Follow this rule and you will be successful. My choice is to fail.

Posted: March 18th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A wealthy man that I know has a rule that he swears by.  He calls it the “T” rule. He believes that if someone follows this rule they will become “successful”. Until recently, he never explicitly mentioned it to me, but looking back, it is certainly consistent with his behavior.

Here is his rule: Draw a “T”.  Now think of your life.  The right side is for all the times that you were “screwed” or got the shorter end of a deal.  The left side is for all the times that you got the better end of the deal or you “screwed” someone else.  The goal is, over the course of your life, maximize the left and minimize the right.

My first reaction was disbelief. Then I felt sad for him. I also realized that as defined by this, he must consider me a complete and unequivocal failure. A sucker or an easy mark. Someone who is wasting his potential and amazing opportunities. But that’s OK because I try to follow a different rule. And mine is golden.

Do One Thing.

Posted: March 13th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Staff and residents of Covenant House NJ joined us for services last night.

I can not help but cry when I hear the stories of marginalization encountered by these youth. I cry more when I see the concern, dedication and selfless compassion of the staff.

We have so much. It takes so little to make someone’s life just that much easier. A safe place to sleep. A hot meal. A shower. Shoes. A smile. A small reminder that there is goodness and love in our world, no matter how dark and alone it may seem. A reminder for me. A reminder for you. And a reminder for them.

Please visit their site

Many Laws. Only One Simple Rule.

Posted: March 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There is one simple rule that would make our lives would be so much brighter, so much richer and so much more meaningful, if we simply just lived it. In any language, in any faith, it reminds us of how truly wonderful we humans can be when our individual thoughts and actions are aligned in commonality of purpose, to the benefit of all.

One simple rule expressed in a multitude of ways. One simple rule that is both universally relevant yet as ancient as humanity itself. One simple rule that unites us in our past, guides us in our present and points us to our shared destiny.  Just one simple rule.

“Son, that which seems evil unto thee do not do to thy companion”

-Babylonian legend of Ahitar

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

-Confucius, The Analects

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; That is the whole Torah. while the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

-Hillel, the Talmud -Shabbat 31a, the “Great Principle”

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

-Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:12

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you”

-The Prophet Muhammad, the Farewell Sermon

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”

-BrihaspatiThe  Mahabharata

If your neighbor’s jackal escapes into your garden, you should return the animal to its owner; that is how you would want your neighbor to treat you.”

-African proverb

Hiding behind the curtain.

Posted: March 4th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This started out as a comment to a post from my friend, Rabbi Amy Small, but as I was composing it, I realized that it’s context was better suited to its own post.

In my minds eye, the ability to laugh at oneself is a both an indication of how one enjoys life as well as a marker of one’s confidence in living. At a Purim play and carnival, Rabbi Amy Joy Small took on some rather unconventional roles that evidently caused some to pause. Why? Perhaps because she was acting outside of how a Rabbi is stereotypically perceived. To varying degrees, I think the title “Rabbi” generally evokes images of a more dour, serious and older male in most people. Further, I think synagogue evokes the image of a sacred, serious and somewhat solemn place controlled by a rigid hierarchy of wise and near perfect learned men.

With no disrespect intended, its all a bit like the Wizard of Oz as presented in the film; an awe inspiring individual whose perceived power lies in his mastery of arcane information. He resides in the most sacred section of the great Emerald City, protected by guards and limiting his contact with the citizenry who look to him for leadership and guidance. As such, his legend and mystique are based more upon managed perception then the actuality of deeds and character. It is only when this “wizard” is inadvertently unveiled by an animal, which is immune to the crafted personae, is revealed to be a mere man hiding behind a curtain, that the “wizard” acknowledges his humanity, faults and all. By understanding and accepting his own shortcomings rather than focusing on living up to the image he created, he is now free to see the strengths of others and he is able to open their eyes to these qualities.

In actuality a Rabbi puts on her pants one leg at a time (just like everyone else) and a synagogue is just a structure where the congregation (i.e. community) can gather together. What makes our congregation both distinct and appealing to many is that our shared humanity, quirks and strengths are honestly embraced and accepted. A culture of seeing everyone as a person who has value and must be respected is continually emphasized and fostered. And this does not just apply to congregants or even just Jews, but to all individuals.  I saw this immediately when as a family we joined many years ago (it was at my wife’s behest as I had no desire to join anything). I have continually told my kids that our synagogue, our congregation is a place where you can see how regular people, including clergy, lay leadership and members all bring in divergent perspectives and idiosyncrasies but they are united by the goal of trying act unselfishly, responsibly and with true concern for others. And by others, I mean all others. That is the ultimate take away and that is why we belong here.

Don’t ever for one second believe that you are in control.

Posted: March 1st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

About 9 1/2 years ago, a friend of mine was about to a begin working at a new firm. He pursued this position diligently, lobbying hard, selling his qualifications and the potential impact he could have on the company’s business. And when he was chosen, he was truly elated, as this position afforded him an phenomenal opportunity to advance in his career. So one beautiful late summer morning he woke up extra early, left his home in northern NJ and arrived eagerly at his new employer. Upon arrival, he was undoubtedly presented with stacks of forms from HR and left in some cubicle to fill them out alone. Then the first plane crashed into the tower. He left behind a wife and small kids, one just barely a year old.

This past Friday, the 15 year old son of friends left for an adventure as an exchange student. He too was undoubtedly excited about the wonderful experiences and opportunities that would unfold over the next 4 months. He would meet new friends, experience a new culture and elevate his Spanish skills to a new level. And then with in 24 hours of his arrival in Santiago, one of the largest earthquakes in  modern times struck Chile.  Fortunately, he was unharmed but the last that I heard, he has still yet to actually speak to his parents.

These are 2 personal examples of the world being turned upside down instantly; one caused by the senseless yet well planned action of a few men and another brought on seemingly at random by our very world. No one is immune from these exogenous events. They may not be life threatening but your life will be changed. While you can’t control external factors, you can control yourself. The only course of action is to simply accept the reality of the situation and respond appropriately.  Whether that is making a last call to your wife and telling her that you love her or working closely with others for a common goal. Regardless of the outcome, every situation, good or bad,  whether we realize it or not, presents us with an opportunity. It may not be the opportunity that we are looking for or one that we even want, but we don’t have that choice. However we do have the choice, or rather the responsibility to ourselves, to see these opportunities and seize them. Our lives are composed of a continuous stream of these moments. Don’t waste them. Make each one count. Make every moment your last moment.

Michael, you will not forgotten. Zach we all look forward to your safe return.