Tag Archives: spiritual growth

God Is Preparing You to Be Tough

Why Even Deep Love Can Be Painful

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Beshalach - Exodus13:17-17:16

Johnny Cash’s music speaks to me like the Beatles do to most other baby boomers. Maybe because when I was growing up my father was pretty tough on me. Men of my dad’s generation didn’t explain their child-rearing goals with their sons. But one day I heard A Boy Named Sue. Cash put into words what my dad wanted me to be. Tough. Now I could see how much my father loved me. Of course, this was before I understood Parshas Beshalach:

“And Moses said to the people, do not fear, stand and see the salvation of G-d that He will do for you today.” (Shemos/Exodus 14:13)

God Is Preparing You to Be Tough

In this Sabbath’s parsha the Children of Israel leave Egypt. But once again Pharaoh changes his mind. He decides to chase them. At the last moment, G-d splits the Reed Sea (the usual translation of the Red Sea is incorrect). The Israelites walk between two walls of water on dry land. The Almighty drowns the Egyptians pursuing them. The Israelites sing the Song of the Sea thanking G-d for their deliverance.

On their journey to the Land of Israel, the Children of Israel complain of hunger and thirst. G-d sustains them with Manna from heaven and water from a rock.

G-d’s Love Doesn’t Always Feel Kind

The Israelites panicked when they got trapped between the Reed Sea and the Egyptian army. They complained that Moses brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. Yet just days before, they witnessed the miraculous Exodus. How could they have lost faith so quickly?

After centuries of being slaves, it’s not surprising the Israelites were unprepared to defend themselves against their former masters. Though they vastly outnumbered them, from their youth they bore the yoke of Egypt’s oppression. Such feelings of inferiority prevented them from fighting.

G-d had freed them from physical slavery. Now each individual had to let go of the slavery mindset. The Almighty could have reset their emotions and spirit. But then the Israelites would not have learned how to grow on their own. Like any loving parent, the Almighty wanted to prepare His children to overcome the challenges of life.

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G-d performed a miracle by splitting the sea. But only when Nachshon showed he was tough enough to move forward into the water up to his nose. Throughout their wandering in the wilderness, the Almighty brought physical miracles. But the Israelites had to show strengthened mindsets to benefit from them.

Get Tough Enough to Never Give Up

After making the same mistake for the umpteenth time, I find myself despairing. Defeats weighs on my spirit. So in a small way, I can appreciate how the Children of Israel must have felt. The part of me committed to giving up starts to get the upper hand.

Then I remember my dad. And I refuse to give in to my weakness. My father raised me to be tough. I find another way to overcome my challenge and reach my goal. Call it the umpteenth time plus one.

Pursuing a goal without positive results is discouraging. It’s worse when you don’t control the situation. Why doesn't G-d let you succeed? You focus on all the things that can go wrong. When the urge to quit hits you, it’s common to feel alone. Fear and weakness convince you to face all life's problems by yourself. That way they can enslave you with feelings of inferiority or excessive guilt.

Your task then is to view the elevated aspects of your character. Focus on your strengths. Internalize knowledge of your assets. Make them part of your purpose. Take time every morning to review them. From a powerful stance, in a strong voice, read your list of strong points. Embed the image of your unconquerable self into your being.

Then you’ll have unshakable resolve to triumph over your weak points and circumstances. You will succeed because you see yourself as a good, capable, resilient person.

You don’t need a name you detest to become tough. G-d loves you so much He’ll compel you to strengthen your resilience. And when you confront your problems with a stout heart, you might experience a miracle.

Question – How can you focus on your strengths but avoid becoming or being perceived as conceited?

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

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bo – Exodus 10:1-13:16

Back during the first week of 2013, I injured my back, got bronchitis, dropped and broke my computer, and rear-ended another driver. Like other times when everything went haywire, I started wondering what G-d wanted from me? If He would let up I could get back on track. Then it hit me. I had become Pharaoh in Parshas Bo:

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews, for how much longer will you refuse to be humbled before Me?’ (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d makes Nissan the first month of the year. He commands the Children of Israel to perform the Pesach, the Passover Offering.

