- Religion and Philosophy
Inspirational Quotations by Jewish Authors #8
General Religious Inspirational Quotations
TOPICS: PRAYER; PURITY OF HEART AND MIND; PURPOSE; REPENTANCE; REVERENCE; SIN; SORROW.
Prayer is the articulate speed of the soul to its holiest ideal. It is the cry of the heart into the ear of the world. And from within the answer comes, through the mystic gateway of communion between the Infinite and the human spirit in new emotion, in sudden impulses for good, in divine sparks of kindling that make the heart burn within us, and an inward peace beyond all words. God answers human prayers.
---Leon Harrison, St. Louis Republic, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 27, 1902.
Prayer for personal gratification is of no value. We are of value only as our existence benefits the world. As soon as we become self-centered we become a hindrance to civilization. The world needs the efforts of every individual only so long as the individual is helping in the common welfare of mankind. That is why prayer must be universal. That is why we must pray for the happiness of all and hope that we may catch a faint reflection of it. Then shall we also be happy.
The world today needs prayer, for “more miracles have been achieved by prayer than the world dreams of.” Therefore we must try and forget our own petty desires and pray for the good of all mankind. We must pray that hatred and lust for gain disappear from the world. We must pray that LOVE become the dominating force in the world. It is up to us. The prayers of all in the world must tear asunder the veil of sorrow that is shrouding the world. Let us then make this one added sacrifice—forget self and pray for others.
---Jessie Abrams, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Sept. 6, 1918.
Prayer is the soul’s pure devout desire, ascending from a heart contrite, sincere. Its tone is simple, but is poured with fire, with faith unshaking and with wish that’s fair.
---Isaac A. Hadad, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 7, 1921.
To pray is to aspire, for nobody can possibly aspire to great things without praying. To pray is to commune with the divine spirit within every human soul. To pray is to purify the heart, to clarify the mind. Its result is a rejuvenation of the spirit that lies behind every great achievement. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." And don't be deluded into believing that prayer is weak, for the greater the man the more modest, the more reverent, the more prayerful is he capable of being. It is that fine sense of man's relationship to the divine that strengthens him and makes him the better fitted for the day's work. It is this reverential sense, the sense that he is part of God himself and a supreme part of the great mechanism of the universe that casts a halo over the crudest and smallest things of life, that gives a joy to labor and a zest to life. Who is there that can realize and understand the enjoyment of life? Not the man who is selfish and self-centered; not the man who reduces everything--the sacred and the secular, God and man--to their market values; not the man who is a slave to his whims, his passions and pleasures. Nor is it the woman who is an idler. Nor is it the woman who is dissatisfied, restless and unnerved through sheer envies or want of something to do, but the man or woman who shall find themselves and their place in the economy of life, the man and woman that will make themselves fit into the working world--the machinery of our higher civilization, for that spells self-development, satisfaction, the poise of a peaceful conscience, a mind at rest. Men can only live by those things that are imperishable--the ideals of life that turn the mind away from the petty and puny things of life, and that will light up the world with the wonderful possibilities that lie imbedded in the heart of every one of God's creatures whoever he be.
—William H. Greenburg, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 15, 1915.
Prayer is a means of elevating ourselves to a lofty conception of God--to that high plane of vision whereon we are enabled to see things as God sees them, and thus be ennobled and made godlike.
—David Rosenbaum, Austin Daily Statesman, Austin, Texas, Oct. 2, 1911.
PURITY OF HEART AND MIND
God’s favor may be invoked only upon them who are in a state of absolute rectitude and uprightness. God’s grace can reach only them whose heart is pure and whose hands are clean. God’s gifts may be granted only them whose character is beyond reproach and whose conduct is free from spot or stain. When heart, hand, and mind are fully prepared by ethical and spiritual exercises, then follows the divine blessing. God’s name must come first; this means rightness before blessedness; correctness before worthiness; deservedness before happiness. In other words, our well-being depends largely on our attitude—our attitude to people and to things about us.
