Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

A Prayer for Oklahoma

prayer for oklahoma

A Prayer for the People of Oklahoma

Eternal God,

We stand in shock and horror;

Bring comfort to those who have lost–

Those who have lost their loved ones, their homes,

Their neighborhoods, their faith.

Be with them–Let your outstretched arm

Sooth them. Rebuild their hearts with hope,

And grant eternal life to those who lost their lives on earth.

Just as we are united in grief,

Help us stay united in hope.

As we comfort one another through the shadow of death,

Help us strengthen one another in saving life.

Be with us in our prayers, now and forever.

 

I am grateful for Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, from those words some of this prayer is drawn. 

To read more from Rabbi Moffic, click here. 

Another Reason to Turn Off the Television

The New York Times once featured an article about the commuter train from Long Island into New York City. Amongst the dozens of cars on the train is an odd one.

In it is a group of people studying the massive set of Jewish legal books known as the Talmud. Every weekday morning men and women gather in this car and study and debate topics that Jewish scholars have discussed for 2000 years.

talmud study

Is It a waste of time?

What motivates a group consisting primarily of corporate attorneys and financial professionals to spend 45 minutes to an hour debating ancient Jewish laws? It doesn’t seem like the most practical use of time. They could be reading the newspaper or answering e-mails.

For people of faith, it makes all the sense in the world. In Judaism study is a religious imperative, a way of discerning what God asks us to do. It is not have to be practical. It does not serve an external cause like getting good grades or learning a new sales technique. We do it for God.

The ever-growing brain

How can this ancient ideal help us? Is it a waste of time to study or engage with something that does not seem immediately practical or useful? Absolutely not.

The Jewish sages understood something that psychologists, neuroscientists and leadership experts today are just beginning to understanding. They saw that our brains can grow and change throughout our lives.

Indeed, in the late 1990s, scientists proved that our brains grow and adapt constantly. We add brain cells, and our current ones grow and rearrange themselves.

And as scientists uncovered in 2007, when we believe we can continue to learn throughout our lives, we are more likely to retain and use what we learn. In other words, a belief in our brain’s power helps make it work harder.

Can Learning Make Us Happier?

Absolutely. It may not always seem so. If we have had a long day and come home and want to relax, turning on the television may seem a lot easier than opening up a book. One brings immediate gratification. Another has longer-lasting effects.

A week later, however, we may regard spending two hours watching television as a waste of time, especially if we could have finished a meaningful novel or read an inspiring essay or inspirational passage. A commitment to learning pushes us to live for lasting satisfaction rather than short-term pleasure. It is the secret ingredient to happiness.

How to get started

First, take a look at an article I wrote on how to study the Bible and enjoy it. The suggestions there apply to many kinds of study.

Second, consider an ancient Jewish tradition. When students in Jewish schools begin studying their first page of the Bible, they take a taste of honey. This practice is meant to create an association between study and sweetness. Learning is not something we should dread. It is something we should enjoy.

Just as we can make exercise more enjoyable when we do it with others, we can also try to study with friends and family. And we can try not too make our conversation too serious or intimidating.

I occasionally see people in the coffee house studying the Bible with looks of dread or unhappiness on their faces. It does not have to be that way. When we do it well, learning opens us up to the blessings of life.

To get weekly updates from Rabbi Moffic, click here

 

The Unhappy Mother’s Day

unhappy mother's day

At my previous synagogue, I became friendly with an older woman. She told me all the time about her amazing son. My wife and I even had dinner with her, her son and his family to celebrated her 80th birthday.

A few weeks later I got a call at my office. The caller said she’d like to set up a meeting. I asked what it was regarding. She told me it was a personal matter. When we sat down a few days later, she told me she was my 80-year-old friend’s daughter.

I was shocked. “I-I-I had no idea,” I replied. “Yes,” she said, “We haven’t spoken in 15 years. She barely knows my children. I know you have gotten to know her. Mother’s Day is coming up. Can you help us heal?”

It was at that moment I realized how painful Mother’s Day can be. It is a time to pay tribute. And it is also a time to recognize. To recognize the pain of estrangement; the heartache of those who can’t become mothers; and the hurt of those who have lost their mothers.

Estrangement

Gannett estimates that 30 percent of women have been estranged at some point from their mom. This fact may sadden us. But should it surprise us?

