Tag Archives: G-d

Get Rid of Your Worries About the Future Once and For All

“When you will say in your heart, ‘these nations are more numerous than me; how will I be able to drive them out?’ You will not fear from them; you will surely remember what G-d did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 7:17-18). Moses reminds the Israelites of their miraculous exodus from Egypt. Is this just a history lesson or travel log?

Get Rid of Your Worries About the Future Once and For All

The parsha for this Sabbath is Eikev. In it, Moses talks about the reward the Children of Israel will reap if they stay true to the mitzvahs, warns them against being seduced by prosperity, and reminds them of their history.

Faith Trumps Worries

Remember Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and his slogan, “What, me worry?” While his lack of concern about the future is admirable, it probably was not due to bitachon, essentially optimism about the future based on faith. Still, you can achieve the same anxiety-free level if, when you agonize about the future you counter your fears by remembering how G-d helped you in the past.

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This is the essence of Moses’s message. There is no question that the Egyptians were mightier than the peoples who lived in Canaan. By G-d taking the Israelites out of slavery He was showing them that they had no reason to fear.

You Have All You Need for a Successful Life

The broader issue is that G-d gives you all you need in order to successfully navigate His plan. It is only when your desires are greater or different than what G-d currently intends for you that you experience anxiety at a lack of money or other resources. Internalizing the lesson of the Exodus will allow you to move through life with much less pain and worry.

Next time you find yourself fretting about the future, try to remember how G-d helped you solve a similar situation in the past. If you and He were able to conquer life then, surely as a team you can do so now.

Question – How has G-d helped you in the past that you can use to bolster your faith and decrease your worry?

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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!

The Freedom of a Restrained Life

It turns out I am a week ahead on my blog for the weekly parsha, so last’s week post, Mattos-Masei, will be read this coming Sabbath. Rather than skipping a week, I decided to address the topic that I am asked about most frequently in my work as a chaplain: How can you live like this?The Freedom of a Restrained Life

Generally, the person is questioning how and/or why I do the following:

  1. Deal with all the food rules (keeping kosher).
  2. Pray all the time (three times a day).
  3. Do not watch television or drive on Friday nights and Saturdays (Sabbath observant).

Conceptually each of these is a mitzvah, a practice G-d has instituted through which I can create a relationship with Him. A simple metaphor is when, as a child, your mother asked you to make your bed. You had two choices:

  1. Make your bed, thereby demonstrating to your mother that you care about her.
  2. Neglect or refuse to make your bed, thereby demonstrating a lack of concern for her.

(Of course, the third option is to exhibit early onset OCD and make your bed, though your mom did not ask, because you have to have a neat room.)

The first behavior enhances your relationship with your mother. The second does not. Similarly with G-d and mitzvahs. You have free will. You can choose to strengthen your relationship with the Creator by following them or weaken it by not doing so.

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The follow-up question usually requires greater specificity. I tell them:

  1. Keeping kosher: Suppose you want to achieve peak athletic performance. One thing you would do is be very intentional about your diet, determining the optimum mix of foods and beverages and when they should be eaten so as to hit a zenith at the appropriate time. If your goal is obtaining the ultimate spiritual performance, the diet through which to do that is keeping kosher. Do I understand the “why” behind every aspect of it? No. But I have faith that G-d knows how I should nourish my body so as to best bolster my spirit.
  2. Praying: If you want to become a master it takes regular practice. As gifted as are Usain Bolt and LeBron James, their work ethic turned their raw skill into incomparable performance. Do I achieve a deep connection with the Almighty every time I pray? No. Especially during the week there are too many distractions. In a way, the 18-weekday prayers are preparation for the big game, Sabbath prayers, when there are far fewer hindrances to connecting.
  3. Sabbath observant: Ever more experts are recognizing the importance of rest in achieving excellence. No less than the aforementioned Bolt takes off six weeks each fall to eat whatever he wants and not train. As well, it is no coincidence that the forefathers and foremothers were shepherds. If you want to develop your spirit you need to create an atmosphere conducive to contemplation. Television, movies, driving, restaurants, indeed everyday life, impede such development.

Having the perspective of my earlier secular life, I now live with more focus and intention. What others view as constraints, even shackles, I have found liberate me from much of what negatively impacts so many in our society. Rather than being anachronistic, in the face of the complexity of modern life, these millennia-old practices are more necessary than ever.

Question – How do you build your relationship with G-d?

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Now, You Can Understand When to Be Aggressive

“Therefore say: Behold! I give to him my covenant of peace.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 25:12). Pinchas has just killed two people and he is given a settlement of peace. What sense does this make?

Now, You Can Understand When to Be Aggressive

The parsha for this Sabbath is Pinchas. It discusses Pinchas’s reward for his zealous act, the censuses taken prior to the Children of Israel entering the Land of Israel, the petition of Zelophehad’s daughters, the laws of inheritance, the appointment of Joshua as Moses’s successor, and the offerings that were brought daily, on the Sabbath and on holidays.

The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin observed that the kind of impassioned act that Pinchas did could cause a person to become aggressive all the time, even when it was not appropriate. To prevent this G-d made him a kohen, the covenant of peace, so that in all other areas of his life he would act with equanimity.

