Category Archives: Scripture

The Surprising Barrier Between You and Your Goals

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nitzavim – Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

Repeatability is one of the coolest aspects of science. Isn’t such orderliness irresistible? Articles all over the Internet purport to tell you the “SCIENCE of….” Others give you “The Solution to…, Backed by Science.” Parshas Nitzavim explains the surprising barrier of believing in predictability:

“For this commandment that I command you today, it is not hidden from you…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 30:11)

The Surprising Barrier Between You and Your Goals

In this Sabbath’s parsha there is little time left for Moses to teach the Israelites what they need to know to live in the land. First, he renews the covenant. He again warns against idolatry. Then he prophesies what will happen when the Jewish people forget his charge.

The Problem of Idolizing Science

Science isn’t nearly as predictive as we think. Take a well-known fact. Smoking will kill you. Well actually, only 50% of smokers die prematurely from smoking. Wait, wait! It gives you deadly lung cancer, right?! Actually, fewer than 10% of lifelong smokers get lung cancer.

Establishing fact through the scientific method requires following many fruitless paths. Thomas Edison’s comment that, “I did not fail. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” isn’t just a statement of tenacity. It exposes the unpredictability of scientific research.

Science, supposedly the pinnacle of human logic, is non-linear. Why would you expect life to work according to the mechanism if I do A I will get B?

You | Surprising Barrier | Your Goals

Have you figured out the obstacle between you and your objective? When you set the expectation that by doing a particular action you’ll get a certain result, too often you get disappointment instead.

G-d makes this point when He says you can live up to His standard. It’s lofty. I may be impossible from where you are now. Don’t expect that the first few times you try you’ll succeed. Creating a relationship with the Almighty takes a lifetime. You’ll have setbacks along the way. Progress won’t be linear.

Your expectations about achieving a goal keep you from actually attaining it. You may want to be wealthy. You’ve tried a few ideas that didn’t pan out. The expectation they would or that you don’t have what it takes now hold you back.

The same may apply to building an enduring marriage or raising amazing children. G-d didn’t make life linear. He made it so you will grow. Set a goal. Make a plan to reach it. Take action without expectation. If it works you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If it doesn’t, move on to plan B. Never let the expectation of success get in the way of the next step you have to take to succeed.

You can overcome the surprising barrier between you and your goals. The path is not hidden unless you cloud it with expectations.

How have expectations hobbled you in the past? 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 Know Trouble Is Brewing in Your Life

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Savo – Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

When in the middle of a fight, ever thought, “Where is this coming from?” I have, even when I started the argument. Hannah and I never quarrel when we feel connected. One of us has to create distance between us so the feud has a place to grow. Separation also allows me to craft a scenario in my head to support my grievance. The reality of the situation doesn’t matter. When I read Parshas Ki Savo, I realized this process permeates life:

“…all of these blessings will come upon you and cleave to you…” and “…all of these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 28:2 and 15)

how-to-know-trouble-is-brewing-in-your-life

In this Sabbath’s parsha, the Israelites continue preparations for entering the Land of Israel by discussing the first fruits offering. Next, Moses reiterates the inseparability of G-d and Israel. Then he details the blessings and curses that will befall them depending on how well they follow the Torah. At the end of the parsha, Moses begins his final exhortation to the Children of Israel.

Disconnection Leads to Problems

You probably noticed the two verses above are the same except two words. In the original Hebrew, only the words blessings and curses are different. The Hebrew word, v’hisigucha, gets translated two different ways. For the blessings, it means "cleave to" and for the curses, "overtake." So good and bad enter our lives through similar mechanisms.

V’hisigucha comes from the root, naga, which means, “make contact with.” Of course, this includes being gently tapped, struck with a stick, or emotionally moved. You may have abundant blessings but not satisfied. In that case, the blessings are essentially wasted. You have not allowed them to touch your life. You may be too disconnected to notice them. Or, they may be disguised as a disaster that only later reveals its benefit. The blessing has cut through your lack of awareness. Only then will you and the blessing be joined.

