- Religion and Philosophy
Inspirational Quotations by Jewish Authors #1
TOPICS: Ambition; Attitude; Courage; Defeat; Desire; Discouragement; Dreams (meaning Goals); Enthusiasm; Failure; Goals; Greatness; Ideals; Imagination; Luck; Opportunity.
The man who fears opposition is the drone in the hive of humanity. As a thinker has said, “If you would avoid criticism, say nothing, be nothing, do nothing.” Also, very often, those who prate about having the courage of conviction but have the courage of convention, and are satisfied to do only what countless others are doing. Ambition makes opportunity, and when these two come together they “make good.” If you cultivate your courage of conviction you have an asset that yields the dividends of achievement.
---Sophie Irene Loeb, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Sept. 3, 1914.
I hope that every one of you will have the ambition to go beyond the mere attainment of self-support. By endowment—by divine endowment—you are surely capable of more than this. … Education means breadth and depths of interest and sympathy. Be true to yourself. … Always be true to yourself and be individual. There are already too many “echoes” in the world. Give the world your best, and your best will come back to you.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., June 26, 1914.
Many people fail because they are excessive in ambition. They would be helped if they could be influenced to see that success and happiness lie in doing even an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., March 30, 1932.
One of the secrets of success in life is to be found in loftiness of ambition. A great life is the product of a high aim. A high aim is realized by fidelity of labor, by truth of conduct, and by lofty thoughts of one’s sacred mission on earth. And a high aim reveals larger possibilities for you. The masses of humanity, sometimes called derogatorily the human herd, begin their life and continue to live it umambitiously. That is why they don’t amount to much in the social world. And they feel it. Their tame mediocrity of existence is the natural sequence to their lack of ambition.
If you do not aim at reaching the highest round on the ladder of achievement, you will never get at the midway round; and if you seek the midway round, you will remain at the bottom. Ponder this lesson seriously! Aspire after the superlative of attainment and you will likely realize the comparative; set for after the comparative and you will stay at the positive. Quarles has his own way of saying it: “Be always displeased at what thou art not; for where thou hast pleased thyself, there thou abides.” Note that! …
Aspire after the best, the highest, the noblest, the loftiest, the holiest! If you are exceptionally talented you will not doubt get on the highest height of achievement and usefulness. You will erect a monument whereon is inscribed Greatness. If you are “an average,” you will nevertheless be assured of a comfortable and honorable life.
To stand upon the height of achievement of which you are capable, you must become a specialist. Our age is one of specialists. Out of all the possible great things for you, select the one that is most possible for you to do. Isolate it; then aim with all your might and main to accomplish it to perfection degree. You can if you will. You can, if you are one hundred percent normal. It calls, of course, for a dogged determination. All possibilities are yours, if you will but have them. Are you perfectly normal? Do you have stamina in you? Do you have backbone? Do you have pride? Do you really care for your best interest? Do you honestly desire to rise in the world? Do you really feel the nobility of being a man, or of being a woman? If so, go ahead and realize your lofty dream. It is observed by Cicero that men of the greatest and most shining parts are most actuated by ambition.
But this remember! Great achievement is in perfect harmony with the Divine will. If you are not ready to accept this truism, you will by and by learn it in the school of experience at considerable cost. To steep your ship successfully to her high destination amidst the disturbing and confusing social waves, you need the aid of a Power higher than human. From that Power, if friendly to you, you will derive force, poise, patience, steadiness of aim, calmness of mind, and courage which are essential to the accomplishment of your enterprisel.
---Isaac A. Hadad, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Feb. 18, 1921.
Lofty ambition—what a splendid vision! In order to make your honorable work in the world you have got to reject mediocrity of attainment, and to soar to the heights of achievement. This is one of the great secrets of success. True, not everyone can reach the highest rung on the ladder of success; but if that be not aimed at, the one lower will never be reached. In all lines of endeavor, the aim should be superlative in order to secure the comparative; but if you set out from the very start seeking out the comparative, you are most likely to remain stationary at the positive degree. Said the philosopher: “The better most of us may reach, but not the best; but no one ever found the better who did not aim at the best.”