Then, the Almighty brings the Exodus.

The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

Arrogance Is the Root of Most Evil

Come with me on a tour of the wreckage of Egypt. Pharaoh and his people lived through:

  1. All their water turning into blood.
  2. Frogs swarming their homes, even in their bread.
  3. Lice infesting their bodies.
  4. Hoards of wild beasts overrunning their land.
  5. Pestilence killing their livestock.
  6. Agonizing boils all over their bodies.
  7. Hail devastating their orchards and crops.

This group of catastrophes makes the worst day I’ve ever had seem outstanding. So it seems inconceivable that Pharaoh remained stubborn.  Only one force in nature could do it. Arrogance. Pharaoh refused to humble himself.

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Letting the Israelites go out into the desert meant submitting to G-d’s will. This takes humility. Time and again Pharaoh remained arrogant. All he had to do was say go and stand by his decision. Instead, his vanity destroyed his people and himself.

Use Humility to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Arrogance takes many forms including:

  • Power trips
  • Rude behavior
  • Brooding about minor insults
  • Know it all attitude
  • Refusing to adapt

You’ve met people who suffer for their arrogance. They must retaliate for even the slightest indignity. By contrast, someone who has internalized humility treats insults like water on a duck’s back. They roll off unnoticed.

You may have a friend or colleague who insists on winning every disagreement. He rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better life?

When you accept inappropriate behavior or limits you’re saying:

  • I’m so smart (or stupid) no one can teach me anything.
  • I’m perfect the way I am.

A modest person recognizes his shortcomings and seeks out ways to overcome them. False modesty is a form of arrogance. It denies the inherent ability of every human being to change.

Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. A short while later he thought better of it. He gathered all the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. This was the first of many instances for which he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Patton voluntarily, publicly, and sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. Because he believed in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance.

Arrogance closes you off from solutions to the challenges you face. It destroys relationships. But I have good news for you. If you’ve read this far you met my arrogance challenge. Some people will react to the headline by saying, “You’re right. I’m not even going to read it.” You took the road of learning and growth. Next time you confront a challenge, you won’t sabotage yourself. You know the road of learning and growth is open to you.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance?

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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.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Make Growth in These Two Areas Your Obsession

2-½ minutes to read

Feeling bombarded with advice on becoming more successful? I’m hip. With Christmas and New Year over, ‘tis the season for personal development. And that’s fine. But so much of the guidance contradicts itself. These days you’re told to set goals rather than make New Year’s resolutions. But others say setting goals will demoralize you. Here’s my favorite dilemma. Should you focus on building up your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses? Allow me to cut through the static so you have simple, actionable steps to apply to your life now.

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Distinguish Among the Realms of Your Life

Have you seen the movie Nuns on the Run? Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane play thieves masquerading as nuns to hide from a gang who wants to kill them. In one priceless scene, Coltrane tries to answer the question of how G-d can be One and also a Trinity. It’s like how you are one person embodying physical, mental, and spiritual domains.

As a runner, I’ve learned to achieve top performance by combining hard physical training with a determined attitude. At times, with mind and body integrated, I reach a spiritual connection to my surroundings. I remember the transcendent experience of a late summer run along Puget Sound. Running in the snow at Camp Fuji in the shadow of Japan’s highest mountain gave me a similar sense.

At the same time, there are different ways to train for physical and mental resilience.

You can increase your physical stamina without improving your mental focus. Think about the last time you did a boring activity like running on a treadmill. Likewise, you can create a distraction-free environment that will increase your focus. But it won’t increase your physical strength or endurance.

You could practice mindfulness while on the treadmill. But the need to be aware of not falling off tends to interrupt your focus. You could stand on a balance board while working at a standup desk. But staying balanced will intrude on your work.

Even though they’re not integrated, you will benefit from training that isolates the physical and mental domains.

