Category Archives: Resilience

How to Keep Your Life Glowing Brightly

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mishpatim - Exodus 21:1-24:18

Life would be so much easier if problems didn’t constantly arise. It seems like just when you get everything under control you’re blindsided by a challenge that buries your positive outlook. Darkness surrounds you. Waiting for the good times to return takes too long. It can lead to despair. How do you recover the brightness of good times? Parshas Mishpatim has the answer:

“And these are the ordinances that you will place before them.” (Shemos/Exodus 21:1).

How to Keep Your Life Glowing Brightly

The parsha this Sabbath has 53 mitzvahs: 23 positive ones and 30 negative ones, which guide the conduct of the Israelites. They cover a broad range of institutions, crimes, activities, and celebrations. Toward the end of Mishpatim, G-d promises to lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel and conquer their enemies.

The Ten Commandments and The Ordinances

This week’s parsha follows immediately after G-d gives the Ten Commandments. Since the Ten Commandments were given in the morning, the ordinances were given in the evening. The Hebrew words for these two times of day reveal an important idea.

The Hebrew word for evening, erev, comes from the same root as mixture. Evening, as compared to night, is the time when light and darkness intermingle. Objects can be seen, but their details are becoming obscured by ever deepening shadow.

Morning is called boker. It comes from the same root as the concept of examination. Shape and color can be seen in sharp detail. Daylight, then, is the time to gain understanding and clarity about life.

The Ten Commandments endure because they were born in a moment of clarity. But just as evening follows morning, vagueness follows clarity and must be renewed every day. The Ten Commandments that seemed so clear needed the explanation of the ordinances to renew their power.

Maintaining a Bright Life

Living a positive life is easy during the “morning.” When things are going well life seems to promise greater prosperity and more loving relationships. But the clarity of such times is inevitably obscured by the “evening.” Troubles arise. Potential is overshadowed by darkness. How do you regain the light of morning?

You must create ordinances, regular practices, for yourself. Like the ordinances that follow the Ten Commandments, they will rejuvenate you. The simpler and more compelling the better:

  • Take five to ten minutes each day when you will visualize your ideal life.
  • Create a ritual to connect you with your spouse, such as holding her chair when she sits down at the table or pouring his water at a meal.
  • Think up a mantra then say it every morning, standing up, out loud, with a passionate convincing voice.
  • Write out a compelling personal mission statement and read it aloud to yourself once a day.
  • Find a meaningful or inspirational passage from a book to read once or twice a day, every day.

Make sure to put your rituals in your to-do list.

In order to sustain a positive life glowing brightly, you must build into it the structure to move through the downtimes. Life inevitably cycles. Have several short, inspiring actions you can take throughout your day. Practice them every day to create spontaneous responses that guide you back on track. As inevitably as evening follows morning, you can make morning and its positive, renewing light return.

What rituals do you have for staying positive? 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Have a Supportive Spouse When Stress Skyrockets

2 minutes to read

Transitions, hard times in general, really test a marriage. Changing jobs, moving, and dealing with health issues cause stress levels to skyrocket. Leaving military life means you’re dealing with at least one and perhaps all three of these. Even the most mundane interaction can lead to an argument. What could be an exciting time of growth morphs into an exercise in preventing a divorce.

If you do two things you’ll decrease tension, make a smoother transition, and improve your marriage.

How to Have a Supportive Spouse When Stress Skyrockets

Give Up the Mind Reading Act

While you may have loved guessing games as a kid, they have no place in a marriage. Especially during transitions and other times of high stress they only make matters worse.

There is no amount of love that enables your spouse to read your mind. So she does really love you despite being clueless about how you need to be supported. Perhaps at some point during your relationships your wife told you, “If you really cared you’d know what was wrong!” Well she was wrong about that. And the midst of a high stress transition is no time for payback.

Tell your spouse how she can support you.

If you’re not sure, talk to her about what’s bothering you. Be open about your anxiety and fears. Acknowledge you don’t know what you need. Decide together how she’ll be supportive. Plan another time when the two of you will sit down and assess how it going.