---Julius Berger, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada,
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." (Psalms 24:3-5, 7.) We ascend to God's holy place, to life's best satisfactions, by clean hands, as the Psalmist assures us. Useful hands, in glorious service, bring us to the hill of the Lord. Surely that is an alluring and attractive aim--to do some work that is needed, to do it thoroughly and well, to make our toil count for something in adding to the sum total of what is actually profitable to humanity; to make two blades of grass grow when only one grew before; or, still better, to make one wholesome idea take root in a mind that was bare and fallow; to make our example count for something on the side of honesty and cheerfulness, courage, faith and love. Ask yourselves, have you so used your hands? Have you kept them unfouled? How men waste their energies, their hours, by a thousand follies! And then they have no time, and continually protest to that fact, for the g reat work that is waiting for them on all sides. Honest hands of plain, simple industry, clean hands of gentle service, holding the cup of water to the parched lips of a fellow-traveler, thus we ascend the mountain of the Lord. And a pure heart! The motives must be purged, the feelings of our heart must be pure. Motives mean so much. The heart, refined of evil and hate and made pure through love, lifts one up the mount of God. The kindly, truthful lips! As the Psalmist has it, "only he comes to God's holy place who hath not inclined his soul to falsehood nor spoken in deceit." How clear a statement; not a word need be added. Guard thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile. One of the most persistent enemies of society is the talebearer and the retailer of gossip, the malicious monger of lies and falsehood. Truth, said the sages, is the seal of the holy one. Let thy lips be true and you ascend to the mount of the Lord. And if we use these steps, thus learning the technique of life and the art of living, we shall see the alluring beauty of God's universe, we shall ascend to the mount of the Lord and the gates of life's satisfactions will be opened to us and the King of Glory will come into our universe, into our heart.
—David Lefkowitz, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 8, 1922.
Our life must have a purpose. A life of recklessness, purposelessness, orderlessness is not life. The very word life means an orderly, systematic arrangement of organs capable of performing their function. The newness of the purpose by force of circumstances varies according to the demand of the age.
For the sake of his own happiness and of the happiness of those about him, this lesson of sacrifice means to put man in possession of two convictions. They are, first, that God exists; secondly, that He cares for a spiritual expression of man’s dependence on Him. Without such convictions, sacrifice funs the risk of becoming synonymous with barbarism—an abomination to God.
That man was created in the image of God has been given now greater emphasis. It is in this spiritual sense that He wanted men of every age to arrive at the conclusion that man belongs more truly to God than to anyone else.
It is at all times needful that man should constantly be in perfect harmony with the Divine will for his own happiness, for the happiness of the world. Belief in God has pleasures and blessings. To share them man must have the belief. Whether we have that belief we are constantly being tested. God tests us today. He will test us tomorrow and every day in the week. God will be testing us from hour to hour whether we desire to please Him. When we say and do things that will naturally provoke us to harsh and bitter words, He will be testing us. When we have the opportunity of getting undue advantage for ourselves out of another man’s ignorance, helplessness, He will be testing us. When impure thoughts are suggested to us by something we see, or hear, in the street, or read in a book, He will be testing us. When we have done wrong or made an error and can easily hide it by falsehood, He will be testing us. When we have the chance of being idle without anyone knowing it in the house where we are hired for work, He will be testing us.
Of course it is not the easiest way to live always according to the design of God, of course sacrifice in spirit is demanded to live such a life. But only such a life is worth living; only such a life recognizes that life is more than property, humanity more than machinery. I wish you all to be inscribed in the book of life—the life of the faithful, of the purposeful, of the spiritual.
---Julius Berger, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Sept. 30, 1921.
Purpose is the Memory that sees ahead.
‑‑‑Benjamin De Casseres, Puck, New York, N.Y., March 10, 1917.
