Everyone knows that the conditions of life make a huge difference to its quality. If you are hungry, or sick or sad over loss, it is much harder to feel that life is as good as when your needs are met. But we also know that sometimes a shift in attitude can make a dramatic difference. And a wise, loving word can help us see things in a new light.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin was called the Holy Man of Jerusalem. He spent his adult life visiting prisoners of all sorts, bringing them food, learning and comfort. Once after Passover some of the prisoners said to Rabbi Levin that because they were in prison they could not perform the rite of opening the door for Elijah. Therefore they did not feel they had a real chance at redemption.

Rabbi Levin’s answer: “Every person is in a prison of his own self. He cannot leave by going out of the house, but only by opening the door of the heart. And to make an opening in his own heart — that anyone can do, even a prisoner behind bars. And then he truly will be spiritually free.”

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).