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Updated 4/23/06

This is a collection of "wise sayings," mostly from Orthodox sources.

They are quite helpful in inspiring deeper thoughts about God and life.

New additions are placed at the bottom of the page.


Wisdom lives in the future, and from there it speaks to us. There is no such thing as wisdom of the past. Wisdom preceded the world and wisdom is its destiny. With each passing moment, wisdom becomes younger as we come closer to the time when it is born and breathes the air of day. Our ancient mothers and fathers, the sages, all those from whom we learn wisdom -- they are not guardians of the past. They are messengers of the future.


Torah is the interface between the Infinite and creation. On the outside, it speaks the language of humankind. On the inside is depth without end. Grasp either end and you have nothing. Grasp both and you have G-d Himself.


Nothing can hold you back -- not your childhood, not the history of a lifetime, not even the very last moment before now. In a moment you can abandon your past. And once abandoned, you can redefine it. If the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power. The very first step of change is so powerful, the boundaries of time fall aside. In one bittersweet moment, the sting of the past is dissolved and its honey salvaged.


A sin in itself is only the bite of the snake. The real damage comes from the poison that spreads afterwards, saying, "What a worthless thing you are. Look what you've done!" With those few words, all the gates of hell are opened.


Just as a tiny seed awakens the infinite power of life hidden within the earth, so a mitzvah buried quietly in the ground can ignite an explosion of infinite light. Charged with that power, all the world is changed.


If all the world is a classroom and all of life is a lesson, then certainly your profession and workplace are included. After all, He has unlimited ways to provide your livelihood. The fact that He directed you to this way of life means there is something inscribed there specifically for your soul.


Nothing is worse than being only a pawn in G-d's history; nothing is worse than misreading the opportunities of life. Nothing is worse than finding out that you were concealing the light of creation when you had thought all along that you were revealing it.


There are infinite worlds beyond ours and beyond the worlds of the angels, all full of divine light, beauty and oneness. But know also that all this was brought into being with a single purpose: G-d desires to be at home within your mundane world.


There are two approaches to healing: One is to find whatever has been weakened and damaged by illness, then repair and strengthen it. Another is to find whatever remains viable and healthy, and support and strengthen it. Since it is one body, fortifying one aspect brings healing to all the rest.

So too, the healing of the spirit: One path is to grab the weakness by its horns and fix up your act. Another is to focus your energies on the spiritual resources that are working well. Since it is one soul, when one area is enriched the rest is elevated with it. So too, in repairing whatever is amiss in your world: When you see others are not doing their job, important work is being mishandled and valuable opportunities passed up, it is not a time for anger or despair. It is a time for you to strengthen many times over the good work you are doing in your own sphere. And since we are all one, the energy you invest in your little corner of the world pays off in every other portion as well.


Wisdom and a certain measure of inspiration are needed to help us decide which strategy to apply: go straight ahead, or stand still and fight. The rule of thumb is quite simple: If the obstacle is in your way, you have to confront it directly, like the battle with Amalek. But if the problem is behind you as Pharaoh was, do not turn back to fight. Just go straight ahead and G-d will fight the battle for you.


If a person places his trust in something other than G-d, then G-d hands him over into the hands of that thing that he trusts.


Man is G-d's needle to sew the many patches of Creation into a single garment for His glory. At one end, the needle must be hard and sharp, to squeeze through the ordeal. But the other end must have a vacant hollow, a nothingness with which to hold the thread. With the world, be firm and sharp. Within, feel how small you are before the Infinite.


Man, on his own, cannot reach higher than his own ego. He cannot break out of his own skin, he cannot lift himself up by pulling at his own hair. All of his achievements are tied to his own ego. All that he may comprehend is defined by his own subjective perception. He is a prisoner by virtue of existence. So G-d threw Man a rope. He gave him tasks to fulfill that are beyond his comprehension, thoughts to fathom that take him outside the hollow of his subjective universe. All that is needed is his willingness to leave himself. We are all prisoners. But we sit on the keys.


It is impossible to conquer the evil nature with laziness and sluggishness, which stem from sadness and a stone-like dullness of the heart, but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and an open [i.e., responsive] heart that is unblemished by any trace of worry and sadness in the world.


