Category Archives: Soul

How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

Who Are Your Strong Allies for a Smooth Transition?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Korach – Numbers 16:1-18:32

Unlike the military, the civilian world does not have one culture. Each service branch has distinctions. But, they're more similar than different. Many subcultures make up American society. They diverge, even clash. None of them match the military. Sometimes transitioning feels like living in a foreign country. If the stakes weren’t so high, you could be forgiven for throwing your hands up and declaring the situation hopeless. And it’s not just finding a job.

How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

The Many Faces of Reintegration

After getting a job, the challenges keep mounting. You have to adapt to a new workplace culture. Then your marriage and family need to adjust to different dynamics. Compound that with daily strife and divisiveness. In the military, we build cohesion to grapple with the enemy. Sometimes the civilian world seems to thrive on alienation.

Not long ago, a veteran disputed my assertion that civilians face challenges as difficult for them as military life is for us. He went through a long list of troubles he faced. All related to something civilians had done to him. Anger and resentment seeped from every word.

Among his complaints, he cited potential employers who assumed he had psychological issues. Sad to say, such ranting might cause a company to draw such a conclusion. Nothing I could do would change his perspective.

Of course, people make false connections all the time. The story following the rebellion in Parshas Korach comes to mind:

Moses said to Aaron, take your fire-pan and place on it fire from the Altar and put on it incense. (Numbers/Bamidbar 17:11)

The ground swallows Korach, Dathan, and Abiram, the three primary conspirators against Moses and Aaron. Still, the other 250 insurgents won’t stand down. So G-d commands Moses to have them bring an incense offering. When they comply, fire consumes them.

All the Israelites had heard the law saying only a Kohen may bring an incense offering. Korach and his followers were Levites. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the rebels died. Even so, the people complained that Moses and Aaron killed them. The Almighty brings a plague to punish Israelites for their wanton misperception.

Aaron brings an incense offering to stop the plague. He shows the Israelites the false connection between incense and death. You might think at this point the people would re-examine their conclusions. But later events show they continue to make false connections.

How Civilians are Like Incense

My complaining commenter behaved like the Israelites. He connected his troubles to civilians. Yet, they are the ones who can help him change his situation.

Civilians do the hiring. Unless he intends to make no new friends, they’ll be his social circle. If he doesn't have access to a military base, they’ll provide his health care. Civilians will sell him his food, clothing, and everything else.

The Israelites falsely connected incense with death. In reality, it sustained life. Death came from taking the wrong actions. Any of the insurgents could have refused to bring the incense offering and been spared.

Civilians are the solution, not the enemy. But you have to be careful how you deal with them. If you mistreat them, they’ll burn you. Would we veterans act differently? By taking personal responsibility for all the challenges of reintegration, you’ll join forces with civilians in creating an outstanding life for you and your family.

How do you view civilians?

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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 Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

The military values conformity. Look no further than uniforms, right? Each service branch has its values, hymn, and customs that create a cohesive identity. At times you can feel suffocated by the need to fit in.

How Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Conformity

From her earliest days, our Republic has been ambivalent about nonconformists. Despite many colonials being religious dissenters, most colonies had an official church. Only Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious pluralism.

From such an irresolute beginning, nonconformity has seeped into the American character. Teenagers rebel against their parents. The ubiquity of tattoos speaks to a desire for individuality. Yet, because rebellion by teenagers is commonplace, non-rebellious ones feel forced to conform. Sailors feel pressured to get a tattoo since everyone else in their unit has one.

It’s like the hilarious scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Brian preaches to the people, “You’re all individuals.” To which they parrot in unison, “Yes, we’re all individuals!”

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In the military, the penalty for nonconformity can be harsh. What about in civilian life?

The Two Ways of the Nonconformist

Humans have wrestled with the dilemma of nonconformity for millennia. Thirty-three hundred years ago, Moses faced this issue when sending men to reconnoiter the Holy Land. In Parshas Shelach:

Caleb silenced the people toward Moses…. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:30)

In the story of the twelve spies, Moses picks a leader from each tribe. They form a group for gathering intelligence on the Land of Israel. When they return, ten of them report to Moses that the Israelites cannot conquer the Land. Only Joshua and Caleb dissent.

Throughout the spies’ forty-day mission, Joshua disagreed with the group’s conclusions. But Joshua was Moses’s faithful servant. The ten spies were confident the people would consider him biased.

Caleb was another matter. He kept his counsel during the forty-day patrol. Not until the climatic moment did he declare his dissent from the group’s opinion. Unfortunately, he does not sway the Israelites. But he solidifies himself as a man of principle.

Who was right, Joshua and Caleb?

