Reading Unbroken, the amazing story of Louie Zamperini, I was struck by the amount of Jewish values and beliefs the book imparts. Even though posted an excellent article about the book last week, I am compelled to share the following lessons I extrapolated from the incredible life of Louie Zamperini.

Belief creates your reality: After the crash landing of their B-24 bomber plane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Louie and his surviving crew members, Phil and Mac floated in two cramped rafts for weeks before reaching land. During that time Louie and Phil constantly believed that they would live through this situation while Mac resigned himself to the reality of their fate. Not surprisingly Louie and Phil survived while Mac succumbed to their unfortunate situation. Belief creates your reality, as the famous Yiddish expression goes, "Tracht gut vet zein gut – Think good and it will be good.”

Faith in God: Being stuck in the middle of the ocean surrounded by large and hungry circling sharks the three men had no access to food or drinking water. They quickly depleted the meager rations of water in their emergency provisions and were left parched and dying of thirst. Louie and Phil prayed three times to God to send them rain, and each time God answered them and brought the rain down. Louie made a deal with God that he would dedicate his life to Him if He saved them. God wants a relationship with us and prayer is a powerful conduit to that relationship. Oftentimes He creates a lack in our lives in order to generate that relationship.

The Righteous Fall 7 Times: Louie’s brother Pete tells him throughout the beginning of the book, “If you can take it, you can make it.” Louie overcomes his physical limitations in order to become one of the runners on the American team in the 1936 Olympics. Later in the book Louie is tortured by one of the guards in the prisoner of war camp and yet he refuses to succumb to the torture. He is beaten, punched and degraded and each time he gets up and keeps pushing himself forward. “The righteous fall seven times and get up” (Proverbs, 24:16). It is through these challenges in our lives that we are able to rise to higher levels of growth and they are ultimately what build who we are.

Every Challenge is an Opportunity: Part of what gave Louie Zamperini his amazing resilience was his perspective on challenges. Situations that others would view as insurmountable he would view as something to overcome and conquer. That fighting spirit is what made him a champion Olympic runner and what helped him survive 47 days at sea and three years as POW subjected to unimaginable abuse. Judaism believes every challenge is an opportunity given by God to get closer to Him and refine our character traits. The Sages teach that "a person is born to struggle," as the Talmud states, "According to the effort is the reward."

Forgiveness: After Louie is freed from the POW camp and returns to his life back in America he is tormented by nightmares and consumed by revenge toward the guard in the camp who tormented him all those years. Towards the end of the book he makes the decision to forgive his tormentor and from that point forward he never has another nightmare or thinks of revenge again. Forgiveness really benefits us. Everything God causes to happen to us is really for our benefit and ultimately Louie follows through on the promise he made to God on that raft when he was lost at sea: He has a relationship with God which is really what He ultimately wants from us.