Category Archives: Soul

How to Drive Yourself to Be Creative

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Undoubtedly many times you’ve faced a problem without the resources necessary to surmount it. Such frustration hinders productive action and seemingly make it hard to be creative. Parshas Ki Seitzei provides the solution:

“When you build a new house, you will make a guardrail for your roof, so that you will not cause blood [to be spilled] in your house, that the one who falls should fall from it (the roof).” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 22:8)

How to Drive Yourself to Be Creative

This Sabbath’s parsha contains more mitzvahs (usually translated commandments) than any other, 74 in all. In it, we learn about how to handle a beautiful female POW, the right of primogeniture, and how a wayward and rebellious son is handled. Next, it covers our concern for another’s property, men not wearing women’s clothing and vice versa (Ooops for Uncle Miltie), sending away the mother bird before gathering her eggs, and making tzitzis (fringes) for a four-cornered garment.

Then it details how a libeler of a woman is to be treated, the penalties for adultery and rape, and several rules about marriage and divorce.  It wraps up with how the Israelites were to keep their camp pure, laws concerning workers rights, kidnapping, lending and punishments, the penalty for embarrassing someone, the admonition to have honest weights and measures, and finally the strange commandment to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

Why Build a Fence?

Among such weighty subjects as war, child rearing, proper sensitivity for living creatures, and felonious crimes, the above rule to build a fence around your roof seems misplaced. While most houses no longer have widow’s walks, naturally you’ll be careful to guard against accidents in your home.

Could that really be what G-d wants?

Dwellings are not just physical places, there are spiritual ones too. You are a “house” in which a spark of the Creator dwells. Blood is not just the liquid that flows through your body bringing nutrients to its cells. The dietary laws show that blood is the essence of life. That is why it should not be eaten.

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So just as you need to build physical fences for safety’s sake, to prevent spilling blood, you need to set emotional and spiritual boundaries to protect yourself from negative forces that can kill your mind and spirit. So the mitzvah to build fences in all realms has a protective function.

Fences = Be Creative

From the positive side, putting constraints on your life forces you to be more creative. Being able to throw money or other resources at a challenge does not necessarily lead to a better result. The inability to solve problems without using outside means requires you to invest more of your intellect and spirit. You’ll have to grow in order to surmount the trial you face.

I’m always amazed at how creative my daughter can be in making the things she wants to play with, such as a doctors kit crafted from cardboard, wood, and plastic she scavenges from containers and other broken toys.

By setting fences, you push yourself to grow to consume life’s challenges thereby increasing your resiliency without expending greater resources. Your life becomes more from less.

How have constraints forces you to be more creative?

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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!

The Key to Building a Successful Life

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shoftim – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Wealth, a solid marriage, or better health: We all want these things yet they seem so elusive. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the one thing to do that will lead to success? What grand action inevitably leads to wealth? What are the magic words that will create a solid marriage? What is the trick for breaking a bad habit or ingraining a good one? Parshas Shoftim, has the answer:

“I will set a king over myself…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 17:14)

The Key to Building a Successful Life

This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts, how to handle certain crucial types of cases, the appointment of a King, the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests), how to tell if someone is really a prophet, setting up cities of refuge, how the Israelites will conduct war, and what to do about an unsolved murder.

Knowing that the Israelites will want a king like the other nations, the Almighty places many restrictions on this ruler, including writing two copies of the Torah. Doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? Wouldn’t it be better to require the king to know the Torah by heart?

But G-d had a different purpose in mind. The king had to write the two scrolls, placing one in his treasury while keeping the other with him at all times. In this way, though he goes through his day constantly being shown honor and deference, he will nonetheless remain aware that he is subject to the laws of the Torah and by extension subservient to the Creator. When he sees the vast wealth in the royal treasury he may be tempted to think he is omnipotent. But among the money and other riches is something even more valuable – the blueprint for how to have a relationship with G-d. Ideally, this will keep the king humble.

Since most of us won’t become kings and queens this seems to be of little use. However, the king also must read the Torah every day.

If you want to make something a part of you, daily involvement is required. Do you have a goal? Every day, preferably two or three times a day, review the goal and why it is crucial to achieving it. Write it out and carry it with you. Read it before you go to bed and when you wake up. When you face a challenge, pull it out and read it again.

Do you want to improve your relationship with your spouse? Create meaningful interactions, like the ones I wrote about in a previous post, that you can do every day. They don’t have to be big. Focus on connecting.

The road to success is built one small action at a time, whether you’re building a business, relationship, or habit. Make them your constant companion and sooner than you think you will be the monarch, at least as far as having the life you want is concerned.

What do you find is the biggest hurdle to doing something enough times to be successful?

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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!

How to Get God to Bless You

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Here’s the problem. Despite G-d promising to bless us if we act according to His dictates, most of us have nothing like the kind of wealth the typical Israelite possessed at the time the tribes entered the Land of Israel. So if, as Parshas Re’eh asserts, we chose between blessing and curse, how come we get the second one but not the first? We need to get to the heart of how a blessed life works:

“See, I place before you today, a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 11:26)

How to Get God to Bless You

This Sabbath’s parsha reveals G-d’s imminent blessing and curse, the holiness of the Land of Israel, more about how the Children of Israel will be required to conduct themselves there, how to respond to a false prophet and a person who entices another to go astray, what it means to be G-d’s treasured people, tithes, forgiving loans, being generous with one’s fellow, how a slave is to be treated, and the three pilgrimage festivals.

