The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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What A Climb!

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So I bought one these climbers–this one very colorful–to hang on one of my walls. 


I like the image of climbing and overcoming–with G-d’s help–whatever obstacle is in our path.


It’s not easy to climb and keep climbing, because the higher you go, the thinner the air, the more tired you get, and the further you have to fall!


But what I also realized about the image of the climber is that if you turn it on it’s side, then the same person who is climbing…is now crawling. 


What at times in life can be a beautiful climb up, at other times can be any of us on all fours. 


There is no easy path straight up, although there is definitely one that can go straight down!


Sometimes, we are vertical–living and working hard trying to achieve something. 


And other times, we are horizontal–resting, asleep, or even in a hospital bed fighting for our lives just to survive another moment or day.


When we climb, we may literally be trying to conquer mountains.


But when you crawl, you may literally be on the ground begging for mercy.


Climbing and crawling are really not that far apart in terms about 90 degrees and how quickly change can happen and a person goes from an upward trajectory to a more devastating one. 


Some things to keep in mind…anchor your feet solidly and hold on to that rope tightly and even for dear life. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Smell The Roses

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I am a big proponent of stopping to smell the roses. 


These purple, yellow, red, and pink flowers were sitting on the counter in Whole Foods, and I had to stop, back up, and take this amazing photo.


They were absolutely gorgeous!


Sometimes, I can’t believe the beautiful things and people that G-d has made. 


We’re part of a most-amazing and perfect world. 


Of course, there are also hardships and suffering in this world – illness, disability, hunger, homelessness, violence, loneliness, and loss. 


Perhaps, these are the most difficult of things for us as human beings to reconcile with the beautiful world that G-d has set us in. 


While surrounded by beauty, people are also beset by life’s many challenges. 


Maybe all the more reason to stop and smell the roses even for just a moment–to enjoy the spirit of life and of our amazing Creator, and the opportunity to make the most of it all. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

On The Train Of Life

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My beautiful daughter, Michelle, forwarded this wonderful message to me about our journey through life, and I wanted to share it with everyone.


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Life is like a journey on a train…
with its stations…
with changes of routes…
and with accidents !

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We board this train when we are born and our parents are the ones who get our ticket.

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We believe they will always travel on this train with us.

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However, at some station our parents will get off the train, leaving us alone on this journey.

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As time goes by, other passengers will board the train, many of whom will be significant – our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of our life.

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Many will get off during the journey and leave a permanent vacuum in our lives.

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Many will go so unnoticed that we won’t even know when they vacated their seats and got off the train!

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This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, good-byes, and farewells.

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A good journey is helping, loving, having a good relationship with all co passengers…and making sure that we give our best to make their journey comfortable.

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The mystery of this fabulous journey is:
We do not know at which station we ourselves are going to get off.

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So, we must live in the best way – adjust, forget, forgive and offer the best of what we have.

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It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to leave our seat… we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.”

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Thank you for being one of the important passengers on my train… don’t know when my station will come… don’t want 2 miss saying: “Thank you.”

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Setbacks Lead To Comebacks

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My wife, Danielle Blumenthal, sent me this beautiful quote from Joel Osteen’s book called, “It’s Your time.”

For every setback, G-d has prearranged a comeback

For every failure, G-d has prearranged mercy. 

For every disappointment, G-d has prearranged restoration. 

For every unfair thing, G-d has prearranged vindication….

It’s easy to get discouraged, lose your enthusiasm, or even be tempted to just settle where you are.

But if we’re going to see G-d’s best, when you get knocked down, you don’t stay down. You get back up again.You have to know that every time adversity comes against you, it’s a setup for a comeback.”

Often we look at some people, and think that they have everything. 

But no one does–life is a bunch of trade-offs. 

Some are blessed with family and friends, others with health and longevity, and still others with peace or prosperity, but no one has it all. 

And if you think they do, then you don’t really know them and their circumstances. 

In life, everyone has weaknesses, setbacks and failures…it’s how we learn, it’s how we grow.

Understanding that setbacks doesn’t necessarily mean “game over” and that as long as there is life, there is hope, can give us the courage to go on, and the strength to get up when it seems like we are down for the count, and to make a comeback to live and thrive yet another day. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Attitudinal Fix

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So attitude goes a long way in shaping how we do in life. 


For some people, the glass is half full, and for others it’s half empty–it’s of course, just how you look at it. 


One colleague told me this week: 

Life is 10% what happens 

and 

90% how you react to it.”

I suppose we see that with so many people who have unbelievable daunting challenges in life, yet somehow they manage to put on a smile or give a thumbs up regardless, and just do what they need to do–they are troopers, survivors, and generally people of incredible character and caliber. 


These are the heroes that we can look up to. 


“When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”–and the going refers to doing what needs to get done, and not running away from your duty scared or not knowing what to do. 

Need to be courageous, resourceful, loyal, and giving to others.  


Stop the whining, the crying, the self pity, the questioning “why me”–what will any of that help?


Fight, fight, fight–that’s what we’re here for. 


Until our last breath, we can still make a difference. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Prove Them Wrong

Your Not

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 


And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 


One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 


As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.


The neighbor angrily said, “You’ll never be anything in your life!”


And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community–and he went quite far. 


He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 


You could hear a pin drop in the class–I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 


I know that I for one certainly could. 


For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.


Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, “You’re not half of what you think you are!”


BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head–I was still relatively young and impressionable.


Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become “more,” I never really felt at all entitled. 


Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 


In the class, John said–you have to go out and “Prove them wrong.” 


And while I don’t exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn’t let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 


We all have our mission in life–and it’s up to us to become the best people that we can–and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don’t wish us the best. 


So John is right–go out there and do great things! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)