A CARPENTER AND HIS TREE

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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ONE GOD - MANY FAITHS

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

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 NOT CERTAINTY

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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THE TEENAGER AND A ROCK

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 STILL, SMALL VOICE

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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FINAL WISH

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

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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Rabbi Sally - The People's Rabbi