Category Archives: Resilience

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemini – Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Now that she’s getting older and more aware, my daughter sees how careful I am about what I eat, listen to, and watch. So what she saw the other day in an episode of the Flying Nun surprised her. Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) went into I nightclub where Go-Go dancers performed in cages. Having grown up immersed in 1960s television I didn’t realize how the scene might impact her. Parsha Shemini explains why I need to be more aware:

And any earthenware vessel, if any of them [creeping crawling things] will fall into it…you will break it. (Vayikra/Leviticus 11:33)

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

This Sabbath’s parsha tells how to perform the Temple service and about the death of Aaron’s two sons. Then it explains how to dispose of the day’s offerings, the dispute between Moses and Aaron, and the laws of kosher animals, fish, birds, and creeping crawling things.

The Spiritual Nature of Things

Tumah and tahara (translated as spiritual impurity and purity) are hard to understand. The idea that utensils can look fine but be spiritually contaminated doesn’t compute. They're not alive and don’t have a soul.

My daughter and I are reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. In it we learned that the famous equation E=MC2 shows that everything in the universe is energy. What better proof of G-d’s existence than that? Though inanimate objects aren’t alive, we’re connected to them through the common energy of existence. Viewed this way, spiritual impurity can be contracted and transmitted by any substance.

When a creeping crawling creature falls onto a utensil of wood or garment of leather or sackcloth you just have to wash it. Why do you have to break an earthenware vessel when the same thing happens? Shouldn’t this affect everything the same way?

Utensils and garments made from wood, leather, and sackcloth are valuable for their function and materials. You can buy a garment and recut the leather or fabric to make something else out of it. But earthenware only has value when formed into something. The dirt from which it is made is worthless. What’s in it and its use determine its value.

What Makes You Sick

Adam, the first human, was formed from clay. His name comes from the Hebrew word adamah, which means dirt or earth. (According to DataGenetics, the elements that make up a human body are worth only $160 as of 2011.) We are vessels of earthenware. While the spark of the Divine in your neshamah (soul) is infinitely valuable, for your body what counts is what you put in it.

If you fill yourself with tumah, whether it is forbidden creeping crawling creatures or ideas G-d abhors, you will defile yourself. The only way to get rid of this contamination is to break the vessel, you. Perhaps that is why near death experiences have such a dramatic effect on people. Similarly, you must tear yourself down to get rid of destructive habits. Then you can rebuild your character or behavior in the proper way.

People focus on the physical causes of sickness. But mental and spiritual disorders profoundly affect your wellbeing. From that perspective, what you see and hear is as important as what you eat.

How has a spiritual malady affected your health? 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 Raise Your Confidence When Others Have More

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Terumah – Exodus 25:1-27:19

Despite a lack of designer clothing, what people wore during Biblical times conferred status and sometimes caused jealousy. Case in point, Jacob makes a multicolored tunic for Joseph. The gift ignites the envy of his other sons. When you get jealous and start wondering why don’t you have such nice things it undermines your confidence. Parsha Tetzaveh has the cure:

“And they will make the ephod of gold, blue, purple and crimson wool, and twisted fine linen…” (Shemos/Exodus 27:20).

How to Raise Your Confidence When Others Have More

This Sabbath’s parsha explains the mitzvah of the Ner Tamid (continually lit lamp), how to make the vestments for the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and the Kohanim, and how to inaugurate them, the mitzvah of the korban tamid (continual offering) and how to build and use the incense alter, the Holy of Holies.

Garments Specifically for the Priests

Not long ago my daughter asked why we’re not allowed to have cloths made from a mixture of wool and linen. She was referring to a verse in the Torah, Deuteronomy/Devarim 22:11, that prohibits wearing such a mixture. I answered her since G-d doesn’t want us to, we don’t in order to show our love for Him. She didn’t seem convinced.

Then I explained to her that garments made from wool and linen mixed together may only be worn by the Kohanim. She accepted this because she knows they have a special relationship with the Almighty but also huge responsibilities. The tradeoff made sense to her.

Contingent Confidence Is Actually Self-Doubt

I doubt you envy the Kohanim. In Biblical times, only Korah and his followers coveted the priesthood and there’s no indications it was because of their vestments. But you may be jealous of a neighbor who has a nice car or takes fantastic vacations. One of the pitfalls of financial success is a heightened awareness of what you have compa. Feeling you don’t measure up often weakens your confidence.

Tying your self-assurance to things or other people means anytime relative wealth changes so does you confidence. When someone gets more, your self-esteem drops. Combating such feelings can be difficult. The lesson of wool and linen garments is one among many that will help you:

  1. Some people have vast responsibilities, ones you don’t want, that enable them to earn huge incomes or unique privileges.
  2. Some people come from wealthy families. Their starting point is different than yours. Comparisons don’t apply.
  3. Some people have suffered a great deal. Though they might gladly give it, all their wealth can’t relieve their pain. Do you really want to trade places?
  4. Some people sacrificed their youth to develop talents that paid off later in life. Even if you are willing to make such a trade off now, it’s impossible. But it doesn’t mean the other person is better than you. Incidentally, he may live with the burden of hating his childhood.

By recalling these truths, you will detach yourself from what other people do or have. Then you can tie your self-confidence to your own personal development. Ridding yourself of envy will make you an unqualified success.

What do you do to be happy about other people’s success? 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 Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Event

2 minutes to read

You’re getting ready for a job interview. You have a major presentation that could mean a promotion. The prospective client you’re meeting could be the biggest deal of your career. And you’re nervous. Sweaty palms, dry mouth, and loss of the ability to speak seem to be conspiring to make you fail. What do you do?

How to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Event

The Benefit of Rituals

Baseball fans know the unusual things players do when they come up to bat. As silly as some of them look, research shows they may be on to something. No less an authority than Scientific American indicates that rituals can affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Not only can they help you reduce anxiety and increase confidence, they also help with grieving, whether the loss of a loved one or losing the lottery.

More interesting, rituals can benefit you even if you say you don’t believe in them. There’s no scientific evidence that a particular ritual will lead to a specific result. However, my work helping service members deal with losses such as death of a colleague, divorce, and separation from the military has shown that all handled their grief better when they followed the ritual designed to cope with loss and change.

Calm Your Nerves

You can create your own ritual for decreasing anxiety before a job interview or important meeting. The essential elements are:

  1. Make it simple.
  2. Make it physical, mental, and spiritual.
  3. Create a message to say out loud.
  4. Connect these elements to your desired outcome.
  5. Practice it until you’re comfortable performing it.
  6. Schedule time specifically for performing the ritual.

I go through a simple five-step ritual that takes about 15 minutes before every important business meeting. Despite having practiced and performed it ad nauseam, the first step is bringing up the list of steps so I perform them in order.

Put the powerful tool of ritual to work for you. Examples of things you can do abound. If you need some help let me know.

How do you prepare for important meetings? Please comment below.

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.

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