Category Archives: Soul

Do You Know Why Relationships are Like Music?

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33

Paraphrasing a question from Father Christopher Allen, a community member, he asks if being ritually clean is related more to wholeness than to physical cleanliness. He refers to two verses in parsha, Tazria-Metzora:

“And if the tzaraas has spread over the skin and the tzaraas covers all of the skin of the one with the lesion, from his head to his feet, on all that the eyes of the kohen can see; and the kohen will look at it. And behold! And the tzaraas covers all of his flesh. And he will declare the person with the lesion ritually pure. He has turned completely white. He is ritually pure.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:12-13).

Do You Know Why Relationships are Like Music?

This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth and verifying when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body or a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with a tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

To understand tahara (the state of being tahor) note that leprosy, a chronic physical disease, is not at all related to tzaraas, which afflicts a person whose life is out of balance or whose relationships are damaged. Today you rely on your conscience and how well your life is going to determine such things. In Biblical times, when the Creator and humanity were closer, tzaraas served as a physical indication that something was amiss on the spiritual level.

If you look at the concept of purity you see ideas such as “without any extraneous elements,” “free of contamination,” and “untainted by immorality.” A pure sound is perfectly in tune. Consider a diamond. Clarity and freedom from impurities increase its value. Now place these concepts on a spiritual plane.

Think about how you feel when you and your spouse are most in tune. Are there any impediments to communication and intimacy? Notice we use the same words for a pure sound and a pure marriage.

Consider your relationships with your children or parents. They’re best when all the extraneous elements are removed, aren’t they? Even if you’re doing something extravagant, a fancy meal, an exotic trip, I suspect what you remember are the laughter or awe you shared. Those moments of pure connection form the essence of relationships. Similarly,

When relationships are in this state we say they are shalom. Most often thought of as a greeting and usually translated as peace, at its root it means whole. When are we at peace? When our lives are whole.

So when a person’s skin is completely white with tzaraas, he is tahor, pure in the sense of whole. But when tzaraas afflicts only part of his body he becomes a metzora because the unaffected skin and the tzaraas-afflicted skin are not in tune with each other. They are contradictory. By purifying his relationships, bringing balance to his spirit, the metzora removes all the tzaraas from his skin, becomes whole again, and is at shalom with his family, the world, and G-d.

Chris, thanks for a another wonderful question!

Father Allen leads the Sts. Joachim and Anna Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas. Like me, he is a navy reserve chaplain, currently with 4th Marine Reconnaissance Battalion.

Do you feel a sort of spiritual tzaraas when your relationships are awry or your spirit unbalanced? 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!

Why Crazy Love Will Doom Your Relationship

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

When I was younger I loved without limit. Too often I found such unrestrained affection was neither returned nor appreciated. But I continued to hold limitless love as the ideal until I understood this week’s parsha, Shemini:

And took the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, a man his fire pan and they placed in them fire . . . (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:1).

Why Crazy Love Will Doom Your Relationship

This Sabbath’s parsha tells about the performance of the priestly service, the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, the dispute between Moses and Aaron, and the laws of kosher animals, birds, fish and creeping crawling things.

It’s difficult to understand the death of Nadav and Avihu. Intending to serve G-d and show their love for Him, they took their fire pans and brought an incense offering. But G-d had not commanded them to do this so they were consumed by fire.

How is it that two of the greatest people of all time made such a fatal mistake? They acted out of unbounded love for G-d. They followed the correct procedure. And yet the result was terrible.

The next line of the passage gives a clue to the problem. G-d tells Aaron he may not drink wine before performing the Sacrificial Service. Even without this express warning, Nadav and Avihu should have known not to bring an offering while drunk. Still, the death penalty for MWI (Ministering While Intoxicated) seems harsh.

R’ Shimon Schwab asserts that Nadav and Avihu loved G-d without limit, more powerfully than even Moses and Aaron. Toras Kohanim points out that such unbridled love was their fatal misstep.

You’ve probably heard love will cure all of the world’s ills. Make love the focus of all, this philosophy goes, and every problem will melt away. Such

There is no shortage of people who commit heinous acts while claiming deep love for the person they assault or worse. News stories describe murder done to glorify G-d. It is too easy to brush off such love as insincere or their acts misdirected. More likely, their love is deeply sincere.

Nadav and Avihu remind us that even the purest love of G-d can end badly. In their uninhibited expression of love, they neglected to consider their judgment was impaired. As well, had they taken the time to consult with their father or Moses, they would have been counseled that G-d wanted them to balance love with obedience.

Unlimited amounts frequently lead to idolatry. True of such earth-bound things as money and physical fitness, it is also the case in the spiritual realm. Unrestrained love for G-d, breaking the limits He sets, results in misery or evil.

Living an intentional, balanced life requires being thoughtful about avoiding extreme pursuits, whether they are harmful, benign, or, seemingly, beneficial.

