Category Archives: Relationships

The Best Way to Help Your Child

Parsha Nugget Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9

Is there anything more gratifying than when your child comes to you for help making sense of her life? I get to enjoy this for a few more years until my daughter, being a teen, becomes smarter than me. While it is the case now, even more so then I will need wisdom to guide me. Parshas Toldos explains what I should do:

“And Isaac entreated to G-d opposite his wife, because she was barren.” (Bereshis/Genesis 25:21).

Parent and Child Talking

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At the beginning of the parsha Jacob and Esau are born. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew. Then a famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar where he disputes with the Philistines and makes a treaty with Abimelech. Esau marries two Hittite women. Next as Isaac lay dying, Rebecca conspires to get the blessing of the first born for Jacob, precipitating Esau’s hatred for his brother. Isaac admonishes Jacob not to marry a Canaanite, after which he flees to Bethuel’s house. Esau marries a third wife. Who needs Dynasty?

Like Sarah before her, Rebecca is barren. It seems counter intuitive that two of the greatest women who ever lived, who G-d chose to be Matriarchs, should be unable to have children.

In the passage above you see the solution.

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Isaac prayed to G-d on behalf of his wife.

For all of the numerous challenges you face in your life G-d wants you to pray and ask for help. As parents we want our children to come to us for help when they are struggling or have difficulties to overcome. We may feel hurt if they do not. So too G-d wants our prayers and our entreaties so that He can comfort us and be generous with us.

Sometimes the Almighty leaves your problem unresolved. Likewise at times you need to withhold your assistance to give your child the chance to help himself. But just like the process of talking the issue through with you helps your child find a solution, a quiet, focused dialogue with G-d will bring you clarity.

Question – How do you engage with your children to help them learn to overcome challenges?

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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!

Here’s the Gift Your Spouse Really Wants

Too long ago for me to recall precisely when I received some marriage advice. “You will have to give much more than you ever thought you could or would,” the person told me. I always thought this meant that I had to make a maximum physical effort. Only recently did I realize how wrong I have been.

Here’s the Gift Your Spouse Really Wants

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Like most married couples Melanie and I have struggled with certain issues our entire married life. Two cases in point: I am fastidious and my bride is not. We are not the Odd Couple. Well perhaps I am Felix but Melanie is not Oscar. As well, I was raised to complete a task I have begun, no matter how trivial or annoying the matter is. Despite confessing these “quirks” of character when we were dating and acknowledging they are my issues to deal with, to this day they cause friction.

Allow me to state categorically my conviction that my wife loves me and does not want to make me unhappy. Of course, if that were the case she would never leave off a task until it is done and she would consistently pick up after herself right? Notice the false equivalence here?

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Her unequivocal love for me has nothing to do with how her upbringing has manifested itself in her adult life. Melanie can focus deeply on a task. But she saves such intensity for those she considers important. Besides me, who would blame her if cleaning up the kitchen does not fall into this category?

Which brings me back to the subject of giving. Like Groucho Marx’s classic song, every year my sisters and I gave my father a tie for Father’s Day. And although he professed profound gratitude for these gifts, in retrospect I suspect he was underwhelmed, to say the least. Because he loved his children, he overlooked our lack of originality in Father’s Day presents, even though he had a knack for getting us the things we wanted. He did not judge us by his ability but rather by ours.

So I have come to learn that the tremendous giving for which I am responsible is the freedom of my wife, and for that matter daughter, mother, and friends, to be who they are. Perhaps more so, it is to desist from the martyrdom that permits me to think their love and respect is somehow deficient because it is not backed up by the action that makes me comfortable. Finally, I must give thanks for the unique gifts and perspective they offer on our lives and relationships.

Such is my new year's resolution for the Rosh Hashanah just passed.

What causes you to think your spouse’s love is not as deep as he/she professes

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Why Marital Strife is G-d’s Gift

Parsha Nugget Bereishis – Genesis 1:1-6:8

Marriage is challenging, even at the best of times. But I have seen countless movies and I am certain how it works. Though rocky at first, couples live happily ever after. Hollywood must not have read the relevant verses of Parshas Bereishis:

“. . . it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make for him a helper against him.” (Genesis/Bereishis 2:18)

Husband and Wife Boxing

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The parsha for this Sabbath is the first of the new cycle, Bereishis. In it is the story of creation, how Adam and Eve sinned and were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, the conflict between Cain and Abel, and the ten generations between Adam and Noah. Is it not wonderful to be reading the great stories of the Torah again?

When the Torah recounts the creation of the first human in verse 1:27 it says: “And G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him, male and female He created them.” Notice that the first human being contained both genders. Later, in verses 2:21-22 the Almighty separates out Adam’s female side and creates Eve as a separate person. Why not create a man and a woman from the beginning? Why go to such trouble?

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Bereshis Rabbah 17:4 explains G-d knew, as indicated in verse 2:18 above, that Adam should not be alone. But He waited until Adam complained about being lonely so He could rebut Adam’s complaint that Eve caused him to sin. Can you hear the Almighty? “First you complain about being alone, then when I give you a companion you blame her for your mistakes.”

So if Eve came from Adam, why is she “a helper AGAINST him?”

The Hebrew word for “against him,” kenegdo, can also mean, “meets him.”

In the Talmud, Yevamos 63a, R. Eleazar points out if a man is worthy his wife meets him, connects with him in a healthy way. If is a man is unworthy his wife chastises him, that is she is against him.

