Category Archives: Scripture

How to Deal with Disrespectful Civilians

Do You Distinguish Direct from Offensive Communication?

2 minutes to read

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

Over the last decade, I’ve noticed a softening in the military. You don’t hear as much shouting. Repetitive “training” has replaced verbal correction. Special Forces still train tough. But regular units’ training has become more like what you see in the civilian world. Frustration has to be expressed gently…

How to Deal with Disrespectful Civilians

The Purpose of Being Offensive

Its more direct style of communication makes military life seems tougher. But the days of offending someone to test his mettle are long gone. Likewise, G-d rarely permits insulting behavior. One of the few cases, in Parshas Bo, has a special purpose:

…on the 10th of this month, they will take for themselves, each man, a lamb or a kid for the household… (Shemos/Exodus 12:3)

Prior to bringing the tenth plague, the Almighty commanded Moses to have each Israelite household prepare a sacrifice. Like all offerings, it had to be free from blemishes for the four days before its slaughter.

Usually, the purchaser of an animal could rely on the seller to examine it. But the owner of this offering, known as the Pesach or paschal lamb, had to tie it to his bed beginning on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Each householder inspected his own animal.

The Egyptians worshipped lambs and kids. So it aroused their curiosity seeing the Israelites tie their gods to a bed. When they asked for a reason, the Jews told them they would sacrifice the animals on the 14th of Nissan. Outrageous declared the Egyptians!

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But because the Almighty protected the Israelites, they couldn’t harm them.

Let G-d Teach the Lessons

You might think G-d wanted to exalt the Israelites by letting them sacrifice Egypt’s gods. In reality, He wanted Egypt to learn they worshipped false gods. If their slaves could slaughter lambs and kids with impunity, these animals had no power.

Simon and Levi killed the hated Shemites. Shechem had raped Dinah. He was liable to harsh punishment. But neither he nor his people denied G-d like Pharaoh did. So a death sentence on all of the people was wrong.

Pinchas killed Cozbi and his mistress for enticing the Israelites to worship the Ba’al. The Almighty rewarded him for sustaining His honor.

Aspects of civilian life may offend you. A civilian may push your buttons. But people don't do this with the intent of denying G-d. There’s no cause for offending them. When the urge to scold them strikes consider: Are you defending the Almighty’s honor or yourself…

How do you keep your cool when civilians do stupid things?

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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!

How to Read God’s Clues for Improving Your Life

Do You Feel Like You’re Being Punished by Your Problems?

2-½ minutes to read

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

When things go wrong, why do they hit our most vulnerable spots? Wouldn't it be nice if once in a while life threw a softball? We never have too much time to transition. Nor do we get to choose between two private sector jobs with higher than expected salaries. It’s like we’re getting punished…

How to Read G-d’s Clues for Improving Your Life

G-d Doesn't Punish People

Reintegrating to civilian life is chaotic. Many people want to help but don't know how. Others couldn't care less about you. After a while, it seems you're beset by plagues. Now, you're no Pharaoh. But the way G-d dealt with him in Parshas Va’eira will clue you into what’s going on:

“…behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the waters that are in the river, and they will change to blood.” (Shemos/Exodus 7:17)

Pharaoh failed to heed Moses's message to let the Children of Israel leave Egypt. So the Almighty brought plagues to get him to change his mind. And so they went: Blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and hail.

Each looks like a harsh punishment of Pharaoh and his people. Living through them must have been torture. But despite their appearance, G-d sent the plagues so the Egyptians would take certain lessons to heart.

In the first plague, the Almighty turned all the water in Egypt to blood. Pharaoh had proclaimed himself a god. But a deity doesn’t need to perform bodily functions. To keep his people from finding out he was human, he waded into the Nile River to relieve himself.

When the river turned to blood, Pharaoh could no longer hide. He should have learned humility when his people realized he wasn’t a god. But he didn’t.

The first plague also sent the people a message. The Nile was the key to Egypt’s economic life. When it turned to blood, they couldn’t water their crops. Their king-god had no power to prevent their financial ruin.

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If they had learned this lesson, they would have lost some money. But they would have avoided a great deal of suffering from future plagues.

