Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


How To Ask the Right Question (It Could Save Your Life)

In a recent talk Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, pointed out a unique feature of the Hebrew language. It contains two words for the one English word “why.” The two Hebrew words are maduah and lamah.

Why do we need two words? Because each conveys a different attitude.

asking the right question

Words Shape Our Attitude

Maduah is passive. It is used by the person who asks, “Why did this happen to me? Why did God do this? Why is life treating me this way?”

It suggests we are at the whim of people and forces outside of our control. It echoes the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, which says, our work and our dreams are “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” 

Lama conveys a different attitude. Someone who uses the word lama is not asking, “Why did this happen to me?” She is asking, “To what purpose is this event? What can I learn from it? Now that this has happened, how best can I respond?”

One kind of question leads to frustration and despair. The other leads to growth and change. One looks for someone or something to blame. The other embraces responsibility. One looks backward. The other pushes forward.

And asking the right question can make all the difference.

Saving Her Life By Saving Others

Rabbi Sidney Greenberg illustrates this truth in a story of a hospital visit he once made. He was going to see a member of his synagogue who was ill.

On his way to her room, he ran into a hospital volunteer. He couldn’t believe this volunteer was there.

She had just recovered from an awful cancer, and had gone through a divorce in the process. She had so much to be upset about, and yet here she was volunteering at the hospital.

He asked her, “With all your troubles, where do you get the strength to help others?”

“Rabbi,” she said, “this work saves me. If I didn’t come here twice a week, I don’t think I’d be able to carry on at all.”

Giving gives us life. It nourishes us. It holds us up when we feel like falling.  

The Dead Sea and the Sea of Life

We find proof for this lesson in the very geography of the land of Israel. Israel has two main bodies of water:  the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They are both fed by the Jordan River.

Yet, they differ significantly.

The Sea of Galilee is full of life. It has greenery, fish, living creature. The Dead Sea, as its name implies, has no life. What’s the difference?

The Dead Sea receives water, but does not give it. The Sea of Galilee both receives and gives.

The Dead Sea is a reservoir. It keeps its water for itself. The Sea of Galilee is a spring. It gives so that it lives. 

So can we. 

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.

 



Previous Posts

What to say to your Jewish Friends on the Holidays
While speaking at a church recently, I received an urgent question: “Is it okay for me to wish my Jewish friends ‘A Happy New Year’ on Rosh Hashanah? “Absolutely,” I said. The questioner then asked what was appropriate to say on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when many Jews

posted 5:47:52pm Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

A Prayer for Chelsea Clinton's New Daughter
When Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy married, I wrote about the religious choices they would have to make. Those choices come into sharper focus now that they are the parents of a beautiful daughter, Charlotte. Those choices are not clear-cut or absolute. Having worked with hundreds of int

posted 4:02:02pm Sep. 27, 2014 | read full post »

How To Make Peace With Your Regrets
This is the text of the sermon I delivered on the morning of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. You can Click here to get the MP3 audio recording of  my delivering the sermon The most popular musical in the country when I was in college was Rent. Perhaps you saw it. It was not as edgy as

posted 8:32:03am Sep. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Hearing God's Alarm Clock: What You Need to Know about Rosh Hashanah
On Wednesday night and Thursday, Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means "Head of the Year." What distinguishes Rosh Hashanah from every other holiday is the sounding of ancient ram’s horn, known as a shofar. It makes a scratchy, plaintive primi

posted 7:58:49am Sep. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Why We Still Love Fiddler on the Roof After 50 Years
As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question. Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as parent of a seven-year-old, I would not have been so bold. Since that first experienc

posted 6:59:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.