Category Archives: Relationships

How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

Who Are Your Strong Allies for a Smooth Transition?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Korach – Numbers 16:1-18:32

Unlike the military, the civilian world does not have one culture. Each service branch has distinctions. But, they're more similar than different. Many subcultures make up American society. They diverge, even clash. None of them match the military. Sometimes transitioning feels like living in a foreign country. If the stakes weren’t so high, you could be forgiven for throwing your hands up and declaring the situation hopeless. And it’s not just finding a job.

How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

The Many Faces of Reintegration

After getting a job, the challenges keep mounting. You have to adapt to a new workplace culture. Then your marriage and family need to adjust to different dynamics. Compound that with daily strife and divisiveness. In the military, we build cohesion to grapple with the enemy. Sometimes the civilian world seems to thrive on alienation.

Not long ago, a veteran disputed my assertion that civilians face challenges as difficult for them as military life is for us. He went through a long list of troubles he faced. All related to something civilians had done to him. Anger and resentment seeped from every word.

Among his complaints, he cited potential employers who assumed he had psychological issues. Sad to say, such ranting might cause a company to draw such a conclusion. Nothing I could do would change his perspective.

Of course, people make false connections all the time. The story following the rebellion in Parshas Korach comes to mind:

Moses said to Aaron, take your fire-pan and place on it fire from the Altar and put on it incense. (Numbers/Bamidbar 17:11)

The ground swallows Korach, Dathan, and Abiram, the three primary conspirators against Moses and Aaron. Still, the other 250 insurgents won’t stand down. So G-d commands Moses to have them bring an incense offering. When they comply, fire consumes them.

All the Israelites had heard the law saying only a Kohen may bring an incense offering. Korach and his followers were Levites. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the rebels died. Even so, the people complained that Moses and Aaron killed them. The Almighty brings a plague to punish Israelites for their wanton misperception.

Aaron brings an incense offering to stop the plague. He shows the Israelites the false connection between incense and death. You might think at this point the people would re-examine their conclusions. But later events show they continue to make false connections.

How Civilians are Like Incense

My complaining commenter behaved like the Israelites. He connected his troubles to civilians. Yet, they are the ones who can help him change his situation.

Civilians do the hiring. Unless he intends to make no new friends, they’ll be his social circle. If he doesn't have access to a military base, they’ll provide his health care. Civilians will sell him his food, clothing, and everything else.

The Israelites falsely connected incense with death. In reality, it sustained life. Death came from taking the wrong actions. Any of the insurgents could have refused to bring the incense offering and been spared.

Civilians are the solution, not the enemy. But you have to be careful how you deal with them. If you mistreat them, they’ll burn you. Would we veterans act differently? By taking personal responsibility for all the challenges of reintegration, you’ll join forces with civilians in creating an outstanding life for you and your family.

How do you view civilians?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Are You Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments?

How to Make Self-Marketing Godly

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tzav – Leviticus 6:1-8:36

The military knows how to build morale. You may have encountered a bad leader. But most follow Parshas Tzav's advice on reward and punishment:

“If for a thanksgiving offering he will offer it, with the sacrifice of the thanksgiving offering he will offer unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil; and scalded fine flour mixed with oil. Along with loaves of leavened bread…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 7:12-13)

Are You Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments

God wants others to be motivated by your accomplishments and the blessings He gives you so don’t be bashful about letting people know.

This Sabbath’s parsha continues the discussion of the korbanos (Temple offerings). Then it details the anointing of Aaron and his sons as the Kohanim (Priests) who will serve in the Temple.

Your Public and Private Life

When a sailor lived through a hurricane he brought a thanksgiving offering. A captive who escaped imprisonment did too. Anyone surviving perilous circumstances could express gratitude to the Almighty with this offering.

Along with the animal, a person brought 40 loaves of bread. They comprised ten each of the four varieties mentioned above.  The Kohen handling the offering received one of each kind. The other 36 went to the person who brought it.

All had to be eaten that day or by the following night. The short time ensured the bread would get shared with others. When you received a loaf, you learned about your friend’s good fortune. Soon it became general knowledge in the community.

Juxtapose this to the sin offering. You didn’t bring any loaves. So news about your mistakes didn’t spread.

Share your joy at receiving G-d’s blessing and you’ll improve people’s moods. They’ll see an example of where faith, hope, and perseverance pay off.  True friends feel joy and gratitude for your success. These feelings enhance their wellbeing.

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By contrast, avoid publicizing your challenges and difficulties. Keep them among those who will give you genuine support and sympathy. Public emoting of problems, so common today, makes people pessimistic. Or they may gloat at your misfortune. Neither benefits you or them.

Don't be Shy About Accomplishments

The military didn’t always recognize the difference between public and private spheres. Until at least the mid 19th century, units mustered to witness punishment. Flogging through the fleet publicized the heinousness of certain crimes like mutiny.

