Category Archives: Relationships

Strong Relationships Require Place and Faith

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bereishis – Genesis 1:1-6:8

The word friend today means something different than in times past. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some I’ve never met or even spoken with. For a close relationship, place comes to mind. You know you can’t have a strong marriage when you’re never home. Relations with your kids suffer when you have to be away. Likewise, in your relationship with G-d, Parshas Bereishis shows place matters:

“In the beginning of G-d creating the heavens and the earth….” (Genesis/Bereishis 1:1)

Strong Relationships Require Place and Faith

The parsha for this Sabbath, Bereishis, begins a new cycle. It tells the story of creation and how Adam and Eve sinned and got thrown out of the Garden of Eden. The conflict between Cain and Abel explains we are our brother’s keeper. It ends by enumerating the ten generations between Adam and Noah. Isn’t it wonderful to be reading the great stories of the Torah again?

Judaism and the Land of Israel

The Torah contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Other names include the Five Books of Moses and Toras Chaim. The second one means rules for life. Not a history book, the Torah instructs you on how to have a relationship with G-d and other people.

So why does it start with a lengthy narrative about the creation of the world? Surely the Creator knew this story would cause a bitter argument among His children. Quarreling about whether it’s literal or allegorical won’t build relationships.

Rather, this parsha and the rest of Beresheis prove the Jewish people’s title to the Land of Israel. Many mitzvas (ways of relating to G-d) depend on living there so it is crucial to establish this claim. Like trying to sustain your marriage without a home, without the Land of Israel, G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people weakens. Were the Land lost forever the relationship might die.

Out of Contention Comes Faith

Still the question remains. Did the Almighty create the world in six 24-hour days or over billions of years? This dispute underlies a crucial principle for understanding the Bible. The question is more important than the answer.

No matter the time period of creation, the Almighty challenges you to have faith in His eternality and omnipotence. He could have created the universe in six days or six eons. The difference is indistinguishable to Him. But faith is indispensable for establishing your relationship with G-d. The same applies to your spouse, children, and friends. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes or disappoint you. Without faith in their love and good intentions your relationship will not survive.

Creationism versus cosmology makes a lively discussion. Remembering why the Creator opens the Bible with such a contentious story will give you enduring relationships.

Question – Which do you find a bigger challenge to your marriage: place or faith? Please leave a comment below.


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!

How to Know Trouble Is Brewing in Your Life

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Savo – Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

When in the middle of a fight, ever thought, “Where is this coming from?” I have, even when I started the argument. Hannah and I never quarrel when we feel connected. One of us has to create distance between us so the feud has a place to grow. Separation also allows me to craft a scenario in my head to support my grievance. The reality of the situation doesn’t matter. When I read Parshas Ki Savo, I realized this process permeates life:

“…all of these blessings will come upon you and cleave to you…” and “…all of these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 28:2 and 15)


In this Sabbath’s parsha, the Israelites continue preparations for entering the Land of Israel by discussing the first fruits offering. Next, Moses reiterates the inseparability of G-d and Israel. Then he details the blessings and curses that will befall them depending on how well they follow the Torah. At the end of the parsha, Moses begins his final exhortation to the Children of Israel.

Disconnection Leads to Problems

You probably noticed the two verses above are the same except two words. In the original Hebrew, only the words blessings and curses are different. The Hebrew word, v’hisigucha, gets translated two different ways. For the blessings, it means "cleave to" and for the curses, "overtake." So good and bad enter our lives through similar mechanisms.

V’hisigucha comes from the root, naga, which means, “make contact with.” Of course, this includes being gently tapped, struck with a stick, or emotionally moved. You may have abundant blessings but not satisfied. In that case, the blessings are essentially wasted. You have not allowed them to touch your life. You may be too disconnected to notice them. Or, they may be disguised as a disaster that only later reveals its benefit. The blessing has cut through your lack of awareness. Only then will you and the blessing be joined.

If you remain oblivious to blessings, G-d will need to awaken you by having curses touch your life. If they rouse you, you can correct your behavior. But if you’re unreceptive, the curses will have to overtake and strike you until you take notice and change.

When disengaged from your loved ones and the Almighty, you miss opportunities for self-improvement. You also cannot see the bounty of goodness in your life.

AWACS that Trouble is Brewing

The current cost of an E-3 Sentry is almost $400 million ($298 million in 1998 dollars). You can see the premium the Air Force puts on getting early warning of a threat. So where can you get an affordable harbinger of problems in your life?

Track how connected you feel to your family and events in your life. Take a moment each day to assess how you and your spouse greeted each other. Did you feel bonded? Yes? Great! No? Beware. You may be missing some blessings. Curses may be looking to overtake you. The same applies to any relationship, whether with people or G-d. The closer the connection the more frequently you need to gauge its solidity.

