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Jewish Wisdom - Our Inspiration

“A quotation at the right moment is like bread to the famished.” – The Talmud

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start to improve the world.” – Anne Frank “Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.” – The Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed “Zionism is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the Jewish People’s sense of origin and destination in the Land linked eternally with its name. It is also the instrument whereby the Jewish Nation seeks an authentic fulfillment of itself.” – Abba Eban “Shimon (son of Rabban Gamliel) says: It is not what one says, but rather what one does, that makes all the difference in the world.” – Pirkei Avot 1:17 “Ours is a country built more on people than on territory. The Jews will come from everywhere: from France, from Russia, from America, from Yemen… Their faith is their passport.” – David Ben-Gurion “Without vision a people perishes.” – King Solomon “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And, the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference one dies before one actually dies.” – Elie Wiesel “Tzedakah and acts of kindness are the equivalent of all the Mitzvot of the Torah.” – Talmud Yerushalmi, Pe’ah 1:1 “Eliminate the Diaspora, or the Diaspora will surely eliminate you.” – Ze’ev Jabotinsky “So says the Lord God: Behold I will take the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Ephraim and the Tribes of Yisrael his companions, and I will place them with him with the stick of Yehuda, and I will make them into one stick, and they shall become one in My hand…” – Yechezkel 36 “It is true that we aspire to our ancient Land. But what we want in that ancient Land is a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit.” – Theodor Herzl “And say to them, So says the Lord God: Behold I will take the Children of Yisrael from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side, and I will bring them to their Land upon the mountains of Yisrael…and they shall no longer be two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore.” – Yechezkel 37 “The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish People to survive for thousands of years has been based to a large extent on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test. May we stand this test as well as did our fathers before us. We have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause." – Albert Einstein “See, God has called by name Bezalel…and filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, and with knowledge in all work. And God instilled thoughts (in Bezalel’s mind) in order for him to make designs of all kinds.” – Shemot 35:30-32 “A Jew cannot be as devoted and true to his own ideas, sentiments, and imagination in the Diaspora as he can in Eretz Yisrael.” – Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook “And the Lord said to Abraham…’Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the Land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.'” – Beresheet 12 “This is the story of a people which was scattered over all the world and yet remained a single family, a nation which time and again was doomed to destruction and yet, out of the ruins, rose to new life.” – Abba Kovner “I shall build thee and thou shalt be built.” – City of Tel Aviv-Yafo motto, Yirmiyahu 31:3 “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” – Asher Ginsburg, Ahad Ha’am “For I have selected him (Abraham) so that he may instruct his children and his posterity after him to keep God’s ways: to do what is just and right.” – Beresheet 18 “After being forcibly exiled from their Land, the People kept faith with it throughout their dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.” – The State of Israel’s Declaration of Independence “And the desolate Land shall be worked, instead of its lying desolate in the sight of all that pass by. This Land that was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden.” – Yechezkel 36 “Aliyah is the central goal of the State of Israel.” – Ariel Sharon “Join the company of lions rather than assume the lead among foxes.” – Pirkei Avot 4:20 “And this would normalize the existence of the Israeli and the Jew: a majority of Jews in the Land of Israel and a majority of Israelis among the Jewish People.” – Shimon Peres “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel “Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone, Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon. He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand, In bed with nobody, under no one’s command.” – Bob Dylan “Examine the contents, not the bottle.” – The Talmud “Tel Aviv, with its young Olim community, is the sexiest thing on the entire planet.” – Dr. Ruth Westheimer “Who is a wise person? He who learns from all people.” – Pirkei Avot 4:1 “There is nowhere better in the world today to lead a Jewish life than Tel Aviv.” – Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks “The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” – The Talmud, Brachot 17a “On Shabbat something happens to the world – the world becomes infinite again.” – Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach “If you are not going to be better tomorrow than you were today, then what need have you for tomorrow?” – Rebbe Nachman of Breslov “Independence is never given to a people, it has to be earned; and, once earned, must be defended. ” – Chaim Weizmann

