Category Archives: Soul

How to Find Your Heart’s Desire… In Seconds

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bamidbar – Numbers 1:1-4:20

Have you had this challenge? My daughter hates her name. A while back she tried to convince my wife to let her change it. Madliyen, her name in Hebrew, translates to Madeleine in English. It took a long time to come up with an elegant name. But she’s convinced it doesn’t fit her heart’s desire. So we had a little talk about names based on this week’s parsha, Bamidbar:

And the tribe of Gad, and the leader of the children of Gad, Eliasaph son of Reuel… (Numbers/Bamidbar 1:2)

How to Find Your Heart’s Desire…In Seconds

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers. It’s Hebrew name, Bamidbar, means wilderness.  G-d commands Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel.  Next He gives the arrangement of the tribes into four camps that will travel with and encamp around the Holy Ark.  Then the Levites are appointed to the service of the Tabernacle in place of the first-born. From this comes the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the first-born, still done today.

What’s in a Name?

Many people choose their children’s names because they sound good. But words have meaning. So do names. In Parshas Vayeitzei, Jacob’s wives express their aspirations or exasperation in the names of their sons and daughter. Earlier in the Torah, Isaac gets his name from Sarah laughing at the idea she’ll have a child when she is so old.

My daughter’s name comes from the Hebrew verb that means to draw (water). In the Torah, water symbolizes wisdom. Put the verb in the reflexive tense, add the suffix for females, and you get Madliyen. My wife and I hope she will uplift women.

Despite my explaining it to her, Madeleine remains unconvinced. We hope as she matures she will find value in the mission we wish for her.

Finding Your Heart’s Desire

Your parents may have been less than intentional about embedding aspirations in your name. Still, your name has meaning. Have you ever checked into it?

At names.org you can find a lot of information about your name. Included are its language and meaning both as a word and by individual letters. It doesn’t have my daughter’s name. But mine means handsome. Hey, no conceit here. Blame my parents.

Take a few seconds and research your name at names.org. What insight do you get into your heart’s desire or life’s mission? Does it highlight part of your character? Not satisfied? Text you folks and ask them why they named you as they did. The answer may surprise you.

Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. True enough. But you’re more complex than a flower. Finding your heart’s desire may change the direction of your life.

What does your name mean? Please comment 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 Recognize the Warnings Before Trouble Strikes

2 minutes to read

Parsha Nugget Bechukosai – Leviticus 26:3-27:34

I can’t stand punishing my daughter. My heart breaks when I have to ground her or restrict her from playing video games. I know there has to be consequences when she does something wrong. Especially after several warnings. If not, when she’s an adult she’s likely to suffer far worse. Sometimes she acts surprised when I hold her responsible for misbehavior. But my disciplinary system is sound. It comes from this week’s parsha, Bechukosai:

If you will follow My decrees… But if you will not listen to Me… (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3 and 26:14)

How to Recognize the Warnings Before Trouble Strikes

This Sabbath’s parsha is the final one in Leviticus. It gives the blessings and the curses the Israelites will suffer depending on whether they follow G-d’s decrees and commandments. The rest of the parsha deals with gifts to the Temple and how they are redeemed. It ends with the procedure for redeeming houses and fields, and tithing.

The Process for Redirecting Behavior

Put this week’s and last week’s parsha together. You’ll see G-d’s procedure for correcting the Israelites’ conduct. First, G-d tells Moses to speak to the Children of Israel and explain a commandment. Then the Almighty describes the blessings for obeying His will. Last, He details the punishments for failing to fulfill his laws and decrees. These three steps will help someone change his behavior:

  1. Make expectations clear.
  2. Give an incentive for complying.
  3. Explain the consequences for noncompliance.

The same pattern works for adults and children. When incentives don’t work behavior gets redirected through unpleasant repercussions. We call them punishments. But in reality they’re warnings. G-d doesn’t want to punish His children. It’s too negative and can damage the relationship. So He created a notification system mirrored on the stages of admonitions in the parsha.

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G-d’s Warnings Start Subtly

When you do something wrong, the Almighty starts out with a subtle notification. I call it the heavenly tap on the shoulder. Often it’s mistaken for being a minor annoyance. Like when someone touches you on the shoulder and you’re busy. You brush it off.

