Category Archives: Soul

You Don’t Need to Stand Out to Be Unique

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

Part of navy work entails reporting, in my case a monthly summary of how many people I’ve counseled and the issues confronted. But slotting people into general categories belies the distinctiveness of the challenges they face. This week’s parsha, Bamidbar, reveals a better perspective:

Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel . . . (Numbers/Bamidbar 1:2)

You Don’t Need to Stand Out to Be Unique

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers or Bamidbar, which means wilderness.  G-d commands Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel, first of the Twelve Tribes and then of the Levites.  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, giving us the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the first born, still done today.

The phrase G-d uses when commanding Moses to take the census, typically translated as it is above, more accurately means, “raise up the head of all of the assembly of the Children of Israel.”

The Almighty loves His people so much He counts them several times. If you’re a stamp or coin collector like me I suspect you know the enjoyment that comes from studying them. Spending an afternoon counting them, examining each one’s unique features, is wonderful.

But, G-d has other reasons for taking censuses. Knowing He loves you is great, yet there are other ways you can feel loved.

You are probably used to thinking of a census as the once a decade procedure through which the population is determined and congressional seats are apportioned. But this aggregating process is the opposite of what the Creator has in mind. The censuses done in the wilderness were designed to let each individual person know he or she was important. Whether a scholar or a boor, G-d, through his agents, recognized the uniqueness of a person’s soul. When He said, “Raise up the head,” G-d was entreating Moses to help each individual understand the essence of the Divine Spirit in each human being and strive for fulfillment of that potential.

More important is helping each one of them to see their value, strengths, and weaknesses.

And keep in mind, you’re one of G-d’s uniquely valuable children too.

How do you help someone understand his individuality? 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!

Are You Sowing the Right Seeds for What You Want to Reap?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Behar-Bechukosai – Leviticus 25:1-27:34

Living in my first apartment after college, for several weeks my roommate and I were awoken early by construction next door. One morning I had some words with one of the workers, and felt quite good at winning our verbal joust. Even if he had deserved such chastisement, parshas Behar - Bechukosai explains where I went wrong:

Do not subjugate him with hard labor. (Vayikra/Leviticus 25:43)

Are You Sowing the Right Seeds for What You Want to Reap?

This Sabbath’s parsha is another double reading. Behar teaches about the shemitah or sabbatical year and the yovel or jubilee year, laws about selling land, how to prevent poverty, and how to treat a Jewish servant.

Bechukosai, the last reading in Leviticus, gives the blessings and curses that will befall the Children of Israel depending on whether they follow the path G-d has set. The rest of the parsha deals with gifts to the Temple and how they are redeemed, how houses and fields are redeemed, and tithes.

A Jew who has fallen into abject poverty may sell himself. Although the word used to describe him can mean slave, essentially he is an indentured servant. Great importance is placed on preserving the respect and dignity of this worker. The above verse is one of several protections.

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak, known as Rashi, explains “hard labor” as an employer being forbidden to say to his servant, “Warm up this cup for me” when he, the master, does not really want or need it. Even if the servant doesn’t know that the tea is unwanted, the instruction is considered demeaning and disrespectful.

Many people think that they can behave any way they want, as long as they do not hurt anyone else. So, it should be perfectly legitimate for a servant to make his master a cup of tea. If unbeknown to the worker the employer does not really want the tea, why is it considered such an insult and an affront to the servant’s dignity?

The answer gets to the heart of generous, moral, and ethical behavior. Although you may feel you can behave as you wish, as long as you do not hurt anyone else, such thinking is flawed. The purpose and benefit of appropriate behavior is as much for you as it is for others. You are responsible to help others and protect their dignity, but also to ensure that you refine and develop a sensitive, compassionate and respectful identity for yourself. When you ask a worker to do a senseless task, he might not be hurt, but you will damage your own character. It plants seeds of insensitivity in your own personality.

