Category Archives: Relationships

What You Can Learn from the US Postal Service’s Failure

Recently I saw one of the funniest and saddest things ever: a bumper sticker on a mail truck that said: “Pay Your Bills By Mail.” Does anyone think such a campaign will revive the US Postal Service’s prospects? I don't want to be mean, but the Postmaster General needs to wake up and smell the Internet. Paying bills online is faster, cheaper, and more reliable. Why would anyone trade these qualities for conventional mail?

What You Can Learn from the US Postal Service’s Failure

The bumper sticker does provide a valuable public service by highlighting the folly of the “if you build it they will come” perspective popularized in the movies. As an entrepreneur, your first job is to make sure people want what you are selling and understand what rivals your product or service. If your competitors’ offerings are vastly superior, how are you going to enhance yours to keep pace with or exceeds theirs?

Pity is not a competitive strategy or the basis for a relationship

Moving beyond the business world, pity is not a substitute for the compassion necessary to sustain a relationship or marriage. While you want comforting from your spouse when hit with life’s inevitable setbacks, to retain your self-respect you need your spouse’s help to see and face the need to continually grow.

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The quasi-Luddite in me mourns the passing of traditional mail service. But the USPS’s inability to develop in the face of technological advancement is no more commendable than a man with Peter Pan Syndrome. People and society cannot live in Neverland.

Ironically, not only is technology forcing antiquated businesses to grasp at fanciful notions, through my work as a #NavyRabbi I found it is facilitating infantilization as people live in online fantasy worlds but are unable to deal with the basics of life such as getting to work on time and personal hygiene.

Disneyland is fun to visit for a day or two, but more gratifying is the lifelong struggle to grapple with daily challenges and the necessity to mature and adapt to a changing world. When you live intentionally, you will never have to sport a t-shirt that says, “Marry Me Despite My Inability to Face Life.”

Do you agree with me? Please comment yes or no…

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The Tug-of-War Duel Between Love and Love

“By this you will be tested: By Pharaoh’s life you will not go out from here except if comes here your youngest brother.” (Bereshis/Genesis 42:15). Unbeknownst to them, Joseph is reunited with ten of his brothers. Not the most loving reunion, or is it?

The Tug-of-War Duel Between Love and Love

The parsha for this Sabbath is Mikeitz. In it, we learn about Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation of it and his ascent to Viceroy of Egypt. Next, the famine begins resulting in Jacob sending ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food.

Joseph knows he must do everything possible to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy as shown in his dreams so he treats his brothers harshly and requires them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. At first Jacob will not do so but the lack of food becomes so severe he has no choice. Finally, Joseph endeavors to find out if his brothers’ attitude has truly changed.

In this week’s parsha, we see the true nature of love. In last week’s parsha, when the brothers are faced with Jospeh’s privileged treatment they react by first plotting to kill him and then selling him into slavery. Of course, Joseph was not blameless. He had been speaking lashon hora, telling tales about his brothers. But like a true tzadik, he accepts his punishment and uses it as an opportunity to refine his character.

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Joseph elevated himself spiritually and was elevated societally by Pharaoh. How easy it would have been for him, upon seeing his brothers in Egypt, especially when they bow down to him, to have said, “See! I was right!” But such conduct would have been unbecoming to the mature Joseph.

He also could have welcomed his brothers with open arms, coddled them, and given them everything they asked for without conditions, no questions asked. Would this have given his brothers the opportunity to come to terms with their faults? Certainly not.

Rather, because he loves his brothers he chooses a path that gives them the opportunity to demonstrate that they too have learned from their mistakes. In doing so Joseph must mistreat them. No peremptory forgiveness is offered. But in the end, the entire Jewish people is the benefactor since the brothers’ refined character became a permanent part of their legacy.

Loving someone, whether your spouse, child, or friend, does not always mean taking the easy path. You must constantly strive to improve yourself while seeking how best to help those who you love.

