Tag Archives: wisdom

Shrewd Advice About People Who Thwart Your Success

How to Deal With Nasty Coworkers

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Sisa – Exodus 30:11-34:35

Without naming names, I'd prefer not to have worked with some of the chaplains in the navy. They caused me no end of career difficulties. I’ve joked that the UCMJ needs a new article called Conduct Unbecoming a Chaplain. But Parshas Ki Sisa gives shrewd advice for handling the situation:

“And Moses stood at the gate of the camp, and he said, whoever is for G-d come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered to him.” (Shemos/Exodus 32:26)

Shrewd Advice About People Who Thwart Your Success

This Sabbath’s parsha gives the mitzvah of the half-shekel. Then it deals with the last few items for the Altar. Next, it discusses observing the Sabbath. The parsha ends with the story of the Golden Calf.

Two Mutineers’ Stories

The Torah emphasizes every single Levite came to Moses’s aid. Even Korach answered the call. This despite his deep envy of Moses and Aaron. His jealousy was so consuming it led him to mutiny against these leaders chosen by G-d.

Yet even though Korach hated him, Moses welcomed him into the fight for the Almighty’s honor. And he fulfilled his duty to the letter. Those responsible for the Golden Calf received their deserved punishment. Only later did Korach and his followers mutiny.

The same tactic didn’t work for Captain Bligh of the ill-fated HMAV Bounty. He asked his acting lieutenant, Fletcher Christian, to help him discipline a restless crew. Christian displayed little enthusiasm. He concluded Bligh’s honor, not that of King, country, or G-d was at stake. So Christian hastened the mutiny.

Both Korach and Christian felt persecuted by the man in command. Unable to blame G-d, Korach condemned Moses and Aaron for taking the position he coveted. He couldn’t content himself with being among the elite Levites. He had to be number 1.

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Despite his portrayal in popular culture, little evidence exists that Bligh mistreated his sailors. The disciplinary measures he used were common in their day. And his authority came from the King of England. Regardless of Bligh making him second in command, Christian felt abused. Unwilling to hold himself responsible, he blamed his unhappiness on Bligh.

Shrewd Advice Based on Two Great Leaders

Moses and Bligh displayed exemplary leadership. Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land. Bligh navigated a tiny boat through an open sea voyage of more than 4,000 miles. At first, both overlooked the errant tendencies of their restive subordinates.

In the end, as the mutiny leaders sowed, so they reaped. Unable to persuade the mutineers to abandon their cause, Moses had to ask G-d to destroy them. The ground opened up and they perished. Korach, who punished those responsible for the Golden Calf, received the same.

Christian seized the Bounty and set Bligh and most of those loyal to him adrift. Yet later, as the leader of the mutineers on Pitcairn Island, those unhappy with their lives murdered him.

During your job-hunt and on the job you’ll encounter people who will appear to be allies but later turn out to be mutineers. Such people are the exception, not the rule. Korachs and Fletcher Christians are rare. Best to follow Moses’s and Bligh’s example. Show them your good faith. Try to convince them to rejoin your cause.

But if such efforts fail, take heart in the lesson of Korach, Christian, and other mutineers in history. They get their rightful reward. Establish new relationships. And move on with your career.

Question – Is it appropriate to work with a bad or evil person on a worthwhile project?

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. 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 Connect with Any Civilian You Meet

An Easy Way to Continue Your Legacy of Service

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tetzaveh - Exodus 27:20-30:10

Recently I flew on Alaska Airlines. It’s military friendly. You don’t pay baggage fees. Sometimes you can board with the first class passengers. And, you get the obligatory thanks for your service. The gate agent didn’t sound sincere. But, Parsha Tetzaveh explains why I accepted his thanks anyway:

“And you will command the Children of Israel and they will take for you olive oil, clear, crushed for illumination; to light a lamp continually.” (Shemos/Exodus 27:20).

How to Connect with Any Civilian You Meet

This Sabbath’s parsha begins by explaining the mitzvah of the Ner Tamid, the lamp that must always stay lit. Then it describes how to make and use the garments for the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and the Kohanim. Next, it goes over the mitzvah of the korban tamid or continual offering. It ends with how to build and use the incense altar, the Holy of Holies.

G-d Let’s Us Pay Our Debt

G-d groups the Ner Tamid with other offerings. So the Almighty must intend it as an offering of light to Him. But why does the Creator need light, even at night?

In fact, G-d doesn’t need light. But think about a sighted person who helps a blind person get home. Even though the blind person doesn’t need light, the sighted person asks him to light a lamp. He says, “Please do this so you won’t have to feel indebted to me for what I have done for you. Now you have done me a favor.” The Creator gave us light. He could have let us feel indebted every minute of daylight. Instead, He asked us to provide eternal light for Him.

