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The Rabbi and the Banker A Meaningful Encounter Life After Death

The Rabbi and the Banker

A year or two after Toward a Meaningful Life was originally published, an article appeared in the New Jersey Star Ledger detailing the story of a man who had given away a small fortune to help relieve poverty-stricken children around the winter holidays. When asked what his motivation for giving so generously was, the man, who wished to remain anonymous, quoted a line from Toward a Meaningful Life: “G‑d has given each person on this earth a corner of the universe to make into a home for Him.”

When Rabbi Jacobson learned of this news story, he was incredibly moved, and wanted very much to speak with the man in the article. Although the philanthropist’s name wasn’t mentioned, his attorney’s was. Rabbi Jacobson wasted no time in contacting the attorney, and soon was privy to the donor’s identity – this remarkable man was Ted Doll, the secular Catholic, Oxford-educated part-owner of Summit Bank in New Jersey.

Rabbi Jacobson arranged to have dinner with Ted and his wife, Lynn, at a kosher restaurant in Manhattan. When they met in person, the two felt an immediate affinity toward one another. “Your book is G‑dly to me,” Ted told Rabbi Jacobson.

The Dolls and the Rabbi became fast friends, deciding to put their heads together to advance the message and purpose of Toward a Meaningful Life. At one point, Ted presented Rabbi Jacobson, unsolicited, with an envelope containing a check. “This is not enough. I want something more from you,” Rabbi Jacobson said. “But you haven’t even looked at it,” Ted replied, motioning to the envelope. “We need more than your money,” the Rabbi said. "What else do you want?" asked Ted. “It’s your soul that Toward a Meaningful Life needs.” Ted understood, but insisted that the Rabbi open the envelope anyway.

Inside was $25,000.


A few years later, the Dolls’ daughter was getting married to a Southern Baptist in Virginia. Ted called Rabbi Jacobson to tell him, ending their conversation with, “I know you probably can’t come, but I’m sending you an invitation anyway.”

As promised, the invitation arrived a couple days later. It was a pretty standard as far as invitations go, informing guests of the date, time, and location of the ceremony and the name of the pastor who would be marrying the couple. Underneath all of that, though, was a line that stood out: Selected passages on love and marriage will be read from the book Toward a Meaningful Life.

  A Meaningful Encounter

The chairman of Nissan Motors, a non-Jewish South African, had his life turned upside down when his nineteen year-old son died of an aneurism in his arms.

For months after this tragedy, he was unable to return to work, paralyzed by the weight of his grief. He was like a zombie, not quite alive, moving through his days on auto-pilot. His heart, mind, and soul were not in this world; they were elsewhere, with his son.

The day he went back to his office, there was a staff meeting. At the end of the meeting, this man’s accountant approached him with a stack of financial reports. At the bottom of the stack was a book – a copy of Towards a Meaningful Life. “What is this?” the man asked. “I think it will help you,” his accountant replied, “please read it.”

Rabbi Jacobson had the opportunity to meet this man several months after he had received his copy of Toward a Meaningful Life. The man thanked the Rabbi profusely for writing the book, telling him, “Because of this book, I have learned to give my pain to G‑d and get strength in return.” Toward a Meaningful Life had helped this man find meaning in death, also. 

 Life After Death

There was a retired teacher in Toronto suffering from a terminal illness, with a prognosis that gave her months at most to live. Her disease caused her so much physical and psychological pain that she signed a Do Not Resuscitate order, preferring death to prolonged life in such a miserable state. This woman’s daughter was greatly disturbed when she heard about her mother’s DNR. She tried to reason with her mother, tried begging her to rescind the order, but nothing worked.

Then, one day, she brought a copy of Toward a Meaningful Life to her mother’s hospital room and read to her from the chapters on education and on pain and suffering. As her mother took in the book’s message - that the value of life is not measured by the quantity of pain-free days, but by its inherent quality of purpose - she began to see a spark of life glowing in her.

Soon after, this woman took back her DNR order. With a renewed will and sense of purpose, she shattered her doctors’ bleak prognosis and lived for several more years – years of joy and meaning.