Tag Archives: faith

The Impact You Don’t Know You’re Having

My idea of military life prior to joining the Navy was a superior officer gave an order and junior officers and enlisted people obeyed.  While it works this way sometimes, for even the most junior Sailors and Marines, teamwork and collaboration are the norm.  As a chaplain, I can count on one hand the number of times I someone ordered me to do something counter to my recommendations. And I'd have two fingers left over!  One taught me . . .

The Impact You Don’t Know You’re Having

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The Navy and Marine Corps refer to a jail as the brig.  I had been the Brig Chaplain on Okinawa, Japan for about a year when a new commanding officer took over the battalion that ran base facilities.  Although outmoded today, my father, who was a Navy officer in the 1950s, taught me to make a duty call on my commanding officer.  I presented myself at the appointed time and the colonel invited me to sit down for a short chat.

Explaining my major responsibility to him was looking after the staff and prisoners at the brig, I outlined a program to allow personnel to take classes that earned them college credit.  To my surprise, the colonel was dead set against the prisoners participating, even though staving off their boredom would make discipline easier for the guards.  Despite all of my justifications, he would not change his mind.  Resigned to the demise of my program, our meeting ended.

As a sidelight, in the sometimes labyrinthian ways of the military, it turns out the colonel did not have authority over such a program.  Staff and prisoners alike got to take college credit classes, albeit through others’ efforts.

For the next few months, I saw the colonel once a week at his staff meeting.  Never one for idle talk or praise, cordiality marked our relationship.  I always gave him my candid assessment of the matters in my purview but never had to make another recommendation.  When another chaplain took over day-to-day battalion matters, my contact with the colonel ceased.  But my inability to convince him of the obvious benefit of educating incarcerated young men continued to bother me.

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A couple of years later it was time to move on to my next billet.  Customarily, you get what is known as an “end of tour” award, meaning a medal based on your rank and how well you did your job.  The award I received did not surprise me. The presenter did.

At the ceremony, the battalion colonel gave me the most treasured compliment of my Navy career.  In front of all of my colleagues, he commended my work as a chaplain and as a staff officer, unafraid of giving frank recommendations.

Talking about the experience later with my mentor, I learned that the colonel, who was one of the people who had to approve the award, asked to be the presenter.

We Go Through Life Mostly Unaware of How We Affect Other People.

Often we do not realize the influence we have on our family and closest friends.  I would never have guessed about the impact I had on the colonel.  His example of integrity continues to serve me well to this day.  Most importantly, I endeavor to positively touch people’s lives every day while accepting that rarely if ever will I know the fruits of my labor.

When have you had an impact that you did not find out about until long after?

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Don’t You Think There Should Be Aunt’s Day?

Don’t you love your aunts and uncles? They are like parents without the baggage who have more wisdom than your friends. My Aunt Nadine is a honey. She is a retired banker and the author of Celestial Messages. Unfortunately several weeks ago she took a spill and hurt herself badly enough that she could not do many of the things she was used to. After my blog post on How to Handle Disagreements with G-d, she sent me this email:

Don't You Think There Should Be Aunt's Day?

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Hi Kevin,

I found this message very helpful.  I hope that you are back to full recovery or close.  I am doing better.  The finger is still pretty stiff so I may have to get some physical therapy.

When I fell for the second time in less than six months, I have to admit I was asking G-d what He was doing to me?  I think I have found part of the answer. Maybe I was taking things too much for granted.  I mean the simple tasks like cutting up the vegetables for a simple salad, showering, or driving my car. Suddenly, these were no longer options in my life. I felt helpless and my life not completely in my own control. It gave me plenty of time to think of millions of people around the planet who face this every day of their lives. People in wheelchairs, the blind, illnesses so severe are just a few that come to mind.  Then I began to feel lucky since this was not a permanent state for me. I would soon gain back my precious freedom and I could once again be the captain of my own ship.