“Let all who occupy themselves with communal affairs do so for Heaven’s sake, for then the merit of their fathers sustains them and their righteousness endures forever.” – Pirkei Avot 2:2 “The first condition a community should set, if it aspires to be a nation, is to own the land whereon it lives, and supply its own needs.” – Max Nordau “Do not separate yourself from the community.” – Pirkei Avot 2:5 “Eretz Yisrael will never be built without Shabbat…the Jewish People will never give up Shabbat, which is not only the keystone of Israel’s existence but of human existence. Without Shabbat, there would be no godliness and no semblance of humanity in the world.” – Chaim Nachman Bialik “For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, until her righteousness comes out like brilliance, and her salvation burns like a torch.” – Yeshayahu 62:1 “Man’s task in the world, according to Judaism, is to transform fate into destiny; a passive existence into an active existence; an existence of compulsion, perplexity and muteness into an existence replete with a powerful will, with resourcefulness, daring, and imagination.” – Rabbi Joseph Solovetchik “Act while you can: While you have the chance, the means, and the strength.” – The Talmud, Shabbat 151b “Nowhere in the world can the Jew savor the taste of Homeland save in the Land of Israel.” – Aaron David Gordon “It was the ideal of living in Eretz Yisrael that took me out of my house, out of my country and caused me to travel from my place. I left my house; I repudiated my inheritance…Why? Because I wished to travel to the bosom of my mother, Eretz Yisrael.” – The Ramban “There are better mothers than disaster. A native land is the best of all mothers. We American Jews have a native land we love. But it is even better to have a native land who loves us.” – Louis Brandeis “There is no pity for a man who moans about living in one town and does not move to another.” – The Talmud “The Land of Israel needs a People and the People of Israel needs a Land.” – Israel Zangwill “The Ingathering of Exiles is as important as the day when heaven and earth were created.” – The Talmud “A Jew is someone with Jewish grandchildren.” – Yosef Hayim Brenner “The beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom.” – Mishlei 4:7 “Remember, to the Land of Israel you go not for heroic acts, not to make sacrifices, but for work!” – Yosef Trumpeldor “Even if the land is full of all good things, still you must plant… even if you are old, you must plant. Just as you found trees planted by others, you must plant them for your children.” – Midrash Tanchuma, Kodashim 8 “Those who will find here a hold for their souls, an anvil for their hands, and vitality for their hearts, will build both their lives and the land.” – Berl Katznelson “Israel is like a vine: trodden underfoot; but some time later its wine is placed on the table of a king. So Israel, at first oppressed, will eventually come to greatness.” – The Talmud “God enabled the Jewish People to live as sovereigns in the Holy Land, the place of our forefathers – the Land promised to the Jews by God. This reality places a special burden and privilege upon Israel’s citizens and its government, to preserve the Jewish integrity of the country. Its educational system must be founded and inspired by Jewish values and the Jewish tradition so that its citizens grow to be proud keepers of their Jewish heritage.” – The Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson “Divided as we may be by religion, we are united by charity.” – Rashi “Let no one ever shy away from the claim that Jews have power, that Jews have influence. We have learned the terrible lesson of history; that unless we have influence and power, disproportionate to our small numbers — immoral results will occur. We need power. And we must continue to use our power. Power which we earned, power which no one gave us on a silver platter, power which we worked hard for — use that power in the interests of justice.” – Alan Dershowitz “Do not withhold good where it is due, if it be in your power to bestow it!” – Mishle 3:27 “I have pitched my tent on these ancient hills and my desire is to tie together the ends of the thread that history broke.” – Reuven Rubin “Thus will be the redemption of Israel…first it will glimmer, then sparkle, then shine forth more and more brightly.” – Talmud Yerushalmi “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir “The one who causes a good deed to be performed is as meritorious as the one who performs it.” – The Talmud “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” – Viktor E. Frankl “As a torch is not diminished though it kindles a million candles, so will he not lose who gives to a good cause.” – Midrash Shemot “Here, in the Land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the Land of Israel, we established a State. The Land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owner – the members of the Jewish People, On its Land, we have built an exceptional national Home and State.” – Yitzhak Rabin “Moshe said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuven; Shall your brothers go out to war while you settle here?” – Bamidbar 32:6 “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand “If charity costs nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.” – Yiddish