Make Sure You're Solving the Right Problem

Because they enslaved the Israelites, the Egyptians deserved punishment. G-d could have justified destroying them. Instead, He sent the plagues so they would examine specific aspects of their behavior. Had the Egyptians learned mercy and humility, the Almighty wouldn’t have sent more plagues.

The things that go wrong in your life or transition are messages from G-d. He wants you to focus your attention on an issue or behavior. Before solving a problem, consider:

1. Why. What is the reason this particular thing happened? You may come up with several reasons. Chose the one that relates to your weakest spot.

2. Clues. What signs has the Almighty given you about how he wants you to handle the challenge? They may not be obvious. But G-d never gives you a problem you’re not equipped to handle.

3. Solve. Choose a course of action that aligns with the reason you received the challenge. If you’re struggling to find a job, the solution may have nothing to do with finding work. Changing job-hunt tactics (especially if you're using my 5 Steps to a High-Paying Job) won't solve your problem. That’s why the first two steps are crucial to moving forward in a productive way.

You're not deserving of punishment like Pharaoh and the Egyptians. But their downfall can help you. When bad things happen, search for G-d’s message about how you need to change.

What problem have you had trouble figuring out?

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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!

How to Handle the Demands of Transitioning

Have You Reached the Moment of Truth?

2 minutes to read

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

Back on active duty, I get those annoying emails. The training officer sends reminders of some online course that we have to complete. Again. The Navy means well. It wants us to know how to handle an active shooter and records with PII. But having done the exact same training for years makes it just a check in the box. You can tell what counts with the Navy because it has the rigor that leads to change…

How to Handle the Demands of Transitioning

Make an Affirmative Decision to Confront Change

During Officer Indoctrination School we crawled through sand with broken glass in it. Rubbing sand in cuts thoroughly drives a lesson home. I hope I never have to scrabble on the ground while someone is shooting at me. But I’ll remember to keep my backside down. Parshas Shemos describes a bigger lesson in change:

“Moses said, ‘I will turn from my course and see this great sight - why does the bush not burn?’” (Shemos/Exodus 3:3)

Moses encountered a bush that was on fire but didn't burn up. He knew from the moment he spotted the bush that something supernatural was at work. He had two choices: engage with the phenomenon or move on. If he got involved with the bush he knew his life would never be the same. G-d saw Moses’s deep conflict. He could stay the course and continue a life of ease. Stopping meant committing to the struggle leading to change.

The Almighty found tremendous merit in Moses’s desire to change. So He called out, “Moses, Moses.” And Moses began his rise to leadership of the Israelites.

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Moses chose to stop and confront his fear of the unknown. G-d understood Moses’s gut-wrenching choice to live a demanding life. Such courage made him worthy to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery.

Your Real Transition Begins with a Moment of Truth

Under any circumstances, change is a daunting process. It's hardest when you don't expect it. As right as my decision was to leave active duty, I felt unsettled. Even though I had prepared, I knew hard times were ahead. I wasn’t disappointed. But the struggle was worth it.

More preparation time helps. Servicemembers who start their transition 18 to 24 months before leaving active duty have the smoothest time.

But there will come the moment when you’ll feel a lump in your throat. At that moment, your faith can compel you to begin the journey despite your apprehension. You may not yet see the miracle that will forge a better you. G-d may not show you a burning bush. But He will find great merit in your willingness to confront new challenges.

Let the rigor of adjusting to civilian life help you make the necessary changes.

Do you regret leaving the military or think you might regret it?

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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!

How to Be Wealthy and Virtuous

Do You Know the Source of Money’s Value?

2-½ minutes to read

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

These days, few people question the virtue of military service. Most veterans want to continue to serve after they leave active duty. Many think the only way to do this is to work for a nonprofit or the government. When I say working for a FOR-PROFIT company is noble they look at me like I’m crazy…

How to Be Wealthy and Virtuous

Is Money Evil?

A friend once asked me whether the Torah supports capitalism or socialism. I told him, in general, you can find support for both sides of such questions. Like or not, our economic system combines aspects of both.

