Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." 

-- Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


"A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, December 28, 2009


"Take away a person’s dream and take away their life."

-- Unknown

Sunday, December 27, 2009


"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime."

-- Confucius 

Saturday, December 26, 2009


"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

-- Plato

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas Spirit
Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces in the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are possible,
That even now
Unto us a Child is born

Thursday, December 24, 2009


“Every man has his own vocation. Talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him… He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea.”

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do."

-- Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"The man who has no imagination has no wings."

--Muhammad Ali, boxer

Monday, December 21, 2009


"Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone."

-- Horace, Roman poet (65 B.C. - 8 B.C.) 

Sunday, December 20, 2009


"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

-- Winston Churchill

Saturday, December 19, 2009


"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, December 18, 2009


"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and
expecting different results."

-- Albert Einstein

Thursday, December 17, 2009


"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

-- Socrates

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."

-- Carl Jung, psychologist

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


"At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet."

-- Plato

Monday, December 14, 2009


"Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet

Sunday, December 13, 2009


"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."

- Henry David Thoreau, author/poet

Saturday, December 12, 2009


"People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

-- Maya Angelou

Friday, December 11, 2009


"For an outcome to truly matter, for it to have deep value in our lives, we have to be in control of the actions that get us there. We have to be the one steering the ship—the one deciding which way to tack and when, and how much reach to give the sails. If we simply let ourselves drift toward happiness or fulfillment, or any other goal—or if we let others determine the route that will get us there or what the goal itself will be—we have lost control of our journey and can never fully enjoy or even, at a subconscious level, embrace the outcome."

-- "The Leap" by Rick Smith, pages 173-4

Thursday, December 10, 2009


“Every man has his own vocation. Talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him… He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea.”

--Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


"Pain is inevitable.
But despair is optional."

-- Brad Margus, genetics expert for the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Not?

"Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?'
I dream of things that never were and say, 'Why not?' "

-- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Road Not Taken"

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-- "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost, poet

Sunday, December 6, 2009


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

-- Marianne Williamson, author

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Friday, December 4, 2009


"I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.

-- Robert Browning Hamilton, 19th Century English poet

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What is Rich?

He was born in 1917, and his parents were poor even by the day's modest standards. Albert's mother was a Lithuanian immigrant, and his father, a textile salesman, was always in and out of work. They lived in a cramped apartment building on Topping Avenue in the Bronx. Food was scarce. Young Albert would come home from school each day praying not to see the family's furniture out in the street.

As the oldest of three--a sister and a brother followed him-- he spent from sunrise to sunset in a religious academy called a yeshiva. He had no bicycles or fancy toys. Sometimes his mother would buy bread from the two-day-old bin, spread jam on it, and feed it to him with hot tea. He recalled that as "the most heavenly meal of my childhood."

As the Great Depression widened, Albert had but two sets of clothes, one for the weekdays, one for the Sabbath. His shoes were old and cobbled, his socks were washed out nightly. On the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah-- the day, in his religion, that he became a man-- his father gave him a new suit. He wore it as proudly as any kid could wear anything.

A few weeks later, wearing that same suit, he and his father took a trolley car to a relative's house, a well-to-do attorney. His father carried a cake that his mother had baked.

At the house, a teenage cousin came running up, took one look at Albert, and burst out laughing. "Al, that's my old suit!"

Albert was mortified. For the rest of the visit, he sat red-faced in humiliation. On the trolley ride home, he fought tears as he glared at his father, who had traded the cake for a suitcase full of clothes, an exchange the son now understood as rich relatives giving to poor ones.

Finally, when they got home, he couldn't hold it any longer. "I don't understand," Albert burst out to his father.

"You're a religious man. Your cousin isn't. You pray every day. He doesn't. They have everything they want. And we have nothing!"

His father nodded, then answered in Yiddish, in a slight singsong voice.

God and the decision he renders is correct.
God doesn't punish anyone out of the blue.
God knows what he is doing.

That was the last they spoke of it.

And the last time Albert Lewis judged life by what he owned.

-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, pages 113-115

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


"A military chaplain told me the following story:

"A soldier's little girl, whose father was bring moved to a distant post, was sitting at the airport among her family's meager belongings.

"The girl was sleepy. She leaned against the packs and duffel bags.

"A lady came by, stopped, and patted her on the head.

" 'Poor child,' she said. 'You haven't got a home.'

"The child looked up in surprise.

" 'But we do have a home,' she said. 'We just don't have a house to put it in.' "

-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, page 111, "From a Sermon by the Reb, 1981"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Still Voice Within

"The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within."

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saying Sorry

Is there anyone you need to forgive at this point? I asked him.

"I've forgiven them already," he said.



Have they forgiven you?

He looked away.

"You know, we have a tradition. When you go to a funeral, you're supposed to stand by the coffin and ask the deceased to forgive anything you've ever done."

He made a face.

"Personally, I don't want to wait that long."

I remember when the Reb made his most public of apologies. It was his last High Holiday sermon as the senior rabbi of the temple.

He could have used the occasion to reflect on his accomplishments. Instead he asked forgiveness from his flock. He apologized for not being able to save more marriages, for not visiting the homebound more frequently, for not easing more pain of parents who had lost a child, for not having money to help widows or families in economic ruin. He apologized for teenagers with whom he didn't spend enough teaching time. He apologized for no longer being able to come to workplaces for brown bag lunch discussions. He even apologized for the sin of not studying every day, as illness and commitments had stolen precious hours.

"For all these, God of forgiveness," he concluded, "forgive me, pardon me..."

Officially, that was his final "big" sermon.

"Grant me atonement" were his last three words.

