Rabbi Daniel Cohen currently serves as senior rabbi at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut, the largest modern orthodox synagogue in New England. He is also co-host with Reverend Greg Doll of the nationally syndicated radio show “The Rabbi and the Reverend,” Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and evenings at 9 p.m. Here he answers six questions about his wonderful new book, What Will They Say About You When You’re Gone?: Creating a Life of Legacy.
What inspired the book?
My mother passed away from a brain aneurysm when she was 44. I am the oldest of six children and was in my 20s. I understood that she was young but it was not until I entered my 40s that I truly realized the brevity of her life. This realization awakened with renewed urgency to make the most of my life and share this inspiration with others. I believe there is so much more we can accomplish. To realize our divine potential each day and the unique imprint we can make on the world is our gift to humanity.
If you could give this book another title, what would it be?
“Make every day a masterpiece.” I truly believe the answers to leading a life of legacy lies inside all of us. We all possess an inner voice that yearns for meaning love and significance. Yet, we often fail to heed that inner voice. We walk in a daze, moving from one event to the next, passing time rather than making the time count. The seven principles in the book will train you to act courageously, seize meditative moments, live inspired and transform every moment into one of impact and eternity.
What person in this book do you most personally identify with?
Elijah the prophet. Discovering your Elijah moment, one of the principles in the book, reflects the recognition that each of us can transform every encounter into an eternal one. If we did, the world world would be a radically different place. When we walk into a coffee shop, our office, our home, do we ask ourselves what can we do in the next few minutes to make someone’s day? Elijah is everyone and anyone. Geoff Frisch is one example. He was a close friend of my father’s whom I knew who passed away a few years ago at 65. He was a successful businessman who was also deeply engaged in communal and family life. He would always say, “I am not concerned whether someone buys from me or not but whether we connected as two human beings. If I can make someone smile or make a difference in someone’s life, then regardless of the material benefit, I know I am living for eternity.” Being an Elijah means living every day with an awareness of our capacity to be the Almighty’s agents on earth.
Did writing this book teach you anything?
A mystic once wrote — every human being has a book inside of them waiting to be written and a song to be sung. I never thought it would be possible to write the book but realized the journey over the six, seven years was my own way of reverse engineering my life. It reinforced for me and for all of us the capacity we are endowed with by God to realize potential we never could have imagined possible if we create the sacred space to truly live our lives as we aspire to be. I also was inspired by the hundreds of people who shared their stories reflective of their quest for eternal resonance in their lives and whose deepest joys emerge from leading lives of legacy.
If there is one person you want to reach with this book, who would that be?
My children. Thank God, I am the father of six daughters. They are my greatest joy and I hope and pray that they embody the values and vision of this book. My wife and I do our best to model a life of legacy, expressing gratitude every day and doing our utmost to live with joy, courage, gratitude, faith and the seizing the never ending opportunities to share our light in the world and reveal it in others. We hope to ignite those sparks in them and in turn hope they do in the world as well. Ultimately, every human being is designed for spiritual greatness. In the words of Marianne Williamson, “There is no passion to be found in playing life small, in setting for a life less than the one you are capable of living.”
What is the ideal beverage to have in hand while reading your book?
Chilled seltzer – refreshing!