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Truths You Can Use


I am no film critic, but Daniel Day Lewis’s mastery of Abraham Lincoln inspired me deeply. He captured a man filled not only with political skill and vision, but with a deep spirituality and understanding of the human condition.

In every book I read or film I see, I try to find sparks of spiritual wisdom. Lincoln provides them in spades. Here are my top ten:

1. Courage under fire: Lincoln faced relentless criticism from his opponents and those within his own party. He stayed attuned to his North Star, engaging with critics without losing his vision.

2. Compassion at all times: The film is filled with scenes of Lincoln reaching out to those who disagree with him, speaking to them with empathy and kindness.

3. Patience: Lincoln did not achieve all his objectives at one time. He kept his goal in mind, and each decision and action pointed to his final goal.

4. Resolve: Even with compassion and patience, Lincoln never gave up on his achieving the end of slavery. It would have been much easier settle for less, especially when his advisors suggested he do so. Like the greatest leaders in history, he did not.

5. The Power of Story: Lincoln tells stories throughout the film. At first, they seem unconnected to the issue at hand. Yet, by the time he finishes them, we see the wisdom they carry. Stories inspire in a way facts and figures cannot.

6. Humility: Lincoln did not let his position get in the way of working in the trenches. His objective was so important to him that he did what he needed to do without suggesting it was somehow beneath him.

7. Communication: Good ideas and goals left unexpressed mean little. The ability to communicate them, as Lincoln did so eloquently, makes all the difference.

8. Remember your ultimate purpose: One of the film’s most moving scenes is when General Ulysses S. Grant receives the defeated General Robert E. Lee with great dignity. The Union’s objective was not to humiliate the South, but to restore the Union.

9. Use power for the good, not for ourselves: The film makes much of the public popularity Lincoln enjoyed. He did not use that for selfish ends. He used it to end slavery and preserve the union. Wherever we are in life, we need to use the power we have for purposes larger than ourselves.

10. Find ultimate peace with ourselves and one another: The film’s closing scene shows Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Addresses, one of the great speeches in human history. He says those magnificent lines that defined his political and spiritual outlook, and which can guide us still:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right,  let us strive on to finish the work we are in;

to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

By Evan Moffic,
Get Inspired. Make Better Decisions. Live With Fewer Regrets.
Get More from Rabbi Moffic http://bit.ly/U6pA1G

everything you need to know about hanukkah

1. Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas: Hanukkah and Christmas both occur near the winter solstice. They both feature light and gift-giving.

Yet, they differ in their relative importance and religious messages. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival in the face of foreign pressure. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Hanukkah is relatively minor holiday in Judaism. Christmas is highly significant for Christians of all denominations.

2. There is no one Hanukkah story: The most popular explanation of Hanukkah centers around a tiny container of oil that miraculously burns for eight days. This explanation highlights the spiritual legacy of the holiday.

The original story of Hanukkah, however, is found in the ancient Book of Maccabees. It describes a great military victory of the Jewish people over King Antiochus and his army, which was followed by an eight-day celebration. This explanation highlights the military dimension of the holiday.

3. Hanukkah is lots of fun: While every Hanukkah celebration is accompanied by the lighting of candlese, all families celebrate differently. Some give presents each night. Others do different types of community service. Others dedicate each night to teaching about a different period of Jewish history.

4. Hanukkah has special foods: Come into a Jewish home on Hanukkah, and you’ll likely smell fried potatoes. Known as “latkes,” they taste like a cominbation of hashbrowns and tater tots.

In Israel people eat donuts on Hanukkah. The connecting thread is the oil, reminding us of the miracle that occured two thousand years ago.

5. Light is a powerful symbol: Both Hanukkah and Christmas feature light. The Christmas tree is lit up, and Hanukkah candles are kindled evening.

In Judaism light symbolizes God. The candle symbolizes human beings, through whom God brings light to the world.

6. Hanukkah teaches the value of Shalom Bayit, “Peace in the Home.” Song, food and light bring families together. Every generation is engaged and connected.

Children play games, adults cook and teach, grandparents discuss the different ways they have celebrated Hanukkah. The home becomes a miniature temple, a place of sacredness.

7. Hanukkah celebrates religious freedom: The Hanukkah story begins with the Hellenistic rulers of Palestine forcing Jews to abandon their religious practices. The Jewish revolt was motivated by their belief in the right and need to practice their religion freely. Their message continues to inspire those who fight for religious freedom today.

8. There is no one right way to spell Hanukkah: Some people prefer, as I do, Hanukkah with an “H.” Others spell it “Chanukkah.”

The reason for the variety is that no English letter has the exact same sound as the first letter in the original Hebrew word. Every translation and transliteration from Hebrew is an interpretation.

I think this variety is good. Hanukkah celebrates freedom, and we have the freedom to spell it any way we’d like. 

Happy Hanukkah!

hanukkah miracle

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins Saturday evening. For eight nights we light candles and thank God for “the miracle He performed for us.”

Tradition understands that miracle as one miniscule cruse of oil burning brightly for eight consecutive nights. The burning oil rededicated the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, which had been conquered and defiled by the Assyrians.

The Real Miracle

Consider, however, another miracle: The miracle of the spirit that led the Jewish people to search for the cruse of oil in the first place.

They could have given up on their faith. They could have turned away in fear from the Assyrians, who had a much larger and more powerful army. They could have simply accepted the world as it is.

Yet, something in their hearts propelled them forward. They knew they served a purpose much larger than their own survival. They believed not in the world as it is. They believed in the world as it ought to be.

A Leap of Action

Because of their courage, Hanukkah celebrates not only the miracle God did for an ancient people. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of faith itself.

Faith is not blind obedience. Faith is not even acceptance of the seemingly impossible.

Faith is the courage to live for something larger than ourselves. It is the courage to take a chance, to take a leap of action, to work for what we know is right. That is what our ancestors did. And it is what each of us can do, wherever we are.

By Evan Moffic,

Grow Spiritually. Inspire Yourself. Live a More Meaningful Life.

Get More from Rabbi Moffic http://bit.ly/U6pA1G

 

miracle of music, hanukkah

In a few days we begin the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrates an ancient miracle.With their way of life under attack, a small group of Jews challenged their oppressors. They survived and rededicate the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.

As we light the Hanukkah candles for eight nights, we express gratitude for their victory and survival. We also, however, connect the past to the future.

Daily Miracles

One of the prayers traditionally said on Hanukkah thanks God for “miracles You performed for our ancestors and those You perform today.” Saying that prayer always makes me ask about the miracles of today.

What is happening around us that is extraordinary, inspiring, miraculous? Can we find God in the world today in the same way people did 2000 years ago?

Yes we can. The miracles we discover need not be vast or magical. They can simply express the power and possibility of the human condition.

Each of my next several articles will consider a miracle we can experience every day.

The Soul of Music

The first is music. Whatever we love jazz, country or rock-n-roll, music conveys power and emotion. It can transform our heart and inspire millions. Sometimes is miraculous.

Rabbi David Wolpe pointed this out in a passage he highlights from Vasily Grossman’s novel of World War II, Life and Fate:

“People in camps, people in prisons, people who have escaped from prison, people going to their deaths, know the extraordinary power of music. No one else can experience music in quite the same way. What music resurrects in the soul of a man about to die is neither hope nor thought, but simply the blind, heart-breaking miracle of life itself.”

By Evan Moffic,

Get More from Rabbi Moffic http://bit.ly/U6pA1G

Grow Spiritually. Inspire Yourself. Live a More Meaningful Life.


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