myrunningrabbi

Inspirational /Motivational Speaker
Contact AAE Speakers Bureau 800 698 2536

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Overcoming Loneliness

A Rabbi said: “The way we usually approach loneliness is mostly by avoiding it, because we have all seen lonely people sitting next to other lonely people on lonely park benches, and they are the people we would least like to be. So we shy away from the subject altogether because in our idealized, packaged version of healthy adjustment, there is no room for loneliness, not even a little bit.”

The author Thomas Wolfe wrote in an essay entitled “Loneliness,” “that far from being a rare and curious phenomenon,” loneliness “is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

How sad that in the digital age the more we are connected to everything – the more we feel detached, isolated and separated. And we stare at our phones and hide behind the digital screens.
How often to I pass a bunch of teenagers sitting on the steps and not looking at each other or talking to their friends right there next to them.

“How is this a life?” asks a 30-something blogger.

It’s not a life, actually. We cannot spend our days hunched over a screen forging a sense of human interaction. This is not what we are made for. I can guarantee all your best memories live within the moments with others.

Recently, a congregant of mine suffered a loss and only found out about their bereavement when I happened to go on Facebook. I wrote to my Temple families and sermonized pleading with them to at least call me and the people close to them to hear our voices and let us go in person to comfort them.

The blogger Jamie Varon asked perceptively, “When you look back on your life will you be happy about how much you binged on Netflix? Will you be happy about the graveyard of plans you let fall by the wayside? Will you be happy when you are surrounded by no one because we’ve all pushed each other away?”

That’s an excerpt from her essay entitled, “This is the New Loneliness.” A New Loneliness has seized a new generation.

And maybe, when we ditch our phones and stop surfing and posting and liking, we should ask ourselves: why?
My wedding couple tell me that they met the old fashioned way because online dating – searching for suitable people all looking anonymously – only intensified their loneliness.

Now loneliness is viewed as a public health issue because researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to cognitive decline.

A Rabbi asks us to examine ourselves honestly. How much loneliness have I brought upon myself through narcissism and a lack of self-awareness? Why not set aside your loneliness by doing something for someone else.

Anyone who serves at a homeless shelter, or tutors disadvantaged kids, or volunteers at a hospital, knows this.

From time to time, we are all lost and lonely in this impersonal world. So make real friends and reach out to the strangers and the estranged. And find your path in life together.


A Key to Living Longer and Stronger – the Attitude of Gratitude

In the early 1990s one of the great medical research exercises of modern times took place. It became known as the Nun Study. Some 700 American nuns agreed to allow their records to be accessed by a research team investigating the process of aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. At the start of the study the participants were aged between 75 and 102.

What gave this study its unusual scope is that in 1930 the nuns, then in their twenties, had been asked by the Mother Superior to write a brief autobiographical account of their life and their reasons for entering the convent. These documents were now analyzed by the researchers using a specially devised coding system to register positive and negative emotions.

By annually assessing the nuns’ current state of health, the researchers were able to test whether their emotional state in 1930 had an effect on their health sixty years later. Because they had all lived a very similar lifestyle during these six decades, they formed an ideal group for testing hypotheses about the relationship between emotional attitudes and health.

The results were startling. The more positive emotions-contentment, gratitude, happiness, love and hope-the nuns expressed in their autobiographical notes, the more likely they were to be alive and well sixty years later. The difference was as much as seven years in life expectancy.

So remarkable was this finding that it has led, since then, to a new field of gratitude research, as well as a deepening understanding of the impact of emotions on physical health.
Since the publication of the Nun Study and the flurry of further research it inspired, we now know of the multiple effects of developing an attitude of gratitude. It improves physical health and immunity against disease. Grateful people are more likely to exercise regularly and go for regular medical check-ups. Thankfulness reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret and makes depression less likely.

Gratefulness helps people avoid over-reacting to negative experiences by seeking revenge. It even tends to help people sleep better. It enhances self-respect, making it less likely that you will envy others for their achievements or success. Grateful people tend to have better relationships. Saying “thank you” enhances friendships and elicits better performances from employees. It is also a major factor in strengthening resilience.

One study of Vietnam War Veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Remembering the many things we have to be thankful for helps us survive painful experiences, from losing a job to bereavement.

A colleague has said that part of the essence of gratitude is that it recognizes that we are not the sole authors of what is good in our lives. The egoist, says Andre Comte-Spoonville, ” is ungrateful because he doesn’t like to ackknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement.

“Thankfulness has an inner connection with humility. It recognizes that what we are and what we have is due to others, and above all to the divine within us. Those who are incapable of gratitude live in vain; they can never be satisfied, fulfilled or happy: they do not get ready to live.”

On October 3rd 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation, thanking God that though this nation was at war with itself, there were still blessings for which both sides could express gratitude. Thanksgiving reminds us of how indebted we are to others and on a Spirit greater than ourselves.

