Truths You Can Use

Among our most sacred values is shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. But what does peace mean? Does it demand pacifism? Is it opposition to war at all costs?
This issue arose in the 1930s in a dialogue between Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Buber. In an exchange of letters, Gandhi urged Jews in Germany to engage in nonviolent resistance. In doing so, he said, they should “refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment.”
Buber replied and noted that the effectiveness of Gandhi’s pacifism was limited by the brutality of the Nazi regime. “Do you think perhaps,” he asked, “that a Jew in Germany could pronounce in public one single sentence of a speech such as yours without being knocked down?”
Buber, in other words, understood that nonviolence only works on a shared playing field. The Nazis did not care whether Jews protested or not.

Their hatred knew no limitations. They simply used the German military and S.S. to imprison and murder them.

In contrast, Gandhi succeeded with nonviolent resistance in India because the British shared basic Democratic values even as they imposed segregation in India. Martin Luther King succeeded with nonviolent resistance in America because of the shared values proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
The violence we witness in parts of the Middle East, especially Syria,  is more complicated. How do you resist those who are indifferent, cruel and violent with no compunction about murdering hundreds of thousands of people?

Do you just wait for the carnage to end? Does peace simply require patience? Or does it require action?

That is a question we need to ask and answer. For a deeper explanation of the meaning of Shalom for each of us as individuals and as part of a community, see my newest guide Shalom for the Heart.

In Judaism we have a ceremony called a Bar Mitzvah. For girls it is called Bat Mitzah.

It takes place around the time the child turns 13 years old. Their responsibility is to read a section from the Torah scroll.

The particular section they read depends on the time of year.

The most difficult sections to read come from the Book of Leviticus. What teenager wants to read read about animal entrails and fertile bulls?

But Leviticus has much to teach us. We may not sacrifice animals anymore, but we do make sacrifices. We sacrifice time, money, loyalty in the service of ideas, beliefs and commitments larger than ourselves.

Think of parents—they sacrifice time and resources for the sake of their children. Or coaches and teachers and pastors—they sacrifice for the sake of others every day.

The ancient Israelites made sacrifices because of their love of and commitment to the one God. Similarly, we love what we are willing to make sacrifices for.

In fact, one of the Hebrew words for sacrifice is korban. It also means closeness.

When we make sacrifices for one another, we grow closer. And when we make sacrifices for our faith and highest commitments, we grow closer to our best selves.

Some people have a negative reaction to the word sacrifice. It makes some feel a sense of loss.

Perhaps a better word is “investment.” We invest our time and resources in one another, in our communities, in our faith, and in ourselves.

Thank you for investing some of your time with me. And you can invest some of your time this weekend in learning ways to find more balance and clarity with your family.

The final four live online events with Ann and Mark Timm (the first two filled up within hours) happen this weekend and you can sign up here. Joining me one one of them is most certainly a worthwhile investment.

happy children

If you ask a parent what they want for their children, they often say “to be happy.” I can’t argue with that.

But we also want more. We want them to be faithful, loving, charitable, honorable and fulfilled.

I know I do. That quest as a parent and as a rabbi guiding parents forms the basis for my next book, which is the early stages of publication. It releases in early September.

It focuses on ancient wisdom and its synthesis with the emerging field of positive psychology.

I tell my story of experiencing the wisdom of the Bible and of positive psychology through an ancient prayer known as the Eilu Devarim. More on that in coming months.

But one of the stories I share to illustrate the meaning of positive psychology comes from a recent book I read on the Menachem Schneerson, who was the Rebbe of the Orthodox Chabad movement.

The Rebbe once pleaded with an Israeli hospital to change its name from the Hebrew words for “Home of the Sick” to “House of Healing.”

That seems small. But the Rebbe believed “the goal of the hospital was to make people better. When somebody feels they’re in the ‘home for the sick,’ that in itself is psychologically bad.”

Words matter because they paint pictures in our brain. And the words we use influence the people around us.

You can join me on a live training where Mark and Ann Timm will synthesize much of what Dr. Gary Chapman and others taught.

They will discuss the words we use and the behaviors we model with our families as part of the Ziglar family challenge. Their joy is infectious and their wisdom priceless.

Whether you are single, married, in a blended family or grandparents—or whether you are a friend or pastor seeking to help guide families–you will find insight. You can sign up here.


Israel doesn’t have a Valentine’s day. Turns out St. Valentine was not a big fan of Jews.

But we do have a holiday called Tu B’Av—it means the 15th day of Hebrew month of Av.

On Tu B’Av couples traditionally take a stroll and enjoy the full moon.

Women tend to dress in white. Tu B’Av is also considered a good day for weddings.

But it’s not a Hallmark Jewish holiday, and that’s good because sometimes we forgot how mysterious and awe-inspiring love is.

Love is not just something on a card. Love is not just something we draw with a heart.

Love brings out the noblest parts within us.

Do you remember Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor?

In 2005 she stepped down from the Court to spend more time with her husband who suffered severe dementia.

He lived in a nursing home. At the home he fell in love with another woman who suffered from Alzheimers Disease. Justice O’Connor visited the couple often.

She admitted to being thrilled at sitting with them while they held hands together on the porch swing – because, she said, it was a relief for her to see her husband of 55 years so content, after having lost so much to dementia…

Psychologist Mary Piper in reflecting on Justice O’Connor’s selfless regard for her husband, observed that “young love is all about wanting to be happy; old love is about wanting someone else to be happy.”

I would also add: The older we get, the more mysterious and powerful love becomes.

If you desire more stories about the mysterious power of love, of prayer, of friendship, you can be one of the first to get your hands on my new book:

Shalom for the Heart: 50 Torah-Inspired Devotions for a Sacred Life.