Category Archives: Scripture

How to Repair a Damaged Relationship

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shir Hashirim/Song of Songs

Marriage is hard. You must communicate clearly and compromise daily. You need the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon to avoid arguments. Since I have neither, from time to time my wife and I quarrel. My challenge is finding the path back to marital harmony. Fortunately, readings and practices during this time of year blaze the trail:

I am my beloved’s, and his spirit is toward me. (Shir Hashirim/Song of Songs 7:11)

How to Repair a Damaged Relationship

This Sabbath coincides with the last two festival days of Pesach/Passover. The weekly parsha is a special one from Shemos.  We also read Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, composed by King Solomon.  This mashal or allegory is very difficult to understand.  On the one hand it appears to be passionate poetry between a man and a woman.  Yet in reality it is a “duet of love” between the Jewish people and G-d.

Cycles in a Relationship

Shir Hashirim begins with a beautiful young woman getting engaged to, then marrying a king. Shortly after her marriage she is unfaithful and the king banishes her. She enters a “living widowhood.” But the king loves her too deeply to abandon her, so he keeps watch over her and protects her. When she returns to him, resolving to be faithful evermore, he will take her back. Their love will be fully restored.

Allegorically, the bride is the Children of Israel who G-d betrothed when He took them out of Egypt.  They consecrated their relationship beneath the chuppah or wedding canopy of Mt. Sinai and received the Torah. But it was torn asunder by the unfaithfulness of the sin of the Golden Calf. Yet G-d forgave this sin and brought the people into the Land of Israel. They sinned again and were exiled.

Through it all G-d remains ever watchful over His people, protecting us. The Almighty waits for the day we fully repent and return to Him in love.

While most marital fights don’t involve infidelity, the cycle is recognizable. You commit, hurt your spouse, and struggle to find your way back. Then you do it again. To repair the relationship, you have to know what re-committing looks like.

Bonding with Your Spouse

The Rambam, the great 12th century Torah scholar states that Ahavas Hashem (love of G-d) is the highest form of relationship that we can have with our Creator. It is higher than Yiras Hashem (awe or fear of G-d). When we are in love we only think of our beloved. We should love the Almighty with such intensity.

In your marriage, there is no alternative to love for creating an enduring connection. Neither awe nor fear is a sound basis for a lasting relationship. After an argument, the goal is to return to the closeness you had with your spouse when you got engaged and married.

Recommitting to Your Marriage

Shir Hashirim shows you the ideal state. The practice of the counting of the Omer gives you the tools for getting there. Most marital disagreements stem from a lack of loving-kindness or a misapplication of justice. First determine the source of the discord. Then you can identify what’s needed for reconciliation.

Next, call up your humility so you can lead the way. No matter whether you feel you’re at fault, take the first step. Apologize for your share of what happened. Make it easy for your spouse to seek forgiveness. Use compassion to strive for harmony.

Once you have reconnected, begin deepening your bond. Remind your spouse about good times. Relive fond memories. Doing so will build endurance into your marriage.

It’s no coincidence that the middos (characteristics) necessary for repairing damage to your marriage are the ones practiced during the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuos. Each of the following weekly themes is paired with those of the other weeks. On the first day you work on the trait of pure chesed. On the second day work on gevurah-chesed, discipline in your loving-kindness, day three tiferes-chesed and so on each day and week.

Week 1 – Chesed – loving-kindness

Week 2 – Gevurah – justice and discipline

Week 3 – Tiferes – compassion and harmony

Week 4 – Netzach – endurance

Week 5 – Hod – humility

Week 6 – Yesod – bonding

Week 7 – Malchus – sovereignty and leadership

Practice these qualities and skills before you need them. (You can get my free 49 Days to Refine Your Character tool by signing up for my email list). Disagreements in your marriage are inevitable. Make sure you know the steps and have prepared to repair the damage.

What is your process for reconnecting with your spouse after a fight? Please comment 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!

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Metzora – Leviticus 14:1-15:33

Self-improvement is hard. First you have to figure out what needs fixing. Then, you have to find a system that will deliver results. Because it’s intangible, spiritual improvement is the most difficult. I almost pine for the old days described in this week’s parsha, Metzora:

This will be the law of the metzora on the day of his spiritual purification. (Vayikra/Leviticus 14:2)

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

This Sabbath's parsha tells how a metzora, someone with tzaraas (a spiritual disease contracted because a person’s life is out of balance), and a house with a tzaraas become tahor, spiritually purified. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

The Plague of Spiritual Imbalance

The Kabbalah, a compendium of Jewish mysticism, says tzaraas comes from life being out of balance. An hormonal imbalance causes acne during puberty. It shows up in skin becoming swollen, red, and even pus-filled. So too, a metzora’s spirit is out of equilibrium. It reveals its presence through a leprous-like affliction.