The words and the stories, these are but the outer garb of the Torah. The message, the halacha, the guidance, is the body inside those clothes. The body has a soul that gives it life. And within the soul breathes a deeper, transcendental soul. Grasp the clothes alone and you are a fool. Grasp straight for the body and the soul - you will come up with nothing, for they are not graspable, they are G-dly wisdom and you are a created being. Rather, examine the clothing well and see how they bring out the deepest beauty of the body and soul within, just as clothes and jewelry bring out the beauty of the one for whom they are designed. (i.e., Matthew 23:23)


Truth is the middle path. An inclination to the right, to be overly stringent with oneself and find faults or sins not in accord with the truth, or an inclination to the left, to be overly indulgent, covering one's faults or being lenient in demands of Avoda out of self-love - both these ways are false.


Imagine a circle with a dot at its center. When one stands at the rim and looks towards the center, he is made aware of the fact that despite the multitude of points on the outer rim, they all focus at the center. But when one stands at the center facing outwards, he becomes aware of the opposite phenomena -- that despite the center being one point it radiates out into many directions.

Prayer may be likened to the first case. The person stands on the outer perimeter of the circle, touching diverse areas of life. He prays for wealth, health, wisdom, etc. He focuses towards the center -- the Almighty -- realizing that there is one source for all of life's diverse needs. He is addressing the ultimate source -- God.

Study may be likened to the second case, where the person stands at the center facing the perimeter. Study is a process whereby we take God's word, and break it into components, so that we can understand it and properly apply it. God's word is one, but if we apply it to various situations it takes on the many hues and flavors of the particular applications.


The nature of a human being is to simply react, to give back the medicine others give you. G-d shadows man. Go beyond your nature with others, and so He will do with you. Ignore the urge to return bad with bad, hurt with hurt, scorn with scorn -- and the heavens will ignore all the mess you've made in the past.


Beauty cannot be touched. It cannot be described or explained. The more we uncover Beauty, the more it eludes us. Beauty is where the world makes a window for the light of the Infinite to shine in.


Upon every person's soul there are words written and words engraved. The words that are written are not of the essence of the person -- they come to the soul from the outside. Therefore, they may fade and fall away, perhaps to be replaced by other words. The words engraved are of the soul itself -- just as engravings are no more than the form of the stone. When the soul finds quietude, those words are there. And when the soul is in turmoil, or soiled by experience, those engravings need only be cleaned and uncovered. But they can never be torn away. Those same are also engraved in a holy fire within the depths of the Soul of All Things. They are the same words that Moses heard and inscribed on stone and on parchment. And at times, when you immerse in the Torah and the words of its sages, and you allow it entry to touch your soul, you may hear those words resonating inside.


G-d wanted a being, a somebody, not a puppet. A creature that would decide, "This is how it should be done, using such-and-such and in such a way with such a feeling -- this is what my Creator wants from me." The score is handed to us, but the music comes from our own souls.


When He had finished His world, complete and whole, each thing in its place, the earth below and the heavens beyond; Then, like an artist, he signed His holy name. With a vacuum in time, so that the Infinite Light could kiss the finite world and enter within. And He called it Shabbat. In each thing there is a Shabbat, an opening that allows life to enter, a desire to receive from Beyond. In each being there is a sense of wonder, of knowing that there is something greater. Transcendent. Something it will never truly know. And with that perception it receives life.


Ask the wise men of many cultures, and they will tell you that all is temporal, all will pass, there is nothing in this world to cling to, only to transcend. Ask a sage of the Torah and he will tell you it is not true. The vanities of time, the failures of life, they all pass as clouds on a windy day, but truth lives forever.

This is the meaning of the thirteenth of the thirteen principles of our faith, the belief that those who lived true lives will live again, in a real and corporeal way. It is a rejection of temporalism, a confirmation that there are things in the world that really matter, that have endless meaning and absolute purpose. Whenever a G-dly act is performed, all involved are elevated beyond time. Save a life -- you are Noah saving the entire world. Feed weary travelers -- they are the angels coming to visit Abraham and Sarah. And Abraham and Sarah are hosting them with you.

In fact, all those who had truth in their lives are here with us today. It is only that we are so much a part of this river of time, we cannot lift our heads to see above it. Only when the falseness of the world will be ripped away and all is elevated to a place of truth, then we shall all see each other, together once again.


If you run your life according what makes sense to you, you will never be sure of anything. As good as the mind is at finding solutions and answers, it is even better at finding questions and doubts. The path of Torah is to learn and to allow the Torah within you to resonate with those truths you learn, until your mind and heart and actions are guided by a voice that has no second thoughts.


