Published November 2020
How to Draw a Circle
At this time of bitter partisanship and appalling animosities, I am heartened by a story told about our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. One of his advisors once questioned him: “Mr. President, I can’t understand you… You treat enemies with such kindness. It would seem to me that you should want to destroy them.” The president reflected for a moment and then answered, “My dear fellow, I do destroy an enemy when I make him into a friend.”
The whole purpose of life is to conduct our relationships so that they become peaceful, mutually understanding and mutually rewarding. Hatred is easy to come by, but harmony is harder to achieve. It takes patience and perseverance. It requires a willingness to listen and a concern for understanding. But, above all, it is based on forgiveness and a sincere desire to eliminate enmity. Indeed, the Talmud taught: “Aid an enemy before you aid a friend, to subdue hatred.”
All of this is reflected in a poem by Edwin Markham:
“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in.”
Happy Thanksgiving Day!
he story of Noah has eternal charm for the young and deep meaning for the old. Who among us is not fascinated with the story of Noah and the Ark? The child uses it as a picture, the march of the animals, two by two, into the Ark. The adult uses it as the terrifying warning of the possibility of the destruction of the Earth through man’s evil, which can be averted only by man’s greater goodness and the grace of God.
The intriguing part of the biblical account is that God commands Noah to build an Ark to save himself during the coming flood. It stands to reason that if God wanted to save Noah, He could have simply created a refuge for him and his family through a miracle. Why then did Noah have to build the Ark himself?
One possible answer is that God was telling us symbolically that man must make efforts to save himself if he is to be saved at all. There is a time to rely on God, but there is also a time to rely on ourselves. Noah had to make the Ark, for ultimately, only he could save himself by doing things for himself.
This is important to understand. Certain things in life take doing or they will not be done. Specific values must be deliberately sought and taught or they will never be accepted. The future then belongs to those who prepare for it.
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD