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Wind in your Sails












By Rabbi Daniel Lapin

March 3, 2011

Why do some people succeed in life while others fail? You know the answer. For the most part, folks fail because they did not do what they should have done back when they needed to do it. They may also not be doing what they should be doing right now.

See, we all know the road to success. Do what you must do when you must do it. Not what you want to do. Not when you get around to it. Do what you must do when you must do it and the world is yours.

For some people it may mean adopting then keeping to a healthy diet from this moment. For others it could mean doing whatever it takes right now to protect and nurture a marriage. It could mean taking immediate and necessary steps to rid oneself of an addiction. For many it means finding a job, finding a second job or starting a business—today!

This is all really very simple. Do what you need to do when you need to do it. Unfortunately, however, this simple but true formula leaves us utterly baffled by a perplexing puzzle. If the road to success is so well marked, why do so many of us fail at so many of the things we consider truly important?

It takes another question to best illustrate ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation for why so many of us fail at doing precisely what we know so well we ought to do.

Read this verse:

I call heaven and earth today to bear witness for you
that I have placed before you life and death,
blessing and curse; and you shall choose life…

(Deuteronomy 30:19)

Here’s the question: If life and death are the choices before us, who in his right mind would choose death? What sane individual would choose curse over blessing? Why should God need to sagely recommend that we choose life and blessing? Who would do otherwise?

In reality, we face these choices many times each day. Frequently the wrong path is the more appealing one.

God has put us in a world with not only physical gravity but also spiritual gravity. Yes, it takes far more effort to climb up the stairs than down. It takes far more effort to lift a weight than it takes to drop it. It takes far more fuel for an airplane to attain cruising altitude after takeoff than it takes for the same aircraft to descend back to earth prior to landing.

Similarly, it is far harder to keep to a diet than it is to let oneself go. It is far harder to stick to a project that needs doing than to abandon it for an evening’s entertainment. It is harder to keep a marriage going than to walk away and it is harder to do one’s work when it needs to be done than it is to make excuses.

Yes, most of us know what we ought to do. The problem is that God built a system of spiritual gravity that resists our every attempt to improve ourselves and our lives. We should be happy about this for the same reason that weightlifters and athletes are happy that gravity exists. Without it, everyone would be able to bench-press four hundred pounds and run a four minute mile, but these bogus accomplishments would achieve nothing. In His kindness, God gives us opportunities to confront spiritual and moral challenges allowing us to grow and thrive.

Knowing the secret to success is far different from traveling that path. Rarely do the divergent paths of life or death confront us head on. Instead, we make choices during countless, seemingly unimportant, daily moments. Being aware that small actions lead to a critical finish line makes it easier to steadily move in the right direction. Choose life!

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2011 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved

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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.

You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.

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Knowing the secret to success is far different from traveling that path. Rarely do the divergent paths of life or death confront us head on.

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