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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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

Rabbi Sally - The People's Rabbi