Category Archives: Soul

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

3 minutes to read

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

Now that she’s getting older and more aware, my daughter sees how careful I am about what I eat, listen to, and watch. So what she saw the other day in an episode of the Flying Nun surprised her. Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) went into I nightclub where Go-Go dancers performed in cages. Having grown up immersed in 1960s television I didn’t realize how the scene might impact her. Parsha Shemini explains why I need to be more aware:

And any earthenware vessel, if any of them [creeping crawling things] will fall into it…you will break it. (Vayikra/Leviticus 11:33)

Do You Know This Is Making You Sick?

This Sabbath’s parsha tells how to perform the Temple service and about the death of Aaron’s two sons. Then it explains how to dispose of the day’s offerings, the dispute between Moses and Aaron, and the laws of kosher animals, fish, birds, and creeping crawling things.

The Spiritual Nature of Things

Tumah and tahara (translated as spiritual impurity and purity) are hard to understand. The idea that utensils can look fine but be spiritually contaminated doesn’t compute. They're not alive and don’t have a soul.

My daughter and I are reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. In it we learned that the famous equation E=MC2 shows that everything in the universe is energy. What better proof of G-d’s existence than that? Though inanimate objects aren’t alive, we’re connected to them through the common energy of existence. Viewed this way, spiritual impurity can be contracted and transmitted by any substance.

When a creeping crawling creature falls onto a utensil of wood or garment of leather or sackcloth you just have to wash it. Why do you have to break an earthenware vessel when the same thing happens? Shouldn’t this affect everything the same way?

Utensils and garments made from wood, leather, and sackcloth are valuable for their function and materials. You can buy a garment and recut the leather or fabric to make something else out of it. But earthenware only has value when formed into something. The dirt from which it is made is worthless. What’s in it and its use determine its value.

What Makes You Sick

Adam, the first human, was formed from clay. His name comes from the Hebrew word adamah, which means dirt or earth. (According to DataGenetics, the elements that make up a human body are worth only $160 as of 2011.) We are vessels of earthenware. While the spark of the Divine in your neshamah (soul) is infinitely valuable, for your body what counts is what you put in it.

If you fill yourself with tumah, whether it is forbidden creeping crawling creatures or ideas G-d abhors, you will defile yourself. The only way to get rid of this contamination is to break the vessel, you. Perhaps that is why near death experiences have such a dramatic effect on people. Similarly, you must tear yourself down to get rid of destructive habits. Then you can rebuild your character or behavior in the proper way.

People focus on the physical causes of sickness. But mental and spiritual disorders profoundly affect your wellbeing. From that perspective, what you see and hear is as important as what you eat.

How has a spiritual malady affected your health? 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 Tell if Your Humility Is Self-Destructive

2-½ minutes to read

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

People acknowledge the value of humility. In particular, veterans are humble. But too often such modesty impedes their ability to get a good job. When challenged, they say promoting themselves is wrong. Parshas Tzav has a different perspective:

This is the law of the burnt offering: (Vayikra/Leviticus 6:2)

How to Tell if You Humility Is Self-Destructive

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

Connecting Sacrifices and Humility

Farther into Leviticus we read an animal that is blind or broken or has a split eyelid or wart cannot be used as a burnt offering. As was made clear back in Genesis in the trouble between Cain and Abel, G-d wants offerings to be of the finest we have.

This holds true even though we no longer bring animal or meal sacrifices.

Today prayer has replaced the sacrificial service. When you pray, G-d wants you to open your heart. This requires humbly recognizing all you have comes from the Almighty. In humility you should acknowledge the many mistakes you’ve made and your gratitude that nonetheless G-d loves you. You offer your love in return.

If you are arrogant G-d will still listen to your prayer, but like a damaged animal, may reject your petition.

Humility verses Self-Promotion

People often equate self-promotion with arrogance. But you’re not conceited simply because you let people know about your skills and strengths. To the contrary, if you can add value to someone’s life you have a responsibility to do so. You’ll have to explain to him why you are the best person to help.

There are times when humility looks like a lack of self-confidence. People don’t trust a meek person to handle their problems.

By not clearly expressing the value you bring to the table, you’re forcing someone to figure it out on his own. He won’t. Instead he’ll hire someone who makes his life easier by showing him he has what it takes. You and your family lose out. The Almighty does not want you to impoverish yourself with such false humility.

If you’re not used to marketing yourself, use these guidelines:

  1. Always tell the truth. Implying you have skills that you don’t is worse than conceit. You’ll be exposed in the end.
  2. Talk about them at appropriate times. People will tell you when they want to know more about you.
  3. Be brief. Long-winded descriptions smell of conceit.

When you follow these three criteria, and thank G-d for the gifts He has given you, you’ll keep your humility in balance.

What prevents you from promoting yourself effectively? 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!

God Wants You to Get Started Now

2 minutes to read

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

Newton’s 1st law of motion seems to apply to how people behave: “A body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.” Since procrastination is so common you’d think G-d decreed idleness. Getting started is the most difficult part of any new project. But along comes Parshas Vayikra:

And He called to Moses… (Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1)

God Wants You to Get Started Now

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the third book of the Torah by the same name. Its other name, Leviticus, refers to its detailing the duties of the Kohanim or Priests, who are part of the tribe of Levi. The parsha gives the rules for bringing offerings on the altar. Notice in verse 2:13 they must be salted, hence why on the Sabbath bread is dipped in salt.

Why the Almighty Calls

Throughout the Torah, G-d calls to Moses then speaks to him. It would seem that all the Almighty wants is a conversation. But digging deeper we find that He is communicating so Moses and the Israelites will take some action. In the case of the above verse, He gives directions about how to bring sacrifices.

Waiting to receive precise directions isn’t the best way to create a relationship with G-d.