No relationship is perfect. We say things that hurt another. We are not always present when we need to be. These mistakes are part of being human.

Yet, as  Alexander Pope once said, “to err is human; to forgive, divine.”

We resist the need to forgive. Sometimes we resist it most fiercely with those love. Mothers can be at the top of that list. We need to remember this reality when we celebrate Mother’s Day. We need to remember the pain of the estranged.

Infertility

Abraham’s wife Sarah is the mother of the Jewish people. Yet, she had a hard time becoming a mother. Her pain was so great that she asked Abraham to have a child with her maid Hagar.

Two of the other Jewish matriarchs, Rebecca and Rachel, also experienced great pain in their attempt to become mothers. They pleaded with God. Their cries are some of the most poignant and heart-felt in the Bible.

Some people may cry hard on Mother’s Day. Sometimes we think giving birth is the most natural thing in the world. Thousands of years of history prove otherwise.

Mourning

In my congregation, I always make it a point around Mother’s Day to call people who have lost their mother over the past year. The joy of the day can also remind us of the pain of our loss.

The pain is felt even if the death was expected, and even if the death happened at a ripe old age. Life is not measured by years. It is measured by the depth of our relationships. We may feel most acutely the depth of what we have lost on a day when others celebrate what they still have.

Mindful Celebration

Israeli poet Naomi Shemer said life demands we accept the bitter with the sweet. Mother’s Day is one of the sweetest days of year, and we should celebrate it. In our celebration, however, let us not ignore the pain our friend and neighbor may be feeling.

To Receive Rabbi’s free book, How to Forgive Even When It Hurts, sign up for the free weekly email list here.

Are You Making Each Day Count?

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali

Recall a great scene from the film LA Story: The weatherman, played by Steve Martin, is delivering his typical forecast. As he throws little yellow magnets on the map, he yells “Sun! Sun! Sun! Sun!” He seems exasperated that warm and sunny days are all he gets to predict.

make each day count

Of course, the next days see tremendous downpours of rain. When we have too much of a good thing, we often begin to take it for granted.

Counting is Growing

The Jewish calendar offers an antidote for this tendency. We are in the midst of a fifty day period known as the “counting of the omer.” For fifty days we say a blessing and mention what day in the cycle of counting it is.

During this period, I also say a verse from the Psalms: “Teach us, O God, to number our days so that we may a heart of wisdom.” To me that verse defines the purpose of this period of counting. We count in order to grow. We count in order to make each day count.

Is Muhammad Ali Right? 

Thus, Muhammad Ali was 100% half-right. Counting the days and making them count are not antithetical. We count the days to remind ourselves that each day counts. 

Each day we can learn a new skill, make a new friend, make a small difference in another person’s life. Each day is an opportunity to explore and enjoy the mysteries of creation. Each day we can move a little closer to the person we seek to become.

To Receive a Free Book on Forgiveness, sign up for Rabbi Moffic’s weekly email list here.

Previous Posts

In the Wake of the Kansas City Horror: The Life-Saving Power of Interfaith Conversation
This post was written with my friend and colleague, Reverend Lillian Daniel.  The late great Abraham Joshua Heschel was once asked why he devoted so much time to interfaith dialogue. He answering by recounting part of his family history. “When the Nazis came for my parents,” he wrote,

posted 1:56:25pm Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Sermon from the Mound: 7 Spiritual Truths from the Baseball Diamond
Sports are one of the great sources for spiritual insights. As a child, I remember paying extra attention when the rabbi used an illustration  from baseball or football. They helped me visualize and understand the spiritual lesson. Of all sports, baseball lends itself best to Jewish wisdom.

posted 3:53:17pm Apr. 06, 2014 | read full post »

The Perfect Diamond with a Scratch: A Story of Hope and Healing
This short story, first told in the 19th century, continues to bring comfort and healing. We can use it every day of our lives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esDr_IdrhjQ

posted 9:57:01pm Feb. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Love Wins: 3 Spiritual Lessons from Disney's Frozen
I used to enjoy walking into a home of peace and quiet. Since the film Frozen premiered, I have lacked this simple pleasure. Its soundtrack seems to play on a continuous loop every day throughout our home. I guess that’s part of the price to pay for having two small children. As a glass h

posted 4:21:04pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Date Night With God
A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year. Sustaining them is not always easy. One consistent practice I suggest to young parent

posted 6:28:55pm Feb. 10, 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.