Proverb “As the city of New York is the main entrance to America, we must improve our city of Tel Aviv so it will become the New York of the Land of Israel.” – Akiva Aryeh Weiss “The goal of the Redemption is the redemption of truth.” – The Vilna Gaon “He does not believe that does not live according to his belief.” – Sigmund Freud “Klieg, Klieg, Klieg- Du bist a Nar. You are smart, smart, smart – but you are not so smart!” – Yiddish Proverb “Even with all the troubles and problems, Am Yisrael Chai!” – Menachem Begin “Zion, thou art doubtless anxious for news of thy captives; they ask after thee, they who are the remainder of thy flock.” – Yehuda HaLevi “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.” – Daniel Pearl “It is the obligation of each person in Israel to raise up the Fallen Bride from the dust into which She has fallen.” – The Ramchal “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.” – Franz Kafka “If you keep silent and fail to seize the moment now, salvation and redemption will come to the Jews from elsewhere, while you and your father’s house will be lost. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!” – Book of Esther 4:14 “If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.” – Groucho Marx “If the Bible didn’t show us the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, the sins of our heroes, we might have deep questions about their true virtue.” – The Baal Shem Tov “If you’re behind the times, they won’t notice you. If you’re right in tune with them, you’re no better than they are, so they won’t care much for you. Be just a little ahead of them.” – Shel Silverstein “Man is wise only while in search of wisdom; when he imagines he has attained it, he is a fool.” – Solomon Ibn Gabirol “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein “The sign of a great man is that the closer you get, the greater he seems.” – The Chofetz Chaim “As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem.” – Shmuel Yosef Agnon “When God created Adam, God led him around all the trees in the garden of Eden. God said to him, “See how beautiful and praiseworthy all of My works are? Everything I have created has been created for Your sake. Think of this, and do not corrupt or destroy my world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to set it right after you.” – Kohelet Rabbah 7:13 “Our heads are round so thought can change direction.” – Allen Ginsberg “One day Honi Hameagel, a righteous miracle worker, saw an old man planting a carob tree. Knowing that a carob tree took 70 years to bear fruit, and that therefore the old man would not live to see the results of his labor, he asked why he was planting a tree whose fruits he would never enjoy. ‘Carob trees were here when I was born, planted by my father and his father,’ answered the old man. ‘Now I plant trees for the enjoyment of my children and their children’s children.” – Talmud Ta’anit 23a “It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.” – Man Ray “Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai said: If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go out to greet the Messiah.” – Avot D’Rabbi Natan, 31b “A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation.” – Gertrude Stein “In the time of the footsteps of the Moshiach, Chutzpah will swell.” – The Talmud, Sotah 49b “If I weren’t a Jew then I wouldn’t be an artist, or at least not the one I am now.” – Marc Chagall “Fear not for I am with you; from the east I will bring your seed, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, “Give,” and to the south, “Do not refrain”; bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth.” – Yeshayahu 43:5-6 Our hope is not yet lost, The hope that is two-thousand years old, To be a free nation in our land, The Land of Zion, Jerusalem. – Naftali Herz Imber, “Hatikvah” “Desert and wasteland shall rejoice over them, and the plain shall rejoice and shall blossom like a rose. It shall blossom and rejoice, even to rejoice and to sing; the glory of the Lebanon has been given to her, the beauty of the Karmel and the Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, the beauty of our God.” – Yeshayahu 35:1-2 “Zionism means taking responsibility, it always has.” – Michael Oren “And I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild desolate cities and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their produce. And I will plant them on their land, and they shall no longer be uprooted from upon their land, that I have given them, said the Lord your God.” – Amos 9:14-15 “One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.” – Hannah Szenes “And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” – Yirmiyahu 29:14 “Jews have six senses. Touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing, and memory…For Jews, memory is no less primary than the prick of a pin, or its silver glimmer, or the taste of the blood it pulls from the finger. The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks – when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather’s fingers fell asleep from stroking his great-grandfather’s damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain – that the Jew is able to know why it hurts. When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?” – Jonathan Safran Foer

