Category Archives: Scripture

The Most Important Choice You’ll Ever Make

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9

What do you really want from life? You may think you know the answer but read on because you don’t. Whether you call it your mission or purpose (hint, they’re not the same) or just what you want, everything you are and do comes from one decision. The problem is you’ve probably not ever consciously thought about it. Parshas Toldos explains your two choices:

“…two nations are in your womb and two regimes from your insides will be separated….” (Bereshis/Genesis 25:23).

The Most Important Choice You’ll Ever Make

At the beginning of this Sabbath’s parsha Jacob and Esau are born. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew. Then a famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar where he disputes with the Philistines and makes a treaty with Abimelech. Esau marries two Hittite women. Next, as Isaac lays dying, Rebecca conspires to get the blessing of the firstborn for Jacob leading to Esau hating his brother. Isaac admonishes Jacob not to marry a Canaanite, after which he flees to Bethuel’s house. Esau marries a third wife. Who needs Dynasty?

Kingdom and World

Virtually from the moment of conception Esau and Jacob fought. Rebecca feels the dispute in her womb. When she asks G-d what’s going on, He answers with the above line. This was no every day in utero sibling rivalry.

The Midrash describes Esau’s nation as a kingdom and Jacob’s as a world. The differences are stark. Kingdoms seek conquest and plunder, epitomized by the Roman Empire, the descendants of Esau. Rome’s armies were invincible, her pleasures the bloodthirsty entertainments of the coliseum.

In contrast, there are two worlds: this world and the World to Come. While the essence of this world is physical, it cannot exist without its spiritual dimension. The World to Come is purely spiritual. Plunder has no meaning. You need only conquer the lesser aspects of your nature.

Your Most Basic Choice

While it doesn’t feel like babies kicking your insides, the battle between desire for kingdom and world rages in you. Each time you speak or act, you’re choosing which one you want. If you’re tired or upset and yell, make demands, or try to control people, you’re building a kingdom. You may conquer your family members. They’ll put up with a lot. You might be able to dominate friends and co-workers, at least for a while.

When love motivates your words and actions, you’re building a world. People may not know why, but they want to be around you. Your professional knowledge becomes precious to them. Family, friends, and colleagues implicitly trust your counsel on personal matters.

Notice that in both cases people will listen to you. The difference is why. Rome had one goal: To be feared. Subjects dread their monarch. Such is the nature of kingdoms.

When you decide to build a world you choose pursuit of wisdom over coercion and self-control over displays of temper. You recognize conflict must be minimized and handled to create growth.

It seems like the most important choices you’ll make are whether to be an employee or business owner, marry, or have children. Before all of these and so many more decisions comes the most vital of all: will you build a kingdom or a world?

Question – What is one of your criteria for making this choice? Please leave a 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 Your Best Intentions are Harming People

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chayei Sarah – Genesis 23:1-25:18

How many times have you spoken to your spouse with the best intentions only to have your words completely misinterpreted? Likewise, have you done a friend a favor only to find the adage “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to apply? I’ve written before about how G-d judges intentions. So why doesn’t He make things work out the way you intend? Parshas Chayei Sarah explains what’s going on:

“Let it be the maiden to whom I say. ‘Please tip over your jug so that I may drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will even water your camels,’ her you will have designated for Your servant, for Isaac…” (Bereshis/Genesis 24:14).

How Your Best Intentions are Harming People

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the death of Sarah. Abraham purchases a burial site, inters her, and devotedly mourns. Then he orders Eliezer, his servant, to find a wife for Isaac. Next, Abraham remarries. The narrative concludes with his death and the death of Ishmael.

God Knows Your Intentions

The Midrash notes the impropriety of Eliezer’s above request. According to his plea any woman, no matter what her status, would fit the bill. Nonetheless, knowing that Eliezer acted with the best intentions the Almighty sent him the saintly Rebecca. Why did He treat him so kindly?

Until he received Abraham’s instructions for finding Isaac a wife, Eliezer had hoped his daughter would marry his master’s son. Finding this was not to be, he nonetheless faithfully carried out his duty. He lost no time preparing for and setting out on his journey. He fervently prayed for success, beseeching G-d to, “Do kindness with my master.”

Clarify Your Intentions Before Acting

Notice Eliezer’s clarity of intentions. From the outset, he sought a woman of character. He brought gifts to persuade her family to consent to the marriage. All his arrangements focused on a successful outcome for Isaac and Abraham.