When you treat others properly you are supporting their sense of dignity. And, you are taking care of yourself by freeing yourself from the stain of misbehavior while sustaining relationships.

Being careful how you treat others helps them while strengthening you. Always think twice before reprimanding someone. The ego you save may be your own.

Is there a time when it is okay to mistreat another person? 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 Get Rid of Your Regrets

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

Guilt and regret. It’s terrible to live with such feelings. Despite what seems to be Judaism’s fondness for imposing guilt, in reality the Creator provides several mechanisms for freeing yourself. One is in this week’s parsha, Emor:

“Upon the pure menorah, he will set up lamps, before G-d always . . . . And you shall place them [the loaves] in two stacks, six in each stack, upon the pure table before G-d.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 24:4 and 6)

If You Think This Way You’ll Fail

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple and the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The Sabbath, Passover, Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos are proclaimed as festivals. Next, 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 G-d's name.

The story of the blasphemer may seem out of place among such lofty topics as the purity of the Kohanim and sacrifices, the festivals, and the Temple implements. But the placement is no accident.

Emor is always read during the counting of the Omer, a time of semi-mourning, when 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva students died because they could not get along with each other.

Made of pure gold, the menorah and the table symbolize two areas where we should strive for clarity and purity: wisdom and business/daily dealings, respectively. By striving to reach a refined level we can repair past mistakes and deepen our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. So each day of the Omer count we mold an aspect of our character through every day behavior in accordance with G-d’s wisdom.

Juxtaposed to the menorah and table as symbols of exemplary behavior, the blasphemer typifies denial of G-d. If a person, heaven forbid, will curse the Creator, he demonstrates his belief in the superiority of his desires and decisions. Having set himself above the Almighty, he is unlikely to follow any societal norm or rule of behavior. No foundation exists for a relationship with such a person.

I’m sure you are very competent at work and deal with your associates nicely. And undoubtedly you never curse G-d. But what do you say about your colleagues when they’re not around? The Torah considers gossiping about people tantamount to murder. And you don’t know if such behavior so negatively affects how you’re perceived that it holds back your professional progress, let alone your emotional and spiritual growth. You may think your office relationships are solid. But if you dig below the surface will you find intrigue and unreliability?

As well, you harmonize with other people. Follow the shining examples of the Menorah and the Table, repudiating all aspects of the blasphemer, and repair not only the loss of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s students, but your own mistakes too. In doing so you’ll replace guilt and regret with a positive outlook and stronger relationships.

How do you rid yourself of guilt and regret for past mistakes? 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!

If You Think This Way You’ll Fail

Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. If you have children I suspect you agree with me. (Please let me know what you think is more difficult if you take issue with my conclusion. I really want to hear from you if you disagree).

If You Think This Way You’ll Fail

Not to say that parenting is thankless. My daughter warms my heart, especially when I’m sick and she does things to help me feel better. But from the moment of her birth, there hasn’t been a minute free from responsibility to her. And, mistakes are inevitable.

I might have intuitively understood the burden of parenting when I was a child. I don’t remember. In any event, into my young adulthood I blamed my parents for deficiencies that hampered my success. After I started my company, a curious thing happened. I had to generate business to pay the rent and buy food. Holding my parents responsible for my failure did nothing to improve my cash flow.

Whatever tools and handicaps my parents gave me, I had to take responsibility for my future. The same is true for you. As an adult, success and failure are in your hands now.

Once I let go of my anger and disgruntlement over my upbringing, the path to change opened up. I sought out the books, speakers, and training I needed to reshape my outlook and get the skills I needed. Success followed.

I was reminded of a related issue while listening to the soundtrack from A Chorus Line. In the song, Hello 12, Hello 13 (please note some of the lyrics in this song are coarse) one of the characters sings about completing college and thinking his life will just begin. Then he imagines his life as a kindergarten teacher and realizes:

What he says next is crucial, “And I was scared!”

