Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

God, How’m I Doing?

koch america

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who died last week, had a signature saying: “How’m I doing?” He asked it of passerbys at subway stations, street corners and press conferences.

Behind the question was a request for feedback. He was asking the people of New York how he was doing as Mayor. Was he making them feel safer, more prosperous and happier to be New Yorkers?

Another Form of Prayer

This question need not, however, be reserved for politicians. It is a question each of us can ask ourselves. In fact, I see prayer as a way of checking in with God and asking, “How’m I doing?”

Am I living with greater compassion? Am I treating others as I would want to be treated? Am I living up to my potential as a human being?

We need those check-ins. We need them regularly, because they can push us to arrive at a more satisfying answer. As the late Zig Ziglar put it, “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Faith is our daily way of turning to God and to one another and asking, “How’m I doing?”  

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

Does God Care Who Wins the Superbowl?

god prayer superbowl

This Sunday Americans will be praying extra hard. It’s Superbowl Sunday, and according to a recent study, one out of four Americans believe that God intervenes on behalf of sports teams. Does He?

Well, only God knows the answer to that question. If I had to guess, however, here’s what I would suggest:

1. God Does Care: God cares about what we care about, because God cares about us! But here’s the catch: God cares more about character than winning.

God is not a Ravens or a 49-er fan. God is a fan of humanity.

2. God wants us to care about the right things: Vinci Lombardi famously said that winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. But did he really believe it?

If winning is the only thing, then cheating is fine as long as you can get away with it. If winning is the only thing, then taking illegal drugs is fine as long as nobody knows. If winning is the only thing, then the smartest strategy would always be to try to injure the other team’s best player.

Winning is important. It’s very important. But it’s not the only thing.

3. God wants us to enjoy ourselves: Superbowl Sunday can be lots of fun. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family and watch great athletes work hard to achieve the ultimate championship.

In Judaism, God does not desire asceticism. We have no tradition of hermits or monks. God desires engagement with life. The classic Jewish toast is l’chayim, to life.

The Superbowl is a time to celebrate a great tradition that brings us together. We may take different sides, but we play in the same game of life.

By Evan Moffic

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

Are You Stuck On A Bridge?

Certain metaphors capture the imagination. Among the most powerful in Judaism comes from an 18th century Rabbi named Nachman.

“The whole world,” he said, “is a narrow bridge. And the most important part is not to be afraid!” 

This saying has been set to music. It has been committed to memory by thousands. It has been the subject of numerous articles and even books. What does it mean? 

This question challenges me now because I just returned from the town where Rabbi Nachman spent the final months of his life. It was in a massive park in this town that he encountered the bridge that led to this saying. I took the picture of it above. 
Here are a few of the many possible interpretations:

1. Fear is looking down for too long: We can look around us and become paralyzed by fear. It is as if we are crossing a bridge and we look down and see the rushing water and jagged rocks below.

If we let thoughts center on those fears, we do not move. We do not live. Thus, the most important part of life is not letting those fears consume our attention. The secret to crossing the bridge is not looking down for too long.

2. Life is a journey of growth: We are constantly crossing from one state of mind, from one perspective, to another. In other words, we are always growing. Such growth can be scary.

My five-year-old daughter, for example, is excited about her upcoming birthday, but she also confessed to me recently that she is scared. Being six represents new challenges, new teachers, a new school.

Fear can stop us from crossing from who we are to who we are meant to be.

3. Transforming fear is the key to life: Rabbi Nachman believed that a life force drives each of us. We want to move forward. In spiritual terms, we yearn to move closer to God.

Fear is what stops us. It weakens the life force. It leads to self-doubt and despair. Thus, to realize our life purpose, we need to overcome it.

This is easier said than done. We cannot wish fear away. We stand on a narrow bridge.

The first step to crossing it is faith. Faith in our ability to do so, faith that the bridge will hold, faith that God beckons to us from the other side.

What do you think this saying means? How have you dealt with fear in your own life?

The One Unmentioned Issue in President Obama’s Inauguration

syria moral issue

One of the Bible’s most resounding commandments is “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse lately.

I’ve thought about it in the context of gun violence. But it’s also challenged me on a deeper level. Does anyone care about the bloodshed happening in Syria?  

It Matters

While admitting lack of knowledge of the variables of foreign policy, I was saddened that President Obama did not mention it in his otherwise moving inaugural address.

Who will speak up for the tens of thousands of students and families slaughtered by one dictator? Are they our neighbors? And if so, can we continue to stand idly by? 

Some might say that they are not our neighbors. They live in a different part of the world, with different rules and cultures. We only create more problems when we get involved in other people’s affairs. 

The Last Best Hope of Man

I respect that point of view. Yet, we can still speak out. American influence does not rest solely in tanks and dollars. It derives from our moral stature, our history as what Abraham Lincoln called the “last best hope of man on earth.” 

I write not as a diplomat, soldier or politician. Their points of view must shape our thinking.

Yet, I speak as someone who knows that so many failed to speak out when millions were slaughtered in Nazi Germany, in Armenia, in Rwanda. How can we stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds? 

Love Your Neighbor

How do we know the Syrians are our neighbors? The answer can be found in a famous debate in the Talmud, the book of Jewish law, written 1500 years ago. 

Quoting the biblical verse, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the talmudic sages asked the question, “Who is our neighbor? Is it just someone who lives in the same community? Is it someone of our religion or ethnicity?” 

Their answer: Your neighbor is your fellow human being, created in the image of God. 

God Is Bigger Than Any One Religion

In other words, God is bigger than any one religion. God is larger than any one group. Each person created in the image of God is our neighbor. 

We have responsibilities to our neighbors. When we feel their pain, we begin to open our hearts. It’s time to open our hearts to Syria. It’s time to speak out. 

By Evan Moffic

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

 

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