Tag Archives: spiritual growth

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

Train to Handle Problems Before They Arise

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Practicing to Defeat G-d’s Plan?

Angles and dangles constitute one of the more bizarre exercises onboard a Navy ship. At first, they applied to a submarine’s seaworthiness, tested by diving and surfacing at 30-degree angles. A surface ship maneuvers through high-speed turns until the deck leans over close to the point of capsizing. All crewmembers not working the ship stay in their bunks to avoid injury.

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

On its face, putting a ship in such danger as training seems crazy. What if the quartermaster (the sailor who steers the ship) makes a mistake and capsizes it? But the crew needs to gain experience conning the ship. Better to get it under controlled circumstances than in the eye of a hurricane.

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Practicing allows the crew to face hazards with confidence. The more they feel in control, the better they’ll perform. So it may sound contradictory that the Talmud says sailors are pious. Most acknowledge the Almighty controls events.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

As the seminal act of creating, having a child joins us to G-d. Producing a new life comes as close to a Divine act as anything we’ll ever do. But, birth is only the beginning. We see in Parsha Emor:

“…G-d’s festivals that you will appoint as holy assemblies…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. It discusses the pure olive oil for the menorah and loaves of bread, known as the showbread, for the table. The parsha ends with the story of a man who blasphemed.

When our children turn five we send them to school. We adjust from controlling their development to sharing that responsibility. Now teachers, principals, and their fellow students have a hand in whom they become. Yet we keep authority to direct their lives.

The Almighty created human beings to have as partners in fulfilling creation. Making us responsible for determining when festivals begin did more than putting us in charge of the calendar. He gave us partial control over time.

Two days before Passover is a regular day. The day before has a medium level of sanctity. Passover itself is a sacred time. When we set the calendar we help fill the world with holiness. G-d wants us to bring the spirituality of heaven to earth. Like teachers helping us fulfill our aspirations for our children. When we develop holiness, we fulfill the Almighty’s aspirations for the world.

Executing this vital task takes practice. Sailors train to conquer hurricanes – physical challenges in this world. Greater competence moves them closer to the Creator. The same applies to the mental and spiritual challenges we face.

The Almighty sends emotional tempests so we can practice overcoming them. Recognize that as you gain greater skill in the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms, you also move closer to G-d. Use this as motivation to keep pursuing your goal.

How do you train for emotional and spiritual resilience?

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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!

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength?

How to Link Your Mind and Spirit

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33

General George Patton trained his men in many principles of resilience. Among them, he drilled,

“Never let the body tell the mind what to do… The body is not tired if the mind is not tired.”

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength

Patton Became an Outstanding Warrior Because He Knew How to Build Mental and Spiritual Resilience.

The Source of Mental Toughness

Patton led soldiers through the scorching heat of the North African desert. He commanded them to victory through the freezing cold winter of 1944 in the Ardennes. The grit his men exhibited amazed even the likes of General Eisenhower.

At the same time, he learned the mind needed to govern more than physical stamina. Once, as a new second lieutenant, he damned one of his men for moving too slowly. Later that day he concluded he’d been wrong to curse him. So he got all his men together and apologized to the soldier.

He never conquered his rash tongue. Because of this and other shortcomings, Patton continually strove to toughen his spirit. He recognized the unquestionable link between spiritual strength and mental durability.

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He used the Bible to develop his spirit. Because of his dyslexia, as a child, he memorized many verses. Legend has it he once corrected Cardinal Francis Spellman’s quotation of Scripture. Patton voiced profanity to motivate his soldiers. But they knew he considered himself accountable to G-d on a daily basis.

How Mind and Spirit Support Each Other

As such, Patton didn’t have to worry about a tzaraas as described in Parshas Tazria:

“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eis, or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh….” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth. Next, it explains how to verify when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body. Then it covers a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

A metzora suffered physical pain due to a variety of misbehaviors. Most common, he gossiped or maligned a friend. Contracting tzaraas came after repeated refusals to acknowledge his sin and make amends. It may feel weak to apologize when you don’t mean to hurt someone. But each time you don’t you weaken your spirit.

At the same time, you crowd your mind with an unpleasant, unresolved interaction. Refusing to hold yourself accountable causes a build-up of bad feelings. Your mind won’t let go of these events. You become captive to unpleasant memories.

As well, you have no recourse when someone does the same thing to you. How can you insist on an apology when you refuse to make amends for the same wrongdoing?

Though imperfect, Patton stands as a model for building mental resilience:

  1. Uncompromising introspection helped him confront his shortcomings.
  2. He took steps to resolve them.
  3. This freed him to pursue his quest for greatness on the battlefield.

By making periodic accountings of your behavior, you can identify when you fall short. Next, you can take steps to resolve the issue. Having done so, you can move forward freed from regret or guilt. Your mind now has room to focus on tasks designed to reach your goals rather than on recycling unpleasant dealings.

