Category Archives: Soul

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

2-½ minutes to read

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

Back during the first week of 2013, I injured my back, got bronchitis, dropped and broke my computer, and rear-ended another driver. Like other times when everything went haywire, I started wondering what G-d wanted from me? If He would let up I could get back on track. Then it hit me. I had become Pharaoh in Parshas Bo:

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews, for how much longer will you refuse to be humbled before Me?’ (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d makes Nissan the first month of the year. He commands the Children of Israel to perform the Pesach, the Passover Offering.

Then, the Almighty brings the Exodus.

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

Arrogance Is the Root of Most Evil

Come with me on a tour of the wreckage of Egypt. Pharaoh and his people lived through:

  1. All their water turning into blood.
  2. Frogs swarming their homes, even in their bread.
  3. Lice infesting their bodies.
  4. Hoards of wild beasts overrunning their land.
  5. Pestilence killing their livestock.
  6. Agonizing boils all over their bodies.
  7. Hail devastating their orchards and crops.

This group of catastrophes makes the worst day I’ve ever had seem outstanding. So it seems inconceivable that Pharaoh remained stubborn.  Only one force in nature could do it. Arrogance. Pharaoh refused to humble himself.

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Letting the Israelites go out into the desert meant submitting to G-d’s will. This takes humility. Time and again Pharaoh remained arrogant. All he had to do was say go and stand by his decision. Instead, his vanity destroyed his people and himself.

Use Humility to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Arrogance takes many forms including:

  • Power trips
  • Rude behavior
  • Brooding about minor insults
  • Know it all attitude
  • Refusing to adapt

You’ve met people who suffer for their arrogance. They must retaliate for even the slightest indignity. By contrast, someone who has internalized humility treats insults like water on a duck’s back. They roll off unnoticed.

You may have a friend or colleague who insists on winning every disagreement. He rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better life?

When you accept inappropriate behavior or limits you’re saying:

  • I’m so smart (or stupid) no one can teach me anything.
  • I’m perfect the way I am.

A modest person recognizes his shortcomings and seeks out ways to overcome them. False modesty is a form of arrogance. It denies the inherent ability of every human being to change.

Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. A short while later he thought better of it. He gathered all the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. This was the first of many instances for which he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Patton voluntarily, publicly, and sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. Because he believed in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance.

Arrogance closes you off from solutions to the challenges you face. It destroys relationships. But I have good news for you. If you’ve read this far you met my arrogance challenge. Some people will react to the headline by saying, “You’re right. I’m not even going to read it.” You took the road of learning and growth. Next time you confront a challenge, you won’t sabotage yourself. You know the road of learning and growth is open to you.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance?

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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. It is named after 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!

Have You Unlocked the Ultimate Power of Your Goal?

How to Make Your Goal Your Destiny

2-½ minutes to read

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

The promise of a new year stretches out before you. Hopefully, you’ve already set down your plans for what you’ll accomplish. Setting goals for the New Year is so satisfying. But it comes with risk. How will you feel if you don’t reach your objective? The disappointment can be crushing. And then you have to motivate yourself again. I bet you go straight from setting your goal to working on it, don’t you? Parshas Va’eira shows you’re leaving out a step:

“And Moses and Aaron did as G-d commanded them, so they did” (Shemos/Exodus 7:6)

Have You Unlocked the Ultimate Power of Your Goal-

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d reassuring Moses He will fulfill the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 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 the Almighty brought on Egypt as He brings about the Exodus.

The Missing Step

If you read the Torah carefully you’ll notice something strange. It makes a double statement that Moses and Aaron did as G-d commanded. But they hadn’t done anything yet! They don’t even meet Pharaoh until three lines later. Why does the Torah give them credit for completing a task they haven’t even begun?

The Torah hasn’t mixed up its timeline. Rather, it identifies an essential step to reaching any goal. Moses and Aaron had accepted upon themselves the obligation to follow G-d’s command. They made an absolute commitment in their hearts. So the Torah considered it as if they had actually completed their mission.