“From the Depths I call out to you…” – Tehillim 130:1 “No matter how bad things get, you’ve got to go on living, even if it kills you.” – Sholem Aleichem “The Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you too will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers.” – Devarim 30:3-5 “Heaven and earth conspire that everything which has been, be rooted and reduced to dust. Only the dreamers, who dream while awake, call back the shadows of the past and braid nets from the unspun thread.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer “When God brings about the return to Zion, we were like dreamers.” – Tehillim 126 “The only thing that is going to save mankind is if enough people live their lives for something or someone other than themselves.” – Leon Uris “One who occupies himself with the needs of the community is as though he occupies himself with the words of Torah.” – Rav Yermiyah, Talmud Yerushalmi, Berakhot “Imagination is a force of nature.” – Saul Bellow “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God. Beloved are Israel, for they were called children of God. Beloved are Israel, for unto them was given the desirable Torah” – Rabbi Akiva “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.” – Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are “Shabbat is the Queen of the week.” – The Talmud, Shabbat 119a “If a person has a contribution to make, he must make it in public. If learning is not made public, it is a waste.” – Chaim Potok “Scholars are builders, builders of the world.” – The Talmud: Shabbat 114a “It’s best to give while your hand is still warm.” – Philip Roth “The Torah begins and ends with kindness.” – The Talmud: Sota 14a “This thing? I, I don’t know. I think it’s some kind of Torah.” – Gene Wilder, The Frisco Kid “Now O Israel, listen to the decrees and to the laws that I teach you to perform, so that you may live and come an possess the Land that Hashem, the God of your forefathers, gives you. – Devarim 4:1 “Let our first care today be the re-establishment of our physical strength, the reconstruction of our national organism, so that in future, where the respect due to us cannot be won by entreaty, it may be commanded, and where it cannot be commanded, it may be enforced.” – Emma Lazarus “I then strengthened myself in accordance with whatever the hand of Hashem my God gave me the ability to do, and I assembled leaders from Israel to ascend with me.” – Ezra 7:28b “Zionism is, in sum, the constant and unrelenting effort to realize the national and universal vision of the prophets of Israel.” – Yigal Allon “Justice, justice shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that Hashem you God gives you.” – Devarim 16:20 “During the last 100 years our People have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews…Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.” – Moshe Dayan “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh – All of Israel is responsible for each other.” – The Talmud, Shavuot 39a “He who hesitates is poor.” – Mel Brooks “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” – Passover Haggadah