Nonconformity in Civilian Life

After years of conforming in the military, you may feel tempted to adopt Joshua’s consistent, nonconformist posture. Caleb’s plan of going along with the group until principle is on the line seems wishy-washy or weak. But when G-d equates Joshua and Caleb, He makes both of them our models.

So how can we adopt nonconformity all the time while being nonconformist only sometimes?

Don’t make either your exclusive posture. Apply them according to the issue at hand. When deciding on the length of your hair, if you don’t care, take Caleb’s path. Feel free to conform. Don’t think you have to take the rebellious route.

But for your job-hunt, nonconformity works best. Don’t content yourself with hunting the way everybody else does. Always take steps to separate yourself from the pack. Most people rely on job boards. So create relationships to work from the inside. Since PDF resumes are the standard, make a video resume. Conformist job-hunters state their skills. Distinguish yourself by conveying the unique value you bring to the table.

While Caleb earns the Almighty’s commendation, Joshua becomes the leader after Moses dies. G-d recognized his dogged determination to serve the Israelites. Improve your job prospects by following his example.

In what area of your life are you a nonconformist?

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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 the Best Factor for Predicting an Easy Transition?

Veterans Who Do This Are 50% More Likely to Reintegrate with Ease

2-½ minutes to read

What do you think would make your transition to civilian life easier? A lot of veterans think a college degree is a key ingredient. But the best factor has five times the impact of a college degree.

Do You Know the Best Factor for Predicting an Easy Transition-

The Biggest Factors

The Pew Research Center did a study. It examined the impact of 18 demographic and attitudinal factors on veteran reintegration. Six of them predict a more difficult time adjusting. They include having suffered emotional trauma or a physical injury, serving in combat or post 9/11, and knowing someone killed or injured. All present profound challenges. But you can’t erase them. Your path to a successful civilian life must travel the road of reconciliation.

The only variable negative factor is your marital status. Being married during your service reduces the chances of an easy transition by 15%. It would seem getting divorced improves your reintegration prospects. Looking deeper, the negative correlation arises from a buildup of conflict that comes to a head when leaving the military.

But don’t call a lawyer. Marriage leads to better health and higher overall satisfaction with life. Transitioning won’t improve an already strained marriage. But without constant deployments and TDYs/TADs, you have the time to repair your relationship.

Eight factors don’t impact ease of transition. They include:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Age at time of separation
  • How long the veteran was in the military
  • How many times the veteran deployed
  • Whether the veteran had children younger than 18 while serving

Three of the four positive factors had small impacts:

  • Officer – 10%
  • Understood your missions – 10%
  • College graduate – 5%

Hence, having a degree has a marginal impact on your transition.

So what factor has five times the impact of a college degree? Religiosity. For post 9/11 veterans, 67% have an easy transition if they attend worship services at least once a week. For veterans who steer clear of religion, only 43% do. The 24% difference is five times that of a college degree. Note that Pew defines religion by action – attending services.

What’s behind this issue?

The Benefits of Religiosity

Studies have long shown that religious belief correlates with positive outcomes. These include better physical and emotional health and happier and more satisfying personal relationships. But most veterans think a successful transition means getting a good job. What does religion have to do with that?

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Let’s peel this onion. Three things tend to hold a veteran back from finding a job: skills, mindset, and support. Attending worship services can help with all three categories:

Skills. Many veterans have poor job search skills and find it difficult to communicate with civilians. Going to church (or synagogue or mosque) creates time to practice talking with civilians. People want to help so the price of making a mistake is minimal.

Mindset. Lack of confidence and structure often hold back veterans. So does a bad attitude toward civilians. Building spiritual resilience leads to greater self-confidence. Worship service attendance imposes structure on the week. It becomes a catalyst for creating daily structure. Gratitude is central to healthy religious belief. And feeling grateful improves mental outlook and attitude.

Support. Veterans miss the camaraderie and mentorship of military life. A religious community replaces both of these losses. Like in the military, people are part of something bigger than themselves.   They share common experiences and a mission. Those with more experience mentor others and together everyone grows.

Religiosity is not a cure-all for the challenges of transitioning. But it addresses many of the areas where veterans struggle. Are you attending services on a regular basis? If so, are you taking advantage of how this can help you? If not, what’s holding you back?

Do you attend worship services?

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How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

Train to Handle Problems Before They Arise

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Practicing to Defeat G-d’s Plan?

Angles and dangles constitute one of the more bizarre exercises onboard a Navy ship. At first, they applied to a submarine’s seaworthiness, tested by diving and surfacing at 30-degree angles. A surface ship maneuvers through high-speed turns until the deck leans over close to the point of capsizing. All crewmembers not working the ship stay in their bunks to avoid injury.

