Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

What You See Is What You Get?

meeting-in-the-woods-1863

Once upon a time, a couple came to a new town. On the road they met a man. They asked him, “How are the people in this town?” He replied, “Where are you coming from?” They told him.

He then asked, “And how were the people in that town?” The couple replied, “They were selfish and mean.” The man then said, “And so you will find the people here selfish and mean.”

A few minutes later another couple walked toward the town. They saw the same man. They asked him, “How are the people in this town?”

He then asked them about the people where they came from. The couple replied, “They were wonderful and kind.” The man then said, “And so you will find the people here wonderful and kind.”

What we see is what we get. When we look for the good in people, we will discover it. When we look for the bad, we will find that, too. Which would we rather see?

Am I Naive? 

No, I am not asking us to ignore the bad and live with rose-colored lens. Denial is not a solution to life’s problems. Rather, I am suggesting we try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

At a recent funeral I conducted for a beloved family matriarch, her children noted constantly that their mother “always looked for the best in people.” They saw this trait as part of the reason so many loved and cherished her over her 92 years.

Looking for the best in people can take work. Here are some steps to guide us.

1. Check your instincts: Are you the type of person that naturally looks for the negative in others? If so, try to check yourself. When you see your mind immediately looking for what’s wrong, stop and think about what might be right. The power of focus is extraordinary. Use it to shape where you place your attention.

2. Greet people with a smile: A smile not only puts others at ease. It affects our own brains. Smiling releases hormones and endorphins that can put us in a better mood, and naturally make us think better of others.

3. Become more self-accepting: Are we criticizing in others what we do not like in ourselves? This tendency is all too common. We may feel embarrassed about something we do, and when we see it in others, we enact our anger at ourselves. Rather than redirect our frustration, we can name and accept it. We will feel better about ourselves and others.

4. Prepare your mind: I used to dread going to meetings. On some level, I still do. But now, before most meetings, I tell myself I am going to learn something new and move closer to completing an important project. We can apply the same technique to people.

We may notice an annoying trait about another person we are going to see. But if we tell ourselves ahead of time that we are going to look for the positive, we will be more likely to notice it. This one technique–preparing to look for the positive–can help make the dull interesting and boring exciting.

5. Be interested in others: One of my favorite verses from the Talmud is “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” What better way is there to find goodness in another than to learn from them? Life glows brighter when we have an open mind and open heart.

To get free weekly spiritual inspiration from Rabbi Moffic, click here. 

Is Paradise a Cabin in the Woods?

cabin in the woods

It’s been a hectic few weeks for me and my family. Sometimes in the midst of these days, I dream of a quiet peaceful place, where sounds are calming and life is unhurried. We all dream of such places.

But would such a life be meaningful? A poem I came across recently poses this question. I find its answer deeply meaningful. The poem is by Mary Oliver:

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees

A quiet house, some green and modest acres

A little way from every troubling town,

A little way from factories, schools, laments.

I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,

With only streams and birds for company,

To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.

And then it came to me, that so was death,

A little way away from everywhere…

I would that it were not so, but so it is.

Who ever made music of a mild day?

An old Jewish saying tells us that “Life is with people.” It is with people–in the rough and tumble of life–that beautiful music is made and true meaning is found.

To get free weekly spiritual inspiration from Rabbi Moffic, click here. 

Government Shutdown: An Optimist Against All Better Judgment

optimist

The government shutdown raises acute questions about the role and responsibility of leadership. We entrusted our fiscal and governing responsibility to people who cannot seem to execute it.

Is there a way out? Is there something  the world’s oldest religion teach the leaders of the world’s most powerful nation? Absolutely.

1. Listen: All too often we simply do not listen. We hear what another person is saying, but  we have already made up our mind. We seem to be listening when we are really awaiting our chance to speak.

Listening is not a passive act. It is a mode of communication. It shapes the way we look at the world.

Picture a person you know is a good listener. You probably respect them. You seriously consider what he they say.

Now picture someone you know just waits for their turn to speak. You probably dismiss what they say.

Unfortunately, our government seems to be filled with people in the second category.  True leaders are listeners, and we need more of them. 

2. Recognize the needs of the moment: The Book of Ecclesiastes has that beautiful series of verses: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up.”

Image: U.S. Capitol On Lockdown After Reports Of Gun Shots

When we look around us–when we see unpaid policemen at the US Capital putting their own lives on the line to protect civilians–we recognize it is not the time give up. It is not the time to blame. It is the time to act.

3. Do not give up hope: American politics has always been messy. The political parties of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams called one another traitors. In the nineteenth century fistfights broke out on the floor of the Congress. Yet, we found a way through.

If Judaism has any core lesson to teach, it is the centrality of hope. David Ben Gurion, the first President of Israel, called himself “an optimist against all better judgment.” I am optimistic  (though it takes a lot of faith) that our leaders will use their better judgment.

To get free weekly spiritual inspiration from Rabbi Moffic, click here. 

How We Turn Anger Into Holiness

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) just ended. The biblical reading for the holiday contains the famous scene where Moses shatters the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.  This act emanated from his anger at his people’s worshipping of the golden calf.

broken tablets

In trying to make sense of this text, the Jewish sages asked a poignant question. What happened to the shattered tablets? Did they just remain on the edge of Mount Sinai? Of course not! They contained the handwriting of God. They could not simply be left behind.

The sages offered a profound answer. When Moses returned to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the second set of tablets, he picked up the shattered remains of the first. He placed both the new and shattered also tablets in the Ark of the Covenant, which the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness.

Why It Matters

The shattered tablets symbolized where the Israelites had been. The new set represented where they were going. They carried both sets with them on their journey.

I also see the two tablets as a metaphor for our lives. The broken and the whole live together. They both shape who we are. No life is perfect. We have our highs and lows, our moments of shattered pieces and of divine inspiration.

Together they make us a human being, created in the image of God. Together they make us holy.

To get free weekly spiritual inspiration from Rabbi Moffic, click 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.