Category Archives: Soul

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!

How to Drink Booze According to the Bible

Do you know your spirit and spirits are connected?

2 minutes to read

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

What do July 1, 1914 and July 31, 1970 have in common? I’ll give you some hints. In both cases, a lot of sailors became very unhappy. No one got killed. Neither marks a natural disaster. Rather the catastrophe was manmade.

How to Drink Booze According to the Bible

They stand in infamy as the dates the American and British navies went dry.

Booze On-Board Men-of-War

Practical reasons made alcohol on ships necessary. Centuries ago sailors made lengthy sea voyages on tall-masted wooden sailing ships. Lack of refrigeration meant water became contaminated with algae and developed a putrid taste. Likewise, beer had a short shelf life.

Enter booze. It not only retained but improved its flavor when stored in wooden barrels for a long time. Intoxicated crewmen might fall from rigging more than 200 feet above the deck. Still, rations of fortified wine or rum highlighted daily life at sea.

At its founding in 1794, the U.S. Navy established a sailor’s right to “one-half pint of distilled spirits per day.” That’s roughly a third of a bottle of rum. You’d be inebriated two or three times over by today’s standard!

Problems such as drunken fights and deaths from falling led the navies to begin watering down straight liquor. Hence in 1740, the British navy began issuing grog, a mixture of one part rum to four parts water. More complex propulsion systems and control of high-tech equipment and nuclear weapons presaged the end of daily consumption of spirits aboard ships.

The Spiritual Nature of Spirits

Parsha Shemini tells the Kohanim (priests):

You will not drink wine and intoxicating drink, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Meeting, and you will not die… (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:9)

G-d does not prohibit booze. The restriction applies when the Kohanim have to perform their duty. At other times, the Torah permits alcoholic beverages. Some people brought money from their maaser sheni (the second tithe of a crop) to Jerusalem. The Almighty permitted them to buy liquor with it.

Wine inaugurates Sabbath celebrations. You drink it during the festivals, like the four cups of the Passover Seder. Psalm 104 summarizes the celebratory nature of spirits, “Wine gladdens the heart.”

Despite the centrality of intoxicants to Judaism, the downside of drunkenness rarely occurred.

Booze, like all G-d’s gifts, gives you a pathway to holiness. But elevating your spirit to such a high level requires making distinctions. Imbibing every day provides no contrast. Wine on the Sabbath and festivals separates them from weekdays. Drinking until numb impedes your ability to feel your soul connecting to the Creator. Thirteen ounces of wine on top of a ton of matzah and other food opens you to new insights in the Passover story.

Granted, navies don’t seek spiritual enlightenment for their sailors. But abstention on ships often leads to overindulgence on shore. Strict sobriety and intoxication indicate a life out of balance. To maximize your access to the Almighty, from time to time use spirits to open your soul without muddling your mind.

How does booze affect your spirit?

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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 Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments?

How to Make Self-Marketing Godly

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tzav – Leviticus 6:1-8:36

The military knows how to build morale. You may have encountered a bad leader. But most follow Parshas Tzav's advice on reward and punishment:

“If for a thanksgiving offering he will offer it, with the sacrifice of the thanksgiving offering he will offer unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil; and scalded fine flour mixed with oil. Along with loaves of leavened bread…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 7:12-13)

Are You Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments

This Sabbath’s parsha continues the discussion of the korbanos (Temple offerings). Then it details the anointing of Aaron and his sons as the Kohanim (Priests) who will serve in the Temple.

Your Public and Private Life

When a sailor lived through a hurricane he brought a thanksgiving offering. A captive who escaped imprisonment did too. Anyone surviving perilous circumstances could express gratitude to the Almighty with this offering.

Along with the animal, a person brought 40 loaves of bread. They comprised ten each of the four varieties mentioned above.  The Kohen handling the offering received one of each kind. The other 36 went to the person who brought it.

All had to be eaten that day or by the following night. The short time ensured the bread would get shared with others. When you received a loaf, you learned about your friend’s good fortune. Soon it became general knowledge in the community.

Juxtapose this to the sin offering. You didn’t bring any loaves. So news about your mistakes didn’t spread.

Share your joy at receiving G-d’s blessing and you’ll improve people’s moods. They’ll see an example of where faith, hope, and perseverance pay off.  True friends feel joy and gratitude for your success. These feelings enhance their wellbeing.

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By contrast, avoid publicizing your challenges and difficulties. Keep them among those who will give you genuine support and sympathy. Public emoting of problems, so common today, makes people pessimistic. Or they may gloat at your misfortune. Neither benefits you or them.

Don't be Shy About Accomplishments

The military didn’t always recognize the difference between public and private spheres. Until at least the mid 19th century, units mustered to witness punishment. Flogging through the fleet publicized the heinousness of certain crimes like mutiny.

Today’s military leaders know to praise in public and rebuke in private. They award medals in front of your whole unit. Family and friends hear a tribute to your exemplary deeds. Your colleagues get motivated to keep striving.

Reprimands take place in confidential proceedings. Article 15, office hours, and captain’s mast happen behind closed doors. While others may hear about them, no one publicizes results. The public can attend a court martial. But only in the most notorious cases is punishment disclosed.

The same principle applies throughout your life. In public, praise and show gratitude to your spouse. In front of others, commend your child for accomplishments reaped through hard work. When something negative occurs, deal with the issue in private. No matter how right you were, if you rebuked them in public apologize.

Treat yourself the same way. Publicize your accomplishments. Emphasize the good parts of your military service. Show how your responsibility grew during your career. But don’t volunteer negative aspects to a potential employer.

If confronted with a question about mistakes you’ve made, frame them as lessons learned. That way you show the kind of growth mindset most employers value.

The Creator wants your good fortune to motivate others to connect with Him. In contrast, punishment is His one-on-one way of inspiring better future performance. Hence why He had people publicize thanksgiving offerings and keep sin offerings private. Model these practices all through your life.

Question – Is it dishonest to publicize only the good things that happened to you or that you’ve done?

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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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