Category Archives: Soul

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?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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. 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?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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. 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!

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

How God Guides You to Success

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayikra – Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Most people view sins as bad. Rather than quickly profit when they make mistakes, guilt consumes them. They refuse to try again. People who think G-d wants such a world amaze me. Parshas Vayikra shows the Almighty wants you to strive:

“When a ruler will sin, and does unintentionally one from all of his G-d’s commandments that you will not do, and becomes guilty.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 4:22)

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

 

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the third book of the Torah by the same name. Throughout it details the duties of the Kohanim or Priests. Hence, its other name, Leviticus, since the Kohanim are part of the tribe of Levi. The parsha gives the rules for bringing offerings on the altar. Notice in verse 2:13 the Priests must salt them. So we dip Sabbath bread in salt.

Success & Humility Go Hand in Hand

An individual, the community, and the king have to bring a chatas for an unintentional sin. Hence why it’s translated as sin offering. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was the spiritual head of the Israelites. Members of the Sanhendrin (supreme court) had lofty positions of leadership. Why single out the king and not other high officials?

As part of his holy service the Kohen Gadol had to examine his conduct daily. So did the Sanhendrin members. Unintentionality didn't apply to them. Every day, each went through the process of uncovering and atoning for his mistakes.

The king exercised temporal power. When he issued a command it happened. Such authority could cause him to feel infallible. While engaged in worldly affairs, his mind could stray from spiritual matters. Self-examination was not part of his everyday life.

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So unlike other community leaders, the king needed a reminder. Like the lowliest of his subjects, he had to take responsibility for his mistakes. Bringing a chatas made a public statement. The pre-eminent leader had to account to the Almighty. By making amends and learning his lessons, the king could continue his life free from guilt.

Quickly Profit Instead of Feeling Guilty

When you wield authority, take pleasure in assessing your behavior often. Engage with G-d every day. Acknowledge your errors to the Creator. Unlike humans, He always understands. But G-d doesn’t want you to stop there.

Admitting your mistakes begins the growth process. Accountability has nothing to do with feeling guilt or receiving punishment. Both hinder change. Instead, see negative results as the prod to improve and try again. Apply this approach to developing your health, profession, mind, and spirit. You’ll quickly profit form mistakes when you internalize this process.

As I mentioned above, Scripture translates chatas as sin offering. It often uses shorthand to define complex concepts. A sin means you fell short of G-d’s expectations. Consequences incentivize you to learn from your mistakes so you won’t suffer them again. Imagine an animal losing its life because you made an error. The crucial step, assessment, gives trying again tremendous power for improved performance.

Here is the root of deliberate practice that I wrote about last week. You can use this method only in real life situations. Or you can drill yourself. Wherever you make frequent errors, create a way to practice improving your performance. That way you won’t fall short at crucial moments. And if you do, you can quickly profit from this mistake by pivoting your practice to deal with it.

Examine the pain points in your life. Rather than avoiding them, take G-d’s prodding to focus on them. Build assessment into your life. Especially as a parent, model this behavior. Then you and your children will gain greater accomplishment and success together.

So what are you waiting for?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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. 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 Be Genuine in Any Situation

The Reason You Must Give Your Heart

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayakhel/Pekudei – Exodus 35:1-40:38

Job-hunting after military service sometimes feels like entering a foreign country. Doesn’t it? The differences in language and life experience make communicating difficult. Veterans and civilians struggle to bridge the gap. Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei will help you be genuine while creating links:

“Everyone who is generous-hearted, will bring it, a portion for G-d.” (Shemos/Exodus 35:5)

How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

This Sabbath is a double parsha to keep on track with the annual cycle. Vayakhel reviews the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). You see the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign raised so much money people had to stop giving!

Pekudei details Moses’s accounting of those donations. Then it explains how he set up the Mishkan. You might have thought that as the leader Moses would tell others to do it. But when G-d gives someone a job it becomes that person’s responsibility. No one should feel he’s beneath anything that serves our Creator.

Get Out of Your Head and Be Genuine

G-d told the Israelites to give contributions for the building of the Mishkan. But why do they have to bring their hearts? Isn’t it enough to give the gold, silver, and other materials?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm says we need to give more than mere money. The Almighty wants us to invest emotion and spirit when giving. Open your heart by smiling at the recipient. Recognize him as an individual. Ask her about her experiences. By doing so you transform a simple monetary transaction into a holy act. As well, you mold your self-image into that of a useful person.

