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Hazzan Steve's Message

Our Brains Are Amazing, Aren’t They?

An amazing aspect of being human is our human brain. With your brain you can

compose a new tune, think a new, marvelous idea and then share that idea with others

with writing or speech, create new worlds, visit in your thoughts and dreams that lovely

group of trees with a stream flowing through or that great mountain with a tree growing

out of its shoulder. May you notice these wonders and take time to be thankful for


An annoying aspect of being human is our human brain. With your brain you can

revisit the pain, trauma, embarrassment or disappointment in your past, often far in your

past. You can measure yourself against someone else’s standards and come up

wanting. You can make up a story about things that have not happened yet and that

you cannot fully control and then worry yourself into a deep hole. You can pay too

much attention to the board meeting going on in your head. You can listen to the voices

of doubt, regret, and fear, and lose sight of what is important right now.

Recently I was given an interesting tool to pull from my mental toolbox and wield

in response to the annoying workings of my brain. The tool is two questions to ask


The first question is “Are these thoughts useful?” Sometimes the annoying

thoughts are useful – to alert us to repeated poor judgment or harmful actions that we

risk repeating, or to focus our attention when we are running on autopilot (which of

course is our brain’s default mode). You can add to this list of potentially useful aspects

of troubling thoughts.

The second question is “How does believing these thoughts make me behave?”

If you have answered the first question convincingly as “No”, you really need to answer

this second question. How you behave matters not just to you, but to everyone you

touch, your behavior having the capacity to cause harm in expanding circles of

connections. If you answered the first question “Yes”, that the thoughts are useful, then

you still need to look at the second questions, because your behavior may or may not

be helping. Or, maybe worse, you will discover that you are avoiding helpful changes in

how you live your life with yourself and with others.

All of us have been through traumatic times, certainly over the last four years.

Some in our community (however wide you wish to define that) objectively have

suffered more than others, but all of us have been touched. The solution is, I think, from

Torah – Love the humans around you as yourself. To be loving to others, which may be

our prime directive, we first must love ourselves. May you deploy whatever tools work

for you towards this goal of loving yourself and loving others.

With blessings for a peaceful and healthy week,

Hazzan Steve

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