Having not paid attention, G-d’s next warning is stronger. He gives you time to reflect on what’s happening in your life. You’ll have a chance to figure out a change of behavior is in order. If you ignore this warning too the next one is more urgent. Eventually, real trouble must come into your life to get you to pay attention.

On occasion something negative may happen in your life seemingly without explanation. Know that G-d isn’t punishing you. He wants you to take time to reflect. Make an accounting of your relationships. Examine your business dealings. Review your conduct. Maybe you’re doing nothing wrong. But are you doing everything right? Are you making greatest use of your G-d given abilities?

By making positive changes early you can avoid real trouble.

What do you do when faced with life’s challenges? Please comment 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!

Want to Be Happier? Limit Your Choices …

2 minutes to read

“How can you be bored when you have a room full of toys and games?”

I asked my daughter when she stayed home sick from school. Put all exaggeration about my childhood aside. She has a lot more things to play with than I did. Yet despite numerous choices, she’s dissatisfied. My daughter is not unique. Most of my friends’ children are the same. For generations we’ve been taught greater choice will make us happy. Turns out the prevailing wisdom is wrong.

Want to Be Happier- Limit Your Choices …

The Paradox of Choice

Convinced I was on to something, I researched the connection between happiness and number of choices. In a TED talk about 10 years ago, psychologist Barry Schwartz explained why the huge number of options we have makes us unhappy. He acknowledged there are benefits to having alternatives. But having an enormous number of choices often paralyzes decision-making. So people don’t take any action to improve their lives because they cannot decide which one is best.

Further, Schwartz identified four bad effects of a large number of choices:

  1. Regret or anticipation of regret. Your satisfaction in a good decision is reduced because with so many other options one of them must have been closer to perfect.
  2. Opportunity costs. No matter how good a choice is others must have had better features. So, you’re dissatisfied even when you know you made the right decision.
  3. Escalation of expectations. Because we’re so used to a huge number of options, the one we choose cannot live up to our expectations.
  4. Self-Blame. When we had limited choices we could accept discontent as the way things are. But when we have so many alternatives, if we choose a bad one we have only ourselves to blame.

Happiness requires striking a balance between too many and too few choices.

How to Effectively Limit Choices

Schwartz and I part company over how to solve this dilemma. He proposes having an outside entity constrain the choices of people in wealthy nations. The extra resources can then be used to increase the options for those living in poorer countries. The problem arises in assuming the optimal number of choices is the same for all people and for all aspects of life.

For myself, having a huge array of electronic gadgets to choose from does not make me happy. But I have a friend who LOVES comparing and deciding which one is best. (So I call him and he makes the choice for me.)

The best solution is for each of us to determine the amount of a choice that is optimal for our life and set constraints accordingly. Here’s how:

  1. Refuse to believe that more choices are necessarily good.
  2. Are you content with your choices in a particular area of your life? Don’t think you have to change them to find greater contentment. You may end up with less.
  3. Identify an aspect of life you think you’ll enjoy exploring. Test it out. Are you happier? I love trying new varieties of chocolate and ice cream. I go to great lengths to find them.

By choosing to limit your choices you will find greater happiness.

Where in your life are you overwhelmed by choices? Please comment below.

Now You Can Be a Top Philanthropist

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Behar – Leviticus 25:1- 26:2

Defining success challenges most people. I’ve asked hundreds what financial success looks like to them. Most can’t answer this question. Those that do usually give a general response like, “I want to be comfortable.” But they don’t give a specific income target. Still, almost everyone wants to give to other people. So, while the Torah is silent about how much money you should make, it’s exact about how to be a top philanthropist. Parshas Behar explains:

If your brother becomes impoverished… you will strengthen him… so that he can live with you. (Vayikra/Leviticus 25:35)

Now You Can Be a Top Philanthropist

This Sabbath’s parsha teaches about the shemitah or sabbatical year and the yovel or jubilee year. It also gives the laws about selling land, how to prevent poverty, and how to treat a Jewish servant.

