Tag Archives: wisdom

You Listen, You Stay Healthy

“You will surely become weary, also you, also this people that is with you.” (Shemos/Exodus 18:18)

Jethro meets Moses in the wilderness and expresses his concern that constantly teaching and judging the Children of Israel is too exhausting.

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Yisro. In it Moses is reunited with his father-in-law Yisro/Jethro, a Mindianite priest who heard about the wonders G-d performed for the Children of Israel. Jethro recommends a leadership plan to Moses that he implements.

The Children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai where they voluntarily accept the Torah. Then they prepare themselves to receive the Ten Commandments. Our sages bring several opinions as to what they heard. Rashi and the Rambam explain that every Jew heard all Ten Commandments in one instant but could not comprehend them. So G-d repeated them and after the first two they were so overawed they begged Moses to intercede and then teach them the other eight.

Perhaps in your mind’s ear you can hear the proverbial Yiddishe mama worrying about her boy’s health, but a Yiddishe father-in-law?

Moses was very idealistic, with seemingly limitless compassion for his people. Great as he was, it took an outsider to perceive that he needed to share his burden so as not to burn out. Seems to be an obvious lesson, yet how often have you found your life out of balance because you were so focused on your goal? Did your spouse, child, or a friend try to get you to broaden your perspective? Did you listen?

Many times while I was deployed sailors whose job performance was not up to par came to see me. Frequently they justified their substandard work by listing the many people: family, friends, and coworkers, whom they were helping. My response never varied: “How does it help them if you lose your job? No more money for financial assistance to be sure, but worse, you would become a burden.”

Selflessness is admirable. But it cannot come at the cost of your physical, mental, or spiritual wellbeing. Comes Jethro to remind you to be open to the message of a loved one to guard your health.

Question – Is self-sacrifice noble? Please leave a comment below.

Lesson from Taking Lyrica

When should you break the rules and when should you obey them? It seems being radical is the new norm. To label something as traditional is its death knell. But is this the way to live?

Lesson from Taking Lyrica

About a month ago I awoke to severe back pain. Visits to an urgent care clinic and two emergency rooms did not help so my wife took me to a pain specialist. He prescribed Lyrica, a drug for nerve pain. Even better, he gave us free samples.

Within a day I was feeling better. I finished taking the medication on a Saturday and was looking forward to getting back to exercising. Late that night I started feeling strange and remarked to my wife that this must be what the DTs feel like. She laughed.

Twenty-four hours later I was in severe emotional distress. Some research revealed that Lyrica must be tapered off of slowly. It took a week for me to be able to think calmly, and almost two more weeks for the medication to work its way out of my system to the point where my body could properly regulate temperature.

The funny thing is even if I had been given the finely printed document with all of the warnings I would not have read it.

The rule is: when taking medicine read the warnings. Once you are conversant in how medications work and their side effects you will know when or if you can break this rule. Indeed this is part of being a doctor or nurse.

Of course not everything is as serious as taking medication. Nonetheless, you have to know the rules, inside and out, including why they were instituted. The greatest painters, lawyers, musicians, salespeople, composers, athletes, and filmmakers know this. There is no shortcut to creating this foundational knowledge. Once you know how to play by the rules then you are qualified to decide when they can be broken.

Question – If everyone is rebelling which is rebellious: breaking the rules or following them?

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

Don’t Let Your Weaknesses Make You Feel Inferior

“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)

When the Children of Israel thought they were trapped between the Reed Sea and the Egyptian army they panicked, complaining that Moses brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. Just days before they witnessed the miraculous Exodus. How could they have lost faith so quickly?

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Beshalach. In it the Children of Israel leave Egypt only to have Pharaoh once again change his mind and chase them. G-d splits the Reed (usually incorrectly translated as the Red) Sea and the Children of Israel walk between two walls of water on dry land while the Egyptians are drowned. They sing the Song of the Sea thanking G-d for their deliverance.

On their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites complain they are hungry and thirsty and are given Manna from heaven and water from a rock.

After making the same mistake for the umpteenth time, too often I find myself lapsing into despair. The defeats weigh heavily on my spiritual fitness. So in a small way I can appreciate how the Children of Israel must have felt. Following centuries of being slaves, is it surprising that they did not prepare to defend themselves against their former masters? Though they vastly outnumbered them, as the Ibn Ezra notes, from their youth the Israelites bore the yoke of Egypt’s oppression. Such feelings of inferiority prevented them from fighting.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz commented that the same principle applies to everyone. If you view yourself as inferior or feel excessive guilt, you will be unable to combat your yetzer hara (evil inclination). Lacking faith in your ability to prevail over your oppressor, at the slightest negative impulse you will get completely discouraged.

