“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”
— Oscar Wilde
I admit, I didn’t think of the weather and climatic inversions when Avi Mehler, last Friday evening, quoted the Vilna Gaon:
“About which you laugh today you will cry tomorrow. About which you cry today you will laugh tomorrow.”
This triggered my memory of other pithy literary inversions. I scoured my library and collected my favorites. They are reproduced below. You decide whether they’re true.
“What a world filled with sweetness and light it is — for those who are not immersed in it. And what a bitter and dark world it is — for those who are immersed in it.”
— Rebbe of Kobrin
“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.
“But if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”
— Kotzker Rebbe
“The darkest present is better than the rosiest future.”
“Man must be able to sacrifice all of his tomorrows for today, so that he need not sacrifice all of his todays for one tomorrow.”
— Alter of Novorodock
“When a baby is born, friends and relatives are giddy with joy. The baby, however, is wailing. When a person dies, the friends and relatives are overcome with grief. The soul of the deceased, however, is exulting in unity with eternal G-d.”
— Aryeh Levin
“Physical needs are more important than spiritual needs, but the other person’s physical needs are my spiritual obligation.”
— Israel Salanter
“Just as there are laws in poetry, so is there poetry in laws.”
— Abraham Isaac Kuk
“Where can You be found, Your place hidden, concealed?
Where are You not found, Your glory worldwide revealed?
[alternative translation from the Hebrew]:
O L-rd, where shall I find Thee?
All-hidden and exalted is Thy place;
And where shall I not find Thee?
Full of Thy glory is the infinite space.
— Judah Halevi
“When a person fears G-d, this feeling itself is the greatest pleasure, causing a person to love and draw close. . . . The closer a person draws to G-d and the more love a person has, the more fear of G-d this generates, until the love and fear unify. The negative commandments become beloved, and the positive commandments become awesome.”
— Samson David Pincus
“A sin committed with a good intention is better than a precept (mitzvah) committed with an evil intention.”
— Talmud, Nazir 23b
“Slogans about pluralism haven’t prevented one intermarriage, just as raucous demonstrations and stone-throwing in protest of Shabbat desecration by haredi zealots have not yet produced one Shabbat-observing Jew.”
— Berel Wein
One of my daughters said that these days all of these quotes are easily found on the internet. So I googled “inverted quotations” and “inversions, quotations” and such. I didn’t find a single one of these quotes. Good! Decades of collecting and selecting quotes like these were not a waste.
Meanwhile, my daughter also said that Oscar Wilde offered wisdom in inverted form. This I did find on the internet, in abundance. Here are few nuggets by Oscar Wilde. You decide if they fit the form.
“Always forgive your enemies — nothing annoys them so much.”
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.”
“In examinations, the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.”
And who can forget Yogi Berra?
“When Max Nicolas, head of New York Yankees public relations, called, I sleepily answered the phone. ‘Sorry Yogi, I hope I didn’t wake you.’ I replied, ‘Nah, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.’”
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