If you remain oblivious to blessings, G-d will need to awaken you by having curses touch your life. If they rouse you, you can correct your behavior. But if you’re unreceptive, the curses will have to overtake and strike you until you take notice and change.

When disengaged from your loved ones and the Almighty, you miss opportunities for self-improvement. You also cannot see the bounty of goodness in your life.

AWACS that Trouble is Brewing

The current cost of an E-3 Sentry is almost $400 million ($298 million in 1998 dollars). You can see the premium the Air Force puts on getting early warning of a threat. So where can you get an affordable harbinger of problems in your life?

Track how connected you feel to your family and events in your life. Take a moment each day to assess how you and your spouse greeted each other. Did you feel bonded? Yes? Great! No? Beware. You may be missing some blessings. Curses may be looking to overtake you. The same applies to any relationship, whether with people or G-d. The closer the connection the more frequently you need to gauge its solidity.

Social media can be a good tool for staying in touch. But it can isolate you from real people. Liking and commenting on posts doesn’t foster the kind of connection that prevents trouble. You’ll need more direct, one-on-one contact. Face-to-face is best. But with greater separation, you lose some information. Skype and Facetime work when you’re far away. You’ll miss visual cues you when on the phone, but it will suffice. Texting sacrifices anything visual plus the subtext of tone and inflection in verbal communication.

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Make sure you do a daily or weekly review of your life. What is the status of your health and finances? What progress have you made on your priorities? Have you held true to your mission and values? Periodic assessments reduce the chances you’ll overlook blessings and fail to see curses are tailing you.

It can be exhausting to stay connected. Ironically, to maintain your resilience you should disconnect on a regular basis. We live in such a visual society, activities like watching television may not provide the separation you need. Physical activity is excellent. Listening to music will work. Try meditation. And of course, would you expect a rabbi to leave out praying? Sure you’re connecting with the Creator. But if you seek repose in prayer, you’ll find it in plenty.

Separation and inattention always let you know trouble is brewing. Be intentional in staying connected to loved ones, colleagues, yourself, and G-d. That way you can embrace your blessings and avoid a lot of curses.

How do you avoid becoming disconnected from loved ones and 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!

How to Make Sure You’ll Preserve Your Goodness

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Bringing up your spouse’s or a friend’s past mistake serves no productive purpose. You’ll always have new subjects to discuss or argue about. And, forgiveness means once you’ve dealt with an issue you drop it. So why does Moses bring up Miriam’s past mistake? She admitted her error and received punishment. That should have been the end of it. Parshas Ki Seitzei explains you’ll have to do more to preserve your goodness:

“Remember what G-d did to Miriam, on the way when you were going out from Egypt.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 24:9)

How to Make Sure You'll Preserve Your Goodness

This Sabbath’s parsha contains the most mitzvahs (ways to connect with the Almighty). It has 74 in all. Among them, you learn about the right of primogeniture and how to handle a wayward and rebellious son. Next, you read that men and women should not wear each other’s clothing (Ooops for Uncle Miltie). You must send away a mother bird before gathering her eggs.  You find out the penalties for libeling a woman, adultery, and rape.  Next, you review a range of rules from marriage and divorce to honest weights and measures.  Finally, the Torah teaches you the strange commandment to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

The Essence of Women                

The Creator embedded several traits in female nature. They include curiosity, an inclination to listen, being communicative, and the capacity to energetically take needed action. All these traits undergird the ability to create and build strong relationships.

Connections among people and with G-d form the foundation of society. So the women possessed the crucial traits the Israelites needed to adjust from a nomadic to a settled existence in the land of Israel. If the workers of an Abraham and a Lot argued, they couldn’t go their separate ways anymore. They’d have to work matters out.

The women’s impact on the Children of Israel’s destiny would grow.

