Envy Will Make You Miserable

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

When I was about 12, my close friend Jeff had a gold colored Schwinn Stingray bicycle with a banana seat and 3-speed stick shift. I wanted one too…very badly. It is called envy and it starts young.

Experience has shown me that envy is a very destructive force. It is a relationship killer. It is impossible to envy someone and love them at the same time. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” James, Jesus’ brother, also wrote, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)

Comparison is at the root of all envy. Nothing good ever comes from comparing. Comparing leads to either pride or envy. If I compare my looks, my accomplishments, my possessions to yours, two things can happen. I might think, “I am doing better than you,” and that will lead to pride. I could also think, “You are doing better than I am,” and that will lead to envy. Neither are helpful. Both are very destructive. Many times, when we compare ourselves with others, we don’t know the whole story behind their success or their hardship. If we knew the whole story, the sacrifices they have made and the hurts they have suffered, then we might not want it.

Envy is resenting God’s goodness to others and ignoring God’s goodness to me. The remedy is to start enjoying God’s gifts to others and his gifts to us. Somehow in our minds we think the world is some big giant raspberry pie and it’s all divided up into slices. If somebody’s slice gets a little bit bigger, then that must mean my slice is going to get smaller. That kind of thinking is wrong. God’s got all the pie filling in the world. God doesn’t run out of blessings. He doesn’t run out of grace. There’s more than enough to go around. When God blesses somebody else, it does not mean there is not enough blessings for you. He blesses all of us in different ways.

Instead of asking, “Why them and not me?” God teaches us to appreciate his undeserved blessings. Instead we ask, “Why me?”


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A Palm Tree, a Ficus and Some Chimes

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

It was one of those unusual Sunday afternoons when not much was going on. The temperature was below average, and a cool breeze woke the hanging chimes prompting them to ring every now and again.

I took a sip of my drink and lay on the chaise on the back patio. Not much happening. Cool breeze, the chimes, an unusual quiet.

Then I looked up and the palm fronds were synchronized in their swaying, side to side. Long narrow stalks expanding into full, broad fronds that looked like horses’ heads nuzzling each other. Like a mother and her foal.

And the birds began a chorus of sounds starting nearby and being answered from a distance. Back and forth in their private language, only interrupted by the sweet chimes in the breeze.

As formidable as were the palm frond horse heads, was the happy face of a Disney dwarf, formed by the years of trimming branches from the ficus tree. Now the knots showed a smiling profile of a seemingly mischievous cartoon figure.

And the silence was broken by yet another bird call, and a breeze blowing through the swaying horse head palms, and the playing chimes.

Not the usual afternoon, because above the swaying horse heads and round face in the trunk of the ficus tree, were light clouds. White, fluffy and continuously moving west to east. Snails and bears and giant eagle wings hovering but for a moment, then moving on, transforming and reshaping as the chimes rang and horse heads swayed.

The little Disney character, looked like one of the seven dwarfs, still smiling as the breeze wafted by.

Just a quiet Sunday afternoon with nothing much happening, but with so much going on. I’m sitting and watching and listening as these forever friends do what comes naturally. A great day for all of us.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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This is the Day

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

You and I have been given one life. We do not know how many years will be given to us on this earth. That is why I try to live with the mindset that “every day is a gift.” In Psalm 118:24, the psalmist writes, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” How are you going to live this day? Really, today is the only day that is yours to effect. You cannot change the past and you do not know what will happen the future. CS Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Today is your day…so make it count.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. Most of us work hard to plan our careers, our relationships, our finances and our pursuits in the next chapter of life. God cares about them too. God loves you very much and wants to help you to be prepared for the future. But God is also very concerned about what you are doing with today. Every choice you make today is important…and it’s in the little choices that the bigger ones take shape. Rather than dwelling on trying to know the future, God calls us to focus on what we know to be true today.

  • Live thankfully: I Thessalonians 5:16–18
  • Live to serve: Matthew 20:25-29
  • Do the right thing, not the easy thing: Micah 6:8
  • Stop worrying: Philippians 4:6–7
  • Be yourself: Ephesians 2:8–10

When we remember to focus each day on these basic truths and pursue them, God will reveal his plans for the future, in his time. Everything you have in your life today is a gift from God. The next breath you take, the next meal you eat, the next sunset you enjoy, the next hug you treasure — all of them are gifts. He is very generous with his provision. As we trust him, he will help us to best use each day. Today is your day…it is a gift…so make it count.