By engaging in such preparation you can ensure your true intentions are sound:

  1. Whatever you are saying or doing, it should come from devotion to the other person.
  2. Resolve to have his or her best interest at heart.
  3. When you speak with your spouse, child, or friend, plan your words in advance. How could you be misinterpreted?
  4. Likewise with your actions. Could something you do be misconstrued? Explaining your behavior beforehand may make your intentions clear.

Assumptions Defeat Clarity

It’s easy to think your intentions are clear. After all, you know what you’re thinking. But the only way others can know is if you tell them. Now that you have to articulate your meaning you may find you’re not as certain. Taking the time to assure your heart, words, and actions are aligned with your intentions will help you build solid relationships based on mutual understanding.

Question – How do you make sure your speech and behavior match your intentions? Please leave a 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 Form a Strong Friendship Despite a Busy Life

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeira – Genesis 18:1-22:4

Maintaining friendships is a lot of work. With some people, you can speak to them once every year or two and pick up right where you left off. But most friends require greater effort. When your life is so busy, how and where do you find the time to nurture important connections? Parshas Vayeira makes clear what it takes:

“And Abraham journeyed from there…and he sojourned in Gerar.” (Genesis/Bereishis 20:1)

How to Form a Strong Friendship Despite a Busy Life

The Sabbath’s parsha begins with Abraham receiving three guests who reiterate the promise that he will have a son. Then he learns about the fate of Sodom, where his nephew Lot is living, and Gomorrah. G-d destroys the cities but saves Lot and his daughters, who then give birth to Moab and Ammon. Next, Abimelech abducts Sarah, Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, and Abraham makes an alliance with Abimelech. The parsha ends with the binding and near sacrifice of Isaac.

Friendship Focuses on the Other

Life was nomadic during Biblical times. But there had to be a better place to go than Gerar. Once again Abraham faced mortal danger when a king coveted his wife. The benefit of moving there must have been tremendous.

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, people stopped traveling through Mamre. Abraham no longer had the opportunity to welcome guests into his encampment. He could have taken the attitude that since there was no one to invite he was exempt from having guests. And G-d wouldn’t have faulted him.

But the Creator prizes hospitality so Abraham made it his hallmark.

Adopt Your Friend’s Priority

Abraham left Mamre and moved to Gerar where he could resume being hospitable. It entailed risk. But he was confident that by embracing G-d’s priority he would receive His protection.

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.

Such is the nature of a true relationship. Each person looks after the interests of the other. Note that Abraham probably spent very little extra time entertaining guests. He and his family had to prepare meals and eat anyway. Hospitality may have meant serving better quality food or washing a few extra dishes, but Abraham still had plenty of time to tend to his flocks.

It’s the Action that Counts

For many years I assuaged my conscience by telling my Mom I thought about her often, even though I seldom picked up the telephone. When I did call her she would ask me why I didn’t call her, to which I responded, “I’m calling you now. Isn’t that good enough?”

It took me years to realize my Mother was telling me she desired regular communication to create a closer relationship. I always thought it would take too much time. But with telephone, email, and text messages I’m in daily contact without any burden on my time.

Every other consideration pales into insignificance when you base a friendship on the other person’s priority. Send him an article about his favorite sports team, make an effort to thank her, or just briefly touch base periodically. Small deeds make all the difference.

Question – In what little ways do you maintain a friendship?

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!

Beauty is Deeper than Skin

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Lech Lecha – Genesis 12:1-17:27

Do you struggle with handling how your daughter perceives her physical appearance? Zig Ziglar recommended that children be complimented for their behavior or clothing rather than their attractiveness. Numerous people have told my daughter how pretty she is. As a result, when I complement her character often she’s disappointed. Delving into Parshas Lech Lecha resolved my dilemna:

“…see now, I have known you are a woman of beautiful appearance.” (Genesis/Bereishis 12:11)

Beauty is Deeper than Skin

In this Sabbath’s parsha G-d tells Abram (later Abraham) to leave his land and relatives to go to Canaan. Next, Abram sojourns in Egypt then returns to Canaan. Abram and his nephew Lot part ways. Then G-d promises to give the Land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants. Abram wins a war, rescues Lot, then turns down the booty that normally goes to the victor.

Next G-d reiterates His promise to give Canaan to Abram and his descendants. Sarai (later Sarah) gives Abram Hagar for a wife. Then G-d and Abram make the covenant of circumcision. Finally, Sarai and Abram are given new names and are promised a son to be named Isaac.

Does the Torah Say Beauty Is Important?

In this and next weeks parshas, we find that Sarah’s beauty is so great Abraham fears Pharaoh and Abimelech will kill him to get her. Noted scholars have debated Sarah’s beauty. In true Jewish fashion, they concluded it was inferior, the same, and greater than Eve’s.

