Tag Archives: healthy relationships

How to Make Your Prayer More Powerful

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

In his book Perfect Practice, Doug Lemov makes the case that the adage “practice makes perfect” is wrong. You can hit a thousand buckets of balls on the driving range, but if your swing is flawed you won’t improve your game. The same is true of prayer, as can be seen in Parshas Va’eschanan:

“And I implored to G-d at that time…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:23)

How to Make Your Prayer More Powerful

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

Shem MiShmuel examines how Moses implored the Almighty, noting there are two sources for prayer: those that originate in your mind and those that originate in you heart. Sometimes you know it is time to pray, like at religious services. Or you feel the need to acknowledge G-d’s kindness or give gratitude for His gifts. In such cases your mind directs your prayer.

Other times, you are beset by troubles or worry. Prayer flows from the depth of your heart, sometimes accompanied by tears.

But while the source may be different, in both cases you must strive to pray with thought and feeling.

Gee thanks, Rabs. How do I magically conjure up emotional power for prayer emanating from my mind? And how do I bring rational thought to prayers welling up from an aching heart?

Shem MiShmuel notes the mind is calculating and rational, inviting neither motion nor sound, while the heart is warm and vibrant, stirring movement and voice. So depending on the catalyst, to bring the other element to your prayer act accordingly. For prayer originating in your mind, allow your body and lips to move, thereby stirring your heart. And for prayers arising from your heart, focus on standing or sitting very still, keeping your lips motionless so as to push the feelings into your mind.

By engaging more of yourself in prayer, you demonstrate to the Creator the fullness and depth of the relationship you want with Him. While G-d always answers your prayers, the more fully you bond the more likely you’ll get the answer you seek.

How do you bring more of yourself to your relationship with G-d? 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!

4 Ways to Be Amazing But Leave Room for Improvement

You may think I’m pandering (and using a cliché) but you are unique. Consider not one of the billions of people who have lived has the same mix of character traits, appearance, or fingerprints that you do. The spark of life within you cannot be re-created. I don’t want to swell your head but you are amazing. Have I convinced you? Read on.

4 Ways to Be Amazing But Leave Room for Improvement

A friend once told me I didn’t sound as successful as I was. Ouch! Her comment got me thinking about how much business I was losing by under-promoting myself. Don’t you think we walk a fine line between acknowledging how accomplished we are and bragging? Claiming expertise and achievements you don’t have is dishonest. Humility is admirable. But it can go too far.

You may not think about it this way. But downplaying your skills and accomplishments is also a kind of dishonesty. People get a false picture of who you are. As well, it means fewer resources for you and your family.

Aside from the risk of becoming a braggart, playing yourself up may hold back personal growth and development of new or better skills. Heck, if I’m so great why do I need to change?

So how can you balance being amazing (without being an egotist) while continuing to get better? Here are four recommendations:

  1. Couple a goal you’ve achieved with an even bigger one. Promoting yourself on the basis of concrete accomplishments isn’t showing off. By the same token, if you aren't content to rest on your laurels you will find room for improvement.
  2. Give yourself an honest hotwash. One of the hallmarks of a military exercise is a critique after it’s done called a hotwash. While all the events are fresh in the participants’ memories they review what went well and what could have been done better and how. Even your biggest victory probably could have been done better. Look for small, incremental advancement.
  3. Keep your brag sheet and self-improvement task list on the same piece of paper. Also from the military, a brag sheet lists your accomplishments from the previous year so an accurate Fitness Report or Evaluation can be written. Have it on one side of the page with the skills, character traits, and goals you’re working on opposite side.  That way you’ll keep a balanced image of yourself.
  4. No one is more amazing at being you than you but someone is better than you at any particular trait or ability. You display your personality and abilities more amazingly than anyone else. From this, I hope you will take a solid sense of self-esteem. However, though you may possess one trait superior to most, even all, people, there are other people whose singularly outstanding quality is better than that one in you. While I discourage comparing yourself to other people, knowing that you are not the greatest in every facet of your being gives you room for growth.

A positive self-image is crucial for success. Boasting about how great you are will retard advancement. You will make the most progress in all facets of your life: Financial, relationships, spiritual growth, by being candid about the areas where you can improve. Having the desire and a plan for personal development will ensure you continue to become more amazing. Such is the essence of becoming intentional.

