Category Archives: Soul

How to Deal with Injustice

Periodically I find myself experiencing Don Quixote moments. If you’re not familiar with the title character of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he inspired Man of La Mancha, the great 1965 musical in which The Impossible Dream is sung. Don Quixote, who jousts with windmills, longs to “right the unrightable wrong . . . no matter how hopeless.” He’d find innumerable opportunities for such futility in the navy’s bureaucracy.

How to Deal with Injustice

Hindsight often exposes the folly of many of my fights. When someone does something unjust or malicious my default is to expose the perpetrator and have him punished. After all, if he gets away with such behavior it will encourage him to do it again. But such battles take a great deal of physical and mental energy. The resulting frustration inevitably spills over into other areas of my life, impacting my spiritual wellbeing.

Reality check: Even if the person is held accountable, I’ve made an enemy for life, one who will revel in having justification for further odious acts.

Balance is key here.

My running partner and I discussed proportionality last week. Response to a provocation must be in line with the larger strategic goal not the individual incursion. So too in your life. Before you level the 16” guns, is the campaign on which you’re planning to expend so much energy worth it in light of your personal mission and goals?

I’m not going to change the stagnant and insidious nature of navy bureaucracy any more than I am going to transform human nature. There will always be people who play petty power games corrosive to morale that detract from meeting the mission. My best course of action is to navigate around them. I’ll leave it for G-d to decide the appropriate punishment.

How do you bring this type of balance into your life?

  1. Be crystal clear about your personal mission
  2. Be equally clear about the goals that support your mission
  3. When faced with an obstacle, only confront it if it serves your mission and goals

This may sound selfish, but if your mission is sound then undoubtedly you are serving humanity in your own way.

I can understand Don Quixote’s attraction to hopeless causes. Unexpected victory in such a fight powerfully supports the belief that justice will prevail. Occasionally it’s necessary to sharpen my lance and take the field against an unconquerable enemy, if only to preserve my peace of mind. I suspect you feel the same way. If so, fight a battle that even though you lose it, will give you a lesson you can use in more winnable fights.

In the meantime, save your physical, mental, and spiritual energy for those you love and who love and respect you. Your white charger won’t mind resting in his stall a while longer, unburdened by heavy armor.

What hopeless cause must you fight for? Please comment below.

Do You Do this Daily Act of Justice?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Korach – Numbers 16:1-18:32

Almost daily at my synagogue people are there asking for charity. On occasion, after receiving several contributions, someone will take a portion of what he’s been given and put it in the charity box. At first such behavior puzzled me. He’s so poor he begs for money. Although admirable, why give away what he clearly needs to survive? Parshas Korach, explains:

And to the Levites you will speak and you will say to them, “When you will take from the Children of Israel from the tithe that I give to you from them as your inheritance from it you will set aside a gift for G-d, a tithe from the tithe.” (Numbers/Bamidbar 18:26)

Do You Do this Daily Act of Justice? 

This Sabbath’s parsha takes us from the infamy of the spies to the rebellion of Korach and his followers against Moses and Aaron. Unlike the previous complaints about food, water, and other things, Korach, a cousin of Moses and Aaron, sought to depose them and assume their roles.  He tried to take advantage of the Israelite’s unhappiness over the decree that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. As a result of their rebellion, the 250 insurgents were consumed by fire and the Earth swallowed up their households.  A harsh punishment indeed!

Seemingly unrelated to the topic of Korach’s rebellion, the Torah discusses the tithes the Levites will receive. Then, as noted above, it says that the Levites must give a tithe from their tithes to the Kohanim, the Priests.

You would think that a group supported by charity would be exempt from having to give charity. But this might lead them to consider themselves uniquely entitled. Everyone, no matter how rich or how poor and no matter what the source of one’s sustenance, is obligated to give charity.

Korach’s mistakenly felt entitled to more because of his familial connection. He lacked gratitude, and its cousin, humility. As a result, he sought to overthrow Moses and Aaron and trample on the Creator’s plan.

While you may think you earn your sustenance by working and paying for it, the ability to do so is a gift from the Almighty. The recession showed what a blessing it is to be employed. Undoubtedly you have friends who are highly qualified yet struggled to find a job. Why you and not them? There but for the grace of G-d . . .

While tzedakah is usually translated as charity, righteousness is a more accurate. Each person receives G-d’s blessing, even if only life for another day. It is only right that you demonstrate your gratitude each day by sharing this blessing with another who is less fortunate.

What is your plan for showing gratitude each day? 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!

Do You See the Real You?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

Yesterday was a great day. Two colleagues sincerely professed shock at learning my age. One sat almost speechless for several minutes, unable to fathom I am five years older than he is. Being intentional about my diet and consistent with exercise really pays off sometimes. Because it’s easy to fall into the trap reported in this week’s parsha, Shelach:

In our eyes we were like grasshoppers and so we were in their eyes. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:33)


Do You See the Real You?

Along with the story of the infamous twelve spies that led to G-d’s decree that the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years, this week’s parsha details the meal and libation offerings that were brought with animal sacrifices. Next it covers the penalty for desecrating the Sabbath, then the commandment to wear tzitzis, fringes, on the corners of a garment.

Notice how curious the above verse is?

In essence the spies were so overawed by the Nefilim (giants) they lost faith in themselves and in G-d’s ability to fulfill His promise of bringing the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. They compounded their mistake by assuming the Nefilim saw them as insignificant vermin. But the giants were used to being around regular-sized people. They had no reason to think the spies were less significant than anyone else.

Compare this story to David and Goliath. A young, seemingly insignificant shepherd won the day by defeating a giant. David, who was small in stature, did not suffer from an inferiority complex. Rather, he trusted in his ability and in the Almighty’s help.