When Good Traits Turn Bad

Women in the Torah made few mistakes. Sarah eavesdropped on the angel speaking to Abraham. Leah went out to the field to let Jacob know she had hired him for that night. Rachel stole her father’s idols. Miriam spoke about Moses’s inattention to his wife’s conjugal rights. During hundreds of years of history, there weren’t many others. None had permanent consequences on the Israelites. To all appearances, the women had only goodness.

But even “good” traits can cause bad results. Eavesdropping could lead to spying. Treating your husband like a paid escort could lead to brazen conduct with other men. Justifiable theft could turn into outright thievery. Public defense of a sister-in-law’s private rights could lead to tale-bearing.

You may have never thought about good traits causing bad results and vice versa. Examples abound. Grandparents overindulge their grandkids out of love. Chamberlain appeased Hitler to maintain peace. Reasonably benign or calamitous, you can see both are good intentions run amiss.

During times of transition, emotions run high. You may lose your perspective. At such times you’ll be tempted to misuse your goodness. Remember Moses’s warning to the women. Strive to keep a balance to preserve your goodness.

When are you most likely to overindulge good traits or emotions? 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 Have a Peaceful Marriage

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

When I think of the perfect marriage, peace comes to mind. In Hebrew, we call this shalom bayis. Hannah and I would never disagree. Calm would always reign in our home. Every married couple seems to want this. Yet, I don’t know of one who has a peaceful marriage. Not that you should compare yourself to others. But it would be nice to find at least one example of the ideal. Now that I’ve read Parshas Shoftim, it turns out I misunderstood what shalom bayis is:

“When you approach a city to make war against it, and you will call out to it for peace.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 20:10)

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts and how to handle certain crucial types of cases. It gives the procedure for appointing a King. Then it details the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests) and how to tell if someone is really a prophet. Next, it explains how to set up cities of refuge and how the Israelites should conduct a war. It ends with the procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder.

Did Tolstoy Create a Major Misunderstanding?

I can’t say for sure it started with Tolstoy. But his most famous novel anchors the idea that peace is the opposite of war. It seems logical. In war, people fight and kill. With peace comes the cessation of hostilities. Killing stops.

But even the most cursory view of history shows that killing doesn’t end during times of peace. As well, human strife short of killing continues unabated. War is only the most obvious lack of peace. But peace itself transcends the end of battle.

The verse from this week’s parsha also seems to make war and peace opposites. But that comes from the difficulty of translating Hebrew into English. Shalom, the word translated as peace, means much more. Think abut the verse for a minute. If shalom meant no combat operations, they could just not have attacked.

Underlying shalom is the spiritual state of wholeness that comes from harmony. It requires more than just not fighting. Picture the gears in a watch. Each has its place and function. When they work in harmony the watch is wholly accurate. It still make noises, and if you listened carefully enough you would hear the gears grind slightly. Such is the way things work. But let one gear get out of line and the watch will run fast or slow. Its wholeness born of harmony is gone.

The Israelites faced a similar challenge in the land of Israel. How could they create a harmonious society with such misaligned peoples? They sacrificed children and considered murder an acceptable social behavior. Worship consisted of defecating on their gods. The shalom the Children of Israel called out for required the city to morally reform. As long as it continued its depraved behavior, no basis for shalom/peace could exist.

A Peaceful Marriage

Even if the city had reformed, no doubt there would have been disagreements. People who share the same values still argue. It’s part of the human condition.

The same applies to your marriage. Shalom will not come from lack of arguments. Avoiding confrontations will destroy it as surely as violent confrontations. The path to a peaceful marriage lies in harmonizing your values and morals. If they are out of alignment, arguing will continue unabated because no basis exists for reconciliation.

Once your values are in concert, disagreements will lead to greater mutual understanding and a firmer marital bond. You and your spouse will still shout at each other from time to time. Sometimes your home may feel unlivable. But when calmer heads prevail, you’ll see the wholeness that comes from harmony has been there all along. Indeed, you have a peaceful marriage.

