Tag Archives: God

Do You Want a Harmonious Transition?

How to Handle the Frustration of Reintegration

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Noach – Genesis 6:9-11-32

People transitioning out of the military often feel like foreigners. You get isolated focusing on meeting the mission and deploying. You’re not used to the push and pull of civilian life. Reintegrating can cause friction. Such discord can lead to quarrels. Communication may break down. An already stressful transition becomes more so.

Do You Want a Harmonious Transition

Combativeness Has a Price

Which is worse: Quarreling with G-d or quarreling with other people? G-d is the commander. So disputing His word would have to be worse. Does such logic, stemming from a military perspective, hold up? Parshas Noach has the answer:

“All the earth was of one language and common purpose.” (Genesis/Bereishis 11:1)

Three hundred and forty years after the flood, mankind got to together to build the Tower of Babel. Nimrod probably led this rebellion. He and his comrades planned to build a tower with an idol on top. They would put a sword in its hand. Thus it would appear to be waging war against G-d!

Their conspiracy embodied the essence of mutiny. Yet G-d merely divided them by language and dispersed them over the globe. The Uniform Code of Military Justice specifies “death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct” for attempted mutiny.

By contrast, the generation of the flood only robbed each other. Still, their punishment much harsher. The Almighty wiped them out. A service member guilty of larceny is subject to punishment by court-martial. But death is not an option.

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Either the military or G-d has it backward.

Find the Way to Harmony

The military’s perspective works for the battlefield. You can only have one commander of a campaign. But no matter how beset by problems, civilian life is not a war.

As such, quarreling with other people is worse than quarreling with G-d. That’s why the Creator punished the generation of the flood so harshly. Their crimes were against each other. Under such circumstances, life becomes unendurable.

Though misguided, the generation of the Tower of Babel had a unified mission. The Almighty didn't overlook their wrongdoing. But He eased their punishment because of their unity.

When your transition gets tough, rail against G-d if you must. Finding the veterans you need for your company may seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. Complain to the Almighty. The Lord has huge shoulders. He understands your anger. He’s happy to help carry your burdens.

Between people, seek harmony. Search for ways to align your post-military mission with your fellow citizens. You’ll stay out of the war zone. And veterans and civilians alike will benefit.

How did a civilian help you transition?

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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. Its name comes from 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!

How to Gain Faith When You Think You Have None

4 Steps that Take You from Despair to Optimism

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bereishis – Genesis 1:1-6:8

My friend Bruce urged me to read Douglas Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe. He told me it’s “probably the most important book of the last 50 years.” So, I read it. It may be the classic my friend asserts. But I found one glaring error. Time and again Murray asserts you can’t just have faith.

How to Gain Faith When You Think You Have None

Clearly, he misunderstands the nature of faith. Many of us do.

You Pay a High Price for Faithlessness

Lack of faith caused the most devastating event in human affairs. In the story of Creation in Parshas Bereishis, Adam says:

“‘The Woman who You gave to be with me . . .’” (Bereshis/Genesis 3:12)

Adam lacked faith in Eve’s ability to resist eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So he told her the Almighty commanded them not to touch it. By doing this, Adam made her easier prey for the serpent. It knew she could touch it without harm. The serpent convinced her to try. Once she saw nothing happened, she ignored the true constraint.

Then she gave some to Adam. And G-d caught him red-handed.

The Almighty gave them a chance to confess. But Adam compounded his lack of faith in Eve by blaming her. She, in turn, blamed the serpent. So the Almighty banished them. Now, instead of humanity living peacefully in the Garden of Eden, we struggle through life. We strive to create the kind of relationship with G-d that was the birthright of Adam, Eve, and their children.

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What would life be like had Adam acknowledged his lack of faith and asked for forgiveness?

Faith Is Like a Muscle

Because of this grave error, Adam’s abiding faith goes un-noticed. Despite his doing no work to cultivate the garden, he knew G-d would feed and take care of him. Adam may have sinned out of boredom. Amidst the carefree life the Creator gave him, perhaps he wanted some excitement. Indeed, Adam had complete faith in G-d.

Almost…

Adam’s lack of trust in Eve reveals a lack of faith in G-d. The Almighty gave him his mate. So she could only be for his good. Whatever decisions she made were part of G-d’s plan. For some reason, Adam didn't see this. Like most husbands, he needed time to develop faith in his wife and her judgment.

Dormant faith often masquerades as lack of faith. You’ll gain or recapture faith when you:

1. Review Your Life

Think about past events. Identify one when you felt secure and confident.

2. Identify Why

What made you feel safe and self-assured? Did you feel in control of the event and your life? In reality, you weren’t. Training only helps you feel confident you can respond to future challenges. But you’ll never know for sure what twists and turns are in store.