Clearly how closely you follow the Almighty appears to have no impact on the wealth you’ll have, otherwise, there would be no pious poor people. Likewise, living by the mitzvahs or commandments doesn’t inoculate you from the tragedies of life.

So why bother doing what G-d wants?

First, the Talmud is absolutely clear that the reward for performing mitzvahs (a.k.a. commandments) is not in this world but in Olam Haba, the world to come. Leading a good life requires, at least at times, delaying gratification.

More relevant for your life, the blessing for a mitzvah is being able to do the mitzvah itself. Virtue is its own reward. Don’t believe me? Consider an example.

Anyone who has spent time around the military knows many tales of marital disharmony. Anguish besets all involved, service members, spouses, and children. Yet people persist in foolish notions like “what happens on deployment stays on deployment.”

In contrast, the Creator requires mutual respect between a husband and wife. Neither is supposed to speak to the other harshly. Each should support the other in fulfilling their duty. Husbands should not idly chat with a woman who is not a member of his family. A married person must not be alone with someone of the opposite gender, who is not a member of his or her family if no one can see into the room or walk in at any time.

What does the evidence say about the effectiveness of these two systems? It is well known that in the United States over 50% of marriages end in divorce. The same is true in the military and among all Jews. But in communities where doing mitzvahs is a way of life the divorce rate is below 10%. Now you may argue this is because divorce is frowned upon so people stay unhappily married. But are 40% of married couples unhappy and desirous of a divorce but too afraid to get one? Evidence suggests people in such communities work hard to form their marriage in the image G-d has for such unions by attending marriage enrichment classes, performing rituals that enhance intimacy and respect, and habituating practices that support a solid, high-quality relationship.

In a very real way, you receive G-d’s blessing of an enduring, pleasurable marriage when you conduct it according to His demands. The mitzvahs are indeed their own reward.

Is it worth living a good life in this world in order to gain Heaven? 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!

The Greatest Solace You’ll Ever Feel

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Eikev – Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

Ever have one of those days when if it weren’t for bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all? Me too. Mystified by why events seem to be spinning out of control, I need something to get me through. Parshas Eikev has the answer for getting life back under control:

…not by bread alone does man live…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 8:3)

The Greatest Solace You’ll Ever Feel

In this Sabbath’s parsha Moses talks about the reward the Children of Israel will reap if they stay true to the mitzvahs (usually translated commandments), warns them against being seduced by prosperity, and reminds them of their history.

The above verse may be misquoted more than any adage in the English language. Most often it’s used as an affirmation to support the idea a person needs gourmet food. Don’t get me wrong. I love great food! However, if the other half of the quote is included, “not by bread alone does man live, rather by all that emanates from G-d’s mouth does man live,” you can see that the point is another kind of nourishment.

If you want to survive the challenging times in life, look to what the Almighty has said: Scripture, especially the Psalms. For the disorientation of contemporary life and a wounded psyche, G-d provides a balm.

“I raise my eyes on the mountain, whence will come my help? My help is from G-d, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter, your Guardian will not sleep.” (Psalm 121:1-3)

The Almighty is ever attentive to your needs, always available. The Psalms have provided tranquility, sympathy, and cheer for thousands of years.

Don’t wait for distressing times. When was the last time you fed your soul? Genesis affirms the Creator brought the world into being by speaking words. By saying tree, grass, and fish he created them. So everywhere you look, that which came from G-d’s mouth is there to inspire and comfort you. Each day fortify yourself with a little of His ample blessing to the world.

When you are feeling blue or adrift, remember, solace is not in food, or at least food alone. The wonder of creation surrounds you with beauty and the words of Scripture inspire and bring you comfort, that you may live!

How do you use G-d’s bounty to sustain you?

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 Make Your Prayer More Powerful

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

In his book Perfect Practice, Doug Lemov makes the case that the adage “practice makes perfect” is wrong. You can hit a thousand buckets of balls on the driving range, but if your swing is flawed you won’t improve your game. The same is true of prayer, as can be seen in Parshas Va’eschanan:

“And I implored to G-d at that time…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:23)

How to Make Your Prayer More Powerful

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

Shem MiShmuel examines how Moses implored the Almighty, noting there are two sources for prayer: those that originate in your mind and those that originate in you heart. Sometimes you know it is time to pray, like at religious services. Or you feel the need to acknowledge G-d’s kindness or give gratitude for His gifts. In such cases your mind directs your prayer.

Other times, you are beset by troubles or worry. Prayer flows from the depth of your heart, sometimes accompanied by tears.

But while the source may be different, in both cases you must strive to pray with thought and feeling.

Gee thanks, Rabs. How do I magically conjure up emotional power for prayer emanating from my mind? And how do I bring rational thought to prayers welling up from an aching heart?

Shem MiShmuel notes the mind is calculating and rational, inviting neither motion nor sound, while the heart is warm and vibrant, stirring movement and voice. So depending on the catalyst, to bring the other element to your prayer act accordingly. For prayer originating in your mind, allow your body and lips to move, thereby stirring your heart. And for prayers arising from your heart, focus on standing or sitting very still, keeping your lips motionless so as to push the feelings into your mind.

By engaging more of yourself in prayer, you demonstrate to the Creator the fullness and depth of the relationship you want with Him. While G-d always answers your prayers, the more fully you bond the more likely you’ll get the answer you seek.

How do you bring more of yourself to your relationship with G-d? 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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