Parshas Pinchas shows that your normal state should be one of peace. You will, at times, find it appropriate or even required to be aggressive. But because you can do so much harm when acting this way, you must be very careful not to let it become a part of your nature. Behavior molds you: for good or for bad. To direct your character properly, whenever you have to be combative you should go out of your way to be very kind and caring in all other areas of your life.

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Strive for the ideal of the Chazon Ish who was supremely gentle and always avoided quarrels. Even when he had to be stern, inwardly he was calm. Thus his aggressive behavior was always under control and available to be called upon only when absolutely necessary.

Life will sometimes demand that you act aggressively. The best course of action is to train yourself to do so out of kindness and with self-control. In this way, you can be sure that you will be quarrelsome intentionally and for the good of you and the other person.

Question – How do you act outwardly belligerently while remaining inwardly calm?

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Right and Wrong Way to Express Caring – And How to Tell Them Apart

“If like the death of all men’s deaths, will be accounted on them [Korach and his co-conspirators] the accounting of all men, it is not G-d who has sent me.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 16:28). Moses lets Korach and his followers know that they will soon die unnatural deaths; harsh language from the most humble of all humans.Right and Wrong Way to Express Caring – And How to Tell Them Apart

The parsha for this Sabbath is Korach. From the infamy of the spies we now go to the rebellion of Korach and his 250 followers against Moses and Aaron. Unlike the complaining for food, water, and other things that went on before, Korach, a cousin of Moses and Aaron, sought to depose them and assume their roles. He tried to take advantage of the Israelite’s unhappiness with Moses over the decree that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. As a result of their rebellion, the 250 insurgents were consumed by fire and the earth swallowed their households. Indeed, a severe punishment.

The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Alshich, brings the analogy of a doctor who needs to amputate a hand or foot in order to prevent the spread of a disease. Although such a cure may seem cold-hearted, even cruel, it is actually the kindest course of action since it will save the person’s life.

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Moses saw that Korach had already infected 250 people with the spirit of rebellion. In an act of compassion for the rest of the Israelites, he had to take severe steps to stop its spread. Yet Moses was not hasty in this action. He pleaded with the conspirators to change their ways. He “fell on his face” (Bamidbar/Numbers 16:4), pleading that G-d would not punish them and the people the way He had the spies. His entreaties were to no avail. Only then did Moses act so strictly.

When you find yourself in an intractable situation, especially with your children, you must try every technique to convince them to do the right thing. But no amount of love or compassion should prevent you from imposing stern measures for the recalcitrant. This is the true meaning of Proverbs 13:24, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Frequently taken as a license to strike a child, rather it is an adjuration not to shirk from using strict discipline when necessary.

Moses took a tremendous risk when carrying out G-d’s commands that led to the destruction of Korach and his followers. The Israelites might have rejected him, ceased loving him. Yet his love for them was so great he did what was necessary to save them. In the final analysis, this is the truest test. Will you risk losing love in order to save a loved one?

Question – Should spanking be among the punishments used to discipline children?

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What Everyone Ought to Know . . . About Attaining Greater Contentment

“And they [the spies] spoke to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel saying, the land that we passed in it to spy it, the Land [of Israel] is very, very good.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 14:7). The men that Moses sent to check out the Land of Israel come back and report. Do these spies have any intelligence for us?

What Everyone Ought to Know . . . About Attaining Greater Contentment

The parsha for this Sabbath is Shelach. In it is the infamous story of the twelve spies who reconnoitered the Land of Israel and caused the Israelites to lose faith that they could conquer it. As a result, G-d decreed that they wander in the wilderness for 40 years. It also details the meal and libation offerings to be brought with the korbanos, animal sacrifices. The penalty for desecration of the Sabbath is determined. Finally, the commandment to wear tzitzis, fringes, on the corners of a garment is given.

A story is told of Rabbi Moshe of Lelov who was visited by a resident of Israel. The person complained bitterly about the land. Rabbi Moshe reprimanded him saying, “the Torah tells us ‘the Land [of Israel] is very, very good’.” He went on to point out that the Mishnah (Pirkei Avos 4:4) says, “be very, very humble” concluding that when someone is arrogant nothing will be good enough.

A person filled with self-importance is more likely to insist that life be in accordance with his expectations. He views his own behavior and worth in lofty terms, consequently belittling others. A humble person, lacking the burden of expectations, is more easily able to focus on the good aspects of people and things. In doing so he improves his spiritual connection to the world, thereby furthering his ability to see good in it.

Think about when your spouse makes you angry. Is what he or she did really bad or does it seem bad in comparison to how you perceive your behavior? If you view yourself with humility, honestly assessing your own shortcomings, you are far more likely to view your spouse’s behavior as good. The result is greater marital satisfaction.

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This principle applies to all areas of your life. A radio personality I know once reported on the outcome of a vodka taste test. First, participants were asked which brand they thought was best. Most named super premium brands such as Grey Goose or Finlandia. Then they did a blind taste test. The result: an overwhelming majority thought Smirnoff tasted best. Unconvinced, my wife and I took the test. Our winner: Smirnoff. Here is the funny part: vodka is tasteless.

If you view yourself as deserving to live life at a certain level you create contempt for anyone or anything that does not live up to this expectation. Worse, you cause yourself a great deal of dissatisfaction.

The Land, indeed the world, is very, very good. Will you have the humility to see it that way?

Question – What do you do to gain a balanced perspective of your behavior?

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