Keep this principle in mind as we simplify personal development.

Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Perhaps as an offshoot of science, coaches seem to be looking for a unified theory of self-improvement. Some recommend you build only on your strengths. Others insist you work solely on overcoming your weaknesses. Each applies his theory to the physical, mental, and spiritual domains. By following either one, you sacrifice gains in one domain for no gains in another.

Two main areas will impact your professional success:

  1. Skills, knowledge, and experience
  2. Character

The first one is obvious. The second one includes issues such as punctuality, relationship building, and maintaining your reputation.

Unless you have a glaring omission in your skills, knowledge, or experience, focus on building your strengths. The job market pays a premium for expertise. Strive for top-level ability in what you’re best at now. This will benefit you more than middle-level ability in more skills.

With character, usually shortcomings are what hold back your career progression. If you have trouble getting to work on time or you procrastinate you need to overcome these weaknesses to succeed. Conquer them with action-taking and learning to network well.

Become obsessed with growing your professional strengths and overcoming character weaknesses. Your success will spiral ever higher each time you make ground with one or the other.

Which do struggle more to deal with - Growing your professional strengths or overcoming character weaknesses?

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

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

How to Break Through the Confines of Rational Thinking

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Exodus 1:1-6:1

My mom spent her career in bookkeeping and accounting. Even as a kid, I knew she didn’t like it. Now retired, she feels she can pursue her passion. My mom has always wanted to be a writer. Her father taught art at Yale University. His paintings adorn the walls of all the families’ homes. Her younger sister has published a book. But logic dominated her work life. She had to support a family. Maybe if I’d understood Parshas Shemos sooner I could have convinced her to take a different path:

"Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives…and the second one’s name Puah." (Shemos/Exodus 1:15)

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the second book of the Torah. A new Pharaoh reigns over Egypt and enslaves the Israelites. He declares all male infants will be killed. Moses is born and Pharaoh’s daughter raises him, nursed by his own mother. He flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. There he meets and marries Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, also known as Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Moses encounters an angel in a burning bush. G-d appoints him as His messenger to obtain the release of the Children of Israel. Reluctant, Moses bows to the Almighty’s will. He leaves Midian for Egypt. Aaron, his older brother, meets him on the way and becomes his partner in dealing with Pharaoh. They have their first meeting with him. Rather than agreeing to their demands Pharaoh makes the enslavement harsher.

Logic Can Be Harsher Than Reality

The Israelite men despaired over Pharaoh’s decree requiring their newborn sons be thrown into the Nile. Amram, the leader of the Hebrew judicial system and Moses’s father, felt hopeless. He concluded logically they should stop procreating since this only would cause needless death. Amram divorced his wife and became celibate.

Because of his stature, the Israelite men followed suit. Despite the miraculous population increase during the initial phase of the enslavement, reason dictated to the men that they stop having children rather than letting half of them be killed.

Along comes Puah, who we later meet as Miriam, Moses’s older sister. She respectfully reproves her father. Pharaoh, she notes, only wanted to destroy their sons. Her father’s example, followed by all the men, means no daughters either.

Perhaps, says Puah, the people will keep their faith in G-d. If so, they may not listen to the evil Pharaoh. But as a righteous leader, they will follow Amram’s precedent.

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To his credit, Amram accepts Puah’s rebuke and remarries his wife. The procreative lives of the Israelites restart.

Constraining Yourself Through Logic

G-d will let you construct a rational argument to limit yourself. We see this when the Israelites are at the Reed Sea. Trapped between an impassable body of water and the Egyptian army they cry in despair. G-d stands by and lets them remain in their “prison” built from logic.

Then Nachshon decides to take action. He walks into the Reed Sea up to his nose. Against all logic, the Almighty parts the water. The Israelites escape annihilation.

