Sunday, January 02, 2005

Living Ethically

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has a book called The Guide to Jewish Living. It is a "Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living." I am enjoying it immensely. There is an entry for each day of the year and a special one for Shabbat of each week as well as a helpful glossary of Jewish terms.

Week 1, Day 1 (Today)
"On Hearing a Siren"
What do you do when you hear a siren? Rabbi Telushkin, in citing other rabbis, suggests we say "a prayer that the ambulance arrive in time. ... that the [fire] trucks arrive in time to save the endangered people and home. We should also pray that no firefighter be injured. And when we hear police sirens, we should implore God that the police respond in time to the emergency." (p. 3)

Why pray? Basically, he says, it makes us better persons, partly by developing empathy. "Furthermore, imagine how encouraging it would be for those being rushed to a hospital to know that hundreds of people who hear the ambulance sirens are praying for their recovery." (3)

Recalling a time he suggested this in a talk, Telushkin comments about one particular woman who was moved by what he had said. "When she was ten, she told me, she had been awakened from a deep sleep by passing fire trucks. It was almost one in the morning, and now, twenty-five years later, she still remembered her first response: it was so unfair that her sleep had been ruined.

"The next morning she learned that her closest friend, a girl who lived only a few blocks away, had died in the fire. Ever since, she told me, whenever she hears fire trucks go by, she prays that they arrive at their destination in time." (4)

There is much wisdom in the practical situations Rabbi Telushkin discusses. It is not just for Jews either so don't fret because of the title. It is a good book, especially one to start today, the first day of the first week of this new year. Rabbi Telushkin is a good author who knows how to write for the everyman. He has many books, one of which I like a lot (Ten Commandments of Character) and another (Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews) I hope to read soon.

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