In time, a young person’s body adjusts to the increased hormonal output. Balance returns and the acne goes away. Hopefully it leaves no permanent scars. A metzora experiences a sudden increase holiness. While this is a great thing, it takes time for the person to adjust. Over time the person will rise up to the new level of sanctity and regain spiritual balance. In the meantime, tzaraas serves as a reminder that further work is necessary.

So, the loss of the ability to contract tzaraas is a mixed blessing. It is embarrassing for a person’s shortcomings to be displayed in public. But, he misses out on a tangible motivation to elevate himself.

The Modern Day Alternative

Most people have a default mode for handling life. Is yours one of these?

  • Chesed– Loving-kindness
  • Gevurah– Justice and Discipline
  • Tiferes– Harmony and Compassion
  • Netzach– Endurance
  • Hod – Humility
  • Yesod– Bonding
  • Malchus– Sovereignty and Leadership

In addition to your primary mode, you are probably pretty good at using a couple of the others in this list. The challenge comes when you’re presented with an issue that cannot be handled within your existing frame of reference. Perhaps you tried solving a problem but it blew up in your face instead. Or you’re procrastinating because you do not know how to approach it.

You need to stop trying to force people to enter your world rather than gaining the skills to enter theirs. When you recognize other people’s modes, you have a valuable tool for problem solving. And you’ll avoid hurricanes while navigating through life.

Each year, beginning on the send day of Passover, the Omer is counted. By following it, you have the chance to practice understanding many approaches to life and experience their nuances. Such training prepares you for higher levels of holiness. You enhance your ability to build relationships with other people and the Almighty.

Like any new skill, you must be intentional to grasp it and make it an integral part of yourself. Each night the count introduces you to a new concept that your minds can ponder while asleep. Then you can explore it the next day through deliberate acts according to the day’s theme.

You can get my free 49 Days to Refine Your Character tool by signing up for my email list. Enjoy the benefits of expanding your repertoire for creating successful relationships!

How do develop your spirit? Please comment 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!

How to Harness a Miracle for Your Benefit

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria – Leviticus 12:1-13:59

When times are tough, I mean really bad, I find myself praying for a miracle. “Please G-d, fix my problem now.” The funny thing is, the Almighty makes a miracle accessible at any time. Parshas Tazria explains:

“…whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep in its first year as a burnt offering…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 12:6)

How to Harness a Miracle for Your Benefit

This week’s parsha explains how a woman becomes tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth. Then it details how a kohen (priest) verifies when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body or a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Connecting Birth and a Korban

Among the korbonos (offerings) brought on the altar why does a woman bring a burnt offering? She survived childbirth and now has a daughter or son. She’s freed from discomfort after nine months of pregnancy. The thanksgiving offering seems most appropriate.

The thanksgiving offering is brought and consumed on the same day. It represents a single act of gratitude. By contrast, a burnt offering stays on the Altar until it is completely consumed. Smoke from it wafts off into eternity.

Burnt offerings were brought twice daily in the Temple. Known as a korban tamid (continual offering), it reminded people of the Almighty’s never ending bounty.

I return to my original conclusion. A thanksgiving offering is more appropriate. Let’s face it, a woman may be grateful for everything I mentioned above. But once breastfeeding, changing diapers, and sleep deprivation start her thankfulness disappears.

The burnt offering she brings must signify something greater than gratitude.

The True Miracle of Birth

Conceiving a child is no mystery. We know the science. It’s hard to make the case that conception is a miracle. Yet scientists remain unable to create life in the lab. Frankenstein notwithstanding, they’re not able to take inert molecules and make them come alive.

Herein lies the true miracle. Each time a child is born the Almighty creates another physical-spiritual hybrid. This enduring miracle makes a burnt offering, with its connection to the continual offering, the only one a woman can bring.

The human soul is unique from that of all other creatures. You can strive, learn, grow, and make moral distinctions based on free will. An animal learns based solely on its nature and experience. You can study and discover new ideas from others without having to suffer yourself. All these abilities are nothing short of miraculous.

If you don’t solve your challenges using your intellect, you can do something no animal can. The bond between your body and spirit gives you round-the-clock access to G-d. Pray. The Almighty will respond.

Any time of the day or night you can harness a miracle and put it to work for you. Alter your mindset for greater resourcefulness. Avoid pitfalls by learning from others or getting the guidance of a mentor. And if all else fails, fuse your soul with the Creator and draw strength from His love for you.

What miracle have you experienced in your life? Please comment 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!