Sometimes your love must be comforting, others times tough.

As you wrestle with deciding which to emphasize in a given situation, you will build your own character. As well, you will gain ever-greater insight into how the seeming vicissitudes of life are actually G-d demonstrating His love for you, depending on whether adversity or solace will best help you grow.

Please take just a minute to share how you decide to use comfort or tough love…

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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. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Riding the Submarine Rescue Chamber: On a Trapeze Without a Net

Did you ever play the game where you had to trust someone by falling backwards, counting on the person to catch you? Then you know a little about what it is like to journey to the ocean floor aboard the Submarine Rescue Chamber, know as the SRC.

Learn about Trust while Riding the Submarine Rescue Chamber:

Qualifications are the lifeblood of the navy. From the moment a sailor comes aboard a command he is under pressure to get checked out on his various duties so he can work on his own and train others. The submarine service has one of the original qualification awards, the Submarine Warfare Insignia. My father, zt"l, who was an anti-submarine warfare officer in the mid 1950s, had tremendous admiration for sailors who wore the “Dolphins.”

But chaplains are not allowed to earn warfare qualifications including the coveted submariners’ “Fish.” (I know, dolphins are not fish. But are you going to argue with a guy who runs a nuclear reactor?) The Marine Corps made special arrangements for chaplains to earn the Fleet Marine Force pin. The only other one I can get is the Parachute Badge. But do I really want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just to win a fancy brass pin for my uniform?

Then I learned Submarine Squadron 11 staff members are eligible for the Deep Submergence Insignia rescue pin. It is not dolphins, but it has Neptune’s cool trident and a couple of fish too. What is more, I would be the first chaplain earn it.

Like most quals, it involves demonstrating an understanding of the history and purpose of this particular navy activity and getting signed off on a practicum. The deep submergence program was created to rescue submariners trapped in a disabled submarine. The most famous is the rescue of 33 sailors off the USS SQUALUS on the eve of World War II. Peter Maas’s book The Terrible Hours is a great recounting.

Fast-forward, you may recall my October 1 Facebook post of the SRC. Entering the chamber is like going through a time warp. If life were in black and white I would have expected John Wayne or maybe Cary Grant to welcome me aboard.

Do you like elevators? Me either, even when they have a glass wall. Imagine one that has really uncomfortable seats, lots of incomprehensible gauges and valves, and requires you to sit shoulder to shoulder with your shipmates. Oh, and it is very warm inside, even before the hatch is closed. We have been sitting inside for about 45 minutes when we are told via the umbilical cord that the oxygen supply system is not working quite right. Standby!

Fixing the ventilation consumes an hour. Now surface personnel release the safety and clear us to start our descent. Down we go. Twenty minutes later we are at the bottom of San Diego Bay. But the apparatus we had to link with is covered with silt. Divers scramble from the surface to clear it. After a while we call for a status report but the topside operator does not answer. We are vaguely disturbed.

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More than two hours into what I was told would be an hour and a half evolution, sitting in semi-darkness, completely useless, I am thinking, “What is a perfectly sane #NavyRabbi doing here?!” Oh, nature is calling and there are no facilities in this thing.

But hallelujah, we marry up with our link. We call the surface to advise them of our success and begin our ascent. After four hours in the pretzel position climbing out is a challenge. But the sun welcomes us to land. Knowing we would be hungry since the mission lasted almost three times longer than it should, our shipmates have ordered pizza. Too bad it was not kosher.

Saying thanks, my qual card signed, I head back to Point Loma to learn my orders have been cancelled. The government shut down while I sat on the sludge of the bay.

Reflecting on my latest adventure I was struck by how absolutely helpless we were. Aside from the discomfort, we were completely reliant on our shipmates on the surface for air, communications, and troubleshooting. The only thing we could do on our own was move up and down. I had not experienced this level of dependency in almost half a decade.

