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In the Arena (August 2016)

       I have been thinking a lot lately about an inspiring quote from President Teddy Roosevelt, as I encountered it twice within the span of a week.  There is a good chance that you heard it along with me the first time:

     "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

     The first time I heard it was when President Obama cited part of it at the Democratic convention in praise of Hillary Clinton.  Several days later I encountered it in a book by Brene Brown, a renowned social worker and researcher.  It seems as though the universe was telling me something.  Hearing and then reading the Roosevelt quote has gotten me thinking about what it means to "be in the arena," to actually be doing something about our world and our society a better place, in other words, to do tikkun olam.  I often feel as though I talk and teach these things, but don't have or don't make the opportunity to do.  Like most of you, I am busy running around, earning a living, trying to give enough attention to family members and friends.  For all intents and purposes, this is my arena, but I feel as if I can and should be doing more.

     An opportunity to do something meaningful and to put a few core Jewish values into practice has very recently come to our attention, and Carol and I are trying to make it happen.  If it does, I will undoubtedly have much to report to you.  Sorry to be cryptic, but that is all I can say for now.

     I am showing my hand here, as I expect that you will be hearing more from me during our upcoming High Holidays about "the arena" and about some of Brene Brown's teachings.  She work focuses on themes such as making connections, vulnerability, empathy and shame.  Here is a taste from one of several TED talks she has given.  Enjoy, and let me know what you


Fri, July 12 2024 6 Tammuz 5784