As it is with individuals and nations giving thanks leads to health and happiness.


There Is a God

Over a hundred years ago in the town of Berditchev, there lived the saintly Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. One day he ordered the town crier to come to him.

“What is your wish?” he asked the rabbi.

“Go to every storekeeper and shopkeeper in the market place,” Levi Yitzchak commanded. “Tell them to close their business and assemble in the town square, for I have an announcement to make.”

“But, Master,” exclaimed the town crier, “today is market day and this is the busiest hour. Could you not postpone your announcement?”

“No,’” he replied. “Go and tell them that Levi Yitzchak has an important proclamation. It cannot wait a day or even an hour. They must halt their trading, close their shops, and come to the town square at once.”

The town crier reluctantly left to do the rabbi’s bidding. He stopped at every store and every shop and told the people that the holy rabbi had ordered them to come to the town square for an announcement of great significance. Grumbling at the ill-timed disruption, but with their curiosity piqued, the people obeyed the command, shut their stores and gathered in the town square.

Once all had assembled, the rabbi stepped up onto a box, signaled for silence, and began to speak: “I have asked you to come here on this busy day at this busy hour because I have news of great consequence for all of you, news which cannot be delayed even another moment. And it is this: I declare to you: ‘There is a God in the world!”
There is a God in the world! A colleague of mine has sermonized that “given the fractured world we inhabit and the frenetic lives we lead, we often need reminding. But there is a God in the world, revealed in our yearning to do what is right and good; in gratitude for all that is beautiful in our lives beyond our ability to control or create, and in our courage to persevere through life’s inescapable sorrows.”

God given strength resides in each of us…and in those around us. Fred Rogers, remembered in the wonderful film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” told a favorite story from the Special Olympics:

“For the 100 yard dash. nine contestants.assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun took off. But not long afterward, one boy stumbled and fell…hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard him…slowed down and kissed the boy, and said.’This’ll make it better.” The boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their hands together, and walked to the finish line.”

The world is full of people ready to say, “I will hold your hand if you let me.” The nineteenth-century holy man understood: “Human beings are God’s language,” he taught.

But what of those moments, a rabbi taught, when our own strength fails, and darkness conceals those hands reaching out to help us? Then, especially, we must remember Levi Yitzchak’s pronouncement: “There is a God in the world.”

THERE IS A GOD IN THE WORLD, AND NO ONE IS ALONE.


Coronavirus-A Time of Opportunity

A colleague has offered comforting words. We all need some healing of our souls. The fear and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus has stressed and strained us all. Let us take the opportunity to find the peace we need to restore some sense of balance.

Embrace this day as a respite from tension and worry, an island of calm, and a time of renewal. Take some time to be outdoors away from crowds and commune with nature. Draw closer to the members of your household and connect remotely with family and friends. As the beautiful poem below suggests, let’s make this a time to feel deeply within our hearts and allow love to flow freely from our souls in all directions.

POEM BY RONNIE WEIL
“What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath as the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling-

Give up, just for now,

On trying to make the world different than it is.

Sing, Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life.

Center down. And when your body has become still reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. Surely that had come clear.

Do not reach out your hands. reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise the world you love for better or for worse,

In sickness and in health,

So long as we all shall live.”


Why Am I Here? What Is My Purpose?

Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I find meaning in my life?

A group of followers came to study with their Spiritual Leader and found him sitting and weeping. They tried to console him.

“Why are you crying?” they asked.

“When I was young, he said, “I thought I could change the world, so I set out to try. That’s how I learned that the world is a very difficult thing to change.”

“When I turned thirty, I decided that it was just as important for me to perfect my small corner of the world, so I placed all my energies into trying to improve my community and my students. That’s how learned that communities and classes cannot be made perfect.”

“At the age of forty, I set about just to change my family. I spent hours with my children trying to make them perfect. But, I learned that even families cannot be perfected.”

“When I reached my maturity, I realized that there was only one who would listen to the lessons I had been placed in the world to teach, so I set out to perfect myself. But, now I realize that even that is beyond my power.”

The students were afraid. If even the great Spiritual Leader and Teacher, could not perfect himself, what chance did they have? They turned to consoling him even more. “You have become a righteous and holy man. What you do is just and right. You should not mourn because you are not perfect After all, the Holy One doesn’t ask us to be perfect. Only the Holy One is perfect.”

“No, said he, “you misunderstand. I am not weeping because of the great blessing that has been granted to me.”

“We don’t understand. What blessing is that?” the students asked, totally confused at this point.

The Spiritual Leader answered, “All through my life, the Holy One has given me the strength to try. At each step of my life, I have been blessed to to to try to make my world a better place. I cry with joy for being given all these years in which to live this amazing journey.”
May we be granted the years to take our amazing journey, one challenge, one change, and one value at a time.


myrunningrabbi

myrunningrabbi