Moses knows he won’t have an easy time convincing Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The Almighty previously told him He would strengthen Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh won’t listen to him. To persevere in the face of such resistance Moses must commit body, mind, and soul. His failure to do so would have required G-d to choose a new messenger. In the meantime, the Children of Israel would have languished in slavery.

Make Your Goal Your DESTINY

In some ways, setting a goal is the most enjoyable part. The excitement of unlimited horizons stretches out before you. You can indulge in possibilities. In this euphoric state, the struggle of achieving the goal can get overlooked.

Every goal worthy of the name will challenge you. The tasks you have to complete are the easy part. The difficulties arise from having to find ways around roadblocks and getting started again after a setback. Self-doubts plague you. The comfort of giving up on your goal entices you. If you’re not vigilant, you’ll find the end of the year approaching with no accomplishments to show for it.

Between setting a goal and starting work on it, take time to internalize it. Integrate reaching your goal into your mind and soul before beginning any physical tasks. Your resolution should be so deep that you feel joy in anticipation of bringing it to fruition.

Follow Moses’s and Aaron’s example. Notice they didn’t commit to receiving the reward. They dedicated themselves to following G-d’s command wherever it led them.

To create this level of devotion to your goal:

  1. Write your goal down in detail
  2. Write a statement saying you commit body, mind, and spirit to reaching it.
  3. Sign it.
  4. Next, visualize yourself feeling self-doubt about seeing it through.
  5. Then see yourself speaking words of reassurance to yourself.
  6. Finally, what will you do when you’re ready to give up? Who will you speak with who will redirect you back on track?
  7. Whether your spouse or friend, get the person’s assurance to help you when you need it.

Now you’ve made a mental and spiritual commitment to your goal. Go out and overcome all the physical challenges.

What bad habit will you break this year?

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. It is named after 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!

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

How to Break Through the Confines of Rational Thinking

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Exodus 1:1-6:1

My mom spent her career in bookkeeping and accounting. Even as a kid, I knew she didn’t like it. Now retired, she feels she can pursue her passion. My mom has always wanted to be a writer. Her father taught art at Yale University. His paintings adorn the walls of all the families’ homes. Her younger sister has published a book. But logic dominated her work life. She had to support a family. Maybe if I’d understood Parshas Shemos sooner I could have convinced her to take a different path:

"Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives…and the second one’s name Puah." (Shemos/Exodus 1:15)

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the second book of the Torah. A new Pharaoh reigns over Egypt and enslaves the Israelites. He declares all male infants will be killed. Moses is born and Pharaoh’s daughter raises him, nursed by his own mother. He flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. There he meets and marries Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, also known as Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Moses encounters an angel in a burning bush. G-d appoints him as His messenger to obtain the release of the Children of Israel. Reluctant, Moses bows to the Almighty’s will. He leaves Midian for Egypt. Aaron, his older brother, meets him on the way and becomes his partner in dealing with Pharaoh. They have their first meeting with him. Rather than agreeing to their demands Pharaoh makes the enslavement harsher.

Logic Can Be Harsher Than Reality

The Israelite men despaired over Pharaoh’s decree requiring their newborn sons be thrown into the Nile. Amram, the leader of the Hebrew judicial system and Moses’s father, felt hopeless. He concluded logically they should stop procreating since this only would cause needless death. Amram divorced his wife and became celibate.

Because of his stature, the Israelite men followed suit. Despite the miraculous population increase during the initial phase of the enslavement, reason dictated to the men that they stop having children rather than letting half of them be killed.

Along comes Puah, who we later meet as Miriam, Moses’s older sister. She respectfully reproves her father. Pharaoh, she notes, only wanted to destroy their sons. Her father’s example, followed by all the men, means no daughters either.

Perhaps, says Puah, the people will keep their faith in G-d. If so, they may not listen to the evil Pharaoh. But as a righteous leader, they will follow Amram’s precedent.

