Category Archives: Scripture

Create Healthy Relationships You Can Be Proud of

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Once you have begun building a foundation of fitness in the physical and mental pillars, the profoundly challenging and rewarding task of attaining fitness in the spiritual pillar awaits.

Create Healthy Relationships You Can Be Proud of

The spiritual pillar of fitness has three realms:

  1. Family – Spouse | Parents | Children and Other Family Members
  2. G-d – Prayer | Duties | Rituals
  3. Mission - Core Values | Purpose | Life Mission

The process is similar to attaining fitness in the other pillars. First, assess where you currently are with respect to each realm. Some questions to ponder are:

  1. Do you believe in G-d and if not should you?
  2. Why is it important to acknowledge a power higher than yourself?
  3. How do you put your beliefs into practice?
  4. How often do you engage in spiritual exercise?
  5. What is the quality of your marriage?
  6. When was the last time you saw your parents and children?
  7. How productive or destructive are your familial relationships?
  8. To what system of values do you adhere, and how well can you express these values?
  9. What is your plan for upholding your values?
  10. How well do you maintain your values?

As you begin answering these questions others will arise. Especially in the spiritual pillar, this is a lifelong process. Just like with the other pillars, you may need to consult with professionals to aid your assessments. Roadblocks may arise. For example, you may harbor an aversion to religion based on childhood experiences. A brief story:

Shortly after getting married, as the cook of the house, I had prepared dinner. Sitting down at the table my wife Melanie pointed to something on her plate and asked, “What are these?”

Me: “They’re Brussel Sprouts. They’re great.”

Melanie: “No they’re not, they’re horrible.”

Me: “When have you ever had Brussel Sprouts?”

Melanie: “I was five.”

Me: “Do you mean to tell me you still hate everything now that you hated when you were five?”

Melanie: “Yes!”

Me: “Well, that’s very good information for your new husband to have ‘cause I bet you hated boys when you were five.”

Melanie tried Brussel Sprouts again and lo and behold she liked them. Your tastes change as you mature. What seemed distasteful, boring, or annoying when you were a child may be very nourishing now that you are an adult. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your dislike of religion in light of how important a factor of your spiritual fitness it can be.

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Information gathering and assessment will tend to overlap more so than in the other pillars. As well, if you are not already affiliated with a religious denomination, seeking a spiritual connection within one or outside of religion requires extensive research. Some of the resources I use or other clergy recommend are:

Judaism:

Chabad

Aish Hatorah

Orthodox Christianity:

Discover Orthodox Christianity

Ancient Faith Radio

Orthodox Christian Network

Protestantism:

Patheos Library

Christianity Today

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

University of Nottingham – Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Roman Catholicism

Some of my tweets cover spiritual fitness in a non-religious context so consider following me on Twitter. My Wednesday blog post is called Parsha Nuggets, which provides food for thought from the Old Testament as you explore your spirituality. You can sign up to receive my newsletter here.

Now, start setting goals. You may think that having defined benchmarks to reach on a spiritual journey is counterproductive. But if you wish to make progress incentivize yourself. Contrary to popular thought, spiritual fitness will not develop spontaneously.

While we are spiritual beings, this does not preclude the necessity of exercising your spirit so as to make it an equal pillar. In addition to self-discipline and self-awareness, the indispensable quality required for deep spiritual fitness is empathy. Without the ability to create heartfelt, meaningful relationships with others, especially G-d, your spirit will be unprepared to support you through the vicissitudes of life.

These three aspects of self-development: self-discipline, self-awareness, and empathy, while indispensable are not exclusive to each pillar. Self-awareness will improve your fitness in the physical and spiritual realms. As well, other traits, such as being an adept communicator, will enhance your fitness in all realms. Yet note that if you are truly empathic, you will find a way to relate to those with whom you create your spiritual life.

Question – How do you build your relationship with G-d?

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You Get to Choose if Your Life is Blessed

“See I place before you today, a blessing and a curse. The blessing that you will listen to the commandments of your G-d, that I command you today. And the curse if you will not listen to the commandments of your G-d . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 11:26-28). The Hebrew word for see, re’eh, is in the singular form. So when Moses begins his address, he makes it a point to emphasize he is speaking to each person individually lest someone think that Moses is speaking to his neighbor, not to him. But what is the true meaning of his message?

You Get to Choose if Your Life is Blessed

The parsha for this Sabbath is Re’eh. In it we learn about the blessing and curse that the Children of Israel will receive soon, the holiness of the land and more about how the Israelites will be required to conduct themselves there, how to respond to a false prophet and one who tries to entice another to go astray, what it means to be G-d’s treasured people, tithes, forgiving loans, being generous with ones fellow Jew, how a Jewish slave is to be treated, and the three pilgrimage festivals.

One of the most difficult aspects of my work as a chaplain is helping people who have lost their sense of purpose. Especially among those who ideate suicide, such a deficit can be catastrophic. Recovery is extremely difficult since filling a physical, emotional, and spiritual void is a lengthy, arduous endeavor.

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Sforno comments that Moses’s personal charge leaves no middle way. If you live by the commandments, which are the ways you create a relationship with G-d, you will live a blessed life. If not, you will live a cursed life. The practical side of the commandments is they infuse your life with meaning. Thus, although later in Deuteronomy G-d will give details about the nature of the blessing and curse, the purpose you get from living a life devoted to creating a relationship with the Creator is the biggest blessing you can ever receive. When you internalize the idea that your Heavenly Parent loves you, is interested in your welfare and growth, and wants to be a part of your life you need never feel alone again.

The reverse, to lead a life devoid of meaning, is to lead a cursed life.