Seek then the highest, the noblest, the best. Aim to become not mediocre. Don’t be average. Don’t be commonplace. Remember always, that superiority is to be your goal.
But one may well say: “Well, it may be an easy thing to dream of big things, but really very hard to attain. How can I, you argue, humble and with no push or influence behind me, hope to become eminent in the teeth of cutthroat competition? The answer to this question is the denunciation of self for a higher self. Aspire, dream, dare, achieve—not for the satisfaction of selfish desires, but for the relief and betterment of mankind and for the glory of God. This is what makes the difference between the strong and the weak. It is abiding faith in the Supreme. Unfortunate indeed are those who lack it! How tame, insignificant, and ultimately empty is life to them! Theirs is a partial, fractional part of life. Self-reliance—that vital factor in life’s success—is begotten only of God-reliance. Human power is too weak and passing to be relied on. But when it receives, through faith in God, constant supply from the heavenly power, then it assumes a new proportion by its transformation from the human into the divine. Aim at the highest! But in reaching it, believe that it is not for your own self you are striving, but rather for an infinitely higher self, and that is God.
---Isaac A. Hadad, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Jan. 6, 1922.
The more heated our reactions to a problem or subject the more, I think, we should suspect our motives and judgment. If we are unable to give a respectful hearing and consideration to the opposite point of view we should begin to doubt the soundness of our position. This does not mean that we should be listless about our beliefs; nor does this imply that we must never feel certain on the rightness of our cause. No one can go very far in this life without positive attitudes and enthusiasm. But we always ought to leave the door open to changing our minds when the facts warrant such a reversal. Unfortunately too many of us become so rabid and prejudiced, that we refuse to hear the other side of a question. We close our minds to alternate views and opinions. We will not read a book that differs with our own feelings. We will shun people and newspapers, lecturers and magazines which oppose our pet theories. In this manner we narrow down the sources of our information and reduce the intake of knowledge. Then we "see red" when our convictions are questioned and our beliefs are doubted. We soon fall prey to our emotions and instead of thinking through an issue we are screaming for the blood of the "enemy." The next time you feel your blood pressure rising at the mere mention of a name or problem, take hold of yourself and see if your mental approach is fair. Unless you learn to calm down and respect the right of the other fellow to his arguments, you can never help justice to triumph. You don't have a free mind unless you are willing to change it in accordance with new facts and logic. Nor do you help democracy to grow by closing your ears.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, April 14, 1956.
You cannot run away from yourself. Often you think that a change of scenery will change your thoughts and your outlook. Maybe this works for a little while, but it isn't long before your vexing problems overtake you and you realize that while you have gone to a new place you have brought yourself along and it is yourself which is the source of your difficulties. It is far better to stand up to your own problems and to face them right where you are instead of seeking a futile escape. Think through the whole situation which upsets you; confront it honestly and fearlessly. Don't deceive yourself and do not be afraid of any consequences. The important thing is to do your best to solve the problem right where you are. Reason things through and arrive at an honest decision. Many husbands and wives would never divorce; many men would never fail completely in business; many young people would never be lost forever if they met courageously the issues behind the mistakes they have made. Moreover, this brave attitude rewards us with strong character and with the wisdom to go forward with success. Don't lose faith in yourself because of something that you have done of which you are ashamed. Don't run away because you can't face the results of your wrongdoing and misjudgment. The true greatness of character is achieved by making amends for wrongs done to others and then to start anew. You can be a better person, a happier individual tomorrow by overcoming your mental and spiritual cowardice today.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Feb. 26, 1955.