Social media can be a good tool for staying in touch. But it can isolate you from real people. Liking and commenting on posts doesn’t foster the kind of connection that prevents trouble. You’ll need more direct, one-on-one contact. Face-to-face is best. But with greater separation, you lose some information. Skype and Facetime work when you’re far away. You’ll miss visual cues you when on the phone, but it will suffice. Texting sacrifices anything visual plus the subtext of tone and inflection in verbal communication.

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Make sure you do a daily or weekly review of your life. What is the status of your health and finances? What progress have you made on your priorities? Have you held true to your mission and values? Periodic assessments reduce the chances you’ll overlook blessings and fail to see curses are tailing you.

It can be exhausting to stay connected. Ironically, to maintain your resilience you should disconnect on a regular basis. We live in such a visual society, activities like watching television may not provide the separation you need. Physical activity is excellent. Listening to music will work. Try meditation. And of course, would you expect a rabbi to leave out praying? Sure you’re connecting with the Creator. But if you seek repose in prayer, you’ll find it in plenty.

Separation and inattention always let you know trouble is brewing. Be intentional in staying connected to loved ones, colleagues, yourself, and G-d. That way you can embrace your blessings and avoid a lot of curses.

How do you avoid becoming disconnected from loved ones and life? Please comment below.


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!

3 Reasons You Must Read to Succeed

2-½ minutes to read

Like most of us, I got advantages and disadvantages from my upbringing. We’d lived in five different cities and eight houses by the time I was nine years old. Maintaining friendships has been a challenge for me ever since. My dad was an engineer (electronics not train-driver). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he would get work on a project and once the contract was done move on. Not a recipe for financial stability. But I was fortunate to have received many blessings from my parents. After their love and belief in my success, the most important is they made me a reader.


Being Literate and Going to College Aren’t Enough

By 1969 only 1% of the U.S. population couldn’t read. However, this statistic hides all but the utilitarian benefits of reading. Just because someone can read signs or simple forms doesn’t mean he’s reaping the advantages that come from literacy.

I’ve written before about why getting a degree won’t make you more money. These days an undergraduate degree is about as valuable as a high school diploma was 30 or 40 years ago. Master’s and doctoral degrees do not lead to wealth. Less than a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States have an advanced degree. Your success depends on two things:

  • Knowing what it takes to be successful, which colleges don’t teach at any level.
  • Increasing your value to your organization or clients.

So if college doesn’t guarantee success, what will?

Steve Seibold interviewed over 1,200 of the wealthiest people in the world. He found the one pastime they have in common is reading. Two factors distinguish the reading habits of wealthy versus middle and lower income people.

  • Rich people use books to educate themselves on how to be more successful.
  • Middle-class people read to be entertained.

Even more so, wealthy people value the life-long learning that comes from books.

  • 67% of wealthy people watch an hour or less of television a day and only 6% watch reality shows.
  • 23% of poor people watch less than an hour of television a day and 78% of them watch reality series.

If you want to succeed, get in the habit of reading books on personal development, success, and that give you the most advanced knowledge in your field or industry.

Read to Succeed Because…

Beyond the ability to create wealth, reading leads to better health. Michael Grothaus reports reading reduces stress and may stave off depression and dementia.

Not to sound like a Ronco commercial, but there’s more. My top three reasons for being a reader are:

  • You learn without getting the hard knocks of life.
  • You have experiences you cannot have any other way.
  • You can challenge your ideas in a safe environment.

What good comes from developing relationship skills by trial and error? Many excellent authors and books will help you do so more elegantly and efficiently. My favorite for business relationships is Judy Robinette’s How to Be a Power Connector. Dr. Mark Goulston deals with professional and personal relationships in his book Just Listen If you have a particular relationship challenge, post a comment or send me an email. I’m happy to recommend a book.

You’ll never ride to Samarkand on a fleet Mongol horse or live the genteel, 19th-century life of an English country gentleman. But Patrick O’Brien will take you to China and Mongolia in The Road to Samarcand. Anthony Trollope invites you for a long visit to Barchester in Framley Parsonage. Though some may dismiss these as worthless novels, they contain many lessons about leadership, human inter-relations, and the values that support strong relationships.

Exchanging ideas with another person can build a more solid connection. But it can also lead to arguments. As well, you may want to explore an idea so you can engage with someone more intelligently. No matter how heatedly I attack what’s written in a book, it’s never slugged me.

You can improve every area of your life without leaving a comfortable armchair. Develop the habit. Read to succeed.

What are you reading? Please comment below.

