Tag Archives: middos

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!

Let Me Show You How to Be Perfect

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Kedoshim – Leviticus 19:1-20:27

Searching for perfection is usually counterproductive. Fear of failure prevents people from taking action. After all, if they make mistakes they aren’t perfect. But striving for perfection can be beneficial in one area of life. Parshas Kedoshim explains:

…you will love your fellow as yourself… (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18)

Let Me Show You How to Be Perfect

This Sabbath’s parsha list many mitzvahs from practical to religious. Each gives you a way to improve your relationship with G-d. They include respecting parents and elders, giving charity to the poor, being honest in business, observing the Sabbath, not dabbling in the occult, not taking revenge, and forbidden relationships.

“This is the great rule of the Torah” - Rabbi Akiva

How realistic is it for G-d to insist we love other people as much as we love ourselves? Isn’t the Torah hopelessly naïve to demand such selflessness? The Sages say you should act as if you love others. Such behavior will eventually transform your emotions.

The Tanya, a classic work of Chassidic mysticism, teaches that you must put aside physical matters and focus on the spirit. By concentrating on a person’s soul you may truly come to love him. Too often people are preoccupied with a person’s appearance, the sound of his voice, how she dresses, or annoying habits. None of these physical concerns embody the essence of a person. Superficialities do not emanate from the soul.

People say someone has a good soul. Do they really have the depth of insight to view a person’s core? Does it make sense to suggest that someone has a weird or annoying soul? Habits can be described this way, but a person’s core, the soul? It’s a spark of the Creator in each of us. It is perfect.

Be Perfect at Recognizing Someone’s Essence

What is the practical result of this philosophy? Suppose you know someone who rubs you the wrong way. You have two choices.

  1. Let your irritation rise to the point where you think the person is a monster.
  2. Counter your exasperation by telling yourself that perhaps the person is like Shrek, an ogre on the outside but with a heart of gold.

If you’re honest you’ll realize some people dislike you for external factors. Yet you believe you’re good. If you want to receive the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t you offer it others?

To be perfect, look beyond people’s superficialities. Engage with them soul to soul. Love your fellows as yourself. A simple change of perspective will help you be perfect and improve your relations with family, friends, and strangers.

How do you view people? 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!

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Metzora – Leviticus 14:1-15:33

Self-improvement is hard. First you have to figure out what needs fixing. Then, you have to find a system that will deliver results. Because it’s intangible, spiritual improvement is the most difficult. I almost pine for the old days described in this week’s parsha, Metzora:

This will be the law of the metzora on the day of his spiritual purification. (Vayikra/Leviticus 14:2)

How to Keep Your Spirit in Balance

This Sabbath's parsha tells how a metzora, someone with tzaraas (a spiritual disease contracted because a person’s life is out of balance), and a house with a tzaraas become tahor, spiritually purified. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

The Plague of Spiritual Imbalance

The Kabbalah, a compendium of Jewish mysticism, says tzaraas comes from life being out of balance. An hormonal imbalance causes acne during puberty. It shows up in skin becoming swollen, red, and even pus-filled. So too, a metzora’s spirit is out of equilibrium. It reveals its presence through a leprous-like affliction.

In time, a young person’s body adjusts to the increased hormonal output. Balance returns and the acne goes away. Hopefully it leaves no permanent scars. A metzora experiences a sudden increase holiness. While this is a great thing, it takes time for the person to adjust. Over time the person will rise up to the new level of sanctity and regain spiritual balance. In the meantime, tzaraas serves as a reminder that further work is necessary.

So, the loss of the ability to contract tzaraas is a mixed blessing. It is embarrassing for a person’s shortcomings to be displayed in public. But, he misses out on a tangible motivation to elevate himself.

The Modern Day Alternative

Most people have a default mode for handling life. Is yours one of these?

  • Chesed– Loving-kindness
  • Gevurah– Justice and Discipline
  • Tiferes– Harmony and Compassion
  • Netzach– Endurance
  • Hod – Humility
  • Yesod– Bonding
  • Malchus– Sovereignty and Leadership

In addition to your primary mode, you are probably pretty good at using a couple of the others in this list. The challenge comes when you’re presented with an issue that cannot be handled within your existing frame of reference. Perhaps you tried solving a problem but it blew up in your face instead. Or you’re procrastinating because you do not know how to approach it.

You need to stop trying to force people to enter your world rather than gaining the skills to enter theirs. When you recognize other people’s modes, you have a valuable tool for problem solving. And you’ll avoid hurricanes while navigating through life.

Each year, beginning on the send day of Passover, the Omer is counted. By following it, you have the chance to practice understanding many approaches to life and experience their nuances. Such training prepares you for higher levels of holiness. You enhance your ability to build relationships with other people and the Almighty.

Like any new skill, you must be intentional to grasp it and make it an integral part of yourself. Each night the count introduces you to a new concept that your minds can ponder while asleep. Then you can explore it the next day through deliberate acts according to the day’s theme.

You can get my free 49 Days to Refine Your Character tool by signing up for my email list. Enjoy the benefits of expanding your repertoire for creating successful relationships!

How do develop your spirit? 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!

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