Midrash Rabbah discusses mighty warriors who do the Almighty’s bidding. They are neither champions like Samson nor soldiers of the line. The Midrash says they are the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai and committed to doing what G-d wants before hearing what it was they had to do.

The doing preceded detailed directions. Such faith and trust gratify G-d.

You Should Get Started Now

Everyone has a project they need to start. Is yours getting fit, starting a business, finding a new job, or renewing your marriage? Quickly figure out the first step you should take and get going.

If you think taking more time to plan will ensure greater success you’re fooling yourself. Paraphrasing Helmuth von Moltke:

No Plan Survives First Contact with the Main Force

Every endeavor in life is a learning experience. You can absorb lessons now or later. One way or another you’ll have to grow and change to conquer new challenges. Planning isolated from action won’t get you there.

As a bonus, if you start today, now, you’ll be pleasing God. He wants you to overcome trials. If you take the first step in faith, the Almighty will show you the next one.

So what are you waiting for? 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Being Brutally Honest Makes You a Liar

2-½ minutes to read

Authenticity is the rage in personal development. Everywhere you turn writers (me included) encourage you to be genuine. With so many exhortations you would think everybody goes around wearing masks and deceiving other people. The constraints have been lifted. Be brutally honest. Remember your authenticity is at stake. You don’t want to commit the sin of phoniness!

Being Brutally Honest Makes You a Liar

Act How You Feel

If you’re mad at a coworker, rip him with profanity. If your kid irritates you for the hundredth time, scream at her to stop. Spew invective on Facebook. Tweet 140 character assaults. Being authentic means you can say and do whatever you want without penalty.

Or does it?

What will happen to your job if you give a colleague a verbal dressing down? Gone, right?

How will you child respond to your bellowing? Alienation?

Why would someone hire you when your social media attacks people and ideas they may agree with?

Do you want to be an unemployed misanthrope?

Perhaps you’ll have to refrain from expressing brutally honest emotions. After all, we teach children to stop throwing temper tantrums. Oh well, it’s only a small compromise of your authenticity.

Who You Are Going to Be

You’re probably frustrated about not having something in your life. Maybe it’s more money or a solid marriage. It could be the time and resources to travel or pursue a hobby you love. Will being brutally honest do anything to get you what you lack?

Is your deepest need to express yourself uninhibitedly? You’ll never get to without suffering consequences.

Or is your frustration actually about something else? If this is the case, being brutally honest with people will make it even more difficult to get what you want since the only way to fill your needs is by helping others fill theirs.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can mistreat people under the guise of being authentic. Genuineness comes from behaving in a way that fulfills your deepest aspirations. Indulging the childish side of your nature bespeaks immaturity. Staying true to the best image you have for yourself is true authenticity.

Venting your frustration, verbally or through social media, may make you feel good. But it’s only authentic if your goal in life is to alienate as many people as possible. You know from your own experience, the success you’ve had thus far in life has come from cordial interactions with others.

So stop lying to yourself that being brutally honest expresses the true you. Let your actual authenticity shine through in being the person you wish to be.

How do you stay focused on being your ideal person? Please comment below.

How to Quickly Increase Strength and Wisdom

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Pekudei – Exodus 38:21-40:38

I want my daughter to be more self-sufficient. Benevolently, I wonder how will she face having to do her own laundry. She’s a whiz at baking cakes, but she can’t live off of baked goods. And will she live in sty when she no longer has my wife’s help cleaning up her room? She, on the other hand, likes having my wife take care of her. Selfishly, I want my wife’s company for more than our one date night a week. Of course, I grew up listening to Harry Chapin sing The Cat’s in the Cradle, bemoaning that his son no longer needs his help. Parshas Pekudei gives the way out of my quandary:

“And they brought the Mishkan to Moses…” (Shemos/Exodus 39:33)

How to Quickly Increase Strength and Wisdom

In this Sabbath’s parsha, Moses accounts for the donations collected to construct the Mishkan and its utensils. Then he sets it up for the first time.

Admitting What You Don’t Know

Bezalel and Ohlioab were wise enough to build a home for G-d. Why couldn’t figure they figure out how to set it up? One commentator says the planks were too heavy to lift upright. But there had to have been enough people available to provide the power.

Another commentator suggests the difficulty was spiritual. They could have mustered the physical strength. But try as they might, they couldn’t figure out how to build it. They realized the intense sanctity of the Almighty’s home required more than craftsmanship and ingenious engineering. Admitting their shortfall, they turned to Moses, whose spirituality exceeded all others.

The builders saw Moses work backwards. First, he erected the tent then he built the structure to support it. They learned a valuable lesson about how G-d connects with the physical world.

Asking for Help Makes You Stronger and Wiser

Many adults never get over their first taste of independence as a teenager. They like how being self-sufficient made them feel grown up. To them, asking for help becomes virtually a sin. Rather than admit they don’t know and need assistance, they’ll crash and burn. They think it’s weak not to be able to do everything themselves.

There are two paths to growth. The first is through trial and error. It’s a long and rocky road. The punishment dished out wears down a person’s energy.

The other route is to find a teacher or mentor, someone who has trod the road before and can show you an easier, surer way. By accepting, or better yet, asking for such guidance, you can accomplish your goal faster. With new knowledge, you’ll be stronger and wiser for tackling future challenges.

The cost of taking the long road often can never be recouped. It is virtually impossible to change your mindset and recover your strength.

Taking the second path may require an initial hit to your dignity. You’ll realize you don’t know it all. But you’ll be able to move forward so much faster you can recover such a cost in no time.

The Almighty wants you to live a life of growth. By admitting what you don’t know and asking for help, you’ll quickly increase your strength and wisdom.

What prevents you from asking for help when you need it? 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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