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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Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. It is NOT knowing all the answers. There are times when we make God in our image, when we use heaven as the screen in which we project our wishes, dreams, insecurities and fears; and thus sometimes we confuse righteousness with the opposite, self-righteousness.                          

To find happiness, first we have to know how to look. Our culture has given us a very selective vision, one that renders invisible much of what is around us. As a result, it makes joy, exaltation, etc. hard to find. Sometimes we walk past it without recognizing it.

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This is a true story that my colleague experienced. He told me that he was driving down Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, on a hot afternoon in July, looking for a place to park. He finally found one; and as he was backing into it, he noticed a group of black teenagers standing on the sidewalk next to the car.

Suddenly one of them jumped onto the street right in front of his car. The boy bent down and, when he straightened up, the teenager had a huge rock in his hand.

My colleague had a sense of panic. What was this kid going to do with this rock? Was he going to throw it through the wind-shield? Should he duck?

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The 19th century preacher, Theodore Parker, reports about a childhood incident. Walking home one day, he saw a lovely pond with rare flowers in bloom nearby. He stopped to enjoy it; and he saw basking in the sun a spotted tortoise. Parker writes:

“I lifted the stick I had in my hand to strike the harmless reptile, for though I had never killed any creature, I had seen other boys out of sport destroy birds, squirrels and the like; and I felt a disposition to follow their wicked example. But all at once something checked my little arm, and a voice within me said clear and loud 'It is wrong!'.  I held my uplifted stick in wonder at the new emotion."

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On Rosh Hashanah night, the Kazaks captured the rabbi, the cantor and the president of the synagogue, and granted them a final wish before they would be put to death.

The rabbi: All year round I prepare for my Rosh Hashanah sermon. You can’t kill me before you let me present this sermon and get it out of my system.

“Ok,” proclaimed the Kazaks. “We will allow you to give the sermon.” They turned to the cantor. “How about you? What is your final wish?”

“For 364 days a year, I prepare for my cantorial presentation on the High Holidays. For this year I composed many new brilliant and extraordinary compositions. You have to let me sing them before you kill me.”

“Granted,” said the Kazaks. “And you,” they said, turning to the president. “What is your final wish?”

“Kill me first,” he said.

With warmth and blessings,

Rabbi Sally

EVEN NOW - by Ralph Marston

There is serious conflict and trouble in the world today.
Yet as serious as that trouble is,
It cannot reach all the way into your heart.
The part of you that loves and desires peace
Is at peach even now.

Even now, when there is so much violence and turmoil
Even now, when there is so much uncertainty
Even now, there is far more love than hatred
And there always will be;
For hatred quickly consumes itself
While love just keeps on going and growing stronger in your heart.

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Count your blessings and begin to change your life.

Give thanks.  Once a day take quiet time to feel gratitude for what you have, not impatience for what you don’t have.  This alone will bring you halfway to happiness.  We already have most of the ingredients of a happy life.  It’s just that we tend to take these for granted and focus on unmet wants, unfulfilled desires.  Giving thanks is better than shopping – and cheaper too.

Praise.  Catch someone doing something right and say so.  Most people, most of the time, are unappreciated.  Being recognized, thanked and congratulated by someone else is one of the most empowering things that can happen to us.  So, don’t wait for someone to do it for you; do it for someone else.  You will make their day, and that will help to make yours.

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Life . . . without love is like spring without rain. Love without giving is like rain without clouds for life, love, giving…are as one.

Life . . . without faith is like the body without exercise. Faith without purpose is like exercise without movement for life, faith, purpose…are as one.

Life . . . without knowledge is like a tree without blossoms. Knowledge without understanding is like blossoms without seeds for life, knowledge, understanding…are as one.

Life . . . without discovery is like music without sound. Discovery without change is like sound with vibrations for life, discovery, change…are as one.

Universe . . . without life is like the flesh without soul. Life without people is like a soul without motion for universe, life, soul…are as one.



A few weeks ago, I was invited to New York to receive my Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary.  When the letter came from the Chancellor of the Seminary, I was in a state of shock.  Of course I’ll be there, I wrote back!  I went a few days early to reminisce because my rabbinic studies began 30 years ago in New York.

As a rabbinic student, I always wondered what my life would be like as a rabbi; and here I was 30 years later as my career was slowing down.  It was an overwhelming feeling.  I felt so grateful as I have had the most fascinating and wonderful career.

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Rabbi Sally - The People's Rabbi