

"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."

"Even while we mourn the death of a loved one, there is room in our hearts for thankfulness for that life? Sober reflection can also lead us to a more sympathetic appreciation of the vital role death plays in the economy of life. Life?s significant and zest issue from our awareness of its transiency, its ?fragile contingency.? The urge to create, the passion to perfect, the will to heal and cure ? all the noblest of human enterprises grow in the soil of human mortality."