You can constrain yourself using logic to:

  • Avoid hard work. Aspiring to a more successful life takes soul searching and tremendous effort. It’s much easier to employ logic to convince yourself you’ve reached your limits.
  • Protect yourself from disappointment. Reaching for success means at times you’ll fail. You can shelter yourself from pain by building a rational case for not trying.
  • Justify a pessimistic view. If you have challenges that held back relatives or friends you may reason success will evade you too.
  • Reinforce negative belief. You may believe that dreams only come true for a select few. And you’re not among them. People will be happy to support this disempowering belief with “facts.”

Hopefully, you have a Puah who will reframe your life. If not, do it yourself.

Whether you strive for success or not, unshackle yourself by knowing:

  • You can work for someone else’s dream or your own. You get to choose.
  • Setbacks are unavoidable. Confront them on your terms.
  • You are unique. No one else’s experience can dictate the results of your life.
  • Motivation comes in many forms. When you were a kid, remember how committed you were to doing something your parents prohibited?

Amram left faith out of the equation. Don't make the same mistake.

G-d will allow logic to prevent your success. The Almighty will also help you transcend rationality on your way to building a brilliant life.

What logical argument are you using to restrain your success?

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

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

Why You Must Discover the Genuine You Now

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26

Have you noticed the longer a colleague stays in the military the more his identity merges with his service branch? Leadership encourages this in the interest of esprit de corps. As you move on from military service have you shifted to a civilian outlook? If you see yourself only as a veteran it’s going to be a tough transition. Take an object lesson from Parshas Vayechi:

“A lion cub is Judah… The scepter shall not depart from Judah….’” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:9-10)

How to Breakthrough the Fog of a Transition

This Sabbath’s parsha concludes the book of Genesis. Jacob was near death. He asked Joseph to swear not to bury him in Egypt. Rather, he wanted to be interred in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, thereby making them in effect of his sons. Then he blessed his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like reprimands.

All Egypt mourned Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The grandeur of his burial procession impressed and scared the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assured his brothers he forgave them. He lived to see his great-grandchildren. Before he died, Joseph asked his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brought them out of Egypt.

The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Israelites and their redemption.

Judah’s Unique Blessing

Only three of the twelve sons got a blessing that dealt with his character and future impact on the Israelites. Jacob pointed out Issachar’s stubbornness. But he predicted he would teach the Israelites G-d’s laws. Jacob described Dan as a serpent and a viper (ouch!). But he appointed him the avenger of the tribes.

Both sons take a hit on character. But Issachar will turn stubbornness into tenacity. And Dan will bite only the Israelites’ enemies.

In contrast, Jacob compared Judah to a lion cub who will grow to become an “awesome lion.” With the character of the king of beasts, Judah inherits the mantle of kingship over Israel. None of his brothers received the double blessing of outstanding moral strength and leadership.

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After Jacob’s death, Judah alone continued life with an unambiguous purpose and mission.

Uncertainty Comes from Lack of Purpose & Mission

When I was seven years old I got a fortune cookie warning me to beware of becoming a jack-of-all-trades. Almost 50 years later I still struggle at times with staying focused on my purpose and mission. A shiny opportunity will flash before my eyes and before I know it I’m off chasing it.

Many people equate the two. But as you saw in the blessings:

  • Purpose describes your traits and character, who you are as a person.
  • Mission tells how you will impact the lives of other people.

They support each other. Your mission should grow out of your purpose. Notice the relationships between the two for Issachar, Dan, and Judah. You may struggle with a trait, such as stubbornness. But you can make it useful for achieving the right mission.

Choosing a mission out of sync with your purpose will cause frustration. Issachar’s inflexibility prevented his being king. Before you choose your personal mission, get clear on your strengths and weaknesses.

Leaving the military necessitates changing your mission. You won’t be on the front lines “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….” Your purpose will have to change as you transition your identity from service member to civilian.

Step one on your reintegration agenda requires that you uncover your purpose and mission for civilian life. No other accomplishment will have a greater impact on your future happiness and success. Get started now.

Question – Have you taken an inventory of your traits and characteristics?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question 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 bout? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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