How do you present an honest picture of yourself? Please comment below.

How to Stop Working Too Much

Friends I haven’t seen in a long time usually ask what it’s like being in the Navy. Amid stories about Okinawa and an aircraft carrier, how my wife and daughter handle military life comes up. You know how tough families have it. At times my daughter didn’t see me for a week. I was out of the house before she woke up and didn't get home until after she went to bed. Of course, you don’t have to be in the military to be absorbed by work.

How to Stop Working Too Much?

Despite Surveys, Americans Work Too Much

A recent article in fastcompany.com carried the sub-headline, “A New National Study Finds Americans Work Reasonable Hours and Get Enough Sleep, Even if We Often Think Otherwise.” Based on the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, the article said, “The average full-time work week comes out at just a bit shy of 42 hours.”

Call me skeptical. But the data gathered is based on people’s recollections of how they spent the previous day. Do you remember the precise amount of time you spent sleeping, grooming, preparing meals and snacks, eating and drinking, driving to work, and working at your main job yesterday? Me either. The Internet and cell phones make us more productive. But they allow work to intrude into other activities. I suspect this didn't get factored in. The survey probably underreports work time by at least 10% to 20%.

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Set Boundaries to Help You Stop Working

Juggling navy duties, civilian work, and a 2-1/2 hour daily commute the past year, I’ve learned a few simple rules to reduce my working time:

  1. When told to take on another project or task, decline it. If that’s impractical, agree to “see that it gets handled” rather than “do it myself.”
  2. Delegate or rid yourself of all tasks except those only you can do. It may not be as hard as you think. Often coworkers would love to tackle something on your to-do list because it’s more interesting than their regular duties. Other tasks can sit uncompleted and no one will notice.
  3. Take care of loose ends before leaving work or on the drive home. Normal home cell phone mode should be off (or muted if you have to respond to emergencies), especially during meals.
  4. When you get home, leave your work in the car, mentally that is. No sense tempting fate by leaving your computer where it might get stolen.
  5. If you have to work at home, have a set place and time for doing so. You can complete your tasks more quickly without interruptions.

While the 40-hour workweek is much maligned, I think it makes a lot of sense. With only 168 hours in a week, at least 49 of which should be spent sleeping, working 40 hours takes up a third of your waking hours. Wouldn’t it be nice to confine them to 9 to 5? But there’s no use pining for what once was.

Hopefully, you’re not intent on having your tombstone read, “Worked Massive Numbers of Hours.” (If you are, please contact me immediately!) By learning to restrict your work you’ll find much more worthy words to place on it, and most likely have many more years before they have to be placed.

How many hours a week do you work? 

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

Do You Know THE Key to Wealth?

The California and Yukon gold rushes are probably the last times you could walk into the wilderness and come back wealthy. For about a century, to earn money you have to sell a product or service that people want to buy. Debates swirl as to whether people should buy a particular product, and therefore whether its producers deserve their wealth. But when people don’t want what you’re selling you won't make any money. You may believe your product or service will massively benefit humanity. If customers disagree, you’ll earn zero.

Do You Know THE Key to Wealth?

Skills ≠ Value ↔ Time ≠Wealth

Internalizing this simple lesson will make all the difference on your road to success.

Wealth Comes from Value Delivered

Admittedly it took me a while to learn this. During the first decade of running my real estate company, I equated the number of hours I worked with how well I served my clients. But after years of 60 to 80 -hour weeks, there had to be a better way.

I put a lot of effort into streamlining my processes. Within a few months, I had cut down the number of hours I worked by one-third. My clients didn’t even notice a difference. As long as their needs were met they couldn’t have cared less how much of my time it took. As new services like online banking arrived, I whittled down the hours even more. When I sold my property management company I had reduced my working hours by half.

If you’re starting out, the faster you determine the viability of the market for your offering the better. Fortunately, social media gives you the avenue to quickly and inexpensively see if people want what you are selling.

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Knowing this rule applies to everyone will help you let go of the disappointment if YOUR idea doesn’t pan out. It’s not personal. I started a t-shirt business and a real estate brokerage before gaining moderate success in property management and hitting a home run in commercial appraising. If people don’t like your first idea, NEXT!

