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Dear Friends,

I’m taking a few weeks away to recharge. In place of my usual Shabbat messages I wanted, once again, to share some of my favorite teachings and stories. This week, I’m reminded of a familiar anecdote that has been popularized in recent years. It tells of a philosophy professor who sets a large glass jar on a table in front of her students, then proceeds to fill it with fist-sized rocks.

She asks the class, “Is the jar full?”  They agree that it is.

Then she produces a bowl of pebbles and pours them into the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks.

She repeats her question.

Warier now, the students are less willing to agree the jar is full.

The professor then pours sand into the jar, which fills the remaining space among the rocks and pebbles.

The professor concludes by telling her class that the jar represents the time each of us has in a day.  The large rocks represent the most important things in life like family, health and relationships.  The pebbles constitute other important but less meaningful things like work and school.  The sand represents everything else – unimportant distractions.

If we put the sand and pebbles into the jar first, she observed, there won’t be enough room to fit the larger, more important things.  But if we are smart and put the rocks in first, all the less important things will naturally fall into place around them, and there will be room (and time) for everything.

It is a valuable lesson for each of us in its own right but its wisdom also applies to our ongoing national drama. Myriad issues face us and deserve our attention. There are, however, forces that actively seek to distract us and shift our focus off the issues that materially impact our future.

Our job, as individuals and as a community, is to stay focused on the issues that matter most, true to our values and committed to doing all we can to create a world that better reflects God’s love for humanity and all the world.

I hope that this summer allows you time and space to recharge and to rest.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel M. Cohen