Consider the potential of the two. A man and a woman are one flesh. Their connection is like two puzzle pieces coming together to form a strong bond. If you have ever picked up a puzzle you have seen that the pieces usually remain linked. Often only after vigorous shaking will they detach. Such is the nature of marriage. G-d has given husbands an early warning device. When a man creates marital strife, his wife changes from meeting him to being against him.

Marital strife, like all of life’s challenges, is your opportunity to examine your behavior and determine where you have strayed from the path G-d has delineated. A wife’s fundamental nature as a helper shouldn't change when she shifts from connecting with her husband's needs to being a critic. When she opposes her husband’s behavior, she must aid him to return to the correct path.

Question – Who do you think has the more difficult job, a husband or a wife?

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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 Distinguish Between Listening and Hearing

Parsha Nugget Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

While out running one day, I came to a stretch of sidewalk that was being traversed by ants. I imagine I looked pretty funny dodging, what were to other people, these unseen hurdles. I should not worry about what others think when doing the right thing, as noted in Parshas Ha’azinu:

“Give ear, oh heavens and I will speak; and the earth will hear the saying of my mouth.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:1)

How to Distinguish Between Listening and Hearing

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This week’s parsha, the last Sabbath reading of the cycle, has the song Moses wrote at the end of the previous parsha. In it he calls on heaven and earth to be a witness to all of the disasters that will happen to the Children of Israel if they stray from the path that G-d has set. He also describes the joy that will come at the time of the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his final task.

Even for poetry the above verse has redundancy after redundancy. The heavens should listen, and the earth should listen, and both will hear what G-d says. Is it not obvious if they listen they will hear?

Of course you know there is a difference between listening and hearing. Through inattention or purposely tuning someone out, there is no guarantee a message spoken will be heard. But as bad as the result of not hearing your spouse, Proverbs calls the prayer of someone who does not listen to G-d an abomination. Think about that for a moment. The Almighty is always available to hear our prayers. But it is abominable if you beseech G-d while ignoring Scripture.

Pondering this idea, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal, notes that praying while intoxicated is also called an abomination. It is preposterous for a person so immersed in the physical world that he is drunk to try to connect with the heavenly world where the Creator resides.

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Both praying to G-d while denying His principles and praying while intoxicated demonstrate scorn for the purpose of prayer. How can a person seek to create a closer relationship with the Almighty and raise his level of spirituality when his actions controvert both of these goals?

The adjuration to hear G-d applies to the Israelites of Biblical times and us today

To make sure you digest vital communication, do the following:

  1. Remove distractions and stop talking. Just listen. Do not take notes or anything else since this will draw your attention away from the speaker.
  2. Relax and focus on the speaker. Take some deep breaths and put other matters out of your mind. Situate yourself so that the speaker takes up all of your field of vision.
  3. Strive for comprehension. Listen to the words being spoken but also the ideas they express and the tone with which they are said. Put aside all thought of a reply.
  4. Be patient. Sometimes it can take a person a while to clearly say what he has to communicate. Do not fidget or otherwise rush the person.
  5. Ask for clarification and confirmation that you understand correctly. If something is unclear, when the speaker pauses ask for further explanation. Once he expresses a complete thought, tell him what you heard and ask if you have understood his point.

Likewise when you wish to understand what G-d is saying, these same steps apply, albeit to reading Scripture. It is impossible to comprehend His message after a cursory reading of the Bible. In today’s world of ubiquitous distractions, is it futile to uncover its depth without studying the writings and interpretations of the great scholars of previous centuries.

Read every year within a week or two of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the words of Moses’s song are meant to inspire you to deeper study and repentance. At the same time, they offer solace in how deeply G-d loves you.

How do you insure you hear the important messages in your life?

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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!

Do You Know What Birds Can Teach?

Parsha Nugget Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

As I absorb all of the terrible news from around the globe, sometimes I experience empathy fatigue.  Then I see two sparrows protecting their nest from a raven and I remember this verse in Parshas Ki Seitzei:

“Send away, you will send away the mother (bird) and the children you will take for you; in order that it will be good for you and you will lengthen your days.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 22:7)

Do You Know What Birds Can Teach?

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This week’s parsha contains more mitzvas (usually translated commandments) than any other, 74 in all.  In it, we learn about how to handle a female POW.  Then it covers the right of primogeniture and how rebellious son is handled. The prohibition of men not wearing women’s clothing and vice versa (Ooops for Uncle Miltie) comes next.

The parsha continues with rules about sending away the mother bird before gathering her eggs, making tzitzis (fringes) for a four-cornered garment, and how to treat someone who slanders a woman. Next, it details the penalties for adultery and rape, several rules about marriage and divorce, and how the Israelites had to keep their camp pure. Then it explains the laws concerning workers rights, kidnapping, lending, and punishments.

The penalty for embarrassing someone is given, followed by the admonition to have honest weights and measures. It ends with the strange commandment to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

If you have spent any time in the backcountry, you know that wild animals typically run away when humans approach.  So it seems odd that the Torah says a mother bird has to be sent away before her eggs or young are taken.  But when it comes to defending their nests, birds will go up against bigger and stronger predators.

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While not anthropomorphizing, clearly a mother bird overrides her instinct of self-preservation to protect her brood, an emotional response called love.

Primary among many,

G-d’s Goal is for Each of Us to Be More Sensitive to the Feelings & Needs of Others.

So the Almighty permits us to take the offspring while insisting we ensure the mother bird does not bear witness.  The bird instinctually acts to maintain the survival of its species. But since it appears to be acting out of parental love, G-d requires us to refrain from an action that could desensitize us to human suffering.

How do you sustain your sensitivity to other people’s misfortune?

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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!

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