You get to choose. While the allure of a life of abundance may seem the greater blessing, wealth has its own curses. That is why when you choose to follow the commandments you literally are choosing life. What could be more valuable than that?

Question – When G-d brings hardship into your life, how do you turn that misfortune into a blessing?

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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!

Get Rid of Your Worries About the Future Once and For All

“When you will say in your heart, ‘these nations are more numerous than me; how will I be able to drive them out?’ You will not fear from them; you will surely remember what G-d did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:17-18). Moses reminds the Israelites of their miraculous exodus from Egypt. Is this just a history lesson or travel log?

Get Rid of Your Worries About the Future Once and For All

The parsha for this Sabbath is Eikev. In it, Moses talks about the reward the Children of Israel will reap if they stay true to the mitzvahs, warns them against being seduced by prosperity, and reminds them of their history.

Faith Trumps Worries

Remember Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and his slogan, “What, me worry?” While his lack of concern about the future is admirable, it probably was not due to bitachon, essentially optimism about the future based on faith. Still, you can achieve the same anxiety-free level if, when you agonize about the future you counter your fears by remembering how G-d helped you in the past.

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This is the essence of Moses’s message. There is no question that the Egyptians were mightier than the peoples who lived in Canaan. By G-d taking the Israelites out of slavery He was showing them that they had no reason to fear.

You Have All You Need for a Successful Life

The broader issue is that G-d gives you all you need in order to successfully navigate His plan. It is only when your desires are greater or different than what G-d currently intends for you that you experience anxiety at a lack of money or other resources. Internalizing the lesson of the Exodus will allow you to move through life with much less pain and worry.

Next time you find yourself fretting about the future, try to remember how G-d helped you solve a similar situation in the past. If you and He were able to conquer life then, surely as a team you can do so now.

Question – How has G-d helped you in the past that you can use to bolster your faith and decrease your worry?

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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!

Ever Have Trouble Finishing Projects?

“Then Moses separated three cities across the Jordan, from the east. To flee there a killer that killed without intention . . .’” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 4:41-42). Moses fulfills the commandment to create three cities of refuge. But why should he bother since they will not become havens until the Land of Israel is conquered and the other three cities are established?

Ever Have Trouble Finishing Projects?

The parsha for this Sabbath is Va’eschanan. It begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the Land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Children of Israel to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example himself by fulfilling the mitzvah to set aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the Israelites the Shema. The parsha ends with Moses urging the People not to succumb to prosperity but rather to diligently teach their children about the exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

Instant Gratification vs. Enduring Value

While many Americans are in need of instant gratification among other indicators, the number of people in their 20s buying homes demonstrates that some are aware of the wisdom in saving and investing for their future. Still, I am left wondering if they knew they had no chance of paying off their mortgage before they died would they still become homeowners?

Moses provides a contrast. The Hebrew word used for separated, yavdil, can also mean set aside. Rashi points out that this indicates Moses set his heart to the task of establishing the three cities of refuge. The opportunity to comply with G-d’s will and provide a benefit to future generations had him trembling with anticipation about fulfilling this mitzvah.

Finishing Projects Isn't Always the Point

Are you prone to beginning projects but lose enthusiasm and leave them incomplete? Of what value is this to you and others? Are you unwilling to begin a project unless you are certain it will come to fruition within your lifetime? What about worthwhile causes that may not bear fruit for generations to come? Are they to go wanting?

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I am convinced one of the reasons people reject religion and marriage is both are lifelong undertakings. Nobody’s relationship with G-d is ever finished nor is a marriage perfected. It seems pointless to go through all the struggle and heartache. Yet the point of both is to work continually to improve yourself and set an example of how to be better for your friends and loved ones, especially your children.

Moses creates the paradigm. His excitement at improving his connection with The Creator was boundless, even though the task seemed fruitless. Yet undoubtedly Moses was blessed many times by killers, whose lives were spared, and their loved ones because he set up the cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

Question – What will you do in your lifetime knowing that, at best, future generations will bless you?

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Give Compliments Like a Devotee

“. . . and they said, ‘good is the land that G-d gives to us.’” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:25). Who is the “they” that said this? Was it Joshua and Caleb or the other ten spies? Why would it make a difference?

Give Compliments Like a Devotee

The parsha for this Sabbath is Devarim, beginning the fifth and final book of the Torah. It is known as Mishneh Torah, which means either repetition or review of the Torah or explanation of the Torah.

The Israelites heard the previous four books of the Torah directly from G-d who spoke through Moses’s throat. But Moses received Devarim from G-d in the way that other Prophets received their messages from G-d, then at a later date conveyed the message to the people.

A few weeks ago the submarine I was riding had a small casualty. Several sailors reacted quickly and solved the problem. Later that evening the Executive Officer praised the crew over the intercom then said, “I wish you would do it this well during drills.” He nullified his compliment with criticism.

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Back to the questions. Rashi gives the obvious answer. Since the words are praising the Land, Joshua and Caleb must have said them. But the Chasam Sofer disagrees. He points out that the other ten spies could have said them since they initially made a positive statement about the land then preceded to undermine it by declaring it was so good the giants living there would never give it up.

How often do you spoil positive reinforcement by tagging on recriminations or implying that it happens too infrequently? Think about the last time this happened to you. Did you remember the compliment or the condemnation? It was the latter, was it not?

If an act is worthy of praise give it its due, publicly if possible. Leave fault-finding for another day and do it privately. By contrast, if you receive a back-handed compliment do your best to forget the negative and retain the positive.

Question – How do you make sure your compliments are purely positive?

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