Your task then is to view the elevated aspects of your character. Focus on your strengths, internalize knowledge of your assets, and your resolve to triumph over your weaknesses will be unshakable. You will succeed because you see yourself as a good, worthwhile person.

Question – How can you focus on your strengths but avoid becoming or being perceived as conceited? Please leave a comment below.

How to Judge People by Standards

Standards. Are they permanent or variable? Are some the former and others the latter? How should people be held accountable to them? These are not idle philosophical questions. They get to the root of how we view the past and interact in the present.

How to Judge People by Standards

 

Recently I finished reading several Charlie Chan novels. One of the most famous characters in detective fiction, when I saw the book on sale for $1 I realized I had never read any of the stories or seen the movies. While reading them I kept swinging back and forth between thinking the author, Earl Derr Biggers, was quite enlightened in his attitude toward the Chinese or a racist.

Researching his life, I found that Mr. Biggers was disgusted by the bigotry toward the Chinese in California during the early decades of the 20th century. While vacationing in Hawaii, he decided to write about a Chinese professional, loosely based on a police officer he met there. In the novels, Charlie Chan takes umbrage at overtly racist attitudes by other characters. He bristles at the less obvious ones. Yet at times Mr. Biggers accords to Detective Chan what today can only be characterized as grossly stereotypical behavior.

How do we judge Mr. Biggers and his work? By the standard of his day, Mr. Biggers’s portrayal of a Chinese man was enlightened. It countered the common image of the evil, conniving Chinaman. Yet by our standards, Charlie Chan appears one-dimensional, clichéd. Is it just to hold Mr. Biggers and his writing to a standard that he knew nothing about? Should his laurels be revoked because in today’s world he would not merit such praise? Or can we justify applauding him for his enlightened views on race, perhaps not even footnoting the change in societal standards?

I maintain people should be judged in the context of their own time. Stipulations based on a change of standards should the exception.

In contemporary times the issue is more complex. First, I distinguish between a settled societal standard and a popularly espoused view. Few people would assert that randomly shooting someone to death is acceptable. But what constitutes murder is open to any number of opinions. Next, I decide which viewpoints, though I disagree, fall within an acceptable range. This is tricky since the tendency is to conclude that those who disagree with me fall outside my range. I am challenged to stretch in the interest of civility while not abandoning standards.

Question – How do you decide the standard to which you will hold someone?

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

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

“And came Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and said to him: so said G-d, G-d of the Hebrews, until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me?” (Shemos/Exodus 10:3)

Seven plagues befell Egypt yet Pharaoh refused to let the Children of Israel go. Why?

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Bo. It continues from Parshas Va’eira with the final three plagues that eventually led to Pharaoh telling the Jewish people to get out of Egypt.

The Children of Israel are told Nissan will be the first month of the year. The commandment of the Passover Offering, the Pesach, is given. The time for the Exodus arrives and the conditions under which the Children of Israel left are described. The parsha ends with G-d giving the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

I do not know about you, but when everything starts going wrong in my life: back injury, bronchitis, dropping and breaking my computer, and a car accident, eventually I ask the question: What is G-d trying to tell me? So it seems inconceivable that after blood, frogs, lice, hoards of wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and hail that Pharaoh remained stubborn. Rabeinu Bachya, commenting on this idea, notes that G-d wants a person to submit his will to His will and this takes humility. Pharaoh was an extremely arrogant person and refused to humble himself, thereby causing his own downfall.

Many people suffer for their arrogance. Minor affronts loom so large for such people they retaliate. For the person who has internalized humility, such things are like water on a duck’s back, they roll off unnoticed. One who is arrogant insists on winning every disagreement and rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better quality of life?

Recently I read Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton. Much of what I know about Patton comes from the eponymous 1970 movie. Axelrod relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant during which he used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. Shortly thereafter, thinking the better of it, he gathered all of the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. He voluntarily, publicly, and evidently sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. A profound believer in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance. This was the first of many instances through which he won the respect and fealty of his men.

When you allow your arrogance to gain the upper hand, any perceived retention of righteousness is more than offset by the injustices almost inevitably committed.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance? Please leave a comment below.

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