Cease to learn Torah, cease to be objective. Cease to be objective, begin to be subjective. Begin to be subjective, begin to be doubtful - and become vulnerable to an attack from Amalek - whose names equals the Hebrew word "suffek" (doubt) - and become vulnerable to enemies and their machinations.


By the time Moses returned to the scene, his people had hit an all-time low. They worshipped idols, spoke slanderously of each other, and had wandered very far from the path of their forefathers. Perhaps he should have told them off, saying, "Repent, sinners, lest you perish altogether!" But he didn't. Instead, he told them how G-d cared for them and felt their suffering, how He would bring about miracles, freedom and a wondrous future out of His love for them. As for rebuke, Moses saved that for G-d. "Why have you mistreated your people?!" he demanded. If you don't like the other guy's lifestyle, do him a favor, lend him a hand. Once you've brought a few miracles into his life, then you can urge him to chuck his bad habits.


When you come to a place that seems outside of G-d's realm, too coarse for light to enter, and you want to run away -- Know that there is no place outside of G-d, and rejoice in your task of uncovering Him there.


In your worldly business, just do what needs to be done and trust in G-d to fill in the rest. In your spiritual business, however, you’ll have to take the whole thing on your own shoulders. Don’t rely on G-d to heal the sick, help the poor, educate the ignorant and teach you Torah. He’s relying on you.


How to Unmask a Blessing in Disguise -- Stare it in the face and say, "I know you are not just a lousy day or bad luck. I know you are a good friend -- even if for the life of me, I cannot determine how. I know there is only one Source of All Things, and nothing can convince me that evil descends from Above. Evil descends from the constraints of our perception. You are no more than a blessing in disguise."This blessing, if truly a great one, will not surrender its cover easily. You will need to hold your ground like a mountain against the sea. You will need a composure that demonstrates you meant every word you said. You need to surprise yourself with your own resolve. And then you can turn over a world. A world that once distorted every blessing that squeezed through its gates will open wide. And the blessings that have already entered will sigh a breath of relief as they discard their bizarre disguises.


When light pushes away the darkness, eventually another darkness shall come. When the darkness itself is transformed into light, it is a light that no darkness can oppose.


As a mother and the baby she holds in her arms, as a father and child, as two in courtship or in marriage, so we are with Him. One chases, the other runs away. One runs away, the other chases. One initiates, the other responds. The other initiates, the one responds. It is a dance, a game, a duet that plays as surely as the pulse of life. Until one falls away and becomes estranged. Then the other looks and says, "This is not an other. We are one and the same." And so, they return to each other's arms once again. It is a great mystery, but in estrangement, there is found the deepest bond.


If you are serving the same G-d today as you served yesterday, who are you serving but yourself?


There are dark jewels in this world that can be salvaged, purified and taken as precious bounty for the good. And there is darkness itself, the essential absence of light, that must only wait its time to expire. How can we tell between them? If the darkness fights back, there is hope.


Wherever Light goes, it never finds Darkness. For Light, Darkness does not exist. And wherever Darkness goes, it does not find Light. For Darkness, Light does not exist. In the Time To Come, the two shall meet and in their meeting will be revealed That Which Created All Things. In the meantime, we have an inkling of it A G-dly soul in a material body, each learning to know the other.


When He had finished His world, complete and whole, each thing in its place, the earth below and the heavens beyond; Then, like an artist, he signed His holy name. With a vacuum in time, so that the Infinite Light could kiss the finite world and enter within. And He called it Shabbat. In each thing there is a Shabbat, an opening that allows life to enter, a desire to receive from Beyond. In each being there is a sense of wonder, of knowing that there is something greater. Transcendent. Something it will never truly know. And with that perception it receives life.


When the world was made, G-d was left with two lights A light of boundless energy that encompasses all things and gives them being, but transcends them, and a penetrating light that vitalizes all things but is limited and darkened by them. The first light is a pure expression of "there is none else but He", so from it extend miracles, acts that deny the world any significance. The second light is an expression of His desire that there be a world, so from it extends the natural order of things, a world of elements behaving as though they are directed by their own properties. But G-d did not want a world where there are two Powers That Be -- one of Nature and one of Supernature. So He made the two lights to play in harmony, to reveal that they both shine from one Source. How does He do it? Does He blunt the miracles so they could fit into the natural order? Or does He alter the properties of nature to compromise with the miracles? Neither. Each element acts according to its natural properties, while miracles of the highest order occur. Impossible? Plant a seed and watch it grow. Plant good deeds and watch with wonder the miracles that ensue.


