Tag Archives: G-d

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!

What You Need to Do to Get God on Your Side

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chukas – Numbers 19:1-22:1

Have you seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? I took my family to see it last week. Based on Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this study in parenting will open your eyes. I think Dahl borrowed a lesson from this week’s parsha, Chukas for the final scene:

Do not fear him [Og, King of Bashan] for into your hand I give him and all his people and his land; and you will do to him like that you did to Sichon king of the Emorites who dwells in Chesbon. (Numbers/Bamidbar 21:34)

What You Need to Do to Get God on Your Side

This Sabbath’s parsha discusses the mysterious commandment of the red hefer. Then Miriam dies, resulting in the well of water stopping. Moses and Aaron err when supplying water to the people and G-d punishes them. Next Aaron dies. It ends with the Amalekites attacking leading to the wars with Sihon and Og.

Building a Balance in Your Spiritual Account

Moses was the greatest prophet who ever lived. So would it surprise you that he experienced a lack of faith in this week’s parsha? Moses redeemed the Children of Israel from Egypt, the most powerful nation of its day. But he feared Og. Why else would G-d reassure him? He must have lost faith.

Often there are backstories to events in the Torah. They explain unusual behavior. Moses was afraid of Og. But his faith was intact.

Og, or perhaps one of his ancestors, escaped from the war of the kings. He informed Abraham that King Chedarlaomer had taken his nephew Lot captive. This long ago act of kindness concerned Moses. He knew even a small balance in Og’s spiritual account weighed in his favor. Moses feared the Almighty would protect Og. When you rescue one of His children, G-d is on your side. So Moses had reason to worry.

Action Not Motives Count

It turns out Og had a selfish motive. He hoped that by telling Abraham of Lot’s capture Abraham would attack King Chedarlaomer and get killed. Og could then marry Sarah who he greatly coveted for her beauty. (This justifies Abraham’s concern about being killed because his wife was so stunning.)

Despite Og’s tainted motive Moses worried that one act to his spiritual credit would protect him. So G-d reassured him.

See the power of an act of kindness? Og’s long ago, small, badly motivated act had the potential to protect him. Moses knew this and was afraid. If Moses had lacked faith, G-d would have punished him. The Almighty did so earlier in the parsha. He decreed Moses would not enter the Promised Land for showing a lack of faith when providing water to the Israelites.

You will never know why the Almighty protects you from harm. But even a tiny rescue helps. Don’t worry about always being completely selfless. G-d will be in your side. Build up credits in your spiritual account. Be intentional about helping your family, friends, and other people.

What’s the most recent kind thing you did? 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 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!

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!

One Way to Know the Quality of Your Relationships

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nasso – Numbers 4:21-7:79

I think most men gave up wearing ties in order to force their children to be more creative when selecting a gift. But isn’t it supposed to be the feeling that counts? Maybe, but after the fifth or sixth one you think they’d choose something, anything, else. This week’s parsha, Nasso, suggests maybe not:

And his offering: one silver bowl of one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver sprinkling basin of 70 shekels according to the holy shekel, both filled with fine flower mixed with oil for a meal offering. One spoon of ten gold [shekels] filled with incense. One young bull, one ram, and one lamb in it first year for a burnt offering. A goat for a sin offering. And for a peace offering: two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs in their first year. . . (Numbers/Bamidbar 7:13-17)

 One Way to Know the Quality of Your Relationships

In this Sabbath’s parsha, the Levites are counted and assigned their responsibilities for transporting the Tabernacle, the procedures for a Sotah and Nazir are described, the Priestly Blessing is given, and the leaders of the twelve tribes bring their offerings to dedicate the Tabernacle.

Nasso is a long parsha. Almost half of it details the dedication gifts of each tribe. The description for each one matches the above verses. The only difference between the twelve gifts is the name of the tribal leader and the day he brought it. If G-d wanted to emphasize their equivalence, He could have described one of them and then noted each tribe brought the identical gift. Why repeat it twelve times?

Despite being physically indistinguishable, the Creator saw each tribe connected different meanings to their gifts. Think about your how you give presents. One week you might give your wife flowers meaning to say I'm sorry. A few weeks later the same kind of flowers might mean happy birthday or simply I love you.

Now, imagine if you had twelve children and they each gave you a birthday present that turned out to be identical. Which explanation to a friend would honor them better: “Oh my children all gave me the same gift,” or “my first child gave me a gift that meant this to me, my second child gave me a gift that meant this other thing to me,” and so on?

Being a gracious recipient means more than saying thank you. You need to take the time to understand the meaning behind a person’s gift. If you don’t like it, could the problem be the relationship is off track or not as close as it ought to be?

That the Almighty received each of the tribes’ gifts with equal favor shows how connected He was to His children.

Got a lot of funky ties in your closet? Perhaps it’s time to focus on your family.

What barometer do you use for tracking the quality of your relationships? 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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