We have become so hypnotized by the gospel of success that we have come to expect that in everything we do there must be a triumphant conclusion, that there cannot possibly be any disappointment. Have we forgotten the very old definition of genius, which is, the courage to make mistakes? What a tragedy it is that so many people have come to the conclusion that it is an everlasting disgrace to make a mistake and to fall. Why will we deceive ourselves to our own hurt, and tell ourselves that which is not true, when the fact of the matter is that all men, no matter how big, have made and do make mistakes. Henry Ford forget to put a reverse gear in his first automobile. Edison once spent over $2 million on an invention which proved to be worthless. The man who makes no mistakes, who does not fall, lacks the boldness of the spirit of adventure. It is well known that Babe Ruth his more home runs in baseball up to this time, but it is now well known that he was struck out more than any man in baseball. Similarly, we know that Ty Cobb stole more bases successfully than any man in baseball, but it is not well known that he also was tagged out while stealing bases more than any other man in baseball history. The truth the, you see, about life is that men struggle and fight hard and make mistakes and fail on their road to success, whether they be hitting a baseball, building a business, or writing a symphony. Moreover, you cannot succeed without failing at times. It is normal to fail and to make mistakes. It is normal to meet with defeat and be frustrated. What is abnormal is to lie there once you have fallen down--to surrender when you strike out--to give up the fight when you don't make good. What is abnormal is to hug the notion that life is not a matter of trial and error, making mistakes, failing, but instead is only just one sweet song, a constant crescendo of triumphant music.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, April 10, 1954.
You can make no real progress unless you have a desire to do new things as well as a desire to perform perfectly the old.
---Louis Brandeis, quoted by Herman J. Stich, The Daily Star, Long Island City, N.Y., March 17, 1923.
If we persist in letting the pains of the past interfere with the possibilities of the present, many good things that would otherwise come to pass are hampered, stilted and very often lost altogether. And it is safe to say that if you live in and take care of the present the future is thus provided for.
---Sophie Irene Loeb, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., May 1, 1913.
DREAMS (meaning Goals)
The man [who does not have] “objectivity” does not dream—he lacks the energy, the eagerness, the absorption born of a worthwhile, driving purpose upon which as on a backbone or lifeline, he can hang all his hopes, ideas, efforts and ambitions.
Without objectivity he is a mere machine; and while machines are useful, and, in their way, necessary, the human machine is a “cross” which enjoys little market value, which travels for the most part in circles, wasting its vital forces, recklessly squandering the hours till, weak, wavering, incompetent, it simply gets lost in the crowd or joins the junk pile.
It is objectivity that mitigates the monotony and the drudgery most of us have to go through; and oftener than not, it turns drudgery into joy.
Objectivity is an asset. People believe in the man who has it. They will help him twice as quickly, give him a much better chance than they will the man who fits here and there, who is indifferent, whose mind is unthinking or unfocused.
Objectivity helps a man to become a master of himself and therefore logically master of others. It unifies his powers, converges them and concentrates them, makes his efforts cumulative, gathers up the loose ends of his abilities and fixes them on the point he wants to reach.
Everything worthwhile that has been accomplished, objectivity has accomplished; and the man never lived who struggled hard, intelligently and faithfully for years toward a single great purpose and did not at least approximately attain it.
What everybody needs who wants to become and climb is something to work for, something to look forward to. Unless you have it, you can do little. And when you do have it, you can do almost anything, and you will be about as happy as anybody ever can be.
---Herman J. Stich, The Daily Star, Long Island City, N.Y., March 18, 1922.
One of the most difficult lessons to learn in our human relationships is when to let go.
For example, there are people who spoil their chances for enjoying their present lives because they still hold on to dreams and ambitions of youth, which long ago have either outlived their usefulness or have become impossible to fulfill. But people will hold on to their past dreams to their own hurt. Although they are most successful in what they do, the dreams of yesterday continue to disturb them.
One must learn to let go of those dreams of the past and become concerned with the dreams of the future, based upon immediate facts.