Gossiping may seem harmless. But how did you feel last time you found someone had told a falsehood about you? We know we shouldn’t tell tales. But stopping is hard. Using Patton’s three-step process will help you conquer your shortfalls. In doing so you’ll liberate your mind and spirit. Unburdened, they provide you with the mental and spiritual strength necessary to reach your goals.

What stops you from taking steps to resolve mistakes you’ve made?

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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 Drink Booze According to the Bible

Do you know your spirit and spirits are connected?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemini – Leviticus 9:1-11:47

What do July 1, 1914 and July 31, 1970 have in common? I’ll give you some hints. In both cases, a lot of sailors became very unhappy. No one got killed. Neither marks a natural disaster. Rather the catastrophe was manmade.

How to Drink Booze According to the Bible

They stand in infamy as the dates the American and British navies went dry.

Booze On-Board Men-of-War

Practical reasons made alcohol on ships necessary. Centuries ago sailors made lengthy sea voyages on tall-masted wooden sailing ships. Lack of refrigeration meant water became contaminated with algae and developed a putrid taste. Likewise, beer had a short shelf life.

Enter booze. It not only retained but improved its flavor when stored in wooden barrels for a long time. Intoxicated crewmen might fall from rigging more than 200 feet above the deck. Still, rations of fortified wine or rum highlighted daily life at sea.

At its founding in 1794, the U.S. Navy established a sailor’s right to “one-half pint of distilled spirits per day.” That’s roughly a third of a bottle of rum. You’d be inebriated two or three times over by today’s standard!

Problems such as drunken fights and deaths from falling led the navies to begin watering down straight liquor. Hence in 1740, the British navy began issuing grog, a mixture of one part rum to four parts water. More complex propulsion systems and control of high-tech equipment and nuclear weapons presaged the end of daily consumption of spirits aboard ships.

The Spiritual Nature of Spirits

Parsha Shemini tells the Kohanim (priests):

You will not drink wine and intoxicating drink, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Meeting, and you will not die… (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:9)

G-d does not prohibit booze. The restriction applies when the Kohanim have to perform their duty. At other times, the Torah permits alcoholic beverages. Some people brought money from their maaser sheni (the second tithe of a crop) to Jerusalem. The Almighty permitted them to buy liquor with it.

Wine inaugurates Sabbath celebrations. You drink it during the festivals, like the four cups of the Passover Seder. Psalm 104 summarizes the celebratory nature of spirits, “Wine gladdens the heart.”

Despite the centrality of intoxicants to Judaism, the downside of drunkenness rarely occurred.

Booze, like all G-d’s gifts, gives you a pathway to holiness. But elevating your spirit to such a high level requires making distinctions. Imbibing every day provides no contrast. Wine on the Sabbath and festivals separates them from weekdays. Drinking until numb impedes your ability to feel your soul connecting to the Creator. Thirteen ounces of wine on top of a ton of matzah and other food opens you to new insights in the Passover story.

Granted, navies don’t seek spiritual enlightenment for their sailors. But abstention on ships often leads to overindulgence on shore. Strict sobriety and intoxication indicate a life out of balance. To maximize your access to the Almighty, from time to time use spirits to open your soul without muddling your mind.

How does booze affect your spirit?

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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!

Are You Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments?

How to Make Self-Marketing Godly

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tzav – Leviticus 6:1-8:36

The military knows how to build morale. You may have encountered a bad leader. But most follow Parshas Tzav's advice on reward and punishment:

“If for a thanksgiving offering he will offer it, with the sacrifice of the thanksgiving offering he will offer unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil; and scalded fine flour mixed with oil. Along with loaves of leavened bread…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 7:12-13)

Are You Shy About Promoting Your Accomplishments

God wants others to be motivated by your accomplishments and the blessings He gives you so don’t be bashful about letting people know.

This Sabbath’s parsha continues the discussion of the korbanos (Temple offerings). Then it details the anointing of Aaron and his sons as the Kohanim (Priests) who will serve in the Temple.

Your Public and Private Life

When a sailor lived through a hurricane he brought a thanksgiving offering. A captive who escaped imprisonment did too. Anyone surviving perilous circumstances could express gratitude to the Almighty with this offering.

Along with the animal, a person brought 40 loaves of bread. They comprised ten each of the four varieties mentioned above.  The Kohen handling the offering received one of each kind. The other 36 went to the person who brought it.

All had to be eaten that day or by the following night. The short time ensured the bread would get shared with others. When you received a loaf, you learned about your friend’s good fortune. Soon it became general knowledge in the community.

Juxtapose this to the sin offering. You didn’t bring any loaves. So news about your mistakes didn’t spread.

Share your joy at receiving G-d’s blessing and you’ll improve people’s moods. They’ll see an example of where faith, hope, and perseverance pay off.  True friends feel joy and gratitude for your success. These feelings enhance their wellbeing.