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Happiness… and Holocaust

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

Joy-filled times of redemption and rebirth.

Many of us just celebrated the holy days of Pesach (Passover) and Easter. Family time. Good food. Fancy new spring clothing. Travels to enjoy seeing relatives. Days of revelry and joy, happiness and fun.

And now we are into the month of May where many eyes tear, families gather in sadness, and memories are all we have of our ancestors from the Holocaust.

Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day is May 2, or the 27th day of Nisan, on the Hebrew calendar. Reflecting on the multiple generations lost to the Nazis, six million murdered, including a million and a half innocent children.

We cry as we remember so many whose death was needless, without reason, absent of compassion.

In everyone’s life there are times of happiness and times of sadness. But grief so deep that it carries through generations around the world is seldom noted. There will surely be commemorations; names of the murdered will be read publicly; solemn memorial services will be conducted.

And still we ask… why? Why such hatred, prejudice, bigotry and horrific acts?

As rabbis, we are taught that the most difficult answer is to the simple one-word question, “Why?”

For some, there is no answer, never will there be an answer. How can we recall all the precious children whose lives could have brought us cures to disease, beautiful music and stunning inventions? How can we look back at the faces of family members eradicated from the planet, surviving only in smoke?

Why do we still have to endure swastikas and anti-Semitism in Arizona, the United States of America and globally? When will hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violent acts be squashed, and its vitriol washed away?

Our world could be celebrating joyous times in harmony. We should be recognizing the faces of so many who do good and not evil, showing love for neighbors, lifting up the righteous.

But day after day we see acts of hatred spilling into our homes and cities, and few stand against bigotry. Kudos to those who do.

Yom ha-Shoah is just one day on the calendar. A day to remember the atrocities that occur even today because of hate. Yom ha-Shoah, a moment in our busy schedules to reflect on what happens when good people stay silent, when those who could make a difference slide under their covers and allow their neighbors to continue to suffer the pain and horror inflicted by demagogues and hate-mongers.

Maybe this year, the world will finally begin to recognize that bigotry, prejudice and hatred — from the top of the mountain to the deepest valley — is wrong. Maybe this year we will be able to join hands in love and compassion: to challenge hatred and bigotry and anti-Semitism wherever it spews its odious and disgusting violence.

Maybe this year, starting with this Yom ha-Shoah, we will retake our world; and by remembering those faces, begin to heal and then celebrate both rebirth and redemption.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Full of Faith or Full of Fluff

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

Author Ken Davis tells this story… A woman happened to be looking out of the window of her home one day. She was horrified to see her German shepherd shaking the life out of the neighbor’s pet rabbit. Her family had been quarreling with these neighbors; this was certainly going to make matters worse. She grabbed a broom and ran outside, pummeling the pooch until he dropped a rabbit now covered with dog spit — and extremely dead.

After a moment’s consideration, the woman lifted the rabbit with the end of the broom and brought it into the house. She dumped its lifeless body into the bathtub and turned on the shower. When the water running off the rabbit was clean, she rolled him over and rinsed the other side.

Now she had a plan. She found her hairdryer and blew the rabbit dry. Using an old comb, she groomed the rabbit until he looked pretty good. Then, when the neighbor wasn’t looking, she hopped over the fence, snuck across the backyard, and propped him up in his cage. There was no way that she was taking the blame for this.

About an hour later, she heard screams coming from the neighbor’s yard. She ran outside, pretending she didn’t know what was going on.

What’s happened? She asked innocently. Her neighbor came running to the fence. All the blood had drained from her face. Our rabbit, our rabbit! She blubbered. He died two weeks ago, we buried him — and now he’s back!

There are so many people in our world who really want to believe that God loves them, but they have had their hope for the future taken away because of a huge disappointment. They are a lot like that rabbit. They fluff themselves up to look okay on the outside, but inside their hope and their confidence that God cares has really died. God wants us to know his guiding hand every day, not just once in a while or not just about the big stuff of life. God wants you to know his presence and power every day. He wants to restore our hope for the rest of our life so that we can be fully alive.