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Unfortunately, sometimes people resent your doing something nice for them. They feel indebted or guilty. True kindness entails giving and receiving with no ulterior motive or expectation of anything in return. But rather than risk bad feelings, it’s better to let people “pay” you back.

Think Connect When a Civilian Thanks You

Some of the veterans I speak with resent civilians who thanks them for their service. They feel such words are insincere. They’d prefer people said nothing.

You may not have joined the military solely to serve. Educational or other benefits may have motivated you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Congress, on behalf of the American people, made them part of our compensation. Still, many of our fellow citizens feel a personal obligation toward veterans.

They know you did things they did not or could not do. Receiving a person’s gratitude allows him to discharge that debt. His words may not sound genuine to you. It would be better if a civilian said thanks in a way that sounded sincere. Even so, kindness requires accepting his appreciation.

Ideally, civilians should be content to let you serve for your personal reasons. They shouldn’t burden you with expressions of gratitude that don’t ring true. Allowing your fellow citizens to get rid of feeling indebted or guilty may make your transition harder. As a service member, you went the extra mile. Do it again. Connect with people in civilian life by accepting their thanks.

Question – Does it bother you when people thank you for your service?

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. 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 Deal with the Setbacks You Encounter

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayeishev – Genesis 37:1-40:23

You straightened out your kid’s school problem. Two weeks later the situation is worse than ever. You made the short list for your perfect job. Someone else got it. You’re back to square zero. You paid off all your debts. Bang! Out of the blue, your car dies. And it’s only Wednesday! I can hear you praying for a peaceful life. You deserve some rest! Parshas Vayeishev explains why you won’t get it:

“And Jacob dwelled/sat in the land of his father’s sojourning’s…” (Beresheis/Genesis 37:1)

How to Deal with the Setbacks You Encounter

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Joseph’s prophetic dreams. As a result, his brothers sold him to desert merchants. Arriving in Egypt, they sold him as a slave. All the while Jacob believed he was dead.

In the midst of these travails is the ribald story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

Back in Egypt, Joseph rose to run Potiphar’s household. But Potiphar’s wife slandered him. Off to prison he goes. There he interpreted the Chief of Butler’s and Chief of Baker’s dreams. Soon the Israelite’s will descend into slavery.

Why a Peaceful Life Is Bad

Jacob had to flee from his brother who wanted to kill him even though Esau had sold him the birthright. He worked seven years for Rachel and ended up married to Leah. He had to constantly battle his unscrupulous employer Laban to avoid getting cheated.

When Jacob finally returned home he faced annihilation. Shechem abducted and raped his daughter. So two of his sons wiped out every male in Shechem’s city.

After so much turmoil, isn’t Jacob entitled to some rest? The double meaning of dwelling and sitting express Jacob’s wish that he finally get to stand down.

But there’s more trouble in store. G-d is unsympathetic. He says, “The righteous do not consider that which is prepared for them in the World to Come to be enough for them, but they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world too!”

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Why You Encounter Setbacks

Have you ever wondered why good people suffer? If G-d loves you why does He allow or bring so much pain into your life?

The Almighty creates each person to be tested and to grow spiritually. At his spiritual level, Jacob was wrong to seek a peaceful life. G-d wants everyone to adopt this attitude.

You will face challenges in life. Each is an opportunity to raise your spiritual level and resilience. Especially when you feel you’re being punished, ask these questions during and after the incident:

  1. How did I behave?
  2. How did I pass this test?
  3. Was I elevated as a result?
  4. How can I do better on the next test?

G-d is your heavenly parent. He is your teacher. Like the best of both, He challenges you so you will become the best YOU. When you seek a restful life you reject His love. You can deal with the setbacks you encounter. Rather than seeking repose, grow. Pray for strength and guidance.

Question – Does being loving always mean being nice?

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 about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Here is the Method that Will Help You Reach Your Goals

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeitzei – Genesis 28:10-32:3

Periodically, Melanie argues we should leave Los Angeles. The cost of living and taxes are outrageous. Despite building a light rail system, traffic gets worse each year. Materialism pervades everywhere. But the conversation bogs down because we can’t just leave L.A. We have to go somewhere else. Until we have the clarity Jacob gets in Parshas Vayeitzei, I guess we’ll stay put:

“And Jacob went out from Beer-Sheba, and he went to Haran.” (Beresheis/Genesis 28:10)

Here Is the Method that Will Help You Reach Your Goals

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Jacob fleeing to his uncle Laban’s house. On the way there he has an encounter with G-d. Jacob meets Rachel and falls in love. He agrees to work seven years so he can marry her. The morning after his wedding he finds himself married to Leah. So he agrees to work another seven years to marry Rachel.

