Tag Archives: G-d

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!

Getting What You Really Want: Step 1

“And it will be if you did not desire her . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 21:14). Again this week small details yield deeper meaning. The Torah uses the past tense phrase “did not” to describe an event happening in the future. It seems the verse should read, “do not (or will not) want her,” no?

Getting What You Really Want: Step 1

The parsha for this Sabbath is Ki Seitzei. It contains more mitzvos (74) than any other parsha including how to handle a beautiful female POW, the right of the first-born to an inheritance, how a wayward and rebellious son is handled, our concern for another’s property, men not wearing women’s clothing and vice versa (Ooops for Jack Lemmon,) and sending away the mother bird before gathering her eggs.making

Then it covers making tzitzis for a four cornered garment, how a libeler of a woman is to be treated, the penalties for adultery and rape, several rules about marriage and divorce, how the Israelites were to keep their camp tahor, laws concerning workers’ rights, kidnapping, lending and punishments, the penalty for embarrassing someone, the admonition to have honest weights and measures and finally the strange commandment not to forget to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

In his compilation, Maayanah Shel Torah, Rabbi Alexander Zusia Friedman explains Hebrew has two words for a person’s attraction to another: chaisek and chofaitz. The former is used when passion and lust are the driving factors. The latter, when you make a rational decision that something is good for you.

When dealing with a beautiful captive, in the above verse the Torah refers to her captor’s desire as lo chafatah, meaning rationally he did not want her. As you might imagine, after fulfilling her term of mourning, her captor’s ardor likely decreased or ceased altogether. Indeed this is one of the reasons for his having to wait. Had he been more self-disciplined from the start he would have realized his attraction was the aftermath of the lust of battle.

It is important to develop the ability to distinguish between what you desire and what you want. How often have you seen a friend marry someone purely because of physical attraction only to find the spouses end up hating each other because they have nothing substantial on which to base their relationship?

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The same principle applies to all major decisions including buying a car or a house. The sporty little two-seat convertible may stir your passion but can you afford the insurance and maintenance and will it transport your family of four?

Better to make decisions based on rational, well thought out wants. With respect to relationships, invest the emotion in them that will ignite passion.

Question – When do you think it is okay to be driven by lust?

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Don’t Confuse Trust in God with Irresponsibility

“Complete (in all ways) you will be with your G-d.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:13). The Hebrew word for complete, tamim, is in the plural form. Rashi interprets this completeness as wholeheartedness.

Face Your Fear

The parsha for this Sabbath is Shoftim. In it Moses reviews the commandment to establish courts, how to handle certain crucial types of cases, the appointing of a King, the gifts for the Priests, how to tell if someone is really a prophet, setting up cities of refuge, how the Israelites will conduct war, and what to do about an unsolved murder.

Vividly do I remember when I was trying to join the navy Chaplain Corps and was not making any progress. The question that loomed largest was: How do I know when it is G-d’s will? Consulting with a friend more learned than me he said, “when you have tried everything and have no strength left then you can place your reliance in G-d.” Once I internalized his wisdom the rest of the process went much more smoothly.

When faced with a great challenge, it is tempting to put your faith in G-d. By why should He help if you are unwilling to commit deeply to your own growth and success? Here is the key to connecting completeness to wholeheartedness. Once your heart, mind, and soul are totaling invested in your pursuit, then you will be most likely to connect with the Almighty and in turn merit His assistance.

As well, if you chose not to avail yourself of the advantages of contemporary life, how can you expect to receive the Creator’s grace?

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Once Rabbi Yaacov Yisrael Kanievsky, better known as the Steipler, was told about a man who needed a serious operation but refused, saying he had bitachon, trust in G-d. The great sage replied that this person had not mastered trusting in G-d, he was just afraid. Trusting in the Almighty should not be used as an excuse for laziness or irresponsibility to yourself or loved ones. You are obligated to make hishtadlus, human effort, in order to receive G-d’s blessing.

This can be seen at the parting of the Reed Sea. The Children of Israel were trapped between the advancing Egyptian army and the water. Not until Nachshon walked into the sea up to his nose did it split. How much more fortunate are we that G-d rarely requires us to get to the point that we think we may drown before he helps us.

Question – How do you decide when to trust in G-d and when to work harder?

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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!

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?

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!

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