And now the Reb was urging me not to wait.

"Mitch, it does no good to be angry or carry grudges."

He made a fist. "It churns up inside. It does you more harm than the object of your anger."

So let it go? I asked.

"Or don't let it get started in the first place," he said. "You know what I found over the years? When I had a disagreement with someone, and they came to talk to me, I always began by saying, 'I've thought about it And in some ways maybe you're right.'"

"Now, I didn't always believe that. But it made things easier. Right from the start, they relaxed. A negotiation could take place. I took a volatile situation and, what's the word...?"

Defused it?

"Defused it. We need to do that. Especially with family."

"You know in our tradition, we ask forgiveness from everyone--even casual acquaintances. But with those we are closest with--wives, children, parents--we too often let things linger. Don't wait, Mitch. It's such a waste."

He told me a story. A man buried his wife. At the gravesite he stood by the Reb, tears falling down his face.

"I loved her," he whispered.

The Reb nodded.

"I mean... I really loved her."

The man broke down.

"And... I almost told her once."

The Reb looked at my sadly.

"Nothing haunts like the things we don't say."

Later that day, I asked the Reb to forgive me for anything I might have ever said or done that hurt him. He smiled and said that while he couldn't think of anything, he would "consider all such matters addressed."

Well, I joked, I'm glad we got that over with.

"You're in the clear."

Timing is everything.

"That's right. Which is why our sages tell us to repent exactly one day before we die."

But how do you know it's the day before you die? I asked.

He raised his eyebrows.


-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, pages 210-212

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Which Marriages Will Survive?

As just as harvests make you wise to farming, so did years of matrimony enlighten the Reb as to how a marriage works-- and doesn't. He had officiated nearly a thousand weddings, from the most basic to the embarrassing garish. Many couples lasted. Many did not.

Can you predict which marriages will survive? I asked.

"Sometimes," he said. "If they're communicating well, they have a good chance. If they have a similar belief system, similar values, they have a good chance."

What about love?

"Love they should always have. But love changes."

What do you mean?

"Love--the infatuation kind-- 'he's so handsome, she's so beautiful'-- that can shrivel. As soon as something goes wrong, that kind of love can fly out the window."

"On the other hand, a true love can enrich itself. It gets tested and grows stronger. Like Fiddler on the Roof. You remember? When Tevye sings 'Do You Love Me?'?"

I should have seen this coming. I think Fiddler on the Roof was pretty much the Reb's worldview. Religion. Tradition. Community. And a husband and a wife-- Tveye and Golde-- whose love is proven through action, not words.

"When she says, 'How can you ask me if I love you? Look at all I've done with you. What else would you call it?'"

"That kind of love--the kind you realize you already have by the life you've created together--that's the kind that lasts."

The Reb was lucky to have such a love with Sarah. It had endured hardships by relying on cooperation-- and selflessness. The Reb was fond of telling young couples, "Remember, the only difference between 'marital' and 'martial' is where you put the 'i.'"

-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, pages 142-144

Friday, November 27, 2009

What Makes a Man Happy?

Can I ask you something?

"Yes," he said.

What makes a man happy?

"Well..." He rolled his eyes around the hospital room. "This may not be the best setting for that question."

Yeah, you're right.

"On the other hand..." He took a deep breath. "On the other hand, here in this building, we must face the real issues. Some people will get better. Some will not. So it may be a good place to define what that word means."


"That's right. The things society tells us we must have to be happy-- a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all these things, and I can tell you they are not happy because of them."

"The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they have all the stuff in the world. The families who fought and argued all the time, when they had money and health. Having more does not keep you from wanting more. And if you always want more-- to be richer, more beautiful, more well known-- you are missing the bigger picture, and I can tell you from experience, happiness will never come."

You're not going to tell me to stop smelling the roses, are you?

He chuckled. "Roses would smell better than this place."

Suddenly, out in the hall, I heard an infant scream, followed by a quick "shhh!" presumably from its mother. The Reb heard it too.

"Now, that child," he said, "reminds me of something our sages taught. When a baby comes into the world, its hands are clenched, right? Like this?"

He made a fist.

"Why? Because a baby, not knowing any better, wants to grab everything, to say, 'The whole world is mine.'"

"But when an old person dies, how does he do so? With his hands open. Why? Because he has learned the lesson."

What lesson? I asked.

He stretched open his empty fingers.

"We can take nothing with us."

For a moment we both stared at his hand. It was trembling.

"Ach, you see this?" he said.


"I can't make it stop."

He dropped the other hand to his chest. I heard a cart being wheeled down the hall. He spoke so wisely, with such passion, that for a moment I'd forgotten where we were.

"Anyhow," he said, his voice trailing off.

I hated seeing him in that bed. I wanted him home, with the messy desk and the mismatched clothes. I forced a smile.

So, have we solved the secret of happiness?

"I believe so," he said.

Are you going to tell me?

"Yes. Ready?"


"Be satisfied."

That's it?

"Be grateful."

That's it?

"For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you."

That's it?

He looked me in the eye. Then he sighed deeply.

"That's it."

-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, pages 100-102

Thursday, November 26, 2009

He Sleeps in a Storm

"A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, 'He sleeps in a storm.'

"The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man.

"Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley.

"Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.

"So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed.

"He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins.

"He races to the silo. The doors are latched, and the grain is dry.

"And then he understands. 'He sleeps in a storm."

"My friends, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of 'I could have, I should have.' We can sleep in a storm.

"And when it's time, our good-byes will be complete."

-- "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom, page 93, From a Sermon by the Reb (Rabbi Albert Lewis), 1975

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Citizenship of the Republic"

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, April 23, 1910: Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France