Category Archives: Scripture

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!

How to Connect with Any Civilian You Meet

An Easy Way to Continue Your Legacy of Service

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tetzaveh - Exodus 27:20-30:10

Recently I flew on Alaska Airlines. It’s military friendly. You don’t pay baggage fees. Sometimes you can board with the first class passengers. And, you get the obligatory thanks for your service. The gate agent didn’t sound sincere. But, Parsha Tetzaveh explains why I accepted his thanks anyway:

“And you will command the Children of Israel and they will take for you olive oil, clear, crushed for illumination; to light a lamp continually.” (Shemos/Exodus 27:20).

How to Connect with Any Civilian You Meet

This Sabbath’s parsha begins by explaining the mitzvah of the Ner Tamid, the lamp that must always stay lit. Then it describes how to make and use the garments for the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and the Kohanim. Next, it goes over the mitzvah of the korban tamid or continual offering. It ends with how to build and use the incense altar, the Holy of Holies.

G-d Let’s Us Pay Our Debt

G-d groups the Ner Tamid with other offerings. So the Almighty must intend it as an offering of light to Him. But why does the Creator need light, even at night?

In fact, G-d doesn’t need light. But think about a sighted person who helps a blind person get home. Even though the blind person doesn’t need light, the sighted person asks him to light a lamp. He says, “Please do this so you won’t have to feel indebted to me for what I have done for you. Now you have done me a favor.” The Creator gave us light. He could have let us feel indebted every minute of daylight. Instead, He asked us to provide eternal light for Him.

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Unfortunately, sometimes people resent your doing something nice for them. They feel indebted or guilty. True kindness entails giving and receiving with no ulterior motive or expectation of anything in return. But rather than risk bad feelings, it’s better to let people “pay” you back.

Think Connect When a Civilian Thanks You

Some of the veterans I speak with resent civilians who thanks them for their service. They feel such words are insincere. They’d prefer people said nothing.

You may not have joined the military solely to serve. Educational or other benefits may have motivated you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Congress, on behalf of the American people, made them part of our compensation. Still, many of our fellow citizens feel a personal obligation toward veterans.

They know you did things they did not or could not do. Receiving a person’s gratitude allows him to discharge that debt. His words may not sound genuine to you. It would be better if a civilian said thanks in a way that sounded sincere. Even so, kindness requires accepting his appreciation.

Ideally, civilians should be content to let you serve for your personal reasons. They shouldn’t burden you with expressions of gratitude that don’t ring true. Allowing your fellow citizens to get rid of feeling indebted or guilty may make your transition harder. As a service member, you went the extra mile. Do it again. Connect with people in civilian life by accepting their thanks.

Question – Does it bother you when people thank you for your service?

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 Break Through Your Barrier to a High-Paying Job

Is Fear Preventing You from Maximizing Your Value?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Terumah – Exodus 25:1-27:19

Many veterans have told me they don’t care about making a lot of money. They just want to get by. Does this describe your perspective on wealth? It has a sense of humility about it. But is it coming from a humble place? Or are you secretly afraid you don’t have what it takes to get a high-paying job? G-d’s interaction with Moses in Parshas Terumah shows how to break through to the path to service and success:

“Speak to the Children of Israel, and they will take for Me a portion…” (Shemos/Exodus 25:22)

How to Break Through Your Barrier to a High-Paying Job

This Sabbath’s parsha details the plans for the Mishkan or portable Sanctuary. G-d rested His Presence there during the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness. Such ordinary materials as copper, linen, and goatskins are turned into a holy abode.

You Can’t Give What Someone Else Owns

G-d uses a strange word when He commands Moses to ask the Israelites to donate the materials for building the Tabernacle. Usually, when contributing money to construct a building, donors say they gave money to build it. But you can’t give anything to G-d. All creation belongs to Him already.

So it makes no sense for the Almighty to tell the Israelites to give donations for the Tabernacle. But telling them to take donations makes no sense either. Only someone embezzling the donations would say he was taking them.

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It turns out when the Almighty says, “take for Me” He means, “from what I have given you to use, separate a gift in my name.”