There is also the discord brought on by mothers who won't get go of their children, even though their children have grown up and ought to be allowed to make their own way. Many a parent has rebelled against the forthcoming marriage of a son or daughter simply because they refuse to admit that their offspring are old enough to make their own decisions.
Thus they stand in the way of their children's happiness as they shut their eyes to the truth it is high time they let go, that they stop overindulging and overprotecting and give their son or daughter the respect due an adult.
Even friends sometimes must learn to let go of one another. We must teach ourselves not to depend too much upon our friends, not to call upon them constantly to answer our needs. Friendships can become overburdened this way and dissolve. We misuse our friends and abuse them when we lean too heavily upon their strength.
To Emerson the greatest virtue was self-reliance. It still remains a supreme attribute. But this virtue can never be won until we learn when to let go.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Nov. 27, 1954.
Enthusiasm is the fuel that feeds the human dynamo, generating ideas, industry, invention—advancement.
Enthusiasm blazes new trails, charts unmapped seas, pushes onward and upward, promotes progress and keeps the ball of accomplishment rolling.
Without enthusiasm human beings are meat—with it they are virile men and women, fountains of thought, sources of force, springs of achievement.
Enthusiasm quadruples effort, rekindles ambition, energizes weary mind and muscle, recharges exhausted brain and body batteries, whets your wits, infuses your undertaking with hope, spirit, dash.
Enthusiasm is human electricity eating into difficulties, consuming opposition, demolishing resistance.
Enthusiasm steals marches on Progress, see and seizes opportunities in the embryo, makes short shrift of the “impossible,” turns toil to pleasure and pleasure to treasure, makes man superman.
Enthusiasm makes for warmth, for cordiality, for heartiness. It lights the torch of cheer. It heightens the flame of fervor. It makes you chipper as a lark, animated as a bee, frisky as a squirrel. Enthusiasm forces you forward, eager, strenuous, resolute, irresistible.
Enthusiasm scorns the bit of tradition, daily upsets established theories and sets up new ones, builds skyscrapers out of Cathay’s castles, polishes and brightens the silver lining on dark clouds, transmutes promise into performance.
Enthusiasm moves the world. It is the divine spark that light the human fuse, that explodes the bomb of mechanical, industrial and intellectual attainment and leadership.
Enthusiasm mothers venture, fathers success, furthers the evolution of civilization.
---Herman J. Stich, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., June 6, 1919.
There is nothing more blighting to the soul than envy. It breeds discontent in the soul, and kills all joy in life. Therefore if we be wise, we shall not envy others and be content with our portion. Resolve to cultivate the spirit of contentment, so that the sum total of our happiness may be increased.
---Herman Abramowitz, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Sept. 30, 1921.
Spontaneous enthusiasm draws the bolts of irony.
---Benjamin De Casseres, Puck, New York, N.Y., Dec. 23, 1916.
The quitter is always in quest of a job because he is usually a quibbler.
---Sophie Irene Loeb, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Jan. 29, 1919.
The fear of failure has more failures to its credit than failure itself.
---Benjamin De Casseres, Puck, New York, N.Y., Jan. 27, 1917.
Relate every present desire to some prospective purpose. Saddle the moment for a farther goal instead of being enslaved by it, and you will have a golden guide.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., Oct. 12, 1932.
Many a man makes a brilliant beginning, but as opposition increases his enthusiasm decreases. He never becomes eligible for Posterity, for that arch chronicler makes no note of a splendid start that does not culminate in a corresponding finish.
The hill is all the more prominent among molehills, the tree among thistles. As achievements show, sour grapes grow. Whenever a man gets bigger than his community his townsmen strive to minimize the difference.
Greatness is a multi-itemed composite, its most important ingredient is courage—moral strength to strike harder in the face of the ignorant, contemptuous, detracting criticism which is the need of every man who quits the crowd or tries to rise above the masses.
The only way to escape criticism being through obscurity, the moment you begin to be “panned” you have cause for congratulation.
---Herman J. Stich, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Aug. 8, 1919.
