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The Power of Praise
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From time to time couples come to see me before their wedding. Sometimes they ask me whether I have any advice to give them as to how to make their marriage strong. In reply I give them a simple suggestion. It is almost magical in its effects. It will make their relationship strong and in […]
When Weakness Becomes Strength
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Have you ever felt inadequate to a task you have been assigned or a job you have been given? Do you sometimes feel that other people have too high an estimate of your abilities? Has there been a moment when you felt like a faker, a fraud, and that at some time you would be […]
Giving Thanks
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The first words we are taught to say each morning, immediately on waking, are Modeh/modah ani, “I give thanks.” We thank before we think. Note that the normal word order is inverted: Modeh ani, not ani modeh, so that in Hebrew the “thanks” comes before the “I.” Judaism is “gratitude with attitude.” And this, according to recent scientific research, […]
The Call
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It was never my ambition or aspiration to be a rabbi. I went to university to study economics. I then switched to philosophy. I also had a fascination with the great British courtroom lawyers, legendary figures like Marshall Hall, Rufus Isaacs and F. E. Smith. To be sure, relatively late, I had studied for the […]
Making Space
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With this week’s double parsha, with its long account of the construction of the sanctuary – one of the longest narratives in the Torah, taking a full 13 chapters – comes to a magnificent climax: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Sanctuary. Moses could not enter the Tent […]
Anger: Its Uses and Abuses
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Comparing two of the most famous events in the Torah, we face what seems like a glaring contradiction. In this week’s parsha, Moses on the mountain is told by God to go down to the people. They have made a golden calf. Moses descends, holding in his hands the holiest object of all time, the […]
Crushed for the Light
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There are lives that are lessons. The late Henry Knobil’s was one. He was born in Vienna in 1932. His father had come there in the 1920s to escape the rising tide of antisemitism in Poland, but like Jacob fleeing from Esau to Laban, he found that he had fled one danger only to arrive […]
Why We Value What We Make
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The behavioural economist Dan Ariely did a series of experiments on what is known as the IKEA effect, or “why we overvalue what we make.” The name comes, of course, from the store that sells self-assembly furniture. For practically-challenged people like me, putting an item of furniture together is usually like doing a giant jigsaw […]
The Power of Empathy
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William Ury, founder of the Harvard Program of Negotiation, tells a marvellous story in one of his books.[1] A young American, living in Japan to study aikido, was sitting one afternoon in a train in the suburbs of Tokyo. The carriage was half empty. There were some mothers with children, and elderly people going shopping. Then […]
The Bond of Loyalty and Love
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In the course of any life there are moments of awe and amazement when, with a full heart, you thank God shehecheyanu vekiyemanu vehigiyanu lazeman hazeh, “who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this day.” Two that particularly stand out in my own memory were separated by almost ten years. The […]