What a relief when I took the car out for the first time and went by myself to the grocery store. The shelves seem more stocked with goodies, the clerks seem friendlier, and the other customers were smiling at me. No the world had not changed in that 6 weeks, but I had. Now all I have to do is remember to thank G-d and try to help the less fortunate around me.

What a lesson!

P.S.  If you want to use or incorporate this in a blog, feel free.

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Didn’t I tell you she is a honey!

How has your aunt or uncle helped you?

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How You Can Be Mightier Than the Stars

This is a guest post by Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, Executive Director of The Chai Center.

Did you ever wonder what the Jewish belief in astrology is? Look no further. “G-d said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ And He called his name Israel.” (Bereshis/Genesis 35:10)

How You Can Be Mightier Than the Stars

The parsha for this Sabbath is Vayishlach. In it Jacob prepares to be attacked by Eisav, then he struggles with the angel and is given the name Israel. Next, he reunites with his brother, settles in Shechem where his daughter is abducted, and his sons Shimon and Levi take revenge on the abductors. Then Jacob journeys to Beth-el, Rachel dies, and the parsha ends with a recitation of the descendants of Eisav and the Edomite Kings.

Israel is actually two Hebrew words, Yisra El, that are joined together. They mean a noble minister or a minister of G-d. G-d told Jacob you are now destined for greatness. To receive this tremendous blessing as illustrated in the following verses, Jacob needed a new name. He needed a new vessel to receive these blessings.

We see a similar episode with Abraham who was told to change his name from Abram to Abraham and his wife Sarai to Sarah. (Bereshis/Genesis 17:5)

We then see something even more interesting when Abraham is nervous about being unable to have children, “And G-d took Abraham outside and said gaze towards the heavens and count the stars” (Bereshis/Genesis 15:5). The greatest commentator on the Bible – Rashi - translates this verse to mean that “Abraham should go out from his astrological calculations and abandon the signs of the Zodiac.”

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So we see two distinct systems here. One: that Jews do believe in the power of the Zodiac and what it can tell you. And two: that you have the power to overcome what the Zodiac’s signs have in store for you. If you change certain characteristics about yourself, if you give yourself a new mission or a new identity, those Zodiacs have no further relationship with you. Sometimes it’s as easy as manipulating your name from Abram to Abraham or Jacob to Israel.

So when you feel that things in the workplace are not going according to your liking, or there are marital issues in your life, or even health hazards, it’s important to remember that although people say “I have bad luck”, the truth is, you have the power to change that luck by creating for yourself a new vessel for new astrological energy by perfecting yourself so that you are somebody new and fresh today. And the old you from yesterday is forgotten and extinct.

Please take just a minute to share what you think about astrology and how it affects your life . . . 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.

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!

 

Riding the Submarine Rescue Chamber: On a Trapeze Without a Net

Did you ever play the game where you had to trust someone by falling backwards, counting on the person to catch you? Then you know a little about what it is like to journey to the ocean floor aboard the Submarine Rescue Chamber, know as the SRC.

Learn about Trust while Riding the Submarine Rescue Chamber:

Qualifications are the lifeblood of the navy. From the moment a sailor comes aboard a command he is under pressure to get checked out on his various duties so he can work on his own and train others. The submarine service has one of the original qualification awards, the Submarine Warfare Insignia. My father, zt"l, who was an anti-submarine warfare officer in the mid 1950s, had tremendous admiration for sailors who wore the “Dolphins.”

But chaplains are not allowed to earn warfare qualifications including the coveted submariners’ “Fish.” (I know, dolphins are not fish. But are you going to argue with a guy who runs a nuclear reactor?) The Marine Corps made special arrangements for chaplains to earn the Fleet Marine Force pin. The only other one I can get is the Parachute Badge. But do I really want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just to win a fancy brass pin for my uniform?

Then I learned Submarine Squadron 11 staff members are eligible for the Deep Submergence Insignia rescue pin. It is not dolphins, but it has Neptune’s cool trident and a couple of fish too. What is more, I would be the first chaplain earn it.