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To his credit, Amram accepts Puah’s rebuke and remarries his wife. The procreative lives of the Israelites restart.

Constraining Yourself Through Logic

G-d will let you construct a rational argument to limit yourself. We see this when the Israelites are at the Reed Sea. Trapped between an impassable body of water and the Egyptian army they cry in despair. G-d stands by and lets them remain in their “prison” built from logic.

Then Nachshon decides to take action. He walks into the Reed Sea up to his nose. Against all logic, the Almighty parts the water. The Israelites escape annihilation.

You can constrain yourself using logic to:

  • Avoid hard work. Aspiring to a more successful life takes soul searching and tremendous effort. It’s much easier to employ logic to convince yourself you’ve reached your limits.
  • Protect yourself from disappointment. Reaching for success means at times you’ll fail. You can shelter yourself from pain by building a rational case for not trying.
  • Justify a pessimistic view. If you have challenges that held back relatives or friends you may reason success will evade you too.
  • Reinforce negative belief. You may believe that dreams only come true for a select few. And you’re not among them. People will be happy to support this disempowering belief with “facts.”

Hopefully, you have a Puah who will reframe your life. If not, do it yourself.

Whether you strive for success or not, unshackle yourself by knowing:

  • You can work for someone else’s dream or your own. You get to choose.
  • Setbacks are unavoidable. Confront them on your terms.
  • You are unique. No one else’s experience can dictate the results of your life.
  • Motivation comes in many forms. When you were a kid, remember how committed you were to doing something your parents prohibited?

Amram left faith out of the equation. Don't make the same mistake.

G-d will allow logic to prevent your success. The Almighty will also help you transcend rationality on your way to building a brilliant life.

What logical argument are you using to restrain your success?

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. It is named after 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 Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

Why You Must Discover the Genuine You Now

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26

Have you noticed the longer a colleague stays in the military the more his identity merges with his service branch? Leadership encourages this in the interest of esprit de corps. As you move on from military service have you shifted to a civilian outlook? If you see yourself only as a veteran it’s going to be a tough transition. Take an object lesson from Parshas Vayechi:

“A lion cub is Judah… The scepter shall not depart from Judah….’” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:9-10)

How to Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

This Sabbath’s parsha concludes the book of Genesis. Jacob was near death. He asked Joseph to swear not to bury him in Egypt. Rather, he wanted to be interred in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, thereby making them in effect of his sons. Then he blessed his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like reprimands.

All Egypt mourned Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The grandeur of his burial procession impressed and scared the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assured his brothers he forgave them. He lived to see his great-grandchildren. Before he died, Joseph asked his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brought them out of Egypt.

The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Israelites and their redemption.

Judah’s Unique Blessing

Only three of the twelve sons got a blessing that dealt with his character and future impact on the Israelites. Jacob pointed out Issachar’s stubbornness. But he predicted he would teach the Israelites G-d’s laws. Jacob described Dan as a serpent and a viper (ouch!). But he appointed him the avenger of the tribes.

Both sons take a hit on character. But Issachar will turn stubbornness into tenacity. And Dan will bite only the Israelites’ enemies.

In contrast, Jacob compared Judah to a lion cub who will grow to become an “awesome lion.” With the character of the king of beasts, Judah inherits the mantle of kingship over Israel. None of his brothers received the double blessing of outstanding moral strength and leadership.

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After Jacob’s death, Judah alone continued life with an unambiguous purpose and mission.

Uncertainty Comes from Lack of Purpose & Mission

When I was seven years old I got a fortune cookie warning me to beware of becoming a jack-of-all-trades. Almost 50 years later I still struggle at times with staying focused on my purpose and mission. A shiny opportunity will flash before my eyes and before I know it I’m off chasing it.

Many people equate the two. But as you saw in the blessings:

  • Purpose describes your traits and character, who you are as a person.
  • Mission tells how you will impact the lives of other people.