The ideal is the eternal in the practical.
---S.H. Clark, The Acorn, Ogden, Utah, March 1907.
Venturing is the glory of living; without it life is backwash and tepid and pulseless and tideless. Make a map of life, but keep heart courageous to venture out on a trackless path, with only the eternal stars to guide. Let not your wings, I would say to youth, be clipped by the dull shears of prudence; refuse to take in your sails. Venture for great ideals, but remember that one must not only have great ideals, but must greatly and nobly attain them. You can't reach a high goal by wallowing through the mire.
—David Lefkowitz, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, June 3, 1923.
It is only the power of ideals that can move us to undergo hardships. Why sacrifice momentary pleasures and comforts unless we can see that these pleasures are transitory and that they really do not matter when looked upon through the telescope of history. We live by ideals alone--that is, we lead a truly human existence under their guidance. Without ideals we do not really live. We are mere shadows. Our lack of vision makes us restless. Our growing generation has lost the vision which brought peace and contentment to the fathers. An ideal is something necessarily bigger than ourselves, something worth striving for, working and living for. Now that is what we are lacking. As a result we go to pieces. Our house of life is built on the sands and it cannot stand. Our momentary pleasures are like tiny grains of sand. We try to erect the structure of our happiness upon them and fall. If we built on the solid rock of ideals our structure would endure. The thing our young people need is an ideal of some sort. What they need is something to live up to, something which will help them lead the good life. After all it is not creed that counts. Deeds count above all. Creed is only valuable in so far as it makes for deed.
—Oscar Leonard, The Jewish Voice, St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 8, 1912.
Man needs God in order to give meaning to his ideals and significance to his striving. If the world is a blind mechanism, ideals have no reality, and man is mocked by the very aspirations which seem to exalt him.
—Abba Hillel Silver, New York Times, New York, N.Y., Jan. 18, 1926.
Thoughts determine action--actions determine character--character determines our whole life, hence their callosal power for good or evil. Imagination is a great gift of God and can be cultivated to the highest uses or made the vehicle of unspeakable harm. It depends upon what chords of the human heart have been touched that ultimately determine what we are, high types of men and women, imbued with noble thoughts, or degraded to the level of the brute. Those of you who have ascended the lonely heights of great mountains and looked down into space will know the meaning of that wonderful sensation that fills the soul, and at that same time humbles one before the grandeur and sublimity of God's handiwork. As we stand upon a summit of some snow-capped mountains, we experience a strange sense of companionship with past generations. To some are endowed with finer feelings and more delicate perception, a beautiful sunset, with its sad splendor, will often bring tears to the eyes. Others are blessed with a deep sense of tone and an appreciation of the great masterpieces of music. Imagination, therefore, plays a tremendous role in the great dreams of human life, and, although some hardheaded business men regard the dreamers of the world with withering contempt, as useless cranks they are wasting precious time, permit me to say that, were it not for these so-called dreamers, we should not be able to span the great continents of the world, nor illumine our homes by electricity, nor overcome gravity as the aeroplane has done. The world of today is as much in need of the dreamers of great things in science, art and religion as it is of sound, levelheaded business men, unless the progress and growth of our cities and nations be made to refer only to the physical and the material. The imagination is worth cultivating and directing, for it is the most divine of all powers, inasmuch as it is a creative power. It is needed and invaluable in every pursuit of life where fresh thought and light are sought for. Hence its cultivation is an education in the highest sense of the word. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Jesus were dreamers as the world understands, or rather misunderstands them, but they were men that created epochs, men that were makers of history. These men, the dreamers, if you please, developed our civilization by liberating the human mind from the thralldom of paganism and degrading passions and lifting it into the light of God. What made these men great? It was because they dreamed of great things--God, truth, life and death, happiness and sorrow, all the vital things that go to make up the web of this mysterious existence; and besides this, they gave a perennial charm to the landscape of life and informed us whereby this life could always be made sweet and beautiful, regardless of circumstances. Men of imagination [were] men who probed the very heart of nature and mankind, men who could read in the modest little violet, the budding rose, a mountain stream or a sparkling star the very reflection of God--a glory, a beauty and an inspiration that gave them an uplift and added sweetness and fragrance to their life. The truly educated are able to sift the true from the false, and to examine and understand things in their true light, while the ignorant receive everything in blind faith as unquestionable truths. However, this quality that we have been speaking of, if wisely directed, will create freshness of thought and feeling, become the inspirer of every task and cast a halo over drudgery itself. It will inject into the common duties of our daily life a zest and a joy that will give strength to the worker and beauty to the work. As someone has said, "It is the light inside the bricks and mortar that makes up the house." The imagination, if put to its noblest use in the interests of humanity, as the spark of God's divine power, will convert the humblest cottage into a lovely palace, and uplift man to the high estate for which he was destined--the paragon of creation.