If according to a principle of economics the value of things is largely determined by the law of supply and demand, this life is the most valuable gift of God. We all desire as much of it as possible, yet its supply is very limited for every one of us. With the best of care, greatest vigilance and utmost exertion we can add to it, prolong it, but little. And sometimes, in spite of all exertion and solicitude, by an inscrutable decree of Providence our measure of life may be cut short and abruptly come to an end. Considering the ardent desire for life we all manifest, its supply is the scantiest of all other blessings. Need we wonder at the importance all living creatures attach to it?
But the law of supply and demand is not alone in determining a thing's value. Another factor is the use in which a thing may be put. It is implied in the very idea of demand. Radium is precious not only because of its rareness, but even more because of the beneficial use that can be made of its wonderful powers. This factor is still more important in determining the value of life--the use we make of our life, its import and purpose. What does life mean to us? What is its real purpose? When that is once rightly determined, life is given its supreme value.
People generally do not give themselves an account of life's meaning and object and meaning of their own life in particular, do not know and do not appreciate the real and full value of a human life. They vegetate, go on eating and drinking, working and resting and playing. But these are all functions of ordinary animal life. One essential distinction between the animal and the human being is that the human being can think and reason about life's aim and import.
The necessity of thus determining life's aim may not be so apparent to him whose life is uneventful and peaceful--a life of contentment. For him it may be enough that he is satisfied and happy. That may be all the purpose life has for him. But when life brings its burdens and its trials, its disappointments, defeats and losses, its woes and sorrows, then if one does not try to solve life's riddle, to ascertain life's true object he, indeed, gropes in darkness, or is lost in the sandy waste of indifference, apathy, and pessimism--his life has lost its real value.
Without determining life's true aim, we are merely drifting along in our frail craft, driven to the winds and waves, like the mariner who has lost rudder, chart, and compass. Without ascertaining life's real purpose there can be no morality, no discipline, no duties and obligations, no principles and no laws. Find life's worthy purpose and you at once comprehend your duties. If life means nothing else than the satisfaction of the bodily appetites, and desires, of what significance are morality, moderation, discipline, chastity and holiness? I may be compelled to comply with the moral law as long as there is a policeman on the beat, as long as there are ordinances and authorities to enforce them. But where if there were no policemen, and no courts and no jails, of what value would the moral law then be to him whose only object in life is pleasure? Of what significance would such ideas as justice and mercy, sympathy and charity be to him whose only aim in life is wealth and power? The courts may compel him to be just and honest, public opinion may coerce him to be charitable. But what if he knows how to elude the courts or defines public opinion? What force has morality for him?
Find your true purpose in life and the law and principles we call ethics or religion will be inferred by you most logically and obeyed most naturally. No policemen, no courts, and no jails, but your own better self, your own conscience, your own sense of duty will enforce them. Find life's worthy aim! You may give it various expressions. Your aim may be to be of some use in the world, to contribute your little mite to making the world a trifle better than you found it. Your aim may be to do all the good you can, to relieve all the suffering you can, to bring a little light and enlightenment wherever you can. Or it may be to develop your own beneficent powers and faculties to the highest possible degree. But find a worthy purpose in life! That will give your life its supreme value.
With such a purpose in life as your guiding star, how can you go wrong and do harm? How can you gain mastery by oppressing and subduing others.? How can you build mansions upon the ruins of other men's lives or fortunes? How can you behold others suffer while you quaff the full cup of life's pleasures? With such a purpose as your lodestar, how can poverty, disappointment, loss, or sorrow overwhelm you or engulf you in darkness?
Yes, life is the noblest gift God has bestowed upon us. Well may we watch the flight of time, and count each precious fraction of it, each year, as it passes. Well may we pray for more years to be allotted to our life. That is in the hand of God. But to give life its highest value is, with the help of God, within our power.
—S.N. Deinard, The Jewish Voice, St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 22, 1911.
To have a meaningful purpose in living is what we all desire. Nothing so completely destroys our equilibrium and breaks down our morale as the conviction that our lives are empty and meaningless.
I have seen some of the best people I know suffer setbacks because they came to the conclusion that they were no longer needed. Thus they convinced themselves that life was finished for them, that the future was devoid of any worthy objective.