The Torah concerns itself with how to live a proper life. When you examine the morality behind a political issue, it has a lot to say. Parshas Vayechi clarifies a major aspect of political debate in our country:

“He [Zebulun] will be at the ship’s harbor, and his last border will reach Zidon.” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:13)

As Jacob neared death, he 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.

Jacob gives his blessings in the order his sons were born. But there’s one exception. Even though Issachar is older, Zebulun’s blessing precedes his. The reason shows G-d’s attitude toward money.

Issachar and his sons devoted themselves to studying the Torah. But they had wives and children to support. Either they had to take time away from learning or someone had to support them. In steps Zebulun. He and his sons engaged in commerce. Then they gave part of their wealth to Issachar.

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If making money were just an okay thing to do, Jacob would have blessed Zebulun in order. By having him precede Issachar, he showed the nobility that comes from earning more than you need so you can help others.

Money’s Value Comes from How It's Used

Nonprofits do good work. And government provides important functions. But for-profit businesses generate the money that supports them.

Money is neither good nor bad. The same is true of profits. It all comes down to how they're used. G-d finds no merit in is a Scrooge-like accumulation of wealth. But even mega-wealthy people such as Andrew Carnegie appeared worthy before teh Almighty. While they lived opulent lives they also used their money to build libraries, museums, and hospitals.

The Torah acknowledges that for various reasons some people will be poor. But it finds no particular merit in poverty. Nor does the materialism of people like the Sodomites entitle them to praise. G-d commends those who, like Zebulun, pursue wealth in service of taking care of His children.

Question – Can someone be wealthy and a good person?

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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.

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 Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

Do You Know Your Worst Enemy and Best Ally?

2 minutes to read

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

The military exemplifies a can-do environment. Many a shipmate’s desk has the slogan, “The difficult we do right away, the impossible may take a little longer.” For many veterans, this attitude carries over to civilian life, at least for a while. But job rejections can sap your determination. Error compounds error, causing you to think the private sector doesn't want you…

How to Reduce Mistakes During Your Transition

The Power of Belief

No prison is stronger than the one a person creates in his mind. You may have seen how others box themselves in with their worldview. Even someone on a lofty spiritual level can adopt a mistaken belief. Jacob fell prey in Parshas Vayigash:

“…but his heart rejected it, for he could not believe them.” (Bereshis/Genesis 45:26)

All Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy more food. They still thought he was Pharaoh’s viceroy. Joseph revealed his identity and they reconciled. Then, he convinced his brothers to bring their father Jacob and their families to Egypt. He gave them wagonloads of food and clothing to take with them. When the brothers arrived in Canaan, they told Jacob that Joseph was still alive.

They had sent Asher’s daughter Serach to prepare him for the startling news. Still, He didn’t believe them.

Jacob had seen Joseph’s torn bloody garment. He had concluded his son was dead. Now ten of his sons assured him Joseph was alive and brought ample proof. But Jacob clung to his mistake. His belief trumped reality.

Jacob had gotten comfortable with his erroneous worldview. He may have considered believing Joseph was alive. It would have removed a tremendous weight from his shoulders. But it didn't matter. Rather than risk getting hurt again, Jacob held on to his belief that Joseph was dead.

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In the end, the brothers gave Jacob a message only Joseph could have known. Finally, Jacob let go of his mistaken belief.

Your Enemy and Ally for Reducing Mistakes

Belief can be a powerful ally when it spurs you to go after what you want. But it is a sly enemy. Believe failure is inevitable. Almost for sure, you’ll get that outcome.

In even the best of situations, military people feel foreign to civilians. We talk and act more formally. They don't understand our jargon. We prize loyalty and camaraderie more than they do. Such differences can make a meeting to discuss a job uncomfortable.

Think civilians don't want to give you a job. No matter how you hide it, people can sense your attitude. They may not be aware of it. But they’ll pick up on certain subtleties. Negative beliefs compound an already uneasy situation.

Are you struggling to find a job? Does another aspect of your transition have you down? Follow Jacob’s example. Let go of mistaken beliefs. Many veterans like you struggled yet reintegrated to civilian life with jobs they love. You can too.

Question – What do you believe about transitioning to civilian life?

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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.

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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