In this Easter month, I invite you to reaffirm God’s love and care for you. Here are two promises from God that make me very optimistic about the future…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace… Philippians 4:6-7. God instructs us to pray when we feel anxious. We can pray about anything and everything and God will bring us peace.

There is a hope that does not disappoint… Romans 5:5. People, governments and things will disappoint us. But we need something or someone who we can always trust. Who do you trust when all your other hopes don’t pan out? Well, of course, it is risen Jesus Christ! He conquered death, the greatest challenge there is…so we do not have to live in fear of anything.

We don’t have to be like that rabbit — all clean and fluffed up on the outside but dead on the inside. We can live each day full of faith and confidence. May this Easter season remind us that Jesus is the one we can always trust.


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Once Upon a Time There was a Bunny …

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

A fluffy little bunny was scampering across a green field. Alone. With nothing special in mind to do this day. Enjoying the green of the field and the comfort of the quietude.

Suddenly he was struck by the appearance of another bunny on the other side of the field. She was going her own way and didn’t even notice him.

Bounding across the field he smiled at her; she at him. Soon they were ambling about enjoying the countryside and each other’s company. It was a special time and each bunny felt comfortable with the other. He went back to his place and she to hers.

But he could not forget the incredible joy and comfort he felt being with her. They shared so much in common; even having lived in the same cities at the same time, but not knowing the other was there.

They agreed to meet again and continued these afternoon amblings for a while, until it was time for a decision to be made.

To be forever together, or friends, or to sever their connection. After all he had a prior obligation at home. Their pain was mutual, and tears and apologies could not break the bond that had been established that afternoon in the field of green.

But bunnies have feelings, and bunnies know right from wrong and good from bad. So, they said their goodbyes and each one went home, sadly recognizing the inevitable grief they each would individually experience later, in private.

What an amazing experience. Affection and joy coming seemingly from nowhere, from a fleeting glance across a pasture. Then pain and discomfort from a needed moment of parting, forever.

Life has its ups and downs. Joy and sadness present themselves to moderate our existence and keep us on track to be human.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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God is Greater Than Any Challenge I Have

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

What is your challenge today? We all have them. The older we grow, the wiser we become if we realize that despite all our education, expertise and experience, we don’t have the answers to every problem we encounter. Sooner or later, there comes a challenge that will bring us to the humbling conclusion that we are not invincible.

One of my favorite accounts from the Bible is David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. All the odds were against David. He was young and inexperienced. Goliath was gigantic, bigger than anyone had ever seen before. I have been to the place where the battle took place. Even the geography was against David. Goliath seemed invincible.

It could be that the Goliath in your life is a medical problem, yours or someone close. Maybe you need a job or wisdom to decide your college major and life’s direction. It might be a relationship challenge with your spouse, your child or a friend. Maybe it is more personal, a struggle with unhealthy habits with drugs, alcohol, food or even sexuality.

Whatever our challenge, we have two choices. We can move away from it, avoid it or deny it. Or we can run toward it. Always begin with prayer and confessing our need for God’s guidance. Then we invest the time, do the hard work and go after it. God, with your help, we are going to conquer that giant.

David told Goliath, I Samuel 17:45 You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty.

David’s strength did not come overnight. He had spent lots of alone time with God. His heart had been strengthened so that he knew that his strength was not in his own weaponry. His strength and boldness came because he knew he was never alone. He attacked every challenge, armed with the Lord Almighty.

God calls each of us to grow in our strength, which is, in fact, not our strength at all. Our strength is the presence of the Lord. Whatever your Goliath is today, there is no challenge on earth against which the power of God and your willing open heart cannot prevail.


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New Year’s: 2019 and 5779

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

For members of my community it is already the NEWest Year, from our calendar change in the Fall when ‘traditional counting’ suggests this to be 5779 years since Creation.

Those who enjoy playing with numbers, numerology, as did the ancients of the Middle East, note the year 5779 has the equivalence of 28. Twenty-eight in Hebrew numerology produces the letters “Kaf” and “Chet”. [Every Hebrew letter has a number equivalent: Kaf = 20, Chet = 8.]

These two letters together also spell out a word, “Koach”, pronounced KOH-ach [with the ‘ach’ sounded as in the composer’s name, Bach]. Koach means ‘strength.’ So were we to look for meaning in the numbers and words of 5779, we would be pleased to see a year offering strong potential.