But what do we mean by a significant purpose in living? Is it only dedication to the happiness of a husband or a wife? Is it only having and doing our jobs successfully? Is it only being a good mother or father? Yes, it can be these things, but it is also more. For what happens when the husband or wife dies, when the work is finished, when the children are grown up?
There comes a time in the lives of all of us when because of profound radical changes, brought on by age or death, we are deprived of the usual reasons for living. Then it is that we must discover that there are other purposes in life besides tangible activity. I mean such maturity as suffering with dignity, accepting sorrow with courage, making the best of a bad bargain.
When we appreciate the importance of such spiritual achievements we see that the highest objective in life is to be an inspiration to others.
Our conduct under trial is observed by our relatives and friends. If we are brave, then they have an example to emulate. If we bear our burdens undaunted and unafraid, we add to the mettle and faith of our fellow man.
They will say, "If he can go forward, maybe I can do it, too." They will say, "If she is so courageous in her loneliness and bereavement, then maybe I, too, can walk through and out of the valley of the shadow of death." Perhaps this is what the poet Milton meant when he wrote in his sonnet, after he became blind, "They also serve who only stand and wait."
Certainly this explains how people triumph over their disasters and go on to fill their lives with new meaning.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, April 21, 1956.
“Whosoever knoweth let him return, so God may repent and turn from his burning anger, that we perish not.” (Jonah 3:9.)
In this so-called enlightened age it would seem that repentance is unremittingly out of order. Yet the whole trend of human civilization is merely a gradual realization of existing imperfections and a yearning toward improvement in every direction. In other words, the advancement of civilization consists only of a detection of faulty conditions in and around our being, together with the effort to amend these conditions for the good of ourselves and those who follow us. But while modernity has progressed along the lines of industry, art and scientific discovery, the human mind thus far remains evil in its incipiency, and the acknowledgment of guilt and the confession of sin and culpability before God and man should be as much of a serious consideration today as at any time previous.
Whether Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, conservative or liberal, all are involved in the category of reasoning beings, and all should seek to repent and amend. All must recognize the fact that above sectional disparity there is an all-ruling Providence that demands universal justice and a correct account of the practices that militate against professed principles. All should confess before the Lord of Hosts, and to Him alone their hearts should ascend in prayer. For all mortals are alike dependent upon the mercy of God, as they are all alike subjected to His eternal rule. For this is equally true, that each one of the human race is endowed with a godly spirit, which it is his duty to develop for his moral good; each one has within himself a portion of the divine. “For in the image of God made He man,” was really spoken of the soul. …
If we grant the existence of the divine within man we shall be better able to understand that man is the free agent of his own fate; that no evil star hangs over him; that there is never a forlorn hope in the way of moral improvement, and the betterment of general conditions. … Whenever man returns from sin he may justly hope for an equal means of reconciliation from heaven.
We have the amplest assurance that whenever we seek Him as one man, whenever we claim Him as a union of brothers His mercy will not be withheld, and the ransomed of the Lord will soon emerge from darkness into light to triumph over earthly things.
The unbeliever is certainly placed at a great disadvantage. He knows not to repent and amend. To him there is no hope for forgiveness, nor for improvement in any direction. And should he, the wicked one, suddenly find himself laden with the miseries which his misdeeds has justly merited, there is nothing that would lift his drooping spirit, nothing that would soothe him in his sorrows, nothing that would uphold him against the onslaught of adverse fortune. Woe is unto him whose ship is left to drift amidst the ocean waves of life without the guide of faith to steer its course.
Different altogether is the situation with the God-fearing man, who would readily acknowledge all possible shortcomings and improve his ways; and by so doing overcome the dejected spirit, dispel the heavy clouds that hover around his life and being, and thus bring on light and cheer and divine consolation.
