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Jewish Words of Wisdom: Quotes from Sept

From the Week of 26 Elul 5757/Sept 28, 1997

From now until after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the quotes here will have the High Holidays as their theme. Rosh Hashana, birthday of the world, occurs on the first day of the seventh month...

"One on the New Moon of Elul, the zaddik Rabbi Levi Isaac of Berditchev [18th cent.] was standing at his window. A Gentile cobbler passed by and asked him, 'And have you nothing to mend?' At once the zaddik sat himself down on the ground and weeping bitterly cried, 'Woe is me, and alas my soul, for the Day of Judgement [i.e. Rosh HaShanah, which is also known as Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement] is almost here, and I have still not mended myself!' " (Zikhron la-Rishonim as quoted in Days of Awe, S.Y. Agnon, ed.)

"O Merciful G-d of forgiveness, You desire the return of those who have strayed, and You do not desire their destruction...For it is said, "This is the word of G-d, 'Do You think I prefer the death of a sinner? What I desire is that he repent his errant ways and live' " (Yom Kippur Service as quoted in Living Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD)

"Who like You, O G-d, forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression; Who has not maintianed His wrath forever against the remnant of His own people, because He loves graciousness!" (Micah 7:18)

"...Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you-- said the L-RD of Hosts." (Malichi 3:7)


From the Week of 19 Elul 5757/Sept 21, 1997

From now until Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the quotes here will have the High Holidays as their theme. This quote from Nehemiah is appropriate at Rosh Hashana, birthday of the world, occurs on the first day of the seventh month...

"And all the people gathered as one man in the open place before the Water Gate; and told Ezra the Scribe to bring the book of the Torah of Moses, which the L-RD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the Priest brought the Torah before the congregation both of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it in front of the open space before the Water Gate, from early morning until noon, before the men and the women, and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the Torah...And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; for he was above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up; And Ezra blessed the L-RD, the great G-d. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the L-RD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Torah; while the people stood in their places. So they read in the book in the Torah of G-d clearly, and gave the interpretation, so that they understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the Governor, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all the people, This is holy to the L-RD your G-d; do not mourn, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Torah." (Nehemiah 8:1-9)


From the Week of 12 Elul 5757/Sept 14, 1997

"Surely this instruction that I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach; it is not in the heavens that you should say, 'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get if for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it" (Deut 30:11-14)

"The Torah of the L-RD is perfect, it revives the soul; the decrees of the L-RD are enduring, making the simple wise ... the precepts of the L-RD are just, they gladden the heart; the decrees of the L-RD are truth and all of them just. They are more desired than gold, than the purest of gold, and sweeter they are than honey" (Psalms 19:8-11)

"This book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night." (Joshua 1:8)

"The Torah is a tree of life for all who hold it fast, its ways are pleasant, its paths are peace" (Proverbs )


Quotes for the Week of 5 Elul 5757/Sept 7, 1997

"G-d may have His own reasons for denying us certainty with regard to His existence and nature. One reason apparent to us is that man's certainty with regard to anything is poison to his soul. Who knows this better than moderns who have had to cope with dogmatic Fascists, Communists, and even scientists?" (Emanuel Rackman, in The Condition of Jewish Belief as quoted in The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager and Telushkin)

If the believer has his troubles with evil, the atheist has more and graver difficulties to contend with. Reality stumps him altogether, leaving him baffled not by consideration but by many, from the existence of natural law through the instinctual cunning of the insect to the brain of the genius and the heart of the prophet. This then is the intellectual reason for believing in G-d: That, though this belief is not free from difficulties, it stands out, head and shoulders, as the best answer to the riddle of the universe." (Rabbi Milton Steinberg, Anatomy of Faith as quoted in The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager and Telushkin)

"In sum, reason is amoral. It is a human tool that can be used as easily for evil as for good." (The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager and Telushkin)

"...How is one to account for the goodness of so many irreligionists? Very simply. Men often behave better than their philosophies. They cannot be expected to persist in doing so. In the end, how a mand thinks must affect how he acts: atheism must finally, if not in one generation, then in several, remake the conduct of atheists in the light of its own logic." (Rabbi Milton Steinberg, Anatomy of Faith as quoted in The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager and Telushkin)

"Unethical and unkind people who pretend to be religious commit the sin of khillul ha-Shem, the desecration of G-d's name. The consequent alienation from religion of people who might otherwise become or remain religious is underscored in the Talmud: "...If someone studies Bible and Mishnah [the Oral Law] ... but is dishonest in business and discourteous in his relations with people, what do people say of him? 'Woe unto him who studies the Torah ... This man studied the Torah; loook how corrupt are his deeds, how ugly his ways'" (Yoma 86a)" (The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager and Telushkin) Studying Torah does not guarentee righteous action, one must put the Torah into action.


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This page was made by Gretchen A. Shapiro, © copyright 1997