The dictionary defines ‘strong’ with numerous explanations — bodily or muscular power, mentally powerful, competent, courageous, influential and 11 more descriptions. Generally, ‘strong’ has to do with power of some sort. So, as we enter this new year, whether 5779 or 2019, we have the challenge of addressing power.

The world is tugging between the powerful and the rest of us. Strength may be a positive or a negative, depending on its implementation. Just being stronger does not provide entitlement for abuse or intolerance. It takes more strength to challenge the powerful, than to cower from them.

With every New Year comes a hope — to have a better year than the previous one. The year 2018 was a difficult year for many nations, for thousands of religiously persecuted peoples, for those living through the turmoil of storms and climate issues, and for hundreds dying beneath a hail of bullets.

As we muster the strength to enter this New Year, let’s try and make it an opportunity for successes and good health.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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How Much Is Too Much?

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

“Our world must strike a balance, so we can maintain a proper existence. Think of the good and evil all around us and pray for moderation.”

Some rain is good. Some rain is not.

For months we suffered in Arizona under the blazing hot sun, without any rain. We dreamed of cooler temperatures and the beauty of moisture dripping from the sky. We hoped for a light, soothing drizzle that would last a little while and fill the canals and reservoirs. Water.

Then the spigot was turned on and rain did drip from the sky. In some areas just a spritz; in others too much, resulting in flooding and disastrous damage.

So, how much is too much?

As with all life, balance and moderation are required.

Troubling that we cannot adjust the pouring of the rain, any more than we can limit the heat of the sun. We are mere humans, incapable of standing against Mother Nature and her forces.

We hoped for an end to the “dry heat.” Then, so many suffered from the torrents of the late summer hurricanes; so many lost everything because of…water. We need it, we die without it; we pray for it. And sometimes water is our mortal enemy; too much water.

In several religious traditions there are specific prayers and incantations to prompt the provision of water. I know of no prayers or incantations that say don’t give us water. And when there is too much, we think about Noah and his family and the animals marching into his Ark, two by two, not three or four or more.

In life, as with water, we need to find the point of moderation. Too much this or that, and we suffer a headache, or a wrecked vehicle. Lacking what we need, we develop pain. Children need food and nourishment for their little bodies and minds to properly grow. Seniors must have appropriate meals to maintain their well-being. Not too much, not too little…just right, as the Three Bears wisely taught us.

The blazing heat can destroy. The flooding waters will likewise. Our world must strike a balance, so we can maintain a proper existence. Think of the good and evil all around us and pray for moderation.

Noah and his family and the animals, we are told, were righteous and were saved. Our future likewise requires us to find our path that can provide balance and harmony. Not too much of this, not too much of that. Water that will hydrate, not drown. Sunlight that will warm, but not burn. Moderation that will protect us and keep us safe. And so may it be.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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God Directs Our Paths

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” —Proverbs 3:5-6

This verse is one of my favorites. At first glance, it seems like a logical formula for getting God to do what I want him to do. It works like this:

Trust in the Lord

+With all your heart

+Lean not on your own understanding

+In all your ways acknowledge him

= and the Result will be straight paths

A+B+C+D= a straight path

When I think of a straight path, I think of the one that is the most direct, downhill and no effort or sweat. We say, “God, I did my part, now you do yours. Make it easy.”

However, as I listen to God through the Bible, what I learn is the straight path that he promised is a straight path where we go on a journey with Jesus. It’s not about the destination. It’s all about the journey. On this journey we will climb mountains and we will trudge through valleys. The valleys are the place where God builds our faith and character. It seems like we are more receptive in the valleys. Every problem has a purpose. God does not cause evil, but he can and does use even the evil done to us by others and turn it around to accomplish good.

Our natural reaction to problems is fear and discouragement. You probably have several items on your list right now.

Jesus promised us that there will be valleys. In John 16:33 he said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

He has never been closer than when I have been in a valley. His promise is to walk with us and lead us straight to God. I have learned that trying to control and manipulate God is not a great idea. God is very uncooperative. Instead, I want to do the journey with him. Every day, I need a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world. When we are in dark valleys, remember that his light never stops shining.


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