Category Archives: Soul

Is It Ever Right Not to Tell the Truth?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vezos Haberachah – Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

We teach our children to tell the truth. We decry the dishonesty of others. And yet in our heart of hearts, we know we don’t always live up to this standard. Are we being hypocritical? The reality is even G-d lied. Parshas Vezos Haberachah explains:

“And the sons of Israel bewailed Moses in the plains of Moab for 30 days…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 34:8)

Is It Ever Right Not to Tell the Truth?

This week’s parsha, read on Simchas Torah, completes the cycle of readings for the year. In it, Moses blesses each of the tribes individually then the Children of Israel as a group. It ends with his death and praise for the unique quality of his Prophecy.

Moses Always Told the Truth

Great as Moses was, at the time of his death we find that like most people he was not the best at everything. When his brother Aaron died, the Torah says, “When the entire assembly saw that Aaron had perished, they wept for Aaron 30 days, the entire house of Israel.”

Note the distinction. The Israelite men mourned Moses. Men, women, and children, Jews and non-Jews, all mourned Aaron. If greatness is measured by how many people grieve over you, clearly, Aaron was the superior of his brother. How?

Above all things Moses valued truth. Certainly, this is a noble characteristic. But his inability to move out of this frame left him deficient in another important life skill. Moses struggled to connect with people. He commanded their respect as their teacher. But when they needed understanding or a compassionate ear to bridge a dispute, Moses fell short.

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Aaron excelled at bringing peace between spouses. He went to extraordinary lengths to resolve conflicts between people. Sometimes he would bend the truth slightly by telling both disputants that the other wanted to reconcile but just couldn’t make the first move. Aaron never doubted that people wanted to live harmoniously. So he felt justified in “telling the truth in advance.”

When G-d Withheld the Truth

The Almighty set the example. When Sarah laughs upon hearing she’ll have a child in her old age, she calls her husband old. But when G-d related the incident to Abraham He chose not to mention this in order to prevent disharmony between wife and husband.

Moses could never bring himself to compromise his integrity, even for such a noble cause. Reflecting at the end of his life he was struck by Aaron’s deep love for people. He realized his brother connected in a way he could not.

Should You Be Blunt or Caring

While I’m not encouraging you to lie, think about your purpose and mission in life. Will being completely candid help you create the kind of relationships you want and need? Perhaps withholding criticism is better than being starkly honest. Maybe saying a kind work that you don’t necessarily believe will improve a relationship when silence won’t.

It turns out 100% candor isn’t the best policy. You’ll have to decide when to deviate from bluntness. Start by considering how you can improve your connection with your family.

When do you think it’s okay to stray from the truth?

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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. 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 Build a Strong Bond Now!

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

Have you noticed when something comes easily often it leads to disappointment, frustration, or sadness? I see this with my daughter. When I buy her a new toy she wants badly she’ll play with it for a few days and then get bored. When she pays for a toy with money she’s saved up it lasts much longer. Among us grownups, it seems relationships are easily formed and just as rapidly discarded. Parshas Ha’azinu shows how to deal with this challenge:

“For G-d’s portion is His people Jacob, the rope of His inheritance.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:9)

How to Build a Strong Bond Now!

This week’s parsha, the last Sabbath reading of the cycle, has the song Moses wrote at the end of the previous parsha. In it, he appoints heaven and earth as a witness to all of the disasters that will happen to the Israelites if they stray from the path G-d has set. He also describes the joy that will come at the time of the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his final task.

G-d Wants to Bond with You

How do you visualize your connection with people?

When G-d describes His relationship with the Children of Israel, and indeed with all his children, He uses the image of a rope. Think about the metaphor:

  • Rope can be used to tie two people together. If the right knot is used when they struggle the ropes will get tighter.
  • Rope can be used for towing and for hanging.
  • A single strand of a rope breaks easily. If you sever enough of them the rope will break. But you can strengthen the rope by weaving in new strands.