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By contrast, avoid publicizing your challenges and difficulties. Keep them among those who will give you genuine support and sympathy. Public emoting of problems, so common today, makes people pessimistic. Or they may gloat at your misfortune. Neither benefits you or them.

Don't be Shy About Accomplishments

The military didn’t always recognize the difference between public and private spheres. Until at least the mid 19th century, units mustered to witness punishment. Flogging through the fleet publicized the heinousness of certain crimes like mutiny.

Today’s military leaders know to praise in public and rebuke in private. They award medals in front of your whole unit. Family and friends hear a tribute to your exemplary deeds. Your colleagues get motivated to keep striving.

Reprimands take place in confidential proceedings. Article 15, office hours, and captain’s mast happen behind closed doors. While others may hear about them, no one publicizes results. The public can attend a court martial. But only in the most notorious cases is punishment disclosed.

The same principle applies throughout your life. In public, praise and show gratitude to your spouse. In front of others, commend your child for accomplishments reaped through hard work. When something negative occurs, deal with the issue in private. No matter how right you were, if you rebuked them in public apologize.

Treat yourself the same way. Publicize your accomplishments. Emphasize the good parts of your military service. Show how your responsibility grew during your career. But don’t volunteer negative aspects to a potential employer.

If confronted with a question about mistakes you’ve made, frame them as lessons learned. That way you show the kind of growth mindset most employers value.

The Creator wants your good fortune to motivate others to connect with Him. In contrast, punishment is His one-on-one way of inspiring better future performance. Hence why He had people publicize thanksgiving offerings and keep sin offerings private. Model these practices all through your life.

Question – Is it dishonest to publicize only the good things that happened to you or that you’ve done?

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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!

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

How God Guides You to Success

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayikra – Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Most people view sins as bad. Rather than quickly profit when they make mistakes, guilt consumes them. They refuse to try again. People who think G-d wants such a world amaze me. Parshas Vayikra shows the Almighty wants you to strive:

“When a ruler will sin, and does unintentionally one from all of his G-d’s commandments that you will not do, and becomes guilty.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 4:22)

4 Steps to Quickly Profit from Mistakes

With Practice You Can Implement this 4-Step Improvement Process on the Fly.

 

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the third book of the Torah by the same name. Throughout it details the duties of the Kohanim or Priests. Hence, its other name, Leviticus, since the Kohanim are part of the tribe of Levi. The parsha gives the rules for bringing offerings on the altar. Notice in verse 2:13 the Priests must salt them. So we dip Sabbath bread in salt.

Success & Humility Go Hand in Hand

An individual, the community, and the king have to bring a chatas for an unintentional sin. Hence why it’s translated as sin offering. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was the spiritual head of the Israelites. Members of the Sanhendrin (supreme court) had lofty positions of leadership. Why single out the king and not other high officials?

As part of his holy service the Kohen Gadol had to examine his conduct daily. So did the Sanhendrin members. Unintentionality didn't apply to them. Every day, each went through the process of uncovering and atoning for his mistakes.

The king exercised temporal power. When he issued a command it happened. Such authority could cause him to feel infallible. While engaged in worldly affairs, his mind could stray from spiritual matters. Self-examination was not part of his everyday life.

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So unlike other community leaders, the king needed a reminder. Like the lowliest of his subjects, he had to take responsibility for his mistakes. Bringing a chatas made a public statement. The pre-eminent leader had to account to the Almighty. By making amends and learning his lessons, the king could continue his life free from guilt.

Quickly Profit Instead of Feeling Guilty

When you wield authority, take pleasure in assessing your behavior often. Engage with G-d every day. Acknowledge your errors to the Creator. Unlike humans, He always understands. But G-d doesn’t want you to stop there.

Admitting your mistakes begins the growth process. Accountability has nothing to do with feeling guilt or receiving punishment. Both hinder change. Instead, see negative results as the prod to improve and try again. Apply this approach to developing your health, profession, mind, and spirit. You’ll quickly profit form mistakes when you internalize this process.

As I mentioned above, Scripture translates chatas as sin offering. It often uses shorthand to define complex concepts. A sin means you fell short of G-d’s expectations. Consequences incentivize you to learn from your mistakes so you won’t suffer them again. Imagine an animal losing its life because you made an error. The crucial step, assessment, gives trying again tremendous power for improved performance.

Here is the root of deliberate practice that I wrote about last week. You can use this method only in real life situations. Or you can drill yourself. Wherever you make frequent errors, create a way to practice improving your performance. That way you won’t fall short at crucial moments. And if you do, you can quickly profit from this mistake by pivoting your practice to deal with it.

Examine the pain points in your life. Rather than avoiding them, take G-d’s prodding to focus on them. Build assessment into your life. Especially as a parent, model this behavior. Then you and your children will gain greater accomplishment and success together.

So what are you waiting for?

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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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