—William H. Greenburg, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, March 15, 1915.
Too very few of us is given the opportunity to do something heroic, something big. We all feel that, should the great moment arrive and should we be called upon to do and to die we will rise to the occasion and prove that we are made of the stuff of heroes. Luckily, however, very few of us are called upon to prove it, for luckily life is made up of prosaic duties. And yet the occasion arises when each one of us has the opportunity to do something—something that may appear small and insignificant compared to the heroic deeds of history—nevertheless this something may prove the making or breaking of something bigger than “we mortals e’er dreamed of.”
Let us not spend the time is useless repining. Let us not wonder why some people are lucky—the majority of people whom we consider lucky may not have had better opportunities than we had, but they grasped them and made the most of them and they are now reaping the benefit. So much we all be ready to do “the trivial round and the common task, for in them lies our salvation.”
---Jessie Abrams, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Feb. 22, 1918.
Luck is the pawn of the toiler.
It is respected or rejected as his judgment dictates.
And it is the tiniest fragment of the raw material which by sheer thought, effort and force of character he fashions into the finished product of accomplishment.
Man was not intended to be the sport or plaything of accident.
He was intended to be king, to be architect, to be captain of his career which he can mold to his measure.
If he is too indifferent to watch for opportunity, too timid to seize opportunity, to weak-kneed to fight for opportunity, he does not need a divining rod to locate the cause of his mediocrity.
“Hard luck” is not a malignant beast prowling about for prey, nor is “good luck” a beneficent fairy haphazardly showering her benedictions.
Fate occasionally plays capricious pranks with our plans; but in the long run we get what we have intelligently worked for and it is dangerous to be guided by any other principle.
Luck is a quicksand.
Thought, worth and worth are granite.
Better build upon the rock.
---Herman J. Stich, Evening Public Ledger, Philadelphia, Pa., March 3, 1922.
Luck has always been the worker’s friend—and the shirker’s excuse.
---Herman J. Stich, The Daily Star, Long Island City, N.Y., May 4, 1923.
There are men who simply refuse to recognize or acknowledge that there is such a thing as opportunity—they cast about the throttling notion that all the good ideas have been patented, that progress has reached the end of its rope, that the things which pay have already been done. They are living statures of “What’s the Use?”
---Herman J. Stich, The Daily Star, Long Island City, N.Y., May 4, 1923.
The most dangerous thing that ever happens to a man is when he believes there is an easier way of getting anything worthwhile than earning it.
“That man was lucky,” we often hear, when what we should have heard is, “That man had his eye on the future. He prepared. He saved. He worked persistently at what he had to do. He was ready for the opportunity when it came. And through his unremitting study and steadily increasing patience and capability, he has climbed to his present enviable position.”
---Herman J. Stich, The Daily Star, Long Island City, N.Y., May 30, 1923.
The theory of idle waiting for a great opportunity has died along with many other old-fashioned theories. The world has learned to make the most of its small opportunities and, what is more, the world has learned to march rather than to mark time.