Break Through to Take Your Money With You

So you don’t actually own your money. It’s not a part of you. You only have use of it for your limited time in this world. As a result, some people decide to spend their money indiscriminately. Or, they use it to indulge in hedonistic pleasures. But because some people abuse wealth doesn’t mean you will. So don’t avoid maximizing the value of your skills, knowledge, and experience.

While you don’t own your wealth, the Almighty expects you to use it wisely. How?

The Tabernacle teaches money transforms into an eternal possession when you use it for a holy purpose. Support your family. Develop your resilience and character. Donate it to charity. Use the prosperity that the Almighty gives you toward His cherished goal. When you take care of His children, you improve the only thing you’ll take into eternity: Your relationships with G-d.

Like money, your skills, knowledge, and experiences all become worthless when you die. But you can use them to build value in other people’s lives. Then they become tools for building the eternal possession of a close relationship with the Creator.

When someone tells you service to others is the path to success, they’re describing this very idea. It’s built into military life. That’s why years ago people said you joined the service. You were a service member, not a military member.

Make service your goal in civilian life. Note that getting paid well doesn’t conflict with helping others. People need better goods and services. They need new ways of understanding the complexity of modern life. Use your skills, knowledge, and experience to better their lives. Break through the fear you can't or shouldn't have a high-paying job. Then you’ll have plenty of money to take for G-d as you build an eternal possession.

Question – How does it make you feel to give money to charity?

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 Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

The Value Focus Will Add to Your Job-Hunt

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mishpatim - Exodus 21:1-24:18

Let’s face it, life can be discouraging. Sometimes you lose heart. Your job-hunt has lasted too long. Or your marriage has deteriorated so that you feel disconnected from your spouse. Whatever plagues you, anger and disappointment scatter your thinking. If only you could unlock hope when you need it. Then you could proceed with confidence. Right? Parshas Mishpatim has the answer:

“…and he heals he will heal.” (Shemos/Exodus 21:19).

How to Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

In this Sabbath's parsha, G-d gives 53 mitzvahs to guide the conduct of the Israelites. Twenty-three are positive things they can do to get closer to G-d. Thirty are negative things that will damage their relationship with Him. The mitzvahs cover a broad range of institutions, crimes, activities, and celebrations. Toward the end of Mishpatim, G-d promises to lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel and conquer their enemies.

Find a Partner in Your Struggles

Bob and Jim get into a fight. Bob hits Jim with a stone or his fist. He hurts him doesn’t kill him. Bob pays Jim for lost wages and medical expenses. All this is normal. Then the Torah says someone will heal Jim and repeats he will heal him. We already know Jim didn’t die. So of course he got better.

Still, the Torah says twice that he’ll be healed. The repetition appears to have no purpose.

The first “He heals” might be interpreted as “G-d heals.” Perhaps you must rely ONLY on the Almighty if you are sick or injured. But if the first “he heals” refers to G-d, the second one must allude to someone else. The Talmud says the doctor is the second “he heals.” So healing comes from a partnership between G-d and a doctor.

The verse also teaches doctors heal, but they don’t control whether a patient recovers. The pairing of G-d and a human healer means no matter how great the physician, the Almighty makes the final decision. As partners, the doctor uses his knowledge, skill, and experience toward a goal. G-d decides the results.

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The Almighty has the same partnership with you.

Unlock Hope on Demand

Good doctors know even with the best treatment, some patients die. They don’t control the outcome. Despite this reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their patients live. At the same time, most doctors compartmentalize disappointment. They shield themselves from the unpredictable aspects of their work. So they can always unlock hope.

You can follow this model. Rather than judging your success based on the outcome, focus on the process. Go to extraordinary lengths in carrying out each step of your job-hunt. Use your knowledge, skills, and experience toward a goal. Leave the result to the Almighty.

Think about how successful the partnership between G-d and doctors has been. Average life span increased 60% from 1900 to 2000. Physicians got better and better at giving medical care. The Almighty granted them greater success.