You know what? I trust anyone of my shipmates to catch me as I fall backwards. And I am going to build the same level of trust here in civilian life. Would you like to help?

How do you establish trust with friends and colleagues?

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The Essential Quality for a Successful Marriage

It happened again last week, didn't it? Your spouse for the umpteenth time did that thing you just cannot stand. If he loved you enough he would change, right? If she really cared she would follow the example you set, no? But you already know that is not going to happen. What if there is a better way?

The Essential Quality for a Successful Marriage

I remember when Melanie and I were dating. In the beginning every email and phone call was an affirmation of her interest in me. Each date more strongly cemented our relationship. I think she felt the same. After all she married me.

And her quirks of character endeared me.

But let's be realistic. After many years of marriage formerly cute idiosyncrasies drive you crazy. Nostalgia for the early days of your relationship is ineffective for combating their irritation. You need a long-term, sustainable strategy. Here it is:

Develop selective absentmindedness

Next time your spouse commits annoyance immediately distract yourself. Hum a verse from a favorite ditty. True, you may get the song stuck in your head but isn't that better than an argument with your loved one? Change the conversation. Tell yourself a joke. There is nothing like a smile to spur forgetfulness.

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I am not suggesting you overlook self-destructive behaviors or ones that truly undermine the foundation of your marriage. But you should not allow tiffs over annoying habits to become skirmishes in a battle over more important matters. Nor should they become a means of avoiding significant challenges.

Before considering the habit you want your spouse to change, think about the arduous road ahead. Where will the love, attention, and discipline in your marriage best be put to use? Save it for the major issues.

For a successful marriage,  practice intentional, judicious denial. Forget about the little things, literally. At the end of your day, journal something positive about your spouse. You will reinforce her good qualities and strengthen your selective absentmindedness.

Question – How do you deal with your spouse’s annoying habits?

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How to Act in Haste Without Regret

“ . . . and she hurried, and lowered her jug to her hand and gave him to drink.” (Bereshis/Genesis 24:18). Rebecca is carrying a jug of water on her shoulder when Eliezer approaches her and asks for a drink. Rather than telling him to get water from the well himself, unhesitatingly she serves him. Didn’t her mother teach her not to talk to strangers, let alone wait on them?

How to Act in Haste Without Regret

The parsha for this Sabbath is Chayei Sarah. Sarah dies and devotedly Abraham mourns her. Then he purchases a burial site for her and his family and orders his servant to search for a wife for Isaac. Next, Abraham marries again. The narrative concludes with his death and the death of Ishmael.

Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find Isaac a wife. The Torah relates that Eliezer prays to G-d to identify the right woman by her giving him water when he asks for a drink and then offering to water his camels without being asked. Enters Rebecca, who quickly lowers her jug so he can drink. Then only after he is done does she hurry and empty her jug into the trough for his camels to drink and keeps running until they are finished. A huge task for a young girl, especially for camels that crossed a desert!

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Note two things about her actions. First, when she had an opportunity to a chesed she did so quickly. This is the sign of a tadekes or righteous woman. In Midrash Bamidbar Rabah 10:7 it says,

“All of the deeds of the righteous are done quickly.”

By being eager to perform a deed, a righteous person elevates that deed from an everyday action to a mitzvah, thereby improving her relationship with G-d.

But note that in her haste she did not stand tapping her foot while Eliezer drank his fill. Rather she patiently waited for him to finish then hurried to water his camels and again patiently did so until their thirst was quenched. By subsuming her pace to that of the person or animal she was helping, Rebecca demonstrates for us the very essence of chesed:

Kindness is determined by the receiver of the action

So the challenge of being a kind person is to be sensitive and empathetic enough to perceive how a person really needs assistance. Our foremother Rebecca gives you a clue – be the kind of person that people will ask for favors and be sensitive to the plight of all of the Almighty’s creatures. Then, when you identify a need, take care of it yourself, quickly.

Question – How do you determine how a person actually wants to be helped?

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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. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

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