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Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Gathering feathers

September 12, 2012 | 08:56 AM

There's an old Hasidic story about a man who went around town slandering the rabbi. One day the man came to himself and went to the rabbi to ask forgiveness. The rabbi said, "I'll forgive on one condition: if you'll go home, cut up a feather pillow and scatter the feathers to the four winds. Then come back to see me." The man did as told. When he returned, the rabbi said: "One more thing. Now go and gather all the feathers."

It's impossible to undo the wrongs we've done to others. I cringe whenever I think back to the 10 worst things I've said or done that hurt others.

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1867. When his brother Ludvig died, a French newspaper published Alfred's obituary by mistake. It called Alfred "the merchant of death," saying he "became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before."

Because of his invention of dynamite, and many other inventions and investments, Alfred Nobel became extremely wealthy. Concerned about his "merchant of death" legacy, in his will he designated most of his estate to establishing Nobel prizes. The fifth prize was for "the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity and the establishment or furtherance of peace."

Csanad Szegedi, a rising political star in Hungary, known for his anti-semitic comments, was shocked two years ago to learn that his grandmother was Jewish. An Auschwitz survivor, she had chosen to hide her heritage and ordeal from her grandchildren.

Szegedi is now, according to a rabbi who meets with him, "in the middle of a difficult process of reparation, self-knowledge, re-evaluation and learning."

We wish him Godspeed as he, like Alfred Nobel, and like us, attempts to gather up the feathers.

Dr. Wayne Willis


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