Today’s military leaders know to praise in public and rebuke in private. They award medals in front of your whole unit. Family and friends hear a tribute to your exemplary deeds. Your colleagues get motivated to keep striving.

Reprimands take place in confidential proceedings. Article 15, office hours, and captain’s mast happen behind closed doors. While others may hear about them, no one publicizes results. The public can attend a court martial. But only in the most notorious cases is punishment disclosed.

The same principle applies throughout your life. In public, praise and show gratitude to your spouse. In front of others, commend your child for accomplishments reaped through hard work. When something negative occurs, deal with the issue in private. No matter how right you were, if you rebuked them in public apologize.

Treat yourself the same way. Publicize your accomplishments. Emphasize the good parts of your military service. Show how your responsibility grew during your career. But don’t volunteer negative aspects to a potential employer.

If confronted with a question about mistakes you’ve made, frame them as lessons learned. That way you show the kind of growth mindset most employers value.

The Creator wants your good fortune to motivate others to connect with Him. In contrast, punishment is His one-on-one way of inspiring better future performance. Hence why He had people publicize thanksgiving offerings and keep sin offerings private. Model these practices all through your life.

Question – Is it dishonest to publicize only the good things that happened to you or that you’ve done?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Use Your Strengths to Overcome Every Challenge

Do You Know You Have Gold Others Want?

2 minutes to read

What part of your life frustrates you? Are you exasperated about your marriage, job, children, or health? Or life seems okay, but you have a nagging feeling it could be better. Either can lead to unhappiness. Fortunately, you have the ability to change. This isn’t rah rah pep talk. Each of us possesses gold. What’s more, we can swap it while increasing our own supply. We call this amazing currency our strengths.

How to Use Your Strengths to Overcome Every Challenge

Your Strengths Provide You with a Priceless Medium of Exchange for Improving Your Life.

The Influence of Loved Ones

Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” If you look around, you see successful people associate with others at or above their level. You may think you’re immune from the influence of other people. But examine what you love and hate. They connect you to family and close friends. You share them in common. Or a loved one’s opposite view reinforces your love or hatred.

Given such enormous impact, precede any change by examining who you spend the most time with. If they don’t exhibit the quality you want, you’ll have to create a new relationship. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Convince one of your current family members or friends to change with you. In doing so you’ll learn how dedicated a friend you have. Upgrading your lives together will build an even more solid friendship. You can hold each other accountable. But if the person proves unreliable you’ll have to…
  1. Search for a new friend. Find someone who embodies the strength you want to acquire. Look for ways to spend time with the person. Observe how he exhibits your desired quality or skill. Ask for mentorship. If the person isn’t interested, find someone else.
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If your current group of close associates isn’t growing you won’t either. You’ll have to break away to advance your life.

How to Use Your Strengths

Six months ago I decided to coach an acquaintance to run the L.A. Marathon. Since then, we ran 30 to 35 miles per week. Several Fridays I returned home soaked to the skin after running 20 miles in pouring rain. Fun did not factor into the training. I’m proud to say yesterday, despite throbbing knees, we finished the race in under six hours.

A great physical accomplishment you say? Sure. But its importance lies elsewhere.

I admire the character and work ethic of the man I coached, Moshe Cohen. He models excellence as a husband and father. His self-discipline is legendary among those who know him. Humility tops a long list of admirable qualities.

For me, training for a marathon wasn’t about physical endurance. Rather, I saw an opportunity to have a friend who would help me make positive change in important areas of my life. I haven’t asked him, but I hope he got the same benefit from my coaching.

The medals we got for finishing the marathon have nothing to do with running. Rather, they represent a friendship that will help both of us continue to improve our lives.

Your strengths are gifts you can give to people who will show you how to improve. Use them to overcome your weaknesses.

Which of your strengths will benefit others most?

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How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

The Reason You Must Give Your Heart

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayakhel/Pekudei – Exodus 35:1-40:38

Job-hunting after military service sometimes feels like entering a foreign country. Doesn’t it? The differences in language and life experience make communicating difficult. Veterans and civilians struggle to bridge the gap. Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei will help you be genuine while creating links:

“Everyone who is generous-hearted, will bring it, a portion for G-d.” (Shemos/Exodus 35:5)

How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

Create links with civilians by opening your heart to them and letting them get to know the genuine you.

This Sabbath is a double parsha to keep on track with the annual cycle. Vayakhel reviews the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). You see the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign raised so much money people had to stop giving!

Pekudei details Moses’s accounting of those donations. Then it explains how he set up the Mishkan. You might have thought that as the leader Moses would tell others to do it. But when G-d gives someone a job it becomes that person’s responsibility. No one should feel he’s beneath anything that serves our Creator.

Get Out of Your Head and Be Genuine

G-d told the Israelites to give contributions for the building of the Mishkan. But why do they have to bring their hearts? Isn’t it enough to give the gold, silver, and other materials?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm says we need to give more than mere money. The Almighty wants us to invest emotion and spirit when giving. Open your heart by smiling at the recipient. Recognize him as an individual. Ask her about her experiences. By doing so you transform a simple monetary transaction into a holy act. As well, you mold your self-image into that of a useful person.