Like most quals, it involves demonstrating an understanding of the history and purpose of this particular navy activity and getting signed off on a practicum. The deep submergence program was created to rescue submariners trapped in a disabled submarine. The most famous is the rescue of 33 sailors off the USS SQUALUS on the eve of World War II. Peter Maas’s book The Terrible Hours is a great recounting.

Fast-forward, you may recall my October 1 Facebook post of the SRC. Entering the chamber is like going through a time warp. If life were in black and white I would have expected John Wayne or maybe Cary Grant to welcome me aboard.

Do you like elevators? Me either, even when they have a glass wall. Imagine one that has really uncomfortable seats, lots of incomprehensible gauges and valves, and requires you to sit shoulder to shoulder with your shipmates. Oh, and it is very warm inside, even before the hatch is closed. We have been sitting inside for about 45 minutes when we are told via the umbilical cord that the oxygen supply system is not working quite right. Standby!

Fixing the ventilation consumes an hour. Now surface personnel release the safety and clear us to start our descent. Down we go. Twenty minutes later we are at the bottom of San Diego Bay. But the apparatus we had to link with is covered with silt. Divers scramble from the surface to clear it. After a while we call for a status report but the topside operator does not answer. We are vaguely disturbed.

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More than two hours into what I was told would be an hour and a half evolution, sitting in semi-darkness, completely useless, I am thinking, “What is a perfectly sane #NavyRabbi doing here?!” Oh, nature is calling and there are no facilities in this thing.

But hallelujah, we marry up with our link. We call the surface to advise them of our success and begin our ascent. After four hours in the pretzel position climbing out is a challenge. But the sun welcomes us to land. Knowing we would be hungry since the mission lasted almost three times longer than it should, our shipmates have ordered pizza. Too bad it was not kosher.

Saying thanks, my qual card signed, I head back to Point Loma to learn my orders have been cancelled. The government shut down while I sat on the sludge of the bay.

Reflecting on my latest adventure I was struck by how absolutely helpless we were. Aside from the discomfort, we were completely reliant on our shipmates on the surface for air, communications, and troubleshooting. The only thing we could do on our own was move up and down. I had not experienced this level of dependency in almost half a decade.

You know what? I trust anyone of my shipmates to catch me as I fall backwards. And I am going to build the same level of trust here in civilian life. Would you like to help?

How do you establish trust with friends and colleagues?

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Keep Healthy by Understanding Enticement

“And you saw their abominations and their detestable idols . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:13). The Torah talks about seeing idols but says nothing more about it. What are we to make of this?

Keep Healthy by Understanding Enticement

The parsha for this Sabbath is a double one: Nitzavim-Vayeilech. In Nitzavim, Moses reminds the Children of Israel about the covenant with G-d, to shun idolatry, that they will transgress but then repent and G-d will redeem them, that the Torah will always be near to them, and the famous charge that between life and death they should choose life.

In Vayeilech, Moses informs the Children of Israel that his death is imminent, appoints Joshua as the new leader, reminds them that G-d goes before them and that they should not fear their enemies, and commands the people to fear G-d and observe the Torah. G-d appears to Moses and tells him the people will rebel and turn to other gods so he must teach them a song by which they can redeem themselves, which Moses does. Then Moses finishes writing the Torah and gives it to the Levites.

Back to the idols. It is difficult for us to appreciate just how captivating they were to people living during Biblical times. The idea of praying to something made of wood or stone makes no sense.

But perhaps at some time you have been morbidly fascinated by something harmful. You knew what you were seeing was repugnant but you could not look away.

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Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveichik, the Brisker Rav, commented that human nature is such that at first you may be repulsed. But the Torah’s warning to turn away should still be heeded. Everything you see makes an impression on you. The initial negative feeling may eventually give way to desire.

Better not to tempt or desensitize yourself. Train yourself to turn away from idols and abominations by turning to family, friends, beauty, and G-d.

Question – How do you create a bulwark against negative influences in your 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.

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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