How to Be Charitable

The great Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon describes eight levels of charity. From lowest to highest they are:

  1. Giving directly to a poor person unwillingly.
  2. Giving directly to a poor person inadequately but gladly and with a smile.
  3. Giving directly to a poor person after being asked.
  4. Giving directly to a poor person without being asked.
  5. Giving without knowing who the recipient(s) are but the recipient(s) know you.
  6. Giving when you know the recipient(s) but recipient(s) don’t know you.
  7. Giving without knowing who the recipient(s) are and the recipient(s) don’t know you.
  8. Finding someone a job, partnering with him, or giving him a loan so he can become self-sufficient.

Notice as the level of giving rises the donor and recipient become more separated. At levels 1 through 4 both parties know each other. From 4 to 7 they get more anonymous. Then a funny thing happens at the highest level. Donor and recipient not only know each other, they could even be partners.

When the Torah says to strengthen your impoverished brother, it’s referring to level 8. Help someone find a job or give him some work. Partner with someone in a business venture or lend him the money to start one. The top philanthropist helps another become self-sufficient.

The Benefit of Being a Top Philanthropist

I’ve written many times about the value of relationships. Married people live longer, healthier lives. Strong bonds with friends and colleagues provide similar benefits.

Add to the list being charitable. Giving to and helping people reduces mortality by lowering stress.

Now you can see the depth of G-d’s love. He created a world where when you’re a top philanthropist it helps you too. Giving lengthens your life. So do relationships. When someone profits through using your contacts you merit an even longer life.

It doesn’t matter how you define success. You can connect those less fortunate than you with people who can help them. You can train someone in a valuable skill or encourage him. Give a person a leg up and join the ranks of the top philanthropists of all time.

What do you do to be charitable? Please comment 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 Harness Your Natural Ability

2-½ minutes to read

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

Certain traits seem to be gifts from nature. Consider Stephen Curry's story. He became arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history by grooming his natural ability. So we see in this week’s parsha, Emor:

“But an ox or a sheep/goat, it and its offspring you will not slaughter on the same day” (Vayikra/Leviticus 22:28)

How to Harness Your Natural Ability

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.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

Geoff Colvin writes that talent is overrated. He asserts such child prodigies as Mozart actually achieved their greatness through deliberate practice. By his standard, Curry reached the heights because of his work ethic. Others insist that no matter how much someone trains, greatness cannot be achieved without natural ability.

I doubt we will ever solve the environment verses heredity debate. But whether greatness needs a spark of inborn genius, nothing substitutes for hard work. At 5’-8”, my basketball prowess is no threat to Curry. But if I practiced hard my ability would improve.

On the other hand, it seems some traits, such as compassion, are inborn. Even Hitler was kind to animals and Himmler was good to his mother. But as these examples show, unless nurtured, a natural ability won’t grow. So the Torah requires that we practice compassion, like by not sacrificing a mother and her child on the same day. Such a restriction must be heeded constantly.

Natural Ability Isn’t Only Physical

Like every human, you have preferences. If they’re physical activities it’s easy to see why you need to practice them. Whether you’re a runner, golfer, or swimmer, you won’t get better unless you train.

Success in life requires expertise in mental and spiritual activities too. Most people decide early on what abilities they have in these two realms. If you tell yourself you’re resilient, positive, or connected to G-d you’re more likely to act in a way that reinforces these abilities.

But if you believe you cannot talk to people well, lack confidence, or needn’t be concerned about your spiritual life you’ll make these your reality. Labeling alone makes it hard to change them.

In either case you need to do the following:

  1. Honestly assess what is standing in the way of the success you want. If you think the factors are external, think again. Most barriers to success come from within you.
  2. Decide which abilities you need to overcome these hurdles. If you don’t have the right contacts you’ll have to create new relationships. People will help you. But, you have to show them why it’s to their advantage to do so. You’ll have to reach out, engage with strangers, show them the value in knowing you, and be persistent.
  3. Find or create training to help you develop these abilities. You may have them so you just need to put them to work. Otherwise, you must grow or improve your skills. If you’ve been telling yourself you don’t have a particular skill, start by believing you can change.

The Torah’s lesson on compassion is the archetype for making your natural ability great. Identify it, set the standard you will achieve, then train until you reach your goal. You don’t need to be Stephen Curry. You must be the greatest YOU!

How have you overcome hurdles to success? Please comment 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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