They support each other. Your mission should grow out of your purpose. Notice the relationships between the two for Issachar, Dan, and Judah. You may struggle with a trait, such as stubbornness. But you can make it useful for achieving the right mission.

Choosing a mission out of sync with your purpose will cause frustration. Issachar’s inflexibility prevented his being king. Before you choose your personal mission, get clear on your strengths and weaknesses.

Leaving the military necessitates changing your mission. You won’t be on the front lines “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….” Your purpose will have to change as you transition your identity from service member to civilian.

Step one on your reintegration agenda requires that you uncover your purpose and mission for civilian life. No other accomplishment will have a greater impact on your future happiness and success. Get started now.

Question – Have you taken an inventory of your traits and characteristics?

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. 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 bout? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

You Can Use This Simple Job-Hunting Secret

Proven Effective for 3600 Years

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayigash – Genesis 44:18-47:27

Finding your next job in the military was so simple. You got in touch with your branch manager or detailer. You negotiated based on available billets. Done. Private sector job hunting seems so complicated. You have to deal with resumes, job boards, applications, and interviews. But Parshas Vayigash shows the crucial job-hunting tactic is 3600 years old:

“…make them livestock officers over what is mine.’” (Bereshis/Genesis 47:6)

You Can Use This Simple Job-Hunting Secret

In this Sabbath’s parsha, Joseph’s brothers showed they had learned their lesson. Judah stepped forward to take Benjamin’s place as a slave. Overcome with emotion, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. He convinced them to bring Jacob and their households to Egypt where he would take care of them. At first, Jacob did not believe Joseph was still alive. But the brothers finally convinced him. They loaded up the wagons and moved to Egypt where they settled in Goshen.

The famine came. It was harsh. The Egyptians spent all their money buying food. Then they sold their animals, land, and finally themselves so that they would live. Only the priests were exempt.

The Power of Connections

Joseph’s brothers found work quickly. They got to Egypt and Pharaoh immediately wanted to meet them. He asked them their occupation. They told him they were shepherds. He directed Joseph to make them overseers of his flocks. Wouldn’t it be nice if your job-hunting worked that way?

Think about it. They didn’t agonize over their resumes. They didn’t worry about what questions Pharaoh would ask or how they would answer them. They received expert preparation from Joseph.

That’s the power of an inside connection. When someone who trusts you introduces you to someone who trusts him that person will trust you. The whole job-hunting process becomes a formality.

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Why People Don’t Use This Job-Hunting Secret

Many veterans reject using inside connections. They don’t like favoritism. They think it’s mercenary. But I suspect it actually stems from their not knowing how to create them. If you related to any of these, I have three responses for you:

  1. Choosing a known quantity is not favoritism. It makes sense to work with reliable, honest people. Another person may be dependable and trustworthy. But why take a chance?
  2. It’s only mercenary if you intend to use the person just to get a job then sever the connection. Instead, create connections as part of your long-term professional development. To be at the top of your field, you need to be exchanging ideas with the leaders in it. Your contacts need to do the same thing. Make relationships mutually beneficial.
  3. Most people in the military are impressed with expert marksmen. Even if you didn’t have that level of skill, you appreciated someone else’s achievement. Likewise, you should admire people adept at forming strategic connections. Think about it this way. Marksmanship and relationship development are both skills for dealing with people. The first for elimination. The second for cooperation. Like shooting, you can learn to develop relationships. The commanders you respect in the military are talented at connecting with people. It’s one of the qualities that makes them superior leaders. Rather than refusing to use connections to get a job, become an expert at it

Perhaps you think Joseph shouldn’t have helped his brothers. Or maybe it was okay because they were family. Whether for these reasons or because you don’t know how it’s time to change your attitude.

Be strategic when making connections. See to it that when establishing professional friendships you:

  • Can add value to the person’s career
  • The person can help you

Focus on the myriad of ways for each of you to benefit the other. Then you can become part of the 3600-year-old history of outstanding job-hunters.

Question – What keeps you from making inside connections?

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. 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!

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