Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Thinking about things that are going on in my life made me change my Facebook profile picture to this:
An old friend responded by pointing me here.  Turns out that Mother Theresa did not compose the famous list of "do it anyway"s which is attributed to her.  It was composed by Kent Keith, a 19-year-old student activist at Harvard in 1968, as part of a pamphlet he wrote for aspiring student leaders.   His story is quite amazing.  Please set aside some time to read http://www.paradoxicalcommandments.com/ in its entirety.  You will not regret it.

The "Mother Teresa" version is actually somewhat modified from the original.  Here is the original version:

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
The "Mother Teresa" version left out the last two, and substituted the following:

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;It was never between you and them anyway.

When Mr. Keith became aware of this version, he wrote:

The last two lines in this "final analysis" version trouble me, because they can be read in a way that is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, the life of Mother Teresa, and the message of the Paradoxical Commandments themselves. The statement that "it was never between you and them anyway" seems to justify giving up on, or ignoring, or discounting other people.
That is what Jesus told us we should not do. Jesus said that there are two great commandments-to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. So in the final analysis, it is between you and God, but it is also between you and "them."

Of course, these 2 great commandments originated in Judaism and predated Jesus.  In fact, Keith's interpretation is very much rooted in the Jewish understanding of morality.  Morality in Judaism is always a balance between what we owe G*d and what we owe each other.  We serve G*d by acts of lovingkindness towards others, and we are commanded to love each other by seeing the image of the divine in every individual.

As we approach the High Holidays, we are reminded of this as we seek to atone for our sins.  If we have transgressed against a ritual law (desecrating the Sabbath, or eating non-kosher foods), then that is between ourselves and G*d.  We can beg forgiveness and move on, resolving to do better.  Sins against others (anything from gossip or envy to serious crimes) cannot be atoned for until the victim him/herself has forgiven the offense.  As Keith said, it is between you and G*d, but it is also between you and them.

Have a Happy New Year.... anyway!

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