Throughout life, you’ll encounter hard times. You can let them dishearten you, destroy your relationships or, like the special knot, bond you more closely with your family and friends. Commit to working through them together. Step by step you’ll find the right path to resolution and closeness.

Life can be like tug-of-war. If you insist on always having your own way you’ll pull people into a mud puddle. But if you build strong, steady anchors at both ends of a rope, you create a lifeline over the ooze. There is more than one way to overcome an obstacle. You don’t always have the right answer. By giving way to others needs, you’ll build bridges rather than moats.

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Humans make mistakes. Sometimes they’re bad enough to damage a connection to someone. But if you regularly bond with your loved ones you will create more links than you break and relationships will endure.

Imitate G-d’s Bond in Your Relationships

If you don’t sense a bit of the eternal when you begin a friendship think twice. Rather than chasing after people with whom you build thread–like connections at best, look for those with whom you can create long-lasting bonds.

G-d wants an eternal, substantial connection with you. Wave off the quick and the short-term. Seek out and build everlasting bonds in your life. Starting now pays huge dividends.

How do decide which relationships you'll invest in?

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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. 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!

Gratitude is the Key to Happiness

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeilech – Deuteronomy 30:20-31:30

Among people who live happy lives, one of the most notable traits is gratitude. In the United States where we have such plenty, do you sometimes find it difficult to feel grateful? You can increase your thankfulness by understanding the meaning behind a verse in Parshas Vayeilech:

“G-d spoke to Moses saying, your days are drawing near to die…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 31:14)

Gratitude is the Key to Happiness

In this Sabbath’s parsha, Moses appoints Joshua as the new leader and prepares for his final lesson and blessing. In spite of his imminent death, he focuses only on how he can help the Children of Israel.

The Source of Gratitude

There are two keys to feeling thankful:

  • Recognize you cannot have it all
  • Possessions belong to you temporarily

Rather than constantly wanting more, figure out how much you need to be satisfied. Then resolve to feel gratitude for what you have gotten so far as you work to reach your goal. While this seems relevant only to money, apply it to all areas of your life.

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If you need to lose weight, set your goal. Then be grateful for each time you see a lower number when you step on the scale. If you want a thriving family life, start by being the kind of person you want in a mate. Make a gratitude list of the changes you have made to your character. As you become more of your ideal person, you will find you attract others like you, giving your more reasons to be thankful.

G-d is Limitless - Everything Else is Finite

The Almighty loves us boundlessly. But human life eventually ends. It’s unhealthy to live in fear of death, but your life will be immeasurably better is you realize each day is a precious gift. A story told by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin illustrates:

Two members of his community, who were fighting bitterly over a piece of land, came to his court for adjudication. He listened to each litigant’s claim and angry accusations then declared he could not reach a decision until he saw the parcel of land in dispute. The three walked to the outskirts of town where the land was located and the two disputants were astonished to see the rabbi get down and place his ear near the ground. When they asked him what he was doing, R’ Chaim replied, “I want to hear what the land itself has to say.”

“Well, what did it say?” asked the curious litigants.

“It said, ‘This one claims I belong to him, and that one claims I belong to him. But they’re both wrong. Each is destined to die and return to the earth. Both of them belong to me!’”

No matter how substantially the Creator blesses you, gratitude will help you be sure you don’t end up owned by your possessions.

How do you inspire yourself to feel gratitude? Please comment below.

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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.

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!

Do You Know How to Reach a Huge Goal?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nitzavim – Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Especially when a goal is huge, you don’t know where to begin. Like the Children of Israel, it seems you have to able the reach Heavens to meet your objective. Parshas Nitzavim explains how to get down to business:

“Rather the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 30:14)

Do You Know How to Reach a Huge Goal?

In this Sabbath’s parsha there is little time left for Moses to teach the Israelites what they need to know to live in the land. He renews the covenant, again warns against idolatry, and prophesies what will happen when the Jewish people forget these charges.