Of the efficacy of repentance we are taught in the beautiful narrative of the Book of Jonah: On learning of the dread decree, as predicted by the prophet, the people of Ninevah “proclaimed a universal fast, covered themselves with sackcloth, cried unto God with might, returned each one from his evil way and from the violence which was in their hands.”
The people of Ninevah, though a people of idolaters, nevertheless gave heed to the warning voice of heaven; they listened intently to the prophet, who exclaimed: “I am a Hebrew, and I adore the Lord, God of heaven!” Thus the impending danger was averted and the great city saved by Divine grace. All this is an admission, true and sublime, that the God is Israel is the Lord of the Universe. He is the “King of Nations,” the Redeemer of all mankind. He is good unto all, and His mercies extend over all His works.
To many of the present generation this sounds no more than a queer little tale, with no particular reference to past occurrences, and much less bearing on present life and conditions. Now I do not mean to be out in arms against the so-called “free Bible critics,” who maintain that the Book of Jonah is a mere allegory. It matters not, one way or another, the moral is of equal importance, and is applicable to every class and age. It is my intention only to point out the vain presumption of those who lull themselves into the fancied security that today we live in a different world; that now it would be simply folly to act like that old nation that repented, forsook the evil of its ways, and was saved from an approaching calamity. Today, they claim, no such thing should ever enter the mind of our progressive age, as we now have a license to do as we please and act as we choose without regard to moral duty or ethical law. The elements of nature cannot threaten us in the least. In any emergency we would take recourse to science, and science will solve all problems. But science owns up its insignificance in the presence of such awful manifestations and public calamities as [we] have witnessed, and before nature, unconquerable and unsearchable, even the wisest of men will gaze in wonderment and confess in the words: Verily, there is a God, and His is the vindication of eternal justice.
The question now suggests itself: Is the Ninevah of today anything other than that large and teeming city described by the prophet? Is this warning voice of the prophet not a warning to all of the powers to be, and who in the height of their prosperity would disregard all moral principle and ethical law, and would run riot in violence and corruption, so as provoke the wrath of the Just Avenger, and unless repentance would follow in due season their fate would be doomed? And is this not all a correct illustration of present conditions and the status of many a nation today? It appears that people are too busy nowadays to perceive the thickening clouds arising out of human misdeeds, and the heaven that is frowning upon the degeneracy of the age; an age glorifying in its contrivances, and holding aloof from everything that whispers caution or care for moral improvement; an age that regards itself all-important, and its civilization all-perfect.
Pogroms, race prejudice, hatred, persecution, selfishness, deception, vandalism, growing armies and endless revolutions; tyrants, despots on one side and a lot of monstrous, man-eating trusts and combines on the other. Amid such a babel were it not time for Ninevah to repent? And lo! There stands alone, out of all nations, that unwilling, ever-murmuring Jonah, who is bid by divine behest to sound the alarm to the existing nations for their timely regeneration. There is still that old Jonah, the man swallowed by the big leviathans of all ages; swallowed, and yet as quickly vomited out. Can you tell the man? “What is his labor? Whence comes he? And what is his country?”
“Whosoever knoweth let him repent.” Whosoever is conscious of human imperfections, let him strive for real culture, for true education, which is the cultivation of the soul, the elevation of moral character. And as with the individual, so with the whole of human society. What should be the acme of civilization, the improvement which the human race should value above all? Certainly not the augmentation of brutal force; nor the better display of arms; nor the idle boasting and vain glory of every manner of Chauvenism; but it is the acknowledgment of the all-ruling Providence of the one God that created us all; the recognition of the image of God in all of His creatures, and the final equalization of mankind under the broad standard of a universal brotherhood.
The fear of heaven is, and should always be, regarded first and foremost of all human knowledge. The idea of repentance, of reconciliation with the faces and rules of life that we may have overstepped, should be cherished as the highest and noblest principle of civilization.
---Julius T. Loeb, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 1906.
