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

Certain traits seem to be gifts from nature. Consider Stephen Curry's story. He became arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history by grooming his natural ability. So we see in this week’s parsha, Emor:

“But an ox or a sheep/goat, it and its offspring you will not slaughter on the same day” (Vayikra/Leviticus 22:28)

How to Harness Your Natural Ability

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. 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.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

Geoff Colvin writes that talent is overrated. He asserts such child prodigies as Mozart actually achieved their greatness through deliberate practice. By his standard, Curry reached the heights because of his work ethic. Others insist that no matter how much someone trains, greatness cannot be achieved without natural ability.

I doubt we will ever solve the environment verses heredity debate. But whether greatness needs a spark of inborn genius, nothing substitutes for hard work. At 5’-8”, my basketball prowess is no threat to Curry. But if I practiced hard my ability would improve.

On the other hand, it seems some traits, such as compassion, are inborn. Even Hitler was kind to animals and Himmler was good to his mother. But as these examples show, unless nurtured, a natural ability won’t grow. So the Torah requires that we practice compassion, like by not sacrificing a mother and her child on the same day. Such a restriction must be heeded constantly.

Natural Ability Isn’t Only Physical

Like every human, you have preferences. If they’re physical activities it’s easy to see why you need to practice them. Whether you’re a runner, golfer, or swimmer, you won’t get better unless you train.

Success in life requires expertise in mental and spiritual activities too. Most people decide early on what abilities they have in these two realms. If you tell yourself you’re resilient, positive, or connected to G-d you’re more likely to act in a way that reinforces these abilities.

But if you believe you cannot talk to people well, lack confidence, or needn’t be concerned about your spiritual life you’ll make these your reality. Labeling alone makes it hard to change them.

In either case you need to do the following:

  1. Honestly assess what is standing in the way of the success you want. If you think the factors are external, think again. Most barriers to success come from within you.
  2. Decide which abilities you need to overcome these hurdles. If you don’t have the right contacts you’ll have to create new relationships. People will help you. But, you have to show them why it’s to their advantage to do so. You’ll have to reach out, engage with strangers, show them the value in knowing you, and be persistent.
  3. Find or create training to help you develop these abilities. You may have them so you just need to put them to work. Otherwise, you must grow or improve your skills. If you’ve been telling yourself you don’t have a particular skill, start by believing you can change.

The Torah’s lesson on compassion is the archetype for making your natural ability great. Identify it, set the standard you will achieve, then train until you reach your goal. You don’t need to be Stephen Curry. You must be the greatest YOU!

How have you overcome hurdles to success? 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!

© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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