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People used to call being in the military being in the service. You were a service member. In this respect civilian and military life mirror one another. The quality of your life comes in large part from serving others. This ethos requires genuine connection with fellow citizens.

Charity Isn’t Only Money

These days charity refers to an organization that raises money to help less fortunate people. Or it’s the actual money donated and distributed.

But charity also used to mean the way you treated someone. Kindness and tolerance marked the behavior of a charitable person. No money changed hands. Rather minds and hearts connected in true understanding.

Recently, Jewish Friends of the American Military asked me to speak on their behalf. Few of the 60 people attending had any link to military life. Sea stories fascinated them. During Q&A, people wanted to know how they could support service members beyond donating to JFAM.

The answer came straight from this week’s parsha. I told them, “We’re very fortunate to live during a time when our fellow citizens thank us for our service. But for some veterans, the gratitude doesn't seem authentic. So before offering your thanks, take a couple of minutes to ask a veteran about his experience. Get to know her a bit. By connecting first, your gratitude will feel genuine.”

Whether giving money or meeting to discuss a job, bring your heart. The links you create will yield more than a short-term benefit. You’ll build the foundation to authentic, life-long relationships.

Question – If you feel you cannot invest your heart when giving to someone should you not do so?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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. 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!

Shrewd Advice About People Who Thwart Your Success

How to Deal With Nasty Coworkers

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Sisa – Exodus 30:11-34:35

Without naming names, I'd prefer not to have worked with some of the chaplains in the navy. They caused me no end of career difficulties. I’ve joked that the UCMJ needs a new article called Conduct Unbecoming a Chaplain. But Parshas Ki Sisa gives shrewd advice for handling the situation:

“And Moses stood at the gate of the camp, and he said, whoever is for G-d come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered to him.” (Shemos/Exodus 32:26)

Shrewd Advice About People Who Thwart Your Success

This Sabbath’s parsha gives the mitzvah of the half-shekel. Then it deals with the last few items for the Altar. Next, it discusses observing the Sabbath. The parsha ends with the story of the Golden Calf.

Two Mutineers’ Stories

The Torah emphasizes every single Levite came to Moses’s aid. Even Korach answered the call. This despite his deep envy of Moses and Aaron. His jealousy was so consuming it led him to mutiny against these leaders chosen by G-d.

Yet even though Korach hated him, Moses welcomed him into the fight for the Almighty’s honor. And he fulfilled his duty to the letter. Those responsible for the Golden Calf received their deserved punishment. Only later did Korach and his followers mutiny.

The same tactic didn’t work for Captain Bligh of the ill-fated HMAV Bounty. He asked his acting lieutenant, Fletcher Christian, to help him discipline a restless crew. Christian displayed little enthusiasm. He concluded Bligh’s honor, not that of King, country, or G-d was at stake. So Christian hastened the mutiny.

Both Korach and Christian felt persecuted by the man in command. Unable to blame G-d, Korach condemned Moses and Aaron for taking the position he coveted. He couldn’t content himself with being among the elite Levites. He had to be number 1.

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Despite his portrayal in popular culture, little evidence exists that Bligh mistreated his sailors. The disciplinary measures he used were common in their day. And his authority came from the King of England. Regardless of Bligh making him second in command, Christian felt abused. Unwilling to hold himself responsible, he blamed his unhappiness on Bligh.

Shrewd Advice Based on Two Great Leaders

Moses and Bligh displayed exemplary leadership. Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land. Bligh navigated a tiny boat through an open sea voyage of more than 4,000 miles. At first, both overlooked the errant tendencies of their restive subordinates.

In the end, as the mutiny leaders sowed, so they reaped. Unable to persuade the mutineers to abandon their cause, Moses had to ask G-d to destroy them. The ground opened up and they perished. Korach, who punished those responsible for the Golden Calf, received the same.

Christian seized the Bounty and set Bligh and most of those loyal to him adrift. Yet later, as the leader of the mutineers on Pitcairn Island, those unhappy with their lives murdered him.

During your job-hunt and on the job you’ll encounter people who will appear to be allies but later turn out to be mutineers. Such people are the exception, not the rule. Korachs and Fletcher Christians are rare. Best to follow Moses’s and Bligh’s example. Show them your good faith. Try to convince them to rejoin your cause.

But if such efforts fail, take heart in the lesson of Korach, Christian, and other mutineers in history. They get their rightful reward. Establish new relationships. And move on with your career.

Question – Is it appropriate to work with a bad or evil person on a worthwhile project?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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. 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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