Tag Archives: Old Testament

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?

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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!

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!

Ever Have Trouble Finishing Projects?

“Then Moses separated three cities across the Jordan, from the east. To flee there a killer that killed without intention . . .’” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 4:41-42). Moses fulfills the commandment to create three cities of refuge. But why should he bother since they will not become havens until the Land of Israel is conquered and the other three cities are established?

Ever Have Trouble Finishing Projects?

The parsha for this Sabbath is Va’eschanan. It begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the Land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Children of Israel to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example himself by fulfilling the mitzvah to set aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the Israelites the Shema. The parsha ends with Moses urging the People not to succumb to prosperity but rather to diligently teach their children about the exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

Instant Gratification vs. Enduring Value

While many Americans are in need of instant gratification among other indicators, the number of people in their 20s buying homes demonstrates that some are aware of the wisdom in saving and investing for their future. Still, I am left wondering if they knew they had no chance of paying off their mortgage before they died would they still become homeowners?

Moses provides a contrast. The Hebrew word used for separated, yavdil, can also mean set aside. Rashi points out that this indicates Moses set his heart to the task of establishing the three cities of refuge. The opportunity to comply with G-d’s will and provide a benefit to future generations had him trembling with anticipation about fulfilling this mitzvah.

Finishing Projects Isn't Always the Point

Are you prone to beginning projects but lose enthusiasm and leave them incomplete? Of what value is this to you and others? Are you unwilling to begin a project unless you are certain it will come to fruition within your lifetime? What about worthwhile causes that may not bear fruit for generations to come? Are they to go wanting?

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I am convinced one of the reasons people reject religion and marriage is both are lifelong undertakings. Nobody’s relationship with G-d is ever finished nor is a marriage perfected. It seems pointless to go through all the struggle and heartache. Yet the point of both is to work continually to improve yourself and set an example of how to be better for your friends and loved ones, especially your children.

Moses creates the paradigm. His excitement at improving his connection with The Creator was boundless, even though the task seemed fruitless. Yet undoubtedly Moses was blessed many times by killers, whose lives were spared, and their loved ones because he set up the cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

Question – What will you do in your lifetime knowing that, at best, future generations will bless you?

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Do You Get Angry When Someone Verbally Abuses You?

“. . . Pi Hachiros . . .” (Bamidbar/Numbers 33:7). The Israelites’ journeys are recounted, Pi Hachiros being one of the stops. It there anything to be learned from the places they encamped?

Do You Get Angry When Someone Verbally Abuses You?

The parsha for this Sabbath is a double one, Mattos and Masei. Mattos discusses the matter of taking a vow, the war against Midian and its aftermath including how to make utensils kosher, and the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and half of Manasheh asking to have their portion of land on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

Parshas Masei reviews the journey taken by the Israelites from Egypt through the wilderness and ending at the border of the land of Israel.  Also, it gives instructions on how the land will be divided and for designating cities for the Levites and Cities of Refuge as well as who is eligible to seek sanctuary in them.

The Sefer Glilai Zahav notes that Pi Hachiros is a form of idolatry observed with complete freedom of the mouth. A person said whatever he wanted no matter how insulting or slanderous his words.

Sadly, today many people behave this way under the guise of being honest or true to themselves. No matter how harsh or insensitive, they say whatever enters their heads unmindful of how much pain and suffering they cause others.

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Such behavior is antithetical to creating a relationship with G-d, since among the most important ways to do so is to take care of His children. Rather, no matter how someone else is behaving, you should take pleasure in holding your tongue and refraining from inflicting emotional harm. Such behavior will confirm to you that you are a kind person. The more brutal the verbal assault of you, the greater joy you should take in not responding in kind.

Sincere and useful criticism that is conveyed with empathy is appropriate. In such a case the recipient should be able to discern that you are motivated by love. To be able to compassionately re-direct another person’s behavior is to emulate the Almighty at the highest level.

What can you do about having had less than a self-controlled tongue in the past? From now on, go out of your way to give others strength and encouragement. When you elevate the way you use the gift of speech, you atone for prior mistakes.

Question – How do you develop self-restraint against making verbal attacks?

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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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