Our repentance would count for naught as a regenerative process, if it did not have its beginning in the discontinuance and righting of wrongs, which we may be guilty of having done toward others. It would be valueless as a discipline, established by our faith. Religion is first, and foremost, and all the time, conduct. You must know how to master your passions. You must possess self-control. You must resist temptation. You must sacrifice temporary, material advantage to lasting, personal honor. Genuine heroism lies, as an ancient teacher remarked, in the defeat and vanquishment of man's evil inclination.
—William Rosenau, The Jewish Voice, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 9, 1914.
The only enduring and reliable basis of conduct is reverence of God expressed in self-respect and respect for others.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 31, 1932.
Today's sins aren't new. They're just getting more exposure.
---Jack Rosenbaum, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, Calif., Jan. 21, 1973.
Learn to make the most of [your] talents along the lines best suited to [you] and what is even more important, [you] must learn to make these talents give [you] the greatest amount of satisfaction for the longest possible time.
---Jessie Abrams, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Aug. 9, 1978.
Compel sorrow to bless you with smiles by converting it into sympathy.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 23, 1933.
Sorrow often suffers a deepening gloom because it comes to one who has been too self-centered or too centered in another. Maintain a variety and, better still, a multiplicity of worthwhile interests. If one is taken you will find in your remnant a new anchorage and hope. Breathe deeply, live broadly and you cannot live miserably.
---Alexander Lyons, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 7, 1932.
To remember always that each one of us must some day depart should open our hearts to the ennobling impulses of love and loyalty and brotherhood unto one another.
For once we fully appreciate the implication of the fact that life for us as individuals on this planet does not go on forever, we ought to become kind and sympathetic and humble. Yes, humble; for what are we, what is our life, what our goodness, what our power?
Our days are like a shadow that passes away. One by one we drift into the mystery of the night of silence. One by one we leave to depart on that journey which takes us into eternity.
How, then, can we deal cruelly with one another, how can we disappoint our loved ones, how can we be harsh and cold? The sense of the tragic in life should open our eyes so that we cannot be capable of neglect nor can we bring disillusionment and suffering to others.
Tragedy, when understood and graciously accepted, is truly the richest soil in which the human soul can grow till it is part of the beauty of holiness.
For sorrow, when accepted with faith and courage, can be a matchless artist. Then He is able to use the soul for His canvass and tears for His paints. In the deepest darkness of our grief, in the blackest night of our affliction, He can find the light by which to work. he does not inform us of His progress. He never tells us when the picture is finished. We know what He has done only through some sudden strength which we possess, in a new meaning we have found in life, in a deepening of our spiritual powers.
Sometimes He reaches up out of the heart to touch the face, and afterwards there is a serenity and soulful beauty in the eyes and countenance which was never there before. For sorrow, when we let Him, can be an artist of such unlimited powers of creation that He can transform any of us into a finer, better, nobler human being.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Jan. 16, 1954.
It always amazes me to find people so smitten with despair over some frustration that they refuse to be comforted. They immediately conclude that bad luck is their special unwelcome companion, that they are the only ones to be hurt, that no one else has ever suffered like this before and that the world is against them.
To such people, and to all those who may not yet have tasted the bitter cup of disappointment, let me state emphatically that all people experience frustration and disillusionment in one way or another. No one escapes it in this life.
Just because you are hurt, because you have been pushed aside, because you have failed doesn't mean that your whole life is a failure, your whole life is a mistake. Keep telling yourself that this is the way of life; the usual order of events; that next time it is going to be better, next time you are going to succeed.
Moreover, sit down and think through why you have failed, so that you may learn from your mistake. The greatest discoveries in this world, the most marvelous advance and progress has come from people who have failed over and over again, but have learned from their defeats and have come through.
There is nothing on this earth that we now enjoy which has not passed through many stages of frustration before becoming a reality.
Think about the most wonderful people you know, the true, spiritual human beings, the great ones. And will you not admit that they are the veterans of life who bear the scars of battle, who have known the meaning of grief and disappointment?
Any person worth his salt has served an internship in the hospital of sorrow.
—Hyman Judah Schachtel, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Oct. 1, 1955.