Accept Your Spouse’s Support

If you want a supportive spouse be open to the help your partner offers you. Remember, it’s what you asked for or agreed to try. Still, it may not feel right at first. Give it time. Don’t let the desire for immediate release from stress ruin what may work.

Trust your spouse’s intentions, insight, and love. Your acceptance of support is a key component in its effectiveness. If after trying it for a few days you don’t feel supported, thank your partner for the good intentions behind the attempt. Then figure out a new plan together.

John Florio said, “A good husband makes a good wife.” It’s equally true that an open and trusting spouse makes a supportive spouse.

How do you get the support you want from your spouse? Please comment below.

Preventing Others’ Failure Doesn’t Make You a Success

2-½ minutes to read

Last month I finished a master of library and information science degree. One of the notable aspects of the program is the grading scale:

  • 97-100      A
  • 94-96       A-
  • 91-93       B+
  • 88-90       B
  • 85-87       B-
  • 82-84       C+
  • 79-81       C
  • 76-78       C-
  • 73-75       D+
  • 70-72       D
  • 67-69       D-
  • Below 67 F

When I was a high school student and an undergraduate in college, you only had to get a 90 for an A- and a 70 would get you a C-. At first I thought the grading scale indicated a more rigorous evaluation of a student’s work. Later I found it was a response to professors grading too leniently. Whether because they were buying good student ratings or were overwhelmed by compassion, the result was students who didn’t write well and often lacked the resilience to deal with the workload.

Preventing Others’ Failure Doesn’t Make You a Success

Lower Expectations Leads to Less Quality

Academia isn’t the only place where failure essentially has been eradicated. Command Master Chiefs and Career Counselors, among others in the navy, ensure sailors succeed. This policy is justified by the cost to train a sailor, as high as $1 million for one who will work on a nuclear reactor. From leading petty officers (foremen in civilian life) to the officers in command, sailor retention and advancement is a key indicator of performance.

But there’s no free lunch. The price has to be paid somewhere.

Stress on chief petty officers (supervisors in civilian life) burns them out more quickly and reduces their quality of life. Job satisfaction at all levels is lower. Instead of failing and self-selecting to follow another path, sailors advance despite not liking their work. But the real cost is borne when they finally leave the navy.

Preventing Failure as an Indicator of Success

Chief petty officers and commanding officer take pride in saying none of their sailors failed. But like college professors, their success comes at a price someone else pays. Once out in the civilian job market, where being told no, you don’t qualify, and receiving rejection can be a daily experience, sailors are baffled by their lack of success. Studies show that a veteran who does not build up resilience to such treatment in the first six months after leaving the military is far less likely to ever transition successfully.

Reintegration is made more difficult by having spent longer in the military. They are more set in the military mindset. Making the changes necessary to succeed in civilian life can be hopeless.

People have to be allowed to fail. Denying them this opportunity means taking from them the chance to grow. Rather than basing success on preventing failure, you’re better off showing people, whether your children or employees, how to bounce back from defeat.

While the short-term benefits may be high, in the long term preventing others from failing will lead to their downfall. In the end, if your children and colleagues don’t succeed have you?

Where do you see preventing failure is necessary? Please comment below.

Do You Know Why You’re a Prisoner?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bo – Exodus 10:1-13:16

We’re so used to thinking we’re really free. We celebrate freedom once a year on July 4th. Yet numerous things bind us. Last week I wrote about how bad habits enslave. But no matter how well you have habituated positive conduct, Parshas Bo reminds us of the ultimate tyrant:

“This month will be for you the beginning of the months, it will be for you the first of the months of the year” (Shemos/Exodus 12:1-2).

Do You Know Why You're a Prisoner-

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that eventually convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Nissan is made the first month of the year and the mitzvah of the Passover Offering, the Pesach, is given.

Then, G-d brings the Exodus.

The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

Double Phrases Have Extra Meaning

Whenever the Torah repeats itself, especially in one phrase after another, you can be sure something is going on besides emphasizing a point. In the above verse, the second group of words clearly designates Nissan as the first month of the year. A careful look at the first phrase shows it isn’t referring the calendar.