In his case, he overcame his fear, discovered his passion, and pursued a life as a dancer.

When I finished a degree in architecture life was supposed to just begin. But in the early 1980s, building activity was nearly at a stand still. Licensed architects with more than a decade of experience were doing draftsmen’s work. I realized life doesn’t automatically begin upon the completion of college.

Notice a common theme? Let me restate the two issues:

  1. Correcting the challenges left to you by your parents
  2. Taking the next step after you complete a significant life event

In neither case will the situation fix itself. Both take intentional action on your part.

If you’re not getting where you want to go in life, I recommend you examine these two issues. No matter your age, to the extent they negatively impact your beliefs and performance they’re holding you back.

You’ll be scared. That’s how you’ll know you're making progress.

What belief do you have that’s holding you back? Please comment below.

Do You Know How to Be Charitable? Really?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Acharei Mos-Kedoshim – Leviticus 16:1-20:27

Setting goals for achieving my life’s purpose means finding concrete ways to address emotional or spiritual challenges. Improving my marriage is fine in the abstract. But my wife inhabits the physical world. So wishing or thinking about being a better husband doesn’t do her much good. This week’s parsha, Acharei MosKedoshim, deals with practical ways to pursue metaphysical ends:

“. . . and you will love your neighbor like yourself, I am the Lord.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18)

Do You Know How to Be Charitable? Really?

This Sabbath’s parsha is another double reading. Acharei Mos tells about the Yom Kippur service (from which comes the term “scapegoat”), the prohibition against eating blood, forbidden relationships, and the holiness of the Land of Israel.

Kedoshim gives a long list of mitzvahs (ways of creating a relationship with G-d) from religious to ethical: Respecting parents and elders, giving charity to the poor, being honest in business, observing the Sabbath, not dabbling in the occult, not taking revenge, and forbidden relationships.

Physical Expressions of Love → Not What You Think

Leading up to the famous verse quoted above are several ways you can love your neighbor as yourself. You can leave the corners and gleanings of your field or vineyard for the poor. You can refrain from robbing, make sure you pay your employees on time, and not intentionally hurt a handicapped person.

But for most of us are not farmers, criminals, or malicious. So the Torah seems to lack tangible ways to express our love for other people. What is the standard? If you have a nice car do you have to buy one for your neighbor? When you travel to wonderful places must you take your neighbor along? And if you don’t do these things, should you at least feel guilty that you’re better off than your neighbor?

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

If you want to provide your neighbor with elaborate gifts you may. But you don't need to be so generous. In the physical realm, you ought to help people meet their basic needs, using 10% but no more than 20% of your income to do so. As important, take care of your neighbor's emotional and spiritual needs.

9 Ways to Build Enduring Relationships

Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, the Chief Rabbi of Koenigsburg, Germany during the early to mid-1800s (in his Torah commentary HaKsav V’HaKabbalah), gave a list of how you can love your neighbor as yourself:

  1. Express real, not feigned, affection for others
  2. Always treat others with respect
  3. Always seek the best for others
  4. Be more than empathic, join in other people’s pain
  5. Greet people with friendliness
  6. Give people the benefit of the doubt
  7. Assist others physically
  8. Be ready to help people with a small loan or gift
  9. Do not consider yourself better than other people

If you look at this list I suspect it reflects the way you want to be treated by others. The difference between military and civilian life is highlighted by no. 5. We must offer the greeting of the day to anyone senior to us, who then must greet us back. This small gesture, almost always done in a friendly way, makes military life more pleasant. Which of these behaviors can you habituate to demonstrate daily respect for your neighbor?

How else can you love your neighbor as yourself?

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. 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!

Get More Ideas Like These for Firing Up Your Life and a FREE Bonus!

Use:

  • The wisdom of Scripture
  • Battle-tested ideas from the military
  • Profitable business concepts

to design a better life for you and your family!

Plus, you'll get a FREE bonus, my 49 Day Challenge to Refine Your Character!