One who returns from the darkness must bring of it with him and convert it to light. He must exploit his experience to surge higher and higher with greater strength. Therefore, the one who returns from a distance is greater than the one who was always close. What matters is not so much where you stand, but with what force you are moving in which direction.


There’s no such thing as defeat. There’s always another chance. To believe in defeat is to believe that there is something, a certain point in time that did not come from Above. Know that G-d doesn't have failures. If things appear to worsen, it is only as part of them getting better. We only fall down in order to bounce back even higher.


Hardships in life are the material world’s way of beckoning to you, "Purify me! Elevate me!" They come to you knowing you can overcome them, and thereby they will fulfill their purpose of being.


People imagine a place of G-dliness as a place for seriousness, a solemn place, a place that fills you with trepidation. The fact is, where there is G-d, there is joy. That is why our every moment is a moment to celebrate and fill with joy. Because at every moment we are fulfilling our mission of bringing G-dliness into this world. Not just the obviously joyful matters, such as meditation, study, prayer and good deeds, but also regular, mundane activities and the ways we earn an income and go about life -all are ways by which we know Him and bring Him into our world.


The Torah is what G-d gave to man. It is the G-d-given method whereby we can bond with Him. Prayer is what man gives to G-d. It is the means whereby we can bind Him to us.


If you are an upright person then, "G-d will bless you in everything you do" (Deuteronomy 15:18). Note, however, that it says you must do. We are meant to work through the processes of the material world. Why? Because this is the means by which the world is enlightened: the spiritual must invest itself into the mundane. And this can only be achieved by spiritual people working within the everyday world.


We are trees, living two lives at once. One life breaking through the soil into this world. Where, with all our might, we struggle to rise above it, grapple for its sun and its dew, desperate not to be torn away by the fury of its storms or consumed by its fires. Then there are our roots, deep under the ground, unmoving and serene. They are our ancient mothers and fathers, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rivkah, Yaacov, Leah and Rachel. They lie deep within us, at our very core. For them, there is no storm, no struggle. There is only the One, the Infinite, for Whom all the cosmos with all its challenges are nothing more than a fantasy renewed every moment from the void. Our strength is from our bond with them, and with their nurture we will conquer the storm. We will bring beauty to the world we were planted within


Everything that exists in your world is about communion with the Infinite. Everything is one of three: A means to connect. A path to fall away. Or neutral ground awaiting you to transform it into a connection. But if something were not part of your purpose, it would not exist in your world.


There is an outer world and there is an inner world. As deep as you penetrate, as high as you reach. The outer world is made of things. Inside the things are words. Words are still an external world. Inside the words are stories.The story is outer. The thought is inner. Thoughts are outer. Inside lies a spark. And on. The outer we can touch and come to know. The inner, we must wait still for it to speak to us. As it did at Sinai.


People imagine a place of G-dliness as a place for seriousness, a solemn place, a place that fills you with trepidation. The fact is, where there is G-d, there is joy. That is why our every moment is a moment to celebrate and fill with joy. Because at every moment we are fulfilling our mission of bringing G-dliness into this world. Not just the obviously joyful matters, such as meditation, study, prayer and good deeds, but also regular, mundane activities and the ways we earn an income and go about life -all are ways by which we know Him and bring Him into our world.


Think of your world as a massive jigsaw puzzle in time and three dimensions. All the objects and events are meant to fit together neatly, yet they seem just a heap of dysfunctional fragments. Here is the trick to reassembling those fragments: Find your own purpose first and start moving headstrong towards it. Once in that mode, all things related to your purpose will find you. And those things already attached to you will find their place as well. Suddenly, where once noise and chaos tore you in a thousand directions, a great symphony occurs.


At first all existed as a single whole in a single thought. Then it fell below, shattering into tiny fragments and fragments of fragments. Now Man picks up the pieces and says, "This seems to belong to this, and this relates to that," until he reaches back to the whole as it was in primal thought. It is not the cause and why of things that we find. Things are the way they are because that is how their Maker decided they should be. That is beyond the domain of intelligence. The beauty of intelligence is that it finds the harmony and elegance of the whole as it was originally conceived.


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