“The people without a country forgot their country. Is it not high time to perceive the disgrace of it all?” – Leon Pinsker “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and bring us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You O Lord, who gathers the dispersed of His People Israel.” – The Amidah “Being among my people is a delight. We Jews live among ourselves. I love it.” – David Mamet “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” – Shemot 25:8 “A pioneer is man that has his head high in the heavens and his feet planted deeply in the ground.” – Levi Eshkol “David went and brought up the ark of God…into the city of David with joy…and David danced with all his might before the Lord…and David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the shofar.” – Shmuel II 6:12-15 “Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” – Leonard Cohen

“In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” – Pirkei Avot 2:6 “The nation as a whole is dearer to all of us than all the divisions over rigid orthodoxy or liberalism in religious observance put together.” – Moshe Leib Lilienblum “The People came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month (Nisan), and encamped in Gilgal.” – Yehoshua 4:19 “Man is nothing but the form of the landscape of his native land.” – Shaul Tchernichovsky “Na’aseh v’nishma – We will do and we will listen.” – Shemot 24:7 "Educate the nation to love freedom and zealously guard Israel's eternal patrimony. Inculcate the idea that the nation is master to its own fate. Revive the doctrine that 'The sword and the book came bound together from heaven.'" – Avraham Yair Stern “Great is study for it leads to action.” – Kiddushin 40b “The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfill Zionism.It’s that simple.” – Yitzhak Shamir “Livnot u’lehibanot – To build and be built.” – Zionist Folk Song “The Jewish heart has always starved unless it was fed through the Jewish intellect..” – Henrietta Szold

"All we have to take by making Aliyah is responsibility."

– Michael Eisenberg “Let us go and see what God has planned for the world.” – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

"The Jewish People must not be divided in two...The devil dances at divisiveness, and everywhere there is unity there is holiness and success."

– Rabbi Shlomo Goren

"There are two ways of looking at every situation. You can see light or darkness, blessing or curse. You can see the world with a good eye or a bad eye. Depending on which eye you choose, you can become either considerate or bitter, patient or angry, giving or niggardly, content or miserable, warm or cantankerous, loving or critical — it's all contingent upon how you train your eye. And that is the legacy that you leave behind. That is your eulogy."

– Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

“I hate the notion of the new Jew; we have a lot of the old Jew still within us. And it’s not about being a good Jew. I talk about being a total Jew. You come to Israel to upgrade your Judaism, to find your identity, to find meaning, to speak the Jewish language, to wear it fully. If you want to participate in the full adventure and take responsibility, finally, for Jewish destiny, there’s no other place but here."

– A.B. Yehoshua

"Never walk around afraid. The purpose of life is to live fully. Do you know what God says the most frequently to humans in the Bible? Do not fear. That's cool."

– Dennis Prager

"On simple paper, grey as ashes,

Is sent a letter to the diaspora,

A pioneer writes with a teary eye:

“Year 1924 in Jerusalem,

Forgive me my sick mother,

I won’t return to exile again,

If you truly love me,

Come here and hug me,

I will no longer be wandering and moving,

I won’t move from here forever,

No moving,

No moving,


– Avigdor Hameiri, "Two Letters"

"These peppered theories, which you brought from exile, it would have been better if you had thrown them into the sea when you arrived at the gates of the Land. In the country itself we no longer need theories but actions. Work and plowing - we need them in Israel. They bring us closer to nature, they straighten our eyebrows, they heal our aching hearts from the sorrow of exile. Here in the Land you must be born again, as proud and strong people, because the Land needs them."

– Aaron Aaronsohn

"NILI - The Glory of Israel does not deceive. נצח ישראל לא ישקר"

– Avshalom Feinberg

"The most difficult struggle of all is the one within ourselves. Let us not get accustomed and adjusted to these conditions. The one who adjusts ceases to discriminate between good and evil. He becomes a slave in body and soul. Whatever may happen to you, remember always: Don't adjust! Revolt against the reality!"

– Mordechai Anielewicz

“Life is a lot like jazz. It's best when you improvise.” – George Gershwin

“The greatest Jewish tradition is to laugh. The cornerstone of Jewish survival has always been to find humor in life and in ourselves.” – Jerry Seinfeld

“When I was a kid you always heard about the Israeli army and you always heard about this tiny little country and how everyone around them wants them gone, and every time somebody comes after them they take care of business. And so as a Jewish kid you were proud of that.” – Adam Sandler

"We have a flag — and it is blue and white. The talit with which we wrap ourselves when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this talit from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations."

– David Wolffsohn

“We have not taken a foreign land; we do not hold the property of others. Rather, the Land is our ancestral inheritance taken from us lawlessly. When God gave us the strength, we returned it to ourselves”

–  Maccabees 1 15:33–34

“It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.” – The Most Interesting Man In The World


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