Really sensible people don’t do one thing while waiting for something better to turn up. They prepare themselves as far as possible to make the best of whatever they may have to do. He who stops to mark time is likely to find himself left behind. He can only expect the better when he has prepared himself for the best. He who sets a goal for himself and is steadily striving to reach it will come much closer to it than he who changes his plans with every changing wind.
---Jessie Abrams, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Jan. 18, 1918.
Right opportunity makes the great. Seneca puts the thought this way: “Opportunity has hair in front—behind she is bald, If you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her—but if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again.” Whenever you are able to see a good opportunity, say to it in your heart of hearts: “Thou art mine! Mine! Mine!” Strenuous efforts may be required, however, for says Disraeli, “Opportunity is more powerful than conquerors and prophets.”
But how many today who are heartbroken and “wafting a sigh from Indus to the Pole,” for a lost opportunity, which, had it been grasped at the right moment, would have changed the very current of their lives, landing them finally at Paradise rather than Gehenna! George Eliot says: “The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone!”
Our mortal foes are the family of fools—to wit, Father Stubbornness and Mother Stupidity, with their daughters Bashfulness and Sloth, with their sons Careless and Thoughtlessness, with their aunts Excessive Self-confidence and False Sense of Security and with the grandmas Superstition and Lack of Vision. When we are young we dream not of age; when we are strong we think not of infirmities; when we are handsome we expect no homeliness; when we are rich we anticipate no poverty, and when we are surrounded with relatives and friends we foresee no future solitude. O ye changeable men, who put your trust in the fleeting Present, look for Opportunity with ten eyes and grab it with ten hands!
But! Beware dissemblance! Look well for your choice. Mistake not brass for gold and false diamond for the genuine stone! It takes a wise eye to detect the right opportunity. There are those who are endowed with a genius of vision and prudence. Most of us are not. ‘Tis the character of the cause rather than its creative appearance. ‘Tis the inward worth rather than the outward glittering.
---Isaac A. Hadad, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Jan. 27, 1922.
Success in the true sense may be won by those who go forth eagerly, earnestly and unselfishly to meet the opportunities of the day. Failure comes to those who, in a spirit of dread and cowardice, permit precious opportunities to pass by unheeded.
It is no exaggeration to say that the largest class of men and women in the world look upon life as a necessity, as something thrust upon them. They know, in a vague sort of way, that there are problems of thought, of society, of government that demand solution, but they are content to let someone else sacrifice time and perhaps business interests in order to solve these problems. The members of this class do not lead heroic lives, nor do they consciously work in the truest spirit. They marvel at men who succeed and envy what they consider good fortune, but they utterly fail to realize that genius is a friend of the industrious, that fortune smiles upon those who take advantage of every opportunity that leads to self-improvement.
The vigorous and effective leaders in the domain of thought and action are those who look upon life as a sacred privilege. They continually survey their chart of life in order to find out how they are employing and developing the power they possess. They do not permit time to pass without yielding fruit in the form of self-culture. They seize every opportunity for well doing. They make themselves happy and others blessed.
—Moise Bergman, The Daily Picayune, New Orleans, La., Nov. 25, 1910.
When we think of the word "crisis," we usually think of something that leads us or a nation to the verge of disaster or war.
Yet, strangely enough, the word "crisis" comes from the Greek and means simply a "turning point." The same word, in the Chinese language, is represented by two pictographs--the one symbolizing "risk" and the other "opportunity." Now what, we might ask, is this telling us?
It might be telling all of us that a "crisis" is something that all of us undergo at various times in our lives, that when crises come, they are turning points, filled with both risk and opportunity. We may be overawed by the risk factor and decide to walk away, taking the easier path of life. Or, instead, we will choose to see the opportunity presented to us.