Do you find yourself facing insurmountable obstacles? Are they really so overwhelming or is self-doubt causing you to fail before you’ve begun? When you appear as a grasshopper in your own eyes it’s natural to assume you appear so in other’s eyes.

Think back to the time when your spouse thought you were the greatest, your children knew you could do anything, your friends marveled at your achievements. False visions you say! Really? Or is it that somewhere along the line a few things didn’t go your way and you lost faith in yourself. Few of us our giants, so don’t worry if you compare unfavorably with the Nefilim. But everyone, including you is, or was, truly a giant at one time and can be that giant again.

How much more could you accomplish if you saw yourself clearly, trusted in G-d’s help, and assumed others see you as a resourceful, able person?

What do you do to strengthen your self-image? 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!

Do You Complain Constructively?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Beha’aloscha – Numbers 8:1-12:16

When my wife and I were dating I decided it would be a good idea to let her know how much living in a cluttered house with things out of place bothered me. I knew it wouldn’t work to hold her to my standard, but at times I feel compelled to remind her when things get particularly out of hand. Over the years I’ve worked to be more mindful of why and when I do so. This week’s parsha, Beha’aloscha, explains the potential pitfall I face:

There were men who were spiritually impure [because of contact with] a dead person, and were not able to make the Passover sacrifice on that day. And they approached before Moses and before Aaron on that day. (Numbers/Bamidbar 10:33)

Do You Complain Constructively?

This Sabbath’s parsha covers lighting the Menorah, the consecration of the Levites, bringing the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and Pesach Sheini (second Passover); the cloud and pillar of fire with which G-d led the Children of Israel and other aspects of their travels, the people who complained about eating the Manna and what G-d did about it, and Miriam’s affliction with tzaraas.

The parsha gives two contrasting examples of how to approach a relationship with G-d.

First we see some people who went to Moses to complain that because they had become tamei (spiritually impure) from handling a dead body they were not allowed to bring the Korban Pesach. They were upset since this offering brings a person closer to the Almighty by showing appreciation for being liberated from Egyptian slavery. G-d responds by designating a second Pesach at which not only those who are tamei but those who are on a distant road may bring a Korban Pesach. Because the intention behind their complaint was to get closer to Him the result is more favorable than they requested.

In the case of those who complained about the Manna the situation was different. Some sources say the Manna took on the flavor of a person’s favorite food. In any event it was a spiritually, as well as, physically nourishing food. Why complain?

Rashi, the well known and prodigious Torah commentator, notes there was no cause for complaint, rather they were just looking for an excuse to distance themselves from the Creator. They spread ingratitude and disaffection for no reason. Nothing positive was accomplished. Nonetheless, G-d sent them quail to eat. But there was so much of it they became disgusted. In the end the Almighty killed the leading protestors.

When you complain to your loved ones: spouse, parents, children, or friends, are you doing so in a constructive way and for positive reasons? Or are you merely blowing off steam, sowing divisiveness, and habituating them to negativity that creates separation?

When I complain about chaos in our house, I must ask myself: will this bring a deeper sense of shalom bayis (peace in the home) or am I only venting anger over some other issue?

The Creator wants you striving for greater closeness to Him in part to learn how to replicate such a relationship with your family and friends. One errant complaint offsets numerous positive interactions. Make sure the next time you complain it is out of desire to connect more deeply with the other person. I think you’ll find yourself behaving differently than in the past.

How do you make sure your complaints aren’t selfish? 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!

One Way to Know the Quality of Your Relationships

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nasso – Numbers 4:21-7:79

I think most men gave up wearing ties in order to force their children to be more creative when selecting a gift. But isn’t it supposed to be the feeling that counts? Maybe, but after the fifth or sixth one you think they’d choose something, anything, else. This week’s parsha, Nasso, suggests maybe not:

And his offering: one silver bowl of one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver sprinkling basin of 70 shekels according to the holy shekel, both filled with fine flower mixed with oil for a meal offering. One spoon of ten gold [shekels] filled with incense. One young bull, one ram, and one lamb in it first year for a burnt offering. A goat for a sin offering. And for a peace offering: two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs in their first year. . . (Numbers/Bamidbar 7:13-17)

 One Way to Know the Quality of Your Relationships

In this Sabbath’s parsha, the Levites are counted and assigned their responsibilities for transporting the Tabernacle, the procedures for a Sotah and Nazir are described, the Priestly Blessing is given, and the leaders of the twelve tribes bring their offerings to dedicate the Tabernacle.

Nasso is a long parsha. Almost half of it details the dedication gifts of each tribe. The description for each one matches the above verses. The only difference between the twelve gifts is the name of the tribal leader and the day he brought it. If G-d wanted to emphasize their equivalence, He could have described one of them and then noted each tribe brought the identical gift. Why repeat it twelve times?

Despite being physically indistinguishable, the Creator saw each tribe connected different meanings to their gifts. Think about your how you give presents. One week you might give your wife flowers meaning to say I'm sorry. A few weeks later the same kind of flowers might mean happy birthday or simply I love you.

Now, imagine if you had twelve children and they each gave you a birthday present that turned out to be identical. Which explanation to a friend would honor them better: “Oh my children all gave me the same gift,” or “my first child gave me a gift that meant this to me, my second child gave me a gift that meant this other thing to me,” and so on?

Being a gracious recipient means more than saying thank you. You need to take the time to understand the meaning behind a person’s gift. If you don’t like it, could the problem be the relationship is off track or not as close as it ought to be?

That the Almighty received each of the tribes’ gifts with equal favor shows how connected He was to His children.

Got a lot of funky ties in your closet? Perhaps it’s time to focus on your family.

What barometer do you use for tracking the quality of your relationships? 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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