Eve, being a pure reflection of the Divine image, would have aroused greater rage in the Evil Queen than Snow White did. The Magic Mirror would have declared Eve’s beauty without equal in the history of humanity.

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.

Perhaps this Biblical beauty contest should be moved to Atlantic City so we can crown Miss (well maybe Mrs.) Old Testament. In any case, apparently, the Torah focuses on beauty.

Beauty as a Metaphor for Character

Hold off planning the talent and swimsuit competitions. The Torah doesn’t involve itself in frivolities. Eve’s unparalleled beauty reflected the purity of her character before eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This sin tarnished her soul and outward appearance. Throughout Eve’s life, her physical appearance reflected the state of her connection to the Creator.

Sarah lacked Eve’s primal connection to the Almighty but committed no comparable sin. By turns, she compares disfavorably and favorably with Eve. Throughout her life, Sarah’s beauty never diminished because her righteousness never waned. No ugliness emanated from her soul to mar her physical appearance.

Daddy, Do You Think I’m Pretty?

Understood as a mirror image of a person’s character, the Torah’s focus on beauty gains context. When my daughter asks me if I think she’s cute, without hesitating I tell her, “yes, you are beautiful, a true reflection of your wonderful heart and soul.”

Until you know someone’s character, you are blind to her beauty. While her physical appearance may be stunning, this may disguise an unattractive soul. Once you know her heart, she may not be pretty any longer. Likewise, someone may strike you as unappealing at first glance. But her warmth of spirit and emanation of love may make her more beautiful than Venus De Milo.

Were Eve and Sarah gorgeous? In the end, their physical appearance is unimportant. What counts is the manifestations of their characters. Viewed from this perspective, beauty is deeper than skin. As character flourishes, loveliness intensifies.

Question – How do you determine whether to be involved with someone?

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!

Are You Being Real? Really?

You hear a lot about being real. But what does that mean? When my daughter doesn’t get enough sleep she acts cranky and is hard to deal with. She’s being real, but I discourage such authenticity. It turns out being real dates back thousand of years. Parshas Noach tells the tale:

“These are the offspring of Noah, Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations.” (Genesis/Bereishis 6:9)

Are You Being Real? Really?

The parsha for this Sabbath is Noach. In it, we read about G-d choosing Noah to save humans, animals, birds, and creeping things from total destruction in the flood. Rain falls for 40 days and nights and the waters churn for another 150 days. After they recede Noah brings an offering to G-d. Then he defiles himself when he plants a vineyard and gets drunk on wine. As a result, we learn the true characters of his sons.

The parsha ends with a list of Noah’s descendants who formed the 70 nations, the story of the tower of Babel and dispersion of the nations, and the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

The Source of Your Humanity

G-d connects to each human being by implanting a spark of Himself in the person’s soul. Your spirituality, deepest beliefs and values, love and other emotions, all emanate from this source called the neshamah.

Your neshamah resides inside you but also remains rooted in heaven. The strength of this connection comes from how diligently you pursue a relationship with the Creator.

Your Name on Earth and in Heaven

Whatever you’re called in this world, your neshamah has the same name in heaven. I’m Akiva ben Yosef (well at least to my rabbi when I’ve done something particularly worthwhile) here on Earth. The Almighty knows my soul by the same name. (Presumably, He has no trouble distinguishing me from the great Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef!)

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.

When you’re born, the earthly and heaven-rooted aspects of your neshamah are linked with no intrusions between them. Throughout your life, the things you do to enhance your relationship with G-d keep the link unsullied. When you do things that diminish this relationship, the connection is whittled down. When your conscience bothers you, it’s a sure bet a little of the link has been pared off.

Noah was Being Real

The above verse would be easier to read if it said, “These are the offspring of Noah, who was a righteous man…” That his name was repeated teaches the Noah in this world and his heaven-based neshamah Noah retained the same connection they had at his birth. He remained perfectly linked.

His authenticity came from there being only one Noah. He was not one person when he dealt with his wife and another when he pursued his work. He properly and sincerely cared for each soul in his charge, human and animal. He was always being real.

When you do things, like helping other people, the bond between the earthly and heavenly aspects of your neshamah becomes stronger. When you have greater congruency between your deeds and thoughts, the bond gains even more strength. Herein lies the essence to being real.

Next time someone tells you to get real, consider what kind of authenticity they’re urging on you. Is it behavior that comports with the latest societal fad? Or is it the timeless authenticity exhibited by Noah, who by being real, remained intimate with all living creatures and the Creator his whole life.

Question – What does being real mean to 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. 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!