When the Almighty tells the Israelites that “This month” will be the beginning of the months, He signals a fundamental shift in their lives. No longer will they be slaves in Egypt with no control over what they do and when they do it. Rather they will take control of their labor. And they will be responsible for declaring each new month and leap year. This duty gives them ultimate control: of time.

Having control of their labor requires an intelligent reckoning of its most profitable use. Controlling time demands a wise vision of life’s purpose.

Stop Being a Prisoner to Time

The Chafetz Chaim, the great 19th-century Jewish scholar, noted, “Some people think that our task on earth is to be pious. The truth is our task is to be wise.” In Jewish law, a person is considered to be mentally incompetent if he destroys what is given to him. He could be as intelligent as Einstein. Nevertheless, someone so wasteful is mentally unsound.

If you saw someone standing on Golden Gate Bridge dump a million dollars into San Francisco Bay you would say the person is crazy. Are we any less crazy for wasting our time? Money lost can be accumulated again. But time squandered can never be recovered.

It takes discernment to know how much time should be spent caring for family, working, playing, and developing a relationship with G-d. You must go beyond balance. Happenstance decisions inevitably lead to folly. How other people use their time cannot guide you. Your situation is unique. You must be clear about your life’s purpose. The more you struggle with deciding how you’ll use your time the wiser you’ll become. As a bonus, you’ll no longer be a prisoner.

How do you ensure you use your time wisely? 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Break Free From a Bad Habit

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eira – Exodus 6:2-9:35

We are all slaves to our habits. Of course, if they’re good we don’t notice our bondage. But conquering a bad habit makes us feel every shackle. Parshas Va’eira gives a four-step process for breaking the chains of a bad habit:

“…I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will rescue you from serving them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgments. And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be a G-d to you…” (Shemos/Exodus 6:6-7)

How to Break Free from a Bad Habit

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d reassuring Moses that the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled. Nonetheless, twice Moses tries to get G-d to release him from leading the Israelites. The rest of the parsha describes the first seven plagues that G-d brought on Egypt as He brings about the Exodus.

Freeing the Children of Israel

The Almighty used a four-step process to free the Israelites:

  1. I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.
  2. I will rescue you from serving them.
  3. I will redeem you.
  4. I will take you to Me for a people.

Doesn’t it seem a little strange G-d uses such an elaborate method? Wouldn’t it be simpler if He said, “I’m going to take you out of Egypt and give you the Ten Commandments!” But the Almighty knew that a nation of lowly slaves, who made bricks from mud and straw, could not suddenly rise to the level of being a free people ready to receive the word of G-d at Mount Sinai.

So He redeemed them in phases:

  1. G-d freed the Israelites from harsh labor, however, they were still under Egyptian rule.
  2. G-d released them from all obligations to the Egyptians.
  3. G-d gave them the status of complete freedom.
  4. G-d brought them to their ultimate purpose as His people.

By bringing about the redemption in stages the Almighty saw to it that the Israelites were prepared for their new life ahead.

Freeing Yourself from a Bad Habit

The process of freeing yourself from a bad habit mirrors how G-d rescued the Children of Israel:

  1. Take yourself out from under the burden of the habit – Make a firm decision to break the habit.
  2. Rescue yourself from serving it – Undo the behavior. Charles Duhigg details the best way in his book The Power of Habit.
  3. Redeem yourself – Re-create your self-image as someone no longer burdened by the bad habit.
  4. Take yourself to the Almighty – Recognize your newfound freedom allows you to serve G-d more freely and deeply, which is your ultimate purpose.

By conquering your bad habit in stages you create the best chance of freeing yourself for good.

The Israelites experienced victories and setbacks in the wilderness but focused on their goal and eventually arrived at the Promised Land. You may certainly have reversals along the way to breaking free from a bad habit. But sticking with the process and focusing on your goal will get you to the promised land: greater freedom to live your life, not as a slave to bad habits, but as you intend.

What bad habit will you break this year? 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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