The Hebrew term for crisis is Nekudat N'tiyah which means "a stretching point." Whenever I see this Hebrew term, I think of the episode when Moses was told by God to "stretch" (the same verb is used) his rod across the Red Sea, pointing the way to freedom, urging the people of Israel to go forward. The Israelites, in turn, had to muster and stretch all of their inner, spiritual resources and see the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented to them. Like all who flee tyranny for freedom, they could have chosen to be overawed and overpowered by the risk involved. What if the water were too deep? What if the currents were too strong? Perhaps the desert on the other side was too dangerous?
Instead, they took the risk, "stretched" their inner resources to the limit and turned a crisis into an opportunity.
Will any of us who confront crises in our lives allow the crushing blows of people and circumstances to beat us down? Or will we put our talents, skills and potential in other newer directions and make a crisis an opportunity for life?
—Richard Zionts, Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, La., June 1, 1985.
We all face times of ingratitude, disappointment and hurtful, even hateful, unfair accusations or allegations by others, just as Moses leadership in the desert.
Moses, I believe, discovered his inner faith and strength in the power of his mission, his larger goals for life--and so can we.
All too often, we allow ourselves and others to be thrown off course by small, trivial things. Like gas filling a chamber, small things can mount up and expand until the entire thing explodes. This is what we, like Moses, need to avoid.
Moses continually communicated with God and so must we--in earnest daily prayer and meditation as well as study. We, like Moses, must take time out from our daily schedules with the trivial annoyances and petty things that are so often said and done, and through prayer and study or reflection catch a glimpse of the larger picture of life. We need daily times for "stepping back"-- mini-retreats--in order to regain our sense of life purpose or mission and the more important priorities of our existence.
We also need, throughout our regaining of perspective, to see those who need our words of cheer and comfort, of peace and reassurance--to bring a smile where there is sadness or some ray of hope where there is despondency or despair .
Study and worship lead to loving deeds. They also lead us to renewing and gaining what Moses had--a sense of life purpose, higher priorities and the true knowledge of the large picture of our lives.
—Richard Zionts, Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, La., June 8, 1985.
As Erich Fromm and others have pointed out, many people are truly afraid of freedom; they prefer to be enslaved to all kinds of masters. Even in our own age and despite all the benefits of modern education, some still prefer the comfort and security of being told what to do and not having to make decisions. The mentality of the slave is: security above all else. The old, even it is a form of slavery, is far preferable because it is familiar and comfortable. Freedom means trying unknown roads in the wilderness and for that reason, freedom is frightening.
The free man is certainly frightened by challenges--he is, after all, human and can also be scared. The difference is, he tries to develop courage. Life for us, as for the Israelites under Moses, is a series of challenges and trials in which a person achieves courage and inner strength. Like Joshua, he can then find his Promised Land. The opportunities for our spiritual growth are there for us every day, if only we decide to choose them.
—Richard Zionts, Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, La., June 15, 1985.
Memory is a very powerful instrument. Like all other human abilities, it can be used for both good and ill.
Sometimes, when we are enmeshed in the rush of everyday activity, we are unable to see the broad scope of our lives. We need to climb atop a summit--ascend the heights--in order to gain a better perspective for our past, present and future.
It is often necessary for all of us, as for Moses, to elevate ourselves from the everyday valleys and plains of life to a higher, more spiritual level in order to renew our visions, our hope and our perspective. It would be well for all of us to make use of these summit occasions and utilize these times for renewed inspiration as well as assessment of life goals and purposes.
Life is filled with exciting options and possibilities which cannot always be grasped or seen while involved in the everyday valleys and plains of existence. Being open to new ideas and new opportunities for service is necessary. It is also possible if we allow ourselves the time and the courage to climb the heights and broaden our perspective.
In this way, every summit occasion of life may truly become a "Sinai" for us--a time of inspiration, insight and awareness of possibilities, past, present and future--a time when we, too, may discover the goals and guidelines for our lives, the important ethical values and principles by which we shall live and be of service to others in our midst and in our communities.
—Richard Zionts, Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, La., May 23, 1987.