Tag Archives: God

Strong Relationships Require Place and Faith

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bereishis – Genesis 1:1-6:8

The word friend today means something different than in times past. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some I’ve never met or even spoken with. For a close relationship, place comes to mind. You know you can’t have a strong marriage when you’re never home. Relations with your kids suffer when you have to be away. Likewise, in your relationship with G-d, Parshas Bereishis shows place matters:

“In the beginning of G-d creating the heavens and the earth….” (Genesis/Bereishis 1:1)

Strong Relationships Require Place and Faith

The parsha for this Sabbath, Bereishis, begins a new cycle. It tells the story of creation and how Adam and Eve sinned and got thrown out of the Garden of Eden. The conflict between Cain and Abel explains we are our brother’s keeper. It ends by enumerating the ten generations between Adam and Noah. Isn’t it wonderful to be reading the great stories of the Torah again?

Judaism and the Land of Israel

The Torah contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Other names include the Five Books of Moses and Toras Chaim. The second one means rules for life. Not a history book, the Torah instructs you on how to have a relationship with G-d and other people.

So why does it start with a lengthy narrative about the creation of the world? Surely the Creator knew this story would cause a bitter argument among His children. Quarreling about whether it’s literal or allegorical won’t build relationships.

Rather, this parsha and the rest of Beresheis prove the Jewish people’s title to the Land of Israel. Many mitzvas (ways of relating to G-d) depend on living there so it is crucial to establish this claim. Like trying to sustain your marriage without a home, without the Land of Israel, G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people weakens. Were the Land lost forever the relationship might die.

Out of Contention Comes Faith

Still the question remains. Did the Almighty create the world in six 24-hour days or over billions of years? This dispute underlies a crucial principle for understanding the Bible. The question is more important than the answer.

No matter the time period of creation, the Almighty challenges you to have faith in His eternality and omnipotence. He could have created the universe in six days or six eons. The difference is indistinguishable to Him. But faith is indispensable for establishing your relationship with G-d. The same applies to your spouse, children, and friends. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes or disappoint you. Without faith in their love and good intentions your relationship will not survive.

Creationism versus cosmology makes a lively discussion. Remembering why the Creator opens the Bible with such a contentious story will give you enduring relationships.

Question – Which do you find a bigger challenge to your marriage: place or faith? 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!

Warning: You’ll See Greater Prospects in Your Life

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vezos Haberachah – Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

My daughter finds it difficult to imagine what the future has in store for her. She knows she won’t actually live in Breckindale with Sophie and her friends (Keeper of the Lost Cities for the uninitiated). And I think she realizes she won’t actually become a telepath. But excluding such fantasies doesn’t help define an aspirational yet achievable future. She shares such impaired vision with many veterans. Do you see the vast potential in your post-military life? Parshas Vezos Haberachah makes clear just how far you can go:

“…his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 34:7)

Warning: You’ll See Greater Prospects in Your Life

This week’s parsha, read on Simchas Torah, completes the cycle of readings for the year. In it, Moses blesses each of the tribes individually then the Children of Israel as a group. It ends with his death and praise for the person he became.

The Greatest Person of All Time

The Bible is filled with great people. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all vie for the top spot. And don’t forget, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel whose legacy can be seen in a string of outstanding women through to today.

Moses surpassed them all. Adam was the first human created in G-d’s image by the Creator’s own hands. Moses, though born of human parents, earned an eternal radiance reflective of his matchless relationship with the Creator. Noah’s righteousness spared him and his family from the flood. Yet he didn’t even try to save his generation from destruction. Moses saved hundreds of thousands of people from annihilation despite their grave sin of idolatry.

Abraham fed passersby. But he had ready access to ordinary food. Moses fed the Israelites in the wilderness with miraculous manna for 40 years. Isaac merited being an offering to G-d. Moses met the Almighty face-to-face. Jacob overcame an angel in an Earth-based fight. Moses met the angels in their heavenly realm and they trembled.

In every aspect of his character, Moses surpassed every other Biblical personage.

Your Greater Prospects & Current Circumstances Are Unrelated

Nothing in Moses’s upbringing could have foretold his future. He was born at a time when Pharaoh decreed the execution of all male Hebrew babies. Pharaoh’s daughter raised him amidst the depravity of the Egyptian court. As a young man, he exiled himself after committing murder. He had a cleft palate that gave him such an inferiority complex his older brother had to be his spokesman.

Despite all these challenges, Moses became the most outstanding person in human history. He acquired tremendous wealth. He had a loving marriage. His community revered him. He achieved unequaled closeness with G-d. The Torah is also known as the Five Books of Moses. In this guise, it puts every Horatio Alger story to shame.

The Creator tells you the story of Moses to inspire you to follow in his footsteps. No matter how difficult your challenges, you have the potential for greatness. Where do you want to set your aspirations? Wealth? Tight-knit relationships? Soaring spirituality? You can achieve them. Begin by seeing your greater prospects.

What holds you back from seeking out incomparable life? 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!

