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The Wisdom of the Rolling Stones

The Wisdom of the Rolling Stones

5 Jewish lessons from the world’s greatest band.


The Rolling Stones played in Israel. And that’s awesome.

The Stones are the world’s greatest band. They are also the world’s oldest. I am surprised that a band that’s been around as long as the Stones – and that’s toured for as long as the Stones – never made it to Israel.

But that’s what 50th anniversary tours are for.

The Stones aren’t just musicians. They’re insightful social commentators. Infused in their lyrics are messages of hope, despair, and a commentary on contemporary life.

And if you look carefully, important Jewish lessons can be found in their lyrics, too.

Here are the top five.

1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

I know. Obvious choice. But a powerful life-lesson nonetheless.

When I'm driving in my car, and that man comes on the radio, and he's telling me more and more, about some useless information, supposed to fire my imagination.”

According to the Stones, blatant in-your-face consumerism has convinced you that you can’t be satisfied. Ever. What you have is not enough. You want more. You need more.

And if you don’t want more, that man on the radio will convince you that you do. But – as the Stones want you to know – that’s nonsense.

"Who is rich? The rich person is happy with what he has" (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1). I doubt the Stones were studying the Talmud when they wrote “Satisfaction,” but they were onto something.

You can get satisfaction. Appreciate what you have. Don’t make your happiness dependent on externals. Externals are out of your control. Be responsible for your happiness. Take stock in what you have and be satisfied with your lot.

Real wealth is up to you. You don’t need more.

2. You Can’t Always Get What You Want

That’s true. But when you try – sometimes – you get what you need.

You are not in control of situations. The events and things in life unfold around you. And you are not in control. It isn’t your call.

What can you do?

You can complain. You can bellyache. You can get upset. You can be miserable because nothing goes your way.

Or listen to the message of the Stones.

You can’t always get what you want. So what? God gives you what you need.

A great coach will push you until you hurt. He will work you hard. You will hate him for it. You don’t want to work that hard.

But you do.

And when you achieve your goals. When your team wins. When you succeed beyond your expectations. You are thankful. You thank the coach for pushing you. You didn’t like it at the time. But it was worth it; with perspective you see that.

It wasn’t what you wanted, it wasn’t pleasant, but it made you into the person you wanted to be.

And that’s an important Jewish idea.

3. Paint it Black

Don’t get stuck. Don’t be self-absorbed. Don’t be selfish. Don’t get hung up on your obsessions or inhibitions.

I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors any more, I want them to turn black. I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes. I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.”

Don’t think like that.

The Stones – in this clever analogy – are telling you, “Don’t.” Focus instead on the good. Be positive. Be a ray of sunshine.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, taught, “Happiness isn’t a happening. Happiness is your responsibility.” Gloom and doom are easy. They’re copouts. Woe is me. Don’t go with that. Take responsibility for your happiness. Focus on the good in your life. Make happiness your priority.

The choice is yours.

4. Time Waits for No One

That’s right. When it’s over, it’s over. And we all go to the same place: the grave. (See Ethics of the Fathers, 3:1.)

Time can tear down a building or destroy a woman's face. Hours are like diamonds, don't let them waste.”

You only get one life. Don’t blow it. Don’t waste your time. And don’t waste your time on vanity. Don’t spend your life chasing nonsense and emptiness. Take time to invest in something real.

And if you disagree, death is proof. The richest man and the poorest bum both die. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Listen to the Stones. Think about your values and priorities. Think about your goals. Think about your purpose and mission. And invest in that.

Make the effort to invest in what’s really important.

5. Waiting on a friend

I’m just waiting for a friend.”

Your friends are the most important people in your life. Your friends will do anything for you. A real friend will. And you would do the same.

Friendship is an investment. It takes effort and work. Your friends have virtues. Think about those virtues. Focus on them. Cherish them. And cherish those relationships.

And when all else fails, you can count on your friends. Invest in them. Wait for them.

The Stones are more than just a band. They are seasoned veterans on the road of life.

And they played a concert in Israel.

BDS be damned.

June 4, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 27

(22) Markus, August 17, 2014 5:09 PM


I hope they got satisfaction in Israel. Even you cannot approuve everything what they did, the music goes deep into the soul. I am happy that a rabbi wrote about them.

(21) Daveed, August 17, 2014 4:16 PM

Great piece, thank you.

To all you nay-sayers; this was a fine article. Wisdom can be found in some very unexpected places--including secular music. HaShem attempts to speak to us through so many means (see Job 33:14-16). If we will cultivate intimacy with Him, daily, we will cultivate such spiritual discernment to the extent that that we recognize His voice in these unsuspected places. Much thoughtfulness went into this article. There's no call for discounting it with glib retort. Shavuot Tov, Daveed

(20) Anonymous, June 16, 2014 2:01 PM

not huge philosophers... you must have them confused with marley

and they are certainly not the world's greatest band... although yanks tend to think so, not brits. the the tlv concert was fun - I was there

(19) Anonymous, June 11, 2014 11:05 PM


I remember back in 1980 when John Lennon was assassinated, the news reporters looked up all his rock star peers to get comments. Dylan, Clapton, Elton John etc. were all upset or angry. Finally they reached Mick Jagger, from that rival band the Stones that had always played second fiddle to the Beatles. And Jagger just said "I don't want to make a casual comment right now at such an awful moment for his family. " At the time I thought he wasn't saying very much, but I later learned how how thoughtful that was.

(18) Hillel, June 9, 2014 12:45 PM

Led Zeppelin is better

Led Zeppelin is better

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