Rather than getting discouraged, focus on what you can control. You decide what to do, why, and how hard to work at it. Refine your course of action. Learn about the only 5 steps you need to take to get a high-paying job. Direct all your energy toward improving each step you take. Always look for better ways to use your time and skills. When you get in the habit of finding another new way to pursue your goal, you’ll unlock hope whenever you need it.

Question – What job-hunting step can you improve on now?

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 Be Enthusiastic But Not Fanatic

The Shrewd Way to Harness Your Passion

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yisro - Exodus 18:1-20:23

When I was a kid I once ate an entire bag of Mother’s Frosted Cookies. You know the circus animal cookies with pink and white coatings and multicolored sprinkles? I was a FANATIC for those cookies. But to this day the sight of them makes me sick to my stomach. Fortunately, Parshas Yisro showed me the way to curb my fanaticism:

“You will surely become weary, also you, also this people that is with you.” (Shemos/Exodus 18:18)

How to Be Enthusiastic But Not Fanatic

In this Sabbath’s parsha Moses reunites with his father-in-law. Yisro or Jethro, a Midianite priest, had heard about the wonders G-d performed for the Israelites. Jethro outlines a leadership plan that Moses adopts. His reward? He gets a parsha named after him - the Biblical equivalent of appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

After Jethro departs, the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai. They accept the Torah and prepare themselves to receive a message from the Almighty. The entire people heard all Ten Commandments in one instant but couldn’t comprehend them. So G-d repeated them. But after the first two they were so overawed they begged Moses to intercede and teach them the other eight.

Distinguishing Passion from Obsession

Jethro meets Moses in the wilderness. He sees his son-in-law teaching and judging the Children of Israel all day long. Jethro becomes concerned Moses will wear himself out. Perhaps in your mind’s ear, you can hear the proverbial Yiddishe mama worrying about her boy’s health. But a Yiddishe father-in-law?

Moses was very idealistic. He went to extraordinary lengths to care for his people. I suppose if you must have an obsession, this one is better than frosted cookies. But at times he was fanatic. Nothing else seemed to matter.

Before the exodus, Moses neglected to circumcise his son. His wife saved his life by fulfilling this obligation for him. Later, his sister questions his withholding conjugal relations from his wife. It turns out he acted properly. But a word of explanation might have saved his sister from a painful bout of tzaraas.

Great though Moses was, he couldn't the need to share his burden. Along comes Jethro who believed in and worshiped G-d. He renounced a high position to pursue a life dedicated to serving the Almighty. Their values aligned. But Jethro had perspective. And like any devoted father, he worried about his daughter. If Moses didn’t ease up a bit, would he burn out? Where would that leave his wife and children?

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Despite Moses’s greatness, his sons do not achieve anything of note. Would a less fanatic father have meant more successful sons?

Use Passion to Be Enthusiastic Not Fanatic

Life can get out of balance when you’re too focused on your goal. Don’t get me wrong. If you want a high paying job or a successful business you must pursue it. But that doesn’t mean you should give it all your attention. To make $100,000 a year, yet be overweight, divorced, and estranged from your children, is no victory.

Finding the balance point between enthusiastic pursuit of your goal and fanaticism will challenge you. It’s hard to see your life objectively. Ask your spouse or close friend to help you broaden your perspective.

But let’s be honest. Sometimes a spouse may sabotage your success. She may be uncomfortable with the risks you have to take. Or he may be afraid if you become successful you’ll end up leaving him behind.  A friend may feel the same way. And he could be jealous you’ll become more successful than him.

In spite of these pitfalls, seek the counsel of your spouse or close friend. If you feel their advice will hold you back, explore the motivation behind it. Are you blind to their genuine concerns? Or have they advised you out of fear or jealousy. Open, honest communication will improve your relationship and make your success more likely.

Moses and Jethro modeled productive interaction. Each had tremendous respect and love for the other. They communicated openly. Between them, Moses got a better plan for himself, his family, and the Israelites.

It’s easy to be a fanatic. Pursuing your goal can consume you. So you’ll meet your objective, but at what cost? Rather, check in with your spouse and trusted friend on a regular basis. Ask them to assess whether your passion is enthusiastic or fanatic. Let them help you keep your life in balance.

Question – Who provides you with the input to keep your life balanced?

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!

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