3. Recognize Faith

Minimally, you had faith in your ability to handle the unknowns of life. You may have had broader faith: in your family, your colleagues, or G-d.

4. Build on that Nugget

Use this event to fashion greater faith. When you feel faithless, call it to mind. Bring back how you felt. Repeat what you said at that time.

Faith is like a muscle. If left unused, it shrinks and becomes flabby. But when exercised it grows and gets stronger. You can just have faith. Most of our lives we don't perceive it because it fits with the flow of events. If we get sideswiped and don't find faith immediately available, we think it’s gone.

But faith is always with us. The more you exercise it, the easier it is to call back.

Have you lost faith and recovered it?

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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. Its name comes from 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!

How to Handle the Fragmentation of Civilian Life

Have You Prepared for All Aspects of Your Transition?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

You may not have thought about it. But military life is integrated. On base, you have facilities serving your physical needs: exercise, medical care, food, and clothing. You can get mental and spiritual support. To a large degree, every unit in the field and ship is self-supporting. Civilian life is fractured. When you transition you need time to rebuild a whole life from scattered pieces.

How to Handle the Fragmentation of Civilian Life

Transitioning Creates Outer and Inner Conflict

The fragmented nature of civilian life makes leaving the military chaotic. That’s why I often talk about reintegration. Transitioning requires more than finding a new home and job. You need to restore a complete structure for daily life.

In the days of wooden sailing ships, rope makers twisted and wove strands of hemp, cotton, and other fibers together to make ropes as thick as seven inches or more. When pulled, any individual thread would snap. But entwined, they often withstood gale force winds.

It took at least four to six months to grow hemp and make such heavy rope. For a life, Parshas Ha’azinu explains the process:

“For the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob a rope of his possession.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:9)

This week’s parsha ends this cycle of Sabbath readings. Moses taught how G-d and the Israelites’ existence would intertwine. He noted how Jacob combined the strengths of three generations. Abraham’s kindness and Isaac’s sense of justice integrated with his spiritual strength. So he overcame his struggle with the angel. (Genesis 32:22-23) He was ready to face life in all its complexity. The Israelites could follow this example.

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The multifaceted nature of life is just one of many ways rope symbolizes your transition.

Ensure You're Strong

Our military service binds us together. But if we braid our rope from delicate or worn out fibers it will break under stress. Each of us needs to revitalize himself. Then, despite some of us being so fragile we snap, the rest of us can maintain our unbreakable bond.

Each of us intertwines character traits that make up our personalities. Some will serve our reintegration. Others will hamper it. Transitioning entails strengthening the positive fibers. At the same time, we have to engage in the laborious process of unraveling the negative ones.

To rejuvenate, know a rope connects you to the Almighty. Each deed strengthens or breaks a filament connecting you to the Creator. Through daily work on this relationship, you create the ability to tug on the rope. This brings G-d’s presence closer to you in this world during times of trouble.

A rope made of inferior hemp will break in a hurricane. Likewise, transitions made in haste with insufficient thought unravel when hardship strikes. Focus on growing stronger through each step of your reintegration. Give yourself enough time to weave sturdy bonds before taking on extra burdens. And remember, G-d is a tug away.

What daily task strengthens your connection to G-d?

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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. Its name comes from 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!

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

2 Cornerstones to an Unbreakable Reintegration Foundation

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nitzavim-Vayeilech – Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

A few weeks ago I heard sailors in formation calling cadence for the first time in quite a while. They brought back memories of my days as a Boy Scout. World War II and Korean War veterans ran my troop. Among the military influences, when we hiked someone called cadence. They were corny…

“I had a good wife but she left.” “You're right!”

“Look what the horses have left.” “You're right!”

“Sound off…” “One, two…” Sound off…” “Three, four…” “Cadence count…” “One, two, three, four, one, two, THREE, FOUR!”

But to a scrawny kid struggling to carry a 50 lb. backpack they kept my spirits from flagging. Civilian life could use some cadence calls, especially when the transition blues hit.

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

The Timeless Formula

No matter how meticulous your plan, you’ll have bumps when reintegrating to civilian life. In my case, a week before the movers came to pack up my on-base house, the business venture I had worked on for six months fell through. We got to Los Angeles with lots of expenses and no job.

I could have used a cadence, even a corny one, to help me lift my feet. I felt anger toward the partner who deceived the rest of us. Worse than the lost money was the lost time. My internal dialog flooded with doubt.

I had to make some changes. Fast. I’ll bet you can relate.

Parshas Vayeilech holds the clue for what to do:

“For, the matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:14)

The Israelites stood on the cusp of the Promised Land. Moses reminded them they didn’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to figure out the right thing to do. Though daunted by having to change their mode of life, the Torah would still direct them. G-d would provide comfort and protect them. If their hearts remained true to the Almighty, they need not despair.