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People used to call being in the military being in the service. You were a service member. In this respect civilian and military life mirror one another. The quality of your life comes in large part from serving others. This ethos requires genuine connection with fellow citizens.

Charity Isn’t Only Money

These days charity refers to an organization that raises money to help less fortunate people. Or it’s the actual money donated and distributed.

But charity also used to mean the way you treated someone. Kindness and tolerance marked the behavior of a charitable person. No money changed hands. Rather minds and hearts connected in true understanding.

Recently, Jewish Friends of the American Military asked me to speak on their behalf. Few of the 60 people attending had any link to military life. Sea stories fascinated them. During Q&A, people wanted to know how they could support service members beyond donating to JFAM.

The answer came straight from this week’s parsha. I told them, “We’re very fortunate to live during a time when our fellow citizens thank us for our service. But for some veterans, the gratitude doesn't seem authentic. So before offering your thanks, take a couple of minutes to ask a veteran about his experience. Get to know her a bit. By connecting first, your gratitude will feel genuine.”

Whether giving money or meeting to discuss a job, bring your heart. The links you create will yield more than a short-term benefit. You’ll build the foundation to authentic, life-long relationships.

Question – If you feel you cannot invest your heart when giving to someone should you not do so?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Improve Your Marriage When You’re Strapped for Time

The Wine Drinker’s Guide to Marital Harmony

3 minutes to read

Have you noticed how harmonious your marriage is after being away for awhile? When I got back from deployment Chana and I had a virtual second honeymoon. We looked at each other lovingly. We ate dinners together alone. We took care to be gentle and understanding with each other. Of course, things had to get back to normal, right?

How to Improve Your Marriage When You’re Strapped for Time

The Two Modes of Marriage

Marriage falls into two modes, everyday and unusual. You know what the daily grind is like. Reunion or health crisis times look different:

  • You’re glad just to be with your spouse.
  • You focus on connecting.
  • Affection and lovemaking happen more often.
  • You avoid conflict or creating bad feelings, if only because they disrupt the first three.

But then life gets busy or the crisis passes, you go back to everyday reality. Your focus turns back to work and kids. Who has time for a weekly dinner date? When your attention peters out, arguments begin to happen. The hours spent dealing with conflict crowd out any time for positive interaction.

Yet if you think about handling conflict during unusual mode, you’d have said, “Let’s not waste time arguing honey.”

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But, is conflict during everyday mode somehow less wasteful?

Your Spouse Is Like a Bottle of Fine Wine

Amidst the time pressures of daily life, allowing your marriage to move out of unusual mode actually consumes more time.

As friction and bad feeling accumulate, they damage communication. You or your spouse may withdraw. Conversations that don’t take place allow problems to fester. Often what could have been solved quickly now takes much more time and resources to resolve.

Lax communication can also lead to fights. You have to take even more time and emotional energy to work out the problem. Rather than permitting your marital mode to shift from unusual to everyday, create the habit of treating your spouse like a bottle of fine wine:

  • Carefully monitor its storage temperature. I have a special refrigerator for storing my best wine. When our power went out a few months ago, I fretted about what would happen if my wine got to warm.

Likewise, take a little time each day to keep an eye on the temperature of your marriage. Check out my post on how to do this in a minute per day.

  • When you shake it up you disturb the sediment. Often great wines have dregs. It’s nasty to drink if it hasn’t settled. So when you pour it you’re careful not to shake it up. Or you use a strainer to keep the sediment out.

In your marriage, treat old arguments like sediment. Be careful not to stir them up. Strain them out of any communication with your spouse.

  • Embrace the bottle so it doesn’t slip out of your hands and break. I pick up a $100 bottle of wine with care. The thought of dropping it distresses me. So I cradle it. My focus never wavers from it.

Treat your spouse with such gentleness. A hundred dollars, even thousands, pales in comparison to the value of your marriage. You wouldn’t risk swinging an expensive bottle of wine over your head lest it slip out of your hands and break. Your marriage is as fragile.

  • Savor it. Every sip of a fine wine is its own experience. One glass can last an entire meal. You examine the color. You breathe in the aroma. You relish the taste. Sometimes it doesn’t measure up. You get angry with disappointment. But then you realize that once in a while it’s bound to happen. You don’t stop drinking wine because of a few unfortunate experiences. You don’t attack or insult the next bottle because the one before it was bad.

Sometimes you or your spouse will slip into everyday mode. Communication becomes strained. You may argue. Are you going to give up on marriage because sometimes your expectations aren’t met? It’s bound to happen.

Now’s the time to merge your spouse and a bottle of fine wine. As you savor the bouquet, color, and flavor, move back into unusual mode and connect. So you can’t have an extraordinary bottle of wine daily. Who says your marriage can’t thrive in unusual mode every day?

How do you build the habit of treating your spouse like fine wine?

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