Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

A Prayer for Our Troops and Families

I grew up with stories of my grandfather’s service during World War II. The stories conveyed inspiration, humor and love all at once.

grandpa

The dedication he felt to our country remains with me, and it explains the extraordinary tears I shed invoking a blessing at a deployment ceremony here in Chicago.

I had never been asked to give a blessing for departing troops, and I did not know a deployment ceremony even existed. It was a struggle.

What can I say to men and women who will not see their spouses, parents, children, boyfriends and girlfriends for 14 months? How can I bring comfort to their loved ones?

Does Prayer Work

These questions go to the heart of prayer. Do we pray for ourselves or others? Does God answer our prayers? Does prayer work even if we don’t hear God’s answer?

I believe prayer works, but not in the way we often think. An elevator works when it takes us up and down. Prayer works when it invests our lives with meaning and purpose, with comfort and understanding.

Prayer works when it brings out our most noble, empathetic and loving virtues.Prayer works when it changes us.

The Prayer

Here are the words I shared: Rabbi Deployment Ceremony

In Judaism the highest value is pikuach nefesh, the saving of a life. We are commanded to set aside all other tasks in order to save a life in need. That is what you are doing today. That is what you will do over the next 14 months. So let us pray:

Eternal God, we give you profound thanks for all those who serve our nation. Give them strength. Give them love. Bless them with your presence. Sharpen their skills. Make their judgments true.

Help them serve with wisdom, honor and integrity. May their faith be fostered and may they answer fear with courage. May your angels hold them and guide them, May your presence give them strength, hope and faith.

And bless their families, Oh God. Their mothers and fathers, spouses and children, loved ones: all who love them and will miss them. Bring them comfort and strength.

Let them know the blessing of their loved one’s service, the gifts they bring to the world, the courage with which they inspire us all. Let them be their strength, Oh God. Let them know you are near to them and to their loved ones, giving them your love and your grace.

And be present with our country’s leaders and officers, Oh God. Give them wise judgment, commitment and courage. Let them know of your love for them and guide them in protecting the freedom, liberty and justice we cherish.

We turn to You, Oh God, and in the words an ancient Jewish prayer we say, “May God grant strength unto our people, and may God bless all people with peace.” Amen

 

To Inspire Yourself and Discover More, check out Rabbi Moffic’s free weekly digest of spiritual wisdom

A Prayer for the New Year

Beginnings are times of blessing. They are also times for reflection. As we enter the new year, let us look for ways to bless one another and be a blessing for the world. And let us reflect on what makes our lives a unique blessing and gift to the world.

birth

Every year, to help me in this task, I read a favorite prayer composed by Rabbi Alvin Fine. It pictures life as a journey with many beginnings and endings.

Underlying those moments is the Eternal Spirit, the God of the Universe, whose Presence is our greatest blessing. I share this prayer with the hope it brings blessings and comfort.

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage…To life everlasting.

 

What Nelson Mandela Taught Us About Ourselves

In late June 1997 Rabbi Cyril Harris received an important phone call. As the chief rabbi of South Africa, Harris had been an outspoken supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. The phone call was from his long-time friend, Nelson Mandela.

Mandela called to ask Harris to keep an important secret. Mandela was getting married on July 18, his 80th birthday. The date was not yet public. Mandela told Harris he knew that the rabbi could not attend because it was the Jewish Sabbath. So, Mandela asked, would you be available to my home and the week before and give us a special blessing?

nelson-mandela

Harris later noted this was one of many times in which Mandela displayed tremendous empathy and understanding. What drove this modern-day Moses? How could we withstand decades of imprisonment and emerge with a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mandela’s Secret

Mandela’s secret, I believe, is that he knew and lived the truth expressed by philosopher Frederic Nietzche, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Mandela had a why. He lived to achieve a free and democratic South Africa. He would do whatever was necessary to achieve it. He suffered. He forgave. He negotiated. He challenged. He did not give up.

A Modern Moses

Mandela was like Moses not only in the way he led his people to freedom.  Just as Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace, Mandela came from an African royal family. Like Moses, who had to flee Egypt for the wilderness of Midian, Mandela was in exile from his people, imprisoned for 26 years on a remote Island. Like Moses, Mandela also faced internal tensions and struggle over his legacy.