What do you do about misaligned values? 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 Avert Death Virtually Forever

3-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Though not obsessed with it, I’ll confess death scares me a little. Do you know what it means that your soul will spend eternity close to G-d (a.k.a. heaven) or far from Him (a.k.a. hell)? Me either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to avert death forever? But Parshas Re’eh insists we confront it, every day:

“See, I place before you today, a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 11:26)

How to Avert Death Virtually Forever

This Sabbath’s parsha reveals G-d’s blessing and curse. It describes the holiness of the Land of Israel. Then Moses explains more about how the Children of Israel must conduct themselves there. He spells out what to do with a false prophet and a person who entices another to go astray. The Israelites learn what it means to be G-d’s treasured people. Finally, the Torah teaches about tithes, forgiving loans, generosity, how to treat a slave, and the three pilgrimage festivals.

How Curse Equals Death

In the eponymous book of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites if they listen to G-d they will eat well. But, if they rebel they’ll be “devoured by the sword.” So good equals nourishment and bad equals death? That seems out of balance. But when you think about it, we often equate being hungry to dying. Ever said you were starved?

But even when full, you may be dying. Or perhaps more accurately, you’re killing yourself.

While still in the womb, you get a glimpse of your potential greatness. You don’t consciously remember it after you’re born. But the potential exists within your spirit. During life, your body and spirit are joined. You have the opportunity to live out your potential. How you do so determines whether each day life conquers death or vice versa.

Use Your Spirit to Avert Death

Have you ever watched a thoroughbred race? Four centuries of careful breeding have created animals that appear to sprint even when standing still. A thoroughbred’s body and spirit connect most deeply during the 30 seconds of racing. You can almost feel its joy as it flies down the track. Despite the danger, you see life defeating death as the horse displays the greatness to which it was born.

So it is sad to see a thoroughbred that can no longer run. Though it may live many more years, each day that passes is one where death conquers life.

Like the thoroughbred, you were born for distinction. The potential encoded into your spirit will lead you to a pinnacle. Unlike the horse, your life purpose isn’t obvious. The difficulty lies in figuring it out. You’re on track when you:

  • Engage your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t need to be in the clergy for your work to connect spiritually. Rather, you must invest your passion in what you do. For that matter, your life purpose may be an avocation. Your work may just be what you have to do to get the resources to trek your path to greatness.
  • Serve your fellow human beings. Google and Coca-Cola make as big a contribution to humanity as any non-profit. Without the support of a vibrant business sector, charities couldn’t survive. Your attitude toward serving trumps where you serve.
  • Connect with G-d most deeply. It may seem you’ll get closest to the Creator in a house of worship. Periodically you need the distraction-free environment. But if you find your most direct connection with G-d some other place you’ve got a clue about your life purpose.

Beyond these three qualities lies a universe of possibilities. One of my friends finds the Almighty in his lab. Another finds Him in the caves and wrecks where he and his family scuba dive. Yet another finds G-d in the early morning hours poring over words of Aramaic in the Talmud. Only one of them makes a living pursuing the greatness instilled in him in utero.

If you found your life purpose and each day finds you striving for it, congratulations! Every day you conquer death. If you’re still searching for your path to greatness, likewise you’re winning the daily battle of life versus death. You need have no fear that one day your body and spirit will separate. From what I’ve learned you’ll hardly notice. You’ve lived your life connected to its essence. You may regret leaving your loved ones. But you’ll have created an immortal memory.

Each day you decline to strive toward your life purpose, I’m sorry to tell you death rules your life. And you are the executioner. By failing to seek out the potential for greatness instilled in you, you make your life meaningless. You have chosen to be like the thoroughbred that can no longer run.

But no matter how many days you have let slip by, tomorrow, today, this minute you can flip the death life equation around. Examine the three qualities above. Reach out to loved ones. Take up the search again. Though you may feel like a pursuer of impossible dreams, you’ll be alive. In fact, you’ll avert death virtually forever.

How have you striven to find your life purpose? 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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