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

3 minutes to read

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

Now that she’s getting older and more aware, my daughter sees how careful I am about what I eat, listen to, and watch. So what she saw the other day in an episode of the Flying Nun surprised her. Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) went into I nightclub where Go-Go dancers performed in cages. Having grown up immersed in 1960s television I didn’t realize how the scene might impact her. Parsha Shemini explains why I need to be more aware:

And any earthenware vessel, if any of them [creeping crawling things] will fall into it…you will break it. (Vayikra/Leviticus 11:33)

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

This Sabbath’s parsha tells how to perform the Temple service and about the death of Aaron’s two sons. Then it explains how to dispose of the day’s offerings, the dispute between Moses and Aaron, and the laws of kosher animals, fish, birds, and creeping crawling things.

The Spiritual Nature of Things

Tumah and tahara (translated as spiritual impurity and purity) are hard to understand. The idea that utensils can look fine but be spiritually contaminated doesn’t compute. They're not alive and don’t have a soul.

My daughter and I are reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. In it we learned that the famous equation E=MC2 shows that everything in the universe is energy. What better proof of G-d’s existence than that? Though inanimate objects aren’t alive, we’re connected to them through the common energy of existence. Viewed this way, spiritual impurity can be contracted and transmitted by any substance.

When a creeping crawling creature falls onto a utensil of wood or garment of leather or sackcloth you just have to wash it. Why do you have to break an earthenware vessel when the same thing happens? Shouldn’t this affect everything the same way?

Utensils and garments made from wood, leather, and sackcloth are valuable for their function and materials. You can buy a garment and recut the leather or fabric to make something else out of it. But earthenware only has value when formed into something. The dirt from which it is made is worthless. What’s in it and its use determine its value.

What Makes You Sick

Adam, the first human, was formed from clay. His name comes from the Hebrew word adamah, which means dirt or earth. (According to DataGenetics, the elements that make up a human body are worth only $160 as of 2011.) We are vessels of earthenware. While the spark of the Divine in your neshamah (soul) is infinitely valuable, for your body what counts is what you put in it.

If you fill yourself with tumah, whether it is forbidden creeping crawling creatures or ideas G-d abhors, you will defile yourself. The only way to get rid of this contamination is to break the vessel, you. Perhaps that is why near death experiences have such a dramatic effect on people. Similarly, you must tear yourself down to get rid of destructive habits. Then you can rebuild your character or behavior in the proper way.

People focus on the physical causes of sickness. But mental and spiritual disorders profoundly affect your wellbeing. From that perspective, what you see and hear is as important as what you eat.

How has a spiritual malady affected your health? Please comment 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!

How to Tell if Your Humility Is Self-Destructive

2-½ minutes to read

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

People acknowledge the value of humility. In particular, veterans are humble. But too often such modesty impedes their ability to get a good job. When challenged, they say promoting themselves is wrong. Parshas Tzav has a different perspective:

This is the law of the burnt offering: (Vayikra/Leviticus 6:2)

How to Tell if You Humility Is Self-Destructive

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

Connecting Sacrifices and Humility

Farther into Leviticus we read an animal that is blind or broken or has a split eyelid or wart cannot be used as a burnt offering. As was made clear back in Genesis in the trouble between Cain and Abel, G-d wants offerings to be of the finest we have.

This holds true even though we no longer bring animal or meal sacrifices.

Today prayer has replaced the sacrificial service. When you pray, G-d wants you to open your heart. This requires humbly recognizing all you have comes from the Almighty. In humility you should acknowledge the many mistakes you’ve made and your gratitude that nonetheless G-d loves you. You offer your love in return.

If you are arrogant G-d will still listen to your prayer, but like a damaged animal, may reject your petition.

Humility verses Self-Promotion

People often equate self-promotion with arrogance. But you’re not conceited simply because you let people know about your skills and strengths. To the contrary, if you can add value to someone’s life you have a responsibility to do so. You’ll have to explain to him why you are the best person to help.

There are times when humility looks like a lack of self-confidence. People don’t trust a meek person to handle their problems.

By not clearly expressing the value you bring to the table, you’re forcing someone to figure it out on his own. He won’t. Instead he’ll hire someone who makes his life easier by showing him he has what it takes. You and your family lose out. The Almighty does not want you to impoverish yourself with such false humility.

If you’re not used to marketing yourself, use these guidelines:

  1. Always tell the truth. Implying you have skills that you don’t is worse than conceit. You’ll be exposed in the end.
  2. Talk about them at appropriate times. People will tell you when they want to know more about you.
  3. Be brief. Long-winded descriptions smell of conceit.

When you follow these three criteria, and thank G-d for the gifts He has given you, you’ll keep your humility in balance.

What prevents you from promoting yourself effectively? Please comment 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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