Earlier this year a friend of mine delivered a sermon at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Facebook comments soon informed him that the church had once been headed by Donald Trump's favorite minister.
That minister was Norman Vincent Peale. Reverend Peale presided at his marriage to Ivana. Trump has spoken about Peale’s extraordinary sermons and teachings.
Regardless of what one thinks about Trump, his favorite minister warrants renewed attention. While Peale was popular in the 50s and 60s, he fell from the public eye because of some of his more conservative political positions. His writings were also seen as simplistic and backwards-looking.
But there is a difference between simplistic and simple. Peale’s writing is far from simplistic. It does, however, convey some simple and overlooked guidance for living happier and more productive lives. What are they?
One of the reasons we love to order from Amazon is the speed. You can get a new shoes on your doorstep tomorrow.
In downtown Chicago, you can get fresh fruit within two hours. Amazon creates instant gratification.
Paradoxically, however, Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, thinks primarily of the long-term. His perspective is the opposite of instant gratification.
A few years ago he funded a big clock tower in West Texas that ticks once per years. It is built to last 10,000 years!
Do you know that great Burt Bachrach song, “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love?” Very true.
But the world also needs Shalom. Shalom is peace, wholeness, integrity. It is grace, fullness, trust. (For an understanding of the Shalom is really used in the Bible, see chapter 8 of www.rabbimoffic.com/jewishjesus
How do we get more Shalom? We start small. When I was young,” recalled a great nineteenth century rabbi, “I wanted to change the world. I tried, but the world did not change.
The world is not the same without Elie Wiesel. He did more than write. He did more than teach. He symbolized survival and hope.
I met him at age 13 when my dad and I drove from Milwaukee to Chicago to see him speak. Afterward we went up to talk, and my dad embarrassed me by telling Wiesel I wanted to become a rabbi.
Many years ago, the director of my Sunday school once came to me with a problem. A girl in the third grade class felt isolated from all her peers. They ostracized her. She left each day crying.
I did a little investigating and learned the reason. Back in kindergarten, this girl had poked another girl with a pencil. It was a hard poke. But nothing too serious. She apologized and the class moved on.
Little kids can be stubborn, but sometimes my youngest daughter takes it to a new heights.
Last year we arrived at a Baskin Robbins 15 minutes after it had had closed. She refused to acknowledge this fact. “It’s not closed!” she pleaded.
“But look at the sign,” we said.
Sometimes a reader understands your book better than you do. That's the feeling I got after receiving this letter. It reveals exactly what my newest book can teach and do for readers.
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“When I was growing up, I had a number of Jewish friends, and I used to visit the synagogue yearly as a part of our Sunday school ecumenical program.
Nevertheless, I can't say that I knew much about Judaism as a religion. It wasn't until I was middle aged that I even met a devout Jew.
Thus this book was a revelation for me.
The entire world Jewish population is 13 million. That is smaller than a tiny statistical error in the Chinese Census. Between 5 and 6 of those 13 million live in America. We constitute to about 1.7% of the American population.
Yet, if Judge Merrick Garland is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice (a big if!), four out of the nine justices would be Jews. That's almost a majority. What explains this extraordinary representation? Two factors:
The hardest chapter to write for my book on the Jewishness of Jesus was the one on resurrection. I tried to avoid it, but my editor insisted. Resurrection of the dead is not a topic we discuss much in synagogues.
In fact, many Jews and Christians today believe Jews have never believed in the resurrection of the dead. Yet, the Talmud says faith in resurrection is one of the three core ideas of Judaism. Look at chapter 37 of the Book of Ezekiel.
In it the Prophet Ezekiel envisions a valley full of dry bones. He speaks to the bones. He tells them God will breathe life into them. They will have skin and flesh and become a great army.
The bones symbolize the people of Israel, who will rise again and return to their land. The text is not purely a symbolic vision of rebirth. It is physical, with the spirit giving life to the bones of the dead. The text is traditionally read during the week of Passover.