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

On its face, putting a ship in such danger as training seems crazy. What if the quartermaster (the sailor who steers the ship) makes a mistake and capsizes it? But the crew needs to gain experience conning the ship. Better to get it under controlled circumstances than in the eye of a hurricane.

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Practicing allows the crew to face hazards with confidence. The more they feel in control, the better they’ll perform. So it may sound contradictory that the Talmud says sailors are pious. Most acknowledge the Almighty controls events.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

As the seminal act of creating, having a child joins us to G-d. Producing a new life comes as close to a Divine act as anything we’ll ever do. But, birth is only the beginning. We see in Parsha Emor:

“…G-d’s festivals that you will appoint as holy assemblies…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. It discusses the pure olive oil for the menorah and loaves of bread, known as the showbread, for the table. The parsha ends with the story of a man who blasphemed.

When our children turn five we send them to school. We adjust from controlling their development to sharing that responsibility. Now teachers, principals, and their fellow students have a hand in whom they become. Yet we keep authority to direct their lives.

The Almighty created human beings to have as partners in fulfilling creation. Making us responsible for determining when festivals begin did more than putting us in charge of the calendar. He gave us partial control over time.

Two days before Passover is a regular day. The day before has a medium level of sanctity. Passover itself is a sacred time. When we set the calendar we help fill the world with holiness. G-d wants us to bring the spirituality of heaven to earth. Like teachers helping us fulfill our aspirations for our children. When we develop holiness, we fulfill the Almighty’s aspirations for the world.

Executing this vital task takes practice. Sailors train to conquer hurricanes – physical challenges in this world. Greater competence moves them closer to the Creator. The same applies to the mental and spiritual challenges we face.

The Almighty sends emotional tempests so we can practice overcoming them. Recognize that as you gain greater skill in the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms, you also move closer to G-d. Use this as motivation to keep pursuing your goal.

How do you train for emotional and spiritual resilience?

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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!

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength?

How to Link Your Mind and Spirit

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33

General George Patton trained his men in many principles of resilience. Among them, he drilled,

“Never let the body tell the mind what to do… The body is not tired if the mind is not tired.”

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength

The Source of Mental Toughness

Patton led soldiers through the scorching heat of the North African desert. He commanded them to victory through the freezing cold winter of 1944 in the Ardennes. The grit his men exhibited amazed even the likes of General Eisenhower.

At the same time, he learned the mind needed to govern more than physical stamina. Once, as a new second lieutenant, he damned one of his men for moving too slowly. Later that day he concluded he’d been wrong to curse him. So he got all his men together and apologized to the soldier.

He never conquered his rash tongue. Because of this and other shortcomings, Patton continually strove to toughen his spirit. He recognized the unquestionable link between spiritual strength and mental durability.

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He used the Bible to develop his spirit. Because of his dyslexia, as a child, he memorized many verses. Legend has it he once corrected Cardinal Francis Spellman’s quotation of Scripture. Patton voiced profanity to motivate his soldiers. But they knew he considered himself accountable to G-d on a daily basis.

How Mind and Spirit Support Each Other

As such, Patton didn’t have to worry about a tzaraas as described in Parshas Tazria:

“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eis, or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh….” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth. Next, it explains how to verify when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body. Then it covers a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

A metzora suffered physical pain due to a variety of misbehaviors. Most common, he gossiped or maligned a friend. Contracting tzaraas came after repeated refusals to acknowledge his sin and make amends. It may feel weak to apologize when you don’t mean to hurt someone. But each time you don’t you weaken your spirit.

At the same time, you crowd your mind with an unpleasant, unresolved interaction. Refusing to hold yourself accountable causes a build-up of bad feelings. Your mind won’t let go of these events. You become captive to unpleasant memories.

As well, you have no recourse when someone does the same thing to you. How can you insist on an apology when you refuse to make amends for the same wrongdoing?

Though imperfect, Patton stands as a model for building mental resilience:

  1. Uncompromising introspection helped him confront his shortcomings.
  2. He took steps to resolve them.
  3. This freed him to pursue his quest for greatness on the battlefield.

By making periodic accountings of your behavior, you can identify when you fall short. Next, you can take steps to resolve the issue. Having done so, you can move forward freed from regret or guilt. Your mind now has room to focus on tasks designed to reach your goals rather than on recycling unpleasant dealings.

Gossiping may seem harmless. But how did you feel last time you found someone had told a falsehood about you? We know we shouldn’t tell tales. But stopping is hard. Using Patton’s three-step process will help you conquer your shortfalls. In doing so you’ll liberate your mind and spirit. Unburdened, they provide you with the mental and spiritual strength necessary to reach your goals.

What stops you from taking steps to resolve mistakes you’ve made?

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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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