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Concerned they don't know the new requirements for success. Needing to change their way of life anyway. Being hopeful and apprehensive at the same time. Sounds familiar?

The Burden of Previous Transitions

If you ever struggled to transition, you carry that baggage now. Starting school. Changing schools mid-year or going from middle to high school. Trying to make a team. Crossing over from Webelos to Boy Scouts. Acclimating to your parents getting divorced. Long forgotten emotions from these events can resurface during times of uncertainty.

You may have made an irreversible mistake. You vowed to move on only to find yourself caught in an emotional loop. Realizing you're in a similar situation now, you doubt your ability to prevail.

If destiny haunts you, remember it’s in your mouth and your heart, to move forward and succeed. You’ll ease your way with a cadence to overcome emotional inertia. Create yours by:

1. Purpose. Reimagine who you are. As you transition to civilian life, you’re no longer solely a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coastguardsman. These remain a part of your identity. But now you’ll add new facets to them. Write down a word picture of you reintegrated to civilian life.

2. Mission. Your values don't need to change. But the focus of your life and work does. Family-wise and professionally, create a plan for a lifelong journey. Does your religion give you direction? Consider what 10 to 30-year work goals will motivate you. Don't worry about their changing over the years. Encapsulate your current vision into a powerful sentence or two that describes your life’s trek.

Post these on your bathroom mirror and read them aloud every morning. Keep a copy on your phone so you can read it when the transition blues hit.

Each time you start over, you strive anew. Obliterate worries about the times in the past you said you'd change but didn't follow through. Recognize all that matters is what you say and do now. The required tasks are neither too extraordinary nor too complex for you to handle. These weren’t empty platitudes for the Israelites. Nor are they for you.

Fill in your knowledge gaps. Create a cadence to keep you marching when your energy flags. And always remember, G-d is there to comfort and protect you.

Do you have a mantra that gets you through a difficult situation?

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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. Its name comes from 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!

How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

2 Lessons You Can Apply to Leaving the Military

2-½ minutes to read

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

You decided to move on, retire, or got told to leave the military. The prospect of civilian life fills you with excitement. New horizons are there to conquer. No kicking back and enjoying life. Then reality sets in. Job-hunting turns out to be harder than the TAP folks said. You face dozens of problems without a sponsor. Finding a decent place to live. Getting your kids in new schools. The excitement turns to trepidation.

How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

A Whole Nation Disoriented by Change

If you're not careful, the blessing of civilian life will become a curse. Your confidence will change to uncertainty. How could things go SO wrong? How will you handle dashed dreams?

We’re not the first people to make a wrenching change. The story in Parshas Ki Savo will sound familiar:

“…so that you can enter the land that the Lord your G-d gave to you, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 27:3)

Moses sets out the terms under which the people will live in the Land of Israel. The fundamental rules of life won't change. The Torah will still guide them. But in the wilderness, G-d led them from place to place. He prepared manna for them to eat. Their clothes didn't wear out and they didn't have to do laundry. They studied and celebrated the Sabbath and festivals. Some of them got into mischief.

In the Land, the Israelites will have to adapt to a different life. It may flow with milk and honey. But someone will have to feed and milk the cows. The honey won't gather itself. The Almighty will still guide them, though more hidden now. Each man will have to make numerous decisions.

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Civilian life should flow with milk and honey. But it doesn’t.

Combat Unpreparedness with Outlook

Remember in the military how you handled unexpected problems? You used your training to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Of course, therein lies the key. Your service branch drilled you to meet pretty near all contingencies. For the most difficult ones, someone senior to you had the answer. And, he took the responsibility.

Now you’re in civilian life. You may not have proper training. You haven’t drilled handling unforeseen problems. You're not sure who has the experience to give you sound advice. And all the responsibility rests on your shoulders.

The Israelites faced this situation. Moses gave them a choice: blessings or curses. The Torah lists twelve lines of blessings but an astonishing 54 of curses! You can learn two lessons from their experience:

1. Once you commit to negativity, you’re on an almost endless, downward spiral. The pain will be long and drawn out. You’ll think you’ve hit bottom, only to find there are deeper layers of garbage.

2. If you accept life’s problems as blessings, soon you’ll see some fruits of your effort. They won't come all at once. But living with gratitude for the struggles AND the good times means achieving greater comfort.

I’ve asked transitioning veterans to offer advice to service members about to leave the military. Some say, “STAY IN!” Sadly, they’ve chosen the first path. Instead, resolve to convert negative aspects of your transition into growth lessons. Make curses blessings. And put the excitement back into your transition to civilian life.

Where do you see or anticipate blessings in your transition?

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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. Its name comes from 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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