Where can pursuing something with out restraint lead to virtue? 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!

Reach the Top by Reaching Back

Why reinvent the wheel when looking for a personal development plan?  For almost 3500 years people have counted of the Omer to refine their characters.  This year it began on Saturday night, April 4, 2015 but you can start any time.

When You Challenge Yourself You Grow!

It is a powerful tool for self-renewal. Each week has a character trait theme on which to work. The first week is dedicated to Chesed, loving-kindness. For the seven days of that week you work on attributes of this quality. The first day is pure loving kindness. The second day is loving-kindness balanced by Gevurah, justice and discipline. The third is loving-kindness enhanced by Tiferes, harmony and compassion. The fourth is Netzach, endurance in loving kindness. Day five is Hod, humility in loving-kindness. Day six is Yesod, bonding through loving-kindness. And the seventh day is loving-kindness in Malchus, sovereignty and leadership. Succeeding weeks follow this pattern.

Be intentional about practicing each trait each day of the count. To help you I have created a worksheet so you can see the characteristic on which you should work. Each day fill in the task you did so you can keep track of your progress.

Expecting your character to improve without purposely changing your behavior leads to frustration. Counting the Omer gives you the opportunity to elevate your spirit while having a positive impact on those around you.

Let me know how it works for you!

Are You Interested in the Passover Seder?

Through my work as a navy chaplain I found many people are profoundly interested in the holiday of Passover, or Pesach as it is known in Hebrew. Whether it is the centrality of the Exodus to Judaism, the Last Supper having been a Seder, or the resonance of the theme of freedom, people of many faiths want to understand and experience this millennia-old ritual.

Seder PlateImage from iStockPhoto.com

My most memorable Seder was in 2008 when my family held the community Seder at our home in Okinawa. About 30 people attended and it was an international group. People from four continents engaged in conversations in five languages. We shared lots of matza, wine, and food – more importantly the desire to learn sparked spirited discussions and when it was over we were more deeply connected to each other and G-d.

The Seder, which outside of Israel takes place on the first two nights of the festival, is a ritual meal laden with symbolism. A plate on which are laid a shank bone, roasted egg, green vegetable, two bitter herbs, and a fruit and nut mixture called charoses stirs the curiosity of the people at the table. Practices such as dipping the green vegetable in salt water and matza into the charoses likewise act as an impetus to questions. This experiential observance helps people to feel as if they themselves were redeemed from Egyptian slavery by G-d.

Some resources for learning about Pesach are:

Aish.com

Chabad.org

Judaism 101

Torah.org

Of course, I am happy to answer your questions. Over the years I have done Seder presentations for many Christian groups. Please let me know if you are interested in having me do one for your group.

Pesach is known as Zman Cheiruseinu, the Time of Our Freedom, referring not just to the release from Egyptian bondage but to being free from those things limiting your personal growth. To that end, check back next week for my post on counting the Omer, the oldest personal development program.

Chag Someyach! – May you have a joyous holiday!

What fond memory do you have of a Seder or question you have always wanted to ask? Please comment below.

 

Like the yearly cycle of Sabbath readings in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, known as sedras or parshas that begins and ends on Simchas Torah, the cycle of annual holidays begins with Pesach. It continues with the Counting of the Omer, Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, Chanukah, and Purim.

Ask a question about a holiday or verse in the Old Testament and I will answer it in a future holiday post or Parsha Nugget!

A Simple Habit to Strengthen Your Relationships

I love affirmations. They help keep me positive and on track. Nowhere is this more important than with my marriage and other important relationships. Here’s my favorite:

A Simple Habit to Strengthen Your Relationships

Here are nine more I love:

  1. "A True Friend is the Most Precious of All Possessions & the One We Take the Least Thought about Acquiring" ~ La Rochefoucauld
  1. "As the Yellow Gold is Tried in Fire, So the Faith of Friendship Must Be Seen in Adversity" ~ Ovid
  1. "Life is Not About Competitions Won It’s About Connections Made” ~ Rick Atchley
  1. "Being Deeply Loved by Someone Gives You Strength; Loving Someone Deeply Gives You Courage" ~ Lao Tzu
  1. "The Greatest Gifts You Can Give Your Children Are the Roots of Responsibility & the Wings of Independence" ~ Denis Waitley
  1. “A Good Husband Makes a Good Wife” ~ John Florio
  1. “You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married” ~ Rabs
  1. “A Successful Marriage Requires Falling in Love Many Times, Always with the Same Person” ~ Mignon McLauglin
  2. “Marriage Must Incessantly Contend with a Monster that Devours Everything: Familiarity” ~ Honore de Balzac

Post them on your bathroom mirror, keep them on a card in your journal or wallet, or make them the background on your computer or notebook. Read them daily and they will help you strengthen your bonds with your spouse, children, and friends.

How do you keep important ideas upper most in your mind? Please comment below.

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