Religion and Spirituality

Religion and spirituality are two different things. Spirituality is the poetry of the soul. Religion is the prose.

You can be spiritual without being religious; and you can be religious without being spiritual. It is almost like the difference between love and marriage. Love is an emotion. Marriage is an institution. They are linked, but they are NOT the same.

Religion has its shared routine – the daily prayers and the regular rituals. Spirituality is the emotional poetry of life.


Majorities may rule, but they do not judge. This is each person’s task, and bigness has nothing to do with it.

Consider for a moment: Commerce is concerned with profit. Nations are concerned with security. Nature is concerned with survival. Only human beings are concerned with moral values, with ethics, with ideals.

Because this is true – and it is true – our task is clear enough. First, we must know what is ours and ours only. We and we alone hold the key to life. Without each of us, all is a jungle. All is darkness. We must be prepared to speak out and defend what it is we truly are, and what it is we truly represent upon this earth.

More important by far than the words we speak, or preach, or write is the life we choose to live.

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God lives where we let Him in

There will always be things that science cannot explain – the beauty of Mozart, the power of a Shakespearean sonnet, the tenderness between mother and child, the feeling we have when someone recognizes us and smiles. They can never be captured in the language of cause and effect or stimulus and response. Rather, it is in the mystery and majesty of the personal that God lives

God is dispensable only if humanity is. Think about the following: God’s hand may be a human hand, if you reach out in loving kindness. God’s voice may be your voice, if you but speak with kindness and the truth.

So, where does God live? Answer: God lives where we let Him in.

Let me give you an example. In the Bible, God commands Moses to build a tabernacle; and God said: “I will dwell in them” not “I will dwell in it.” I.e. God lives not in the building but in the builders, not in holy places but in holy lives and deeds.


In Western religions God cannot be seen. God is beyond the universe; God is not visible. Making a visual representation of God in Judaism is the paradigm case of idolatry. We do not see God; we hear Him.

Yet many of us make judgments of character on the basis of physical appearance, and appearances mislead. We also have a tendency to notice facts that confirm our pre-existing attitudes, and disregard those that challenge or disconfirm them.

Many people who are optimists and pessimists, believers and atheists tend to find that what happens, or what is discovered, proves that they were right all along. We select the evidence that supports our prior convictions. We see what we expect to see.

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I recently read an article where the author said that if I ever said NO to something, people were going to think I wasn’t nice. I was selfish. “Why wouldn’t she do that for me?” and then I stopped listening to that little voice in my head that was trying to convince me of what other people thought; and I began to listen to who I really was, telling me what I really wanted. Before you agree to do anything that might add any stress to your life, give yourself time to let the answer resound within you. When the intention is right, the answer will be yes.

With warmth and affection,
Rabbi Sally Olins DD


Without even realizing it, gratitude opens a new channel within you; and you feel more alive and receptive to the beauty that surrounds you. I know we can’t be grateful all the time; but when you feel the least thankful, that is the time you need what gratitude can give you – perspective. Because the minute you appreciate, you get out of your own self. You stop obsessing. Trade your expectation for appreciation. Look at what you have accomplished today. What you have celebrated, then, everything is suddenly a blessing.

With warmth and affection,
Rabbi Sally Olins DD


I want to share with you a story that has an inspiring message entitled “Do You Have a Tree Like This in Your Front Yard?”

A carpenter had a rough day on the job.  He had a flat tire that made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit on him in the middle of the job, and then his pickup truck wouldn’t start.

So, a friend drove the carpenter home; and on the way he sat in stony silence.  When they arrived, the carpenter invited the friend to come in and to meet his family and have a drink.  As they walked towards the front door, the carpenter paused for a moment in front of a small tree, touching the tips of its branches with both hands.  The friend had never seen anyone do that before, and he wondered what it meant.

When the carpenter got to the door, he underwent an incredible transformation.  His face was suddenly bright with smiles as he hugged his kids and gave his wife a kiss.

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There is one God; and there are many faiths that tell us that God is bigger than religion. Religions are like languages. One language does not refute or replace the existence of another. One language should not threaten another. To believe otherwise is to mistake religion for God.

The great challenge to religion in a global age is whether they can make space for one another, recognizing God’s image in someone who is not in MY image and recognizing God’s voice when it speaks in someone else’s language.

Our ultimate goal is to recognize the diversity of creation and the dignity of difference.


To be human is to be free, capable of choosing between good and evil. Hope is the belief that our dreams are not mere waves that break as they reach the hard rocks of reality, but rather a journey with hope even though the way might be long and hard.

The Biblical vision is that of time as a journey and, according to the premise, there are setbacks, digressions, false turns; but these are never grounds for giving up hope because there is always a sense of destination – a world of human dignity and grace. Unlike optimism, hope survives even in difficult times.

The name of God’s creation is nature. The name of our creation is society. Each is constructed according to laws; but they are different kinds of laws.

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Rabbi Sally - The People's Rabbi