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We Contain Multitudes
Mon, 06/21/2010 - 20:00

Essayist Charles Lamb wrote that the world is divided between those who borrow and those who lend. Essayist Max Beerbohm divides the world into hosts and guests. Essayist Robert Benchley explains that there really are two types of people: those who insist upon dividing the world into two types, and those who do not.

The biblical book of Daniel describes the sons of light and the sons of darkness. This dualism of character, whether hosts and guests or light and dark, is untrue to most of us scrambled souls. We are complex; large, as Whitman wrote, and containing multitudes. Our natures are not fixed.  

There is insecurity in uncertainty, but also liberation. At each moment we can choose; today’s host can be tomorrow’s guest. Impulses will conflict and possibilities beckon, but our actions are not foreordained. The chance to change is always at hand. How far have our sins distanced us from God? The Psalmist tells us (103:12), “as far as east from west.” A world away! No, said the Kotzker Rebbe, if you are facing west, you need only turn your head. With that simple resolution, west turns to east and one kind of person can become another.   

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at


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