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

When I think of the perfect marriage, peace comes to mind. In Hebrew, we call this shalom bayis. Hannah and I would never disagree. Calm would always reign in our home. Every married couple seems to want this. Yet, I don’t know of one who has a peaceful marriage. Not that you should compare yourself to others. But it would be nice to find at least one example of the ideal. Now that I’ve read Parshas Shoftim, it turns out I misunderstood what shalom bayis is:

“When you approach a city to make war against it, and you will call out to it for peace.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 20:10)

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts and how to handle certain crucial types of cases. It gives the procedure for appointing a King. Then it details the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests) and how to tell if someone is really a prophet. Next, it explains how to set up cities of refuge and how the Israelites should conduct a war. It ends with the procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder.

Did Tolstoy Create a Major Misunderstanding?

I can’t say for sure it started with Tolstoy. But his most famous novel anchors the idea that peace is the opposite of war. It seems logical. In war, people fight and kill. With peace comes the cessation of hostilities. Killing stops.

But even the most cursory view of history shows that killing doesn’t end during times of peace. As well, human strife short of killing continues unabated. War is only the most obvious lack of peace. But peace itself transcends the end of battle.

The verse from this week’s parsha also seems to make war and peace opposites. But that comes from the difficulty of translating Hebrew into English. Shalom, the word translated as peace, means much more. Think abut the verse for a minute. If shalom meant no combat operations, they could just not have attacked.

Underlying shalom is the spiritual state of wholeness that comes from harmony. It requires more than just not fighting. Picture the gears in a watch. Each has its place and function. When they work in harmony the watch is wholly accurate. It still make noises, and if you listened carefully enough you would hear the gears grind slightly. Such is the way things work. But let one gear get out of line and the watch will run fast or slow. Its wholeness born of harmony is gone.

The Israelites faced a similar challenge in the land of Israel. How could they create a harmonious society with such misaligned peoples? They sacrificed children and considered murder an acceptable social behavior. Worship consisted of defecating on their gods. The shalom the Children of Israel called out for required the city to morally reform. As long as it continued its depraved behavior, no basis for shalom/peace could exist.

A Peaceful Marriage

Even if the city had reformed, no doubt there would have been disagreements. People who share the same values still argue. It’s part of the human condition.

The same applies to your marriage. Shalom will not come from lack of arguments. Avoiding confrontations will destroy it as surely as violent confrontations. The path to a peaceful marriage lies in harmonizing your values and morals. If they are out of alignment, arguing will continue unabated because no basis exists for reconciliation.

Once your values are in concert, disagreements will lead to greater mutual understanding and a firmer marital bond. You and your spouse will still shout at each other from time to time. Sometimes your home may feel unlivable. But when calmer heads prevail, you’ll see the wholeness that comes from harmony has been there all along. Indeed, you have a peaceful marriage.

What do you do about misaligned values? Please comment below.


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!

How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

2 minutes to read

You might think I eliminated words such as chance, fluke, or providence from my vocabulary. Your point is well taken. My motto, “Are You Living Intentionally?”, gives you solid grounds for thinking so. Would it surprise you to know that despite having 957 DVDs, I prefer watching Turner Classic Movies? I never check its schedule. It’s better to let TCM surprise me with an old favorite or a new gem. Serendipity is the BEST part. You miss unexpected delights when you plan everything out, don’t you?

How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

Serendipity Doesn’t Happen by Accident

Over the last five weeks, I’ve laid out a step-by-step process for creating relationships that make your life better. You know how, where, and who. But working too systematically can cause you to overlook great connections. When you work to develop relationships in an area of your life, the process takes on a life of its own.

A while back a friend connected me with Dan Evans, a Marine who uses his deep knowledge of social media to help his fellow veterans. We saw links in our work. As part of building our relationship, he interviewed me on his podcast. We’ve continued to be intentional about developing our connection.

What I couldn’t have planned is that Todd James, one of Dan’s listeners, got in touch with me. Todd runs the Marine Corps’s Marine for Life program. He helps veterans make the connections they need to be successful in civilian life. See the natural affinity between us?

By being intentional about building a connection with Dan I serendipitously met Todd. The sum of what the three of us do together will exceed that of us individually or working in pairs. Call it luck, blessing, or whatever you want. To make unexpected good things happen, you must WORK to make similar good things happen.

3 Ways to Bring Serendipity into Your Life

Aside from being open to blessing or good fortune, you can attract it by:

  1. Looking for ways to bring serendipity into other’s lives. Don’t wait for your friends and business associates to ask you for something. Look for opportunities to wow them by being proactive.
  2. Going somewhere you’ve never been before. Go purely for the sake of enjoyment or self-improvement. If you make a new connection, great! If not, don’t worry. The time has been well spent.
  3. Getting out among strangers. Spend an hour at the mall or a busy park just walking around. Run a 5K or walk a 1K by yourself. You can get lucky anywhere you find a big group of strangers.

Enjoy engaging in whichever option you choose. When you like what you’re doing you’ll attract others.

You’ve done your planning. Now take action.

How can you unexpectedly delight a business associate? Please comment below.

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