Next Jacob and his wives have eleven sons, who become leaders of the tribes, and one daughter.  Jacob and Laban make a new work contract. But eventually, the discord between them becomes so great Jacob flees with his household. At the end of the parsha, Laban and Jacob reach détente.

Know Why You’re Going

We know from the previous parsha that Isaac was living in Beer-Sheba. The Torah tells us Jacob went to Haran. But it also says he went out from Beer-Sheba. Umm, duh. He couldn’t have gotten to Haran without leaving Beer-Sheba. The Torah doesn’t waste words, so why does it tell us this?

Jacob needed to follow two directives. Rebecca told him to get away from the danger of Esau wanting to kill him. And Isaac instructed him to marry one of Laban’s daughters. Jacob performed both duties. By leaving Beer-Sheba, he did what his mother commanded him. And by going to Haran he did as his father commanded.

Okay, so Jacob obeyed his parents. But the 10 Commandments will make it clear we have to do that. Again there’s that repetition problem.

Rebecca’s and Isaac’s directives converged into one large goal. They wanted to ensure Jacob was fit to fulfill what G-d had in mind. If Esau killed him, he could not physically assume the mantle of leadership from Isaac. If he chose the wrong wife, he would not be fit mentally and spiritually to lead.

Give Yourself Two Motives to Reach Your Goals

Every worthwhile goal has two parts to it:

  1. Moving toward something
  2. Giving something up.

While he had to escape from his brother, the task set by his father gave Jacob direction. He could move toward finding a wife. But striking out on a new path is difficult. Esau forced him to give up his former life. Both gave Jacob the incentive to persevere.

Any goal you set must fit into your larger life’s purpose. If you find yourself not reaching a goal, examine whether it aligns with the person you want to become. Does it help you fulfill your mission?

Sometimes a goal lights up your soul but isn’t in alignment with your purpose. Do you still have passion for your purpose and mission? Yes. Change your goals. No. Alter your mission and purpose.

Jacob’s example can motivate you to get a job you love, improve your marriage, or reinvigorate your relationship with G-d. Have a passionate why, a positive motivation, and a powerful incentive to leave behind the part of yourself that previously held you back.

Question – Can you identify a goal that does not have these two components?

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 about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Put Your Negative Traits to Good Use

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9

I know service members raised in terrible circumstances who completely turned their lives around. Being in the military helped them along the way. But their transformations were not inevitable. They could just as easily have gone the other way. Parshas Toldos gets at the root of how they changed:

“And the first one emerged ruddy (red)…” (Bereshis/Genesis 25:25)

How to Put Your Negative Traits to Good Use

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the birth of Jacob and Esau. Their respective characters become evident when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for some lentil stew. A famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar. He wrangles with the Philistines and makes a treaty with Abimelech.

Next Esau marries two Canaanite women. Isaac blesses Jacob and Esau. Then, though he sold his birthright, Esau hates Jacob for getting the blessing of the first-born. So Jacob flees to his grandfather’s house. Before he leaves, Isaac tells him not to marry a Canaanite woman. The parsha ends with Esau marrying a third time. Who needs Dynasty?

Your Nature Doesn’t Change

Esau’s redness might have been unremarkable if Jacob was the same. The difference served to contrast their characters. Ruddiness marked Esau as a spiller of blood. He became a great hunter but also a murderer.

The famous King David also was born red. When the prophet Samuel anointed David as king, he was concerned this negative trait marked him as a murderer like Esau. But G-d told him that while Esau killed in cold blood, David would kill only to carry out the verdicts of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court in Jerusalem.

Esau and David got to choose whether to follow or defy their natures. Esau could have used his natural disposition to work for justice like David did. Esau excelled at honoring his mother and father. Rather than embracing this trait and expanding it, he chose the easy path.

He convinced himself that since nature doesn’t change he could not conquer his urges toward evil.

Both were born with the same sign. Esau opted for evil, David for good. Each exercised his free will to a different purpose. Their natures were the same. The paths they chose differed.

Turning Negative Traits to Good

On some level, you might sympathize with Esau. Exercising consistent control over negative traits wears you out. Going cold turkey may seem like the only solution. But there is another way.

If you try to go completely against your nature you won’t succeed. Rather seek to understand your character traits, both good and bad.

I call this Spiritual Jujitsu. For example, you may be hyper-competitive. Rather than trying to suppress it put it to work helping other people learn to excel.

You must always work on your self-control. But fighting your nature can be a frustrating experience. Esau and King David show that no matter what your nature, you choose the type of life you’ll lead.

Question – If people are born good, as is commonly believed today, why should you be concerned about using Spiritual Jujitsu?

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 about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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