The Solution is Within You

Having spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, the Children of Israel stand on the threshold of the land of Israel. No longer will they be fed through the divine sustenance of the manna. The will have to raise crops and livestock. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that many of the people are apprehensive about their new life ahead. I can imagine being there thinking, “there must be some other part of the Torah still to be brought down from Heaven that will explain what I’m supposed to do.”

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But Moses reassures them. The Torah is not in Heaven or across the sea. As the above line notes, it is in the heart of every Israelite.

The Key to Reaching Your Goal

When you face a seemingly insurmountable challenge, whether a life-changing goal or an unexpected crisis, you possess the strength to conquer it. G-d has placed steadfastness of purpose in your heart. The plan to prevail already exists. All you need is to verbalize it and take action.

Like the Children of Israel, your mind may scream you need a hero who can fly up to Heaven and secure the Creator’s assistance. It may insist you need a champion, mighty enough to swim a vast sea, who has the strength and endurance to persevere where you cannot. Both are false.

G-d endowed you with the ability to do the greatest act – have a relationship with Him. Every other challenge pales by comparison. There are 613 mitzvahs (commandments). You have a multitude of ways to begin relating to the Creator. Pick the easiest among them and begin.

When you feel frozen by the fear of starting, speak quiet affirmations to yourself, then search in your heart for a small first step. Take that step and start your journey of triumph.

How do you overcome the fear of beginning a monumental goal?

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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.

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!

Do You Know What Motivates You to Succeed?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Savo – Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

As a parent or leader, you undoubtedly know how challenging it is to incentivize your kids or coworkers. We often think it's easier to do so for ourselves. But can you tell me what motivates you in one word? Parshas Ki Savo shows you the two choices:

“These shall stand to bless the people… And these shall stand for the curse…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 27:12-13)

Do You Know What Motivates You to Succeed?

This Sabbath’s parsha continues preparing the Israelites to enter the Land of Israel by discussing the mitzvah (usually translated commandment) of the first fruits offering, reiterating the inseparability of G-d and Israel, and detailing the blessings and curses that will befall them depending on how well they heed the Torah. At the end of the parsha Moses begins his final exhortation to the Children of Israel.

Why Are Both Given?

Why are both blessings and curses necessary? Isn’t better to just focus on the positive side – the blessings?

Many observers of human nature, whether mental heath professionals, clergy, or salespeople know people tend to be better motivated by either positive or negative reinforcement. Give some an appropriate reward and they will do what is right. Conversely, some people will misbehave no matter how great the reward. For them, the only way to will dissuade them from doing wrong is making punishment a certainty.

The Israelites are a case in point. Some only needed the promise of prosperity in the Land as an incentive to obey the Almighty’s commandments. Others needed the threat of the curses to stay committed to G-d’s way.

As you read this section of scripture, you probably find yourself more deeply impacted by either the blessings or the curses. In the personal development world of relentless positivity it main seem strange to be motivated by curses. But merely because concern for a shorter life, living alone, or insufficient money drives you to stay fit, work on your relationships, or work hard, doesn’t mean you’re negative. Such motivations can be as effective as the desire for winning races, wanting to share your life with a loved one, and having a lot of money.

Which Motives You: Pain or Pleasure?

The key is to know which of the two better motivates you to pursue your goals: Pain or Pleasure.

Think about important objectives you’ve reached and significant relationships you’ve created. What propelled you to succeed? Writing down your thoughts will give you greater clarity. By the way, rarely is someone completely driven by only one. But most people find one more strongly motivates them than the other.

Once you’ve figured out your dominant mode, use this knowledge to craft your goals in the most compelling way. If you’re motivated by pleasure, make sure to write out your SMART goals in terms of the amazingly positive life you will have when they’re achieved. If pain drives you to succeed, emphasize the consequences of falling short of your objectives.

It doesn’t matter which motivates you. Being clear, and using this information to your advantage, is paramount.

How does what motivates you impact your self-perception? 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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