Moses left us with a renewed religion and people. Mandela leaves us with hope and possibility. He leaves us an example of vision and conviction inspiring a people to change the world. His legacy is not esoteric. It is immensely practical and applicable to us all. Here are three examples:

1. Look for the best in everybody: Mandela writes in his autobiography about a vicious prison guard who turned to him as he left and, for the first time, treated him like a human being. The guard said to him, “I just want to wish you people good luck.” Mandela looked for the sincerity and humanity even in those who hurt him.

2. Be generous:  As a lawyer, Mandela helped his fellow prisoners—included the white ones who despised him—when he was on Robbin Island. He even helped the prison guards. Mandela knew giving knows no boundaries, and one who gives often receives even more.

3. Forgive: Any student of history know the cycle of violence. One group is persecuted. Then they gain power and inflict horrors on their former persecutors. That cycle threatens Syria at this very moment.

Mandela prevented it in South Africa. He had the vision and influence to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that acknowledged the pain of apartheid while preparing a peaceful way forward.

It is one of the most remarkable projects of our time. And his was one of the most remarkable lives of our time. Nelson Mandela gave us insight into the best within ourselves.

May his memory be a blessing. 

To Inspire Yourself and Discover More, check out Rabbi Moffic’s free weekly digest of spiritual wisdom

Shop for Your Spirit on Cyber Monday

shpping

A seeming paradox defines Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday evening we express gratitude for everything we have. The follow days we rush out to buy what we do not yet have!

Be that as it may, some things we can buy can also nourish the spirit. Here are a few:

1. Books: Jews have been called “The People of the Book.” We believe that books reveal sacred truths that connect us with God and enhance the holiness of everyday life.

A couple of books to consider if you do not own them: God in Search of Man,  by Abraham Joshua Heschel, explores the experiences of awe and amazement by which God reaches out to human beings. “Indifference to the sublime wonders of living,” Heschel wrote, “is the root of sin.”

Another more recent book is The Great Partnership, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Sacks, an Orthodox Rabbi, challenges the idea that science and religion inevitably clash and contradict each other.

He argues that the insights of each discipline can enrich the other.

2. Travel: Experiencing a different culture and landscape enhances our spiritual awareness. We see the way others relate to God and the universe, and begin to understand both the remarkable diversity and similarity between different faiths.

3. Experiences with friends and family: A focus on acquiring things–even the newest iPad or sports car–does not bring happiness. Rather, as numerous studies have illustrated, such a focus creates greater unhappiness. It constantly reminds us of what we do not yet have.

A focus on doing things with family and friends–a meal out or a visit to the beach–can create lasting happiness. They remind of us what we have rather than what we desire. They focus on what we share rather than what we lack.

4. Gifts for others: Paradoxically, when we spend money on others, we gain. Giving deepens relationships in a way that makes us happier in the long run.

Point in fact: As a rabbi I’ve noticed that students at my temple derive enormous satisfaction from the community service we ask them to do. They see how lucky they are, and find meaning in helping fellow human beings.

While getting presents is great, giving them away is even better.

To Inspire Yourself and Discover More, check out Rabbi Moffic’s free weekly digest of spiritual wisdom

 

Previous Posts

Does Religion Cause War?
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just

posted 12:36:26pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it. Williams was a singular genius. He brought

posted 2:26:21pm Aug. 12, 2014 | read full post »

God Never Gives Up Hope: A Prayer for Israel
 I remember my first visit to Israel in 1994. The Oslo Accords had just been signed. Hope reigned. My group was greeted warmly in the Arab market in Jerusalem. The opposite feelings prevail today. We witness bombings, indiscriminate hatred, vitriol. Dozens of my friends who are there now share w

posted 10:19:40pm Jul. 13, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Happiness? Let Life Surprise You
I remember sitting one day with my  three-year-old daughter. She had a book in her and was turning the pages and telling the story. This was her regular habit. She could not yet read the words, but she could tell the story based on the pictures. I had one ear listening to her voice and the ot

posted 4:23:22pm Jul. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Do Christians Need to Learn More About Judaism? A Rabbi Responds to the Pope
In the 1970s Alex Haley wrote the best-seller Roots. He sought to find the roots of his life as an African-American. Where did he come from? What experiences shaped who he was?   We all ask these questions. We seek not only geographic roots and ethnic roots. We look for spiritual roots. Where

posted 9:50:26pm Jul. 06, 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.