For two years I was the president of Congregation Beth Jacob. At the end of the Shabbos morning service, Rabbi Ilan Feldman would announce various mazel tovs and other items related to the synagogue, then turn to me as president and ask if I had anything else to say.
I decided I would make a short announcement on what the board of the synagogue was doing and end with a few uplifting quotations to end the service on a positive note.
I love quotations and have a large library of them, and I read them often for fun and for inspiration. To end the synagogue service, I had to find the right ones to fit our membership that were in keeping with having just finished a traditional Jewish service.
I often read hundreds of quotations to find the right ones to present to the membership. After doing that for two years, week after week, I produced a small pamphlet called “Quotations From the Pulpit,” which is available from the publisher.
I found quotations from many different sources, so here are just a few of the gems I found:
- From Carl Sandburg — “A baby is G-d’s opinion that the world should go on.”
“You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool Mom.”
“If a mother gives her children one gift, let it be passion. And the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
- One time I quoted Mother Teresa — “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
“If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
“If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
“If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
“The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good today.
“Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
“For you see, in the end it is between you and G-d. It never was between you and them anyway.”
A few days later, the rabbi said that since I had quoted Mother Teresa, members of the congregation had suggested to him that perhaps I was running out of quotes. He meant it in jest, of course. He went on say that I might even quote the pope.
A week later, I followed up by reminding the congregation that the rabbi suggested that I had so few quotes left that I might even have to quote the pope.
Well, I did have a quote from A. Pope, and it goes like this: “He who serves his brother best — gets nearer G-d than all the rest.”
The quotation is from A. Pope — that is, Alexander Pope, a well-known English poet who lived 300 years ago and wrote highly polished verse.
He also wrote:
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To hide the fault I see.
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Because these quotes were pithy, uplifting and, I believe, appropriate, many members looked forward to hearing them and told me so. The only request a few members wanted was to hear some quotations from Jewish leaders, and I tried to find them and did provide some of them. Some examples:
- From the Baal Shem Tov — “The world is new to us every morning — this is G-d’s gift, and every person should believe he is reborn every day.”
- From Shammai — “Say little and do much.” This is one of my favorite quotes in five little words.
- From Hillel — “The more Torah, the more life. The more study, the more wisdom. The more counsel, the more discernment. The more charity, the more peace.”
The bottom line: The world is full of great advice, if only we take it.