Irwin Kula
Rabbi; President of CLAL

Re: What inspires you?

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Quotidian heroism.

Irwin Kula

Known as both a provocative religious leader and a respected spiritual iconoclast, Irwin Kula has inspired thousands nationwide using Jewish wisdom in ways that speak to modern life.  He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion, Sept. 2006), which won a “Books for a Better Life Award,” and was selected as one of “10 Best Spiritual Books of 2006.” Featured in the public TV special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings,” and the acclaimed film, Time for a New God, he ranked No. 8 in the “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” listed in Newsweek, and was named by Fast Company magazine and “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” (PBS) as one of the new leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape. A regular on The Today Show, he is the co-host of Hirschfield and Kula: Intelligent Talk Radio (KXL, Portland, OR), and hosted his own public TV series, Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula. Rabbi Kula is the President of CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

A lot inspires me. Great sunsets and sunrises inspire me. But cities with their hustle and bustle . . . When I wake up sometimes and it’s early, it’s 6 o’clock in New York City and the city is just beginning to wake up, and it’s quiet and I sit on . . . I have a roof garden. I sit on the garden and I can look down, and I can see the city about 30, 40 blocks, I can see from the roof. And I can see the city waking up. And I marvel at the intricacy of every single person doing their job. And the milk is gonna get to where the milk is supposed to be. And the bread, and the coffee, and the person at work, and millions of people moving around. And that as marvelous on one level as the intricacy that goes into the sunrise and sunset. And then I marvel at the courageousness and heroism of individual people in their lives. Just . . . I think that if you can get up every morning, really, and make a decision that I’m gonna hope a little bit more . . . even though day in and day out I think for many of us, we know that that hope is a faith statement. It’s not necessarily a truth. My father-in-law is dying of pancreatic cancer right now. And you know here’s a guy who lived a decent life, and a good man, a nice person, and married 55 years, and nice to his daughters, and a great . . . a wonderful grandfather and a very, very good father-in-law. You know God’s funny. You know the God that I don’t even believe in anymore. It’s funny. And now you’re gonna die now in a painful way, and that’s gonna be the end. I think that when push comes to shove, there is as much reason to despair and be cynical as there is to be hopeful and believe in the possibilities of life really triumphing. And because it’s really equal on both sides, the real heroism is to get up in the morning and say, “Okay. It’s equal on both sides. I’m gonna take the risk. I’m gonna risk hope. I’m gonna risk love.” Recorded on: 8/15/07