The Key to Your Job-Hunt

The wealth-value formula applies equally to developing a career. Instead of having a pool of customers to whom you’ll market a product or service, you deal one-on-one with a few people who hire employees. What counts are their perceptions of the value of your skills. It used to be that a college degree was gold. But today, with 20%-25% of college graduates jobless or under-employed, that's not the case. Credentials may get you an interview. Skills that solve the needs of the organization will get you the job.

Another thing: The lower the value people put on your product, service, or skills, the more hours you will have to work in order to earn the income you want.

Lastly, the same formula, wealth comes from value delivered, is true of almost everything.

If You Want a Wealth of Friends You Have to Be a Valuable Friend

Any realm of your life that you want to prosper: health, self-care, faith, grows when richly and consistently nourished.

People in the military excel at executing the mission. Rarely do commanders care how many hours it took to complete. Rather, they value how prudently resources were expended and how completely the objectives were met. Today’s business world has adopted this same model.

Where can you get abundance for free?

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How to Love, When You Have to Punish

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9

Do you have this challenge? When my daughter misbehaves I find myself unaccountably angry. Let’s face it, at times every child gets into mischief or is rude. Admittedly when she does so in public I feel embarrassed. But even at home, at times I get quite spun up. This week’s parsha, Balak, shows the proper course of action:

And Pinchas, the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the Kohen saw, and he arose from among the congregation, and he took his spear in his hand. (Numbers/Bamidbar 25:7)

How to Love, When You Have to Punish

This Sabbath’s parsha details how Balak, the king of Moab, attempted to have Bilaam, one of the greatest prophets of all time, curse the Children of Israel. Included is the wonderful story of the talking donkey, my wife’s favorite. The parsha ends with Pinchas spearing Prince Zimri and his Mindianite lover in public at the entrance to the Tenant of Meeting.

A simple reading of the Torah makes it appear Pinchas took unilateral action. But details recorded in the Talmud (Sanhendrin 106a) show he consulted with Moses. Pinchas reminded him there is a commandment requiring a zealot to take drastic action in the face such depravity. After all, this is not your run of the mill PDA (public display of affection)!

Pinchas confirmed his planned course of action was correct before acting. His authority was Moses, the only person ever to speak with G-d “mouth to mouth.”

Who among us can claim to be at the spiritual level of Pinchas, the first grandson of Aaron (the first High Priest), and a nephew of Moses? Who among us can claim to have as a mentor someone at Moses’s level? Surely for any of us to take such an action would be wrong. Today, when considering punitive action in G-d’s name, we would be well advised to keep in mind the conditions of Pinchas’s act.

But what about more mundane situations: a co-worker who bad-mouths you behind your back, a driver who cuts you off, or misbehavior by your child. Surely you can choose how to respond without consulting anyone else.

I dealt with the case of a co-worker in last week’s post on injustice. When a driver cuts me off I force myself to admit I have done the same, albeit almost always accidentally. Most likely this driver was no more ill intentioned.

It should be easier for me to forgive my daughter than an errant driver. After all, I cherish her. But whether out of a sense that her misbehavior is reflective of my inadequate parenting or the presumption that her defiance is meant as a personal attack (for the record I am an inadequate parent and she is rarely defiant, let alone disrespectful) I’ve learned not to discipline her in the moment. Rather, I consult with my wife. Recently, the three of us sat down and discussed what would be a reasonable punishment when she did something wrong. Her proposal, though not as harsh as what I had in mind, has turned out to be appropriate.

Aaron greatest trait was his love for every Israelite. Unremarked upon in his story is that as a descendant of Aaron, most likely Pinchas loved Zimri. All the more reason that he consulted with Moses before taking irreversible action. While reprimanding a loved one may seem to be nowhere as dire as Pinchas’s action, you don’t need a spear to wound a loved one’s heart. In that light, a few minutes consulting with someone whose knowledge and experience you respect before taking punitive action could prevent you from doing lasting damage to a relationship.

It takes twenty positive actions to offset one negative one. Affirm that from here on out you will seek counsel before issuing a rebuke. Starting now, set the tone by speaking loving, supportive words to your spouse and children daily.

How do you decide whether a punishment is just? 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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