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

My daughter experienced her first major life setback last week. It caught her completely by surprise. Much to her chagrin, I cannot fix what happened. Even worse, I had to make it clear she was completely responsible. I wanted to comfort her. But I knew if I did she would not take valuable lessons to heart. Good thing Parshas Ha’azinu explains why adversity is her best friend:

“…like storms winds upon vegetation and like raindrops on grass.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:2)

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

This week’s parsha is the last Sabbath reading of the cycle. Moses teaches the Israelites a redemptive song. In it he calls on heaven and earth to witness all the disasters that will happen if they stray from G-d. He also describes the joy that will come with the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his final task.

G-d Wants to Bond with You

Moses spent most of his life tending to the Israelites. Starting decades earlier, he led them out of Egypt. For 40 years he shepherded them through the wilderness. Now, on the border of the Promised Land, he must leave them. He has complete faith in Joshua, their new leader. Yet despite doing his best, the future foretells disaster for his flock.

I can imagine Moses would like to make life easier for the Children of Israel. After all, isn’t that the instinct of every loving parent? But he knows a trouble-free life will mean even greater catastrophe. Hoping against hope, he reminds his people that storm winds are as necessary to life as raindrops.   Resolutely facing adversity builds resilience and an unbreakable bond with G-d.

Seek Out Your Best Friend

You probably think I’m crazy for suggesting you should seek out painful situations. Hear me out. By choosing the challenge you’ll face, you stand a better chance of conquering it.

  • You can prepare. A mountain climber makes sure he has all the required equipment before starting out. Something may break or get lost. He’ll still have to improvise at times. But he doesn’t plan on the fly. He sizes up the challenge, trains for it, and prevails.
  • You can create meaning. By choosing your test, you can select one that resonates deeply. Start with candid self-examination. Determine your vulnerabilities. Pick one. Set your first goal. Visualize the new person you’ll be when you achieve it.
  • You can get G-d’s help. You won't live a carefree life. So you can sit back and let the Almighty decide on the trials you’ll face. Or, you can initiate your own personal development. When you do, G-d will support you. Not by making the experience pain-free. But by guaranteeing it will be worthwhile.

You may need a better job. Your marriage may require renovation. You may have developed unhealthy habits. You hope your life will get better. But, these conditions will only get worse. Choose to face the storm winds on your own terms. At times life is painful. Be intentional about adversity. The more time you spend with it the sooner it will become your best friend.

What keeps you from confronting challenges? 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 Make Sure You’ll Preserve Your Goodness

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Seitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Bringing up your spouse’s or a friend’s past mistake serves no productive purpose. You’ll always have new subjects to discuss or argue about. And, forgiveness means once you’ve dealt with an issue you drop it. So why does Moses bring up Miriam’s past mistake? She admitted her error and received punishment. That should have been the end of it. Parshas Ki Seitzei explains you’ll have to do more to preserve your goodness:

“Remember what G-d did to Miriam, on the way when you were going out from Egypt.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 24:9)

How to Make Sure You'll Preserve Your Goodness

This Sabbath’s parsha contains the most mitzvahs (ways to connect with the Almighty). It has 74 in all. Among them, you learn about the right of primogeniture and how to handle a wayward and rebellious son. Next, you read that men and women should not wear each other’s clothing (Ooops for Uncle Miltie). You must send away a mother bird before gathering her eggs.  You find out the penalties for libeling a woman, adultery, and rape.  Next, you review a range of rules from marriage and divorce to honest weights and measures.  Finally, the Torah teaches you the strange commandment to remember to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

The Essence of Women                

The Creator embedded several traits in female nature. They include curiosity, an inclination to listen, being communicative, and the capacity to energetically take needed action. All these traits undergird the ability to create and build strong relationships.

Connections among people and with G-d form the foundation of society. So the women possessed the crucial traits the Israelites needed to adjust from a nomadic to a settled existence in the land of Israel. If the workers of an Abraham and a Lot argued, they couldn’t go their separate ways anymore. They’d have to work matters out.

The women’s impact on the Children of Israel’s destiny would grow.

When Good Traits Turn Bad

Women in the Torah made few mistakes. Sarah eavesdropped on the angel speaking to Abraham. Leah went out to the field to let Jacob know she had hired him for that night. Rachel stole her father’s idols. Miriam spoke about Moses’s inattention to his wife’s conjugal rights. During hundreds of years of history, there weren’t many others. None had permanent consequences on the Israelites. To all appearances, the women had only goodness.

But even “good” traits can cause bad results. Eavesdropping could lead to spying. Treating your husband like a paid escort could lead to brazen conduct with other men. Justifiable theft could turn into outright thievery. Public defense of a sister-in-law’s private rights could lead to tale-bearing.

You may have never thought about good traits causing bad results and vice versa. Examples abound. Grandparents overindulge their grandkids out of love. Chamberlain appeased Hitler to maintain peace. Reasonably benign or calamitous, you can see both are good intentions run amiss.

During times of transition, emotions run high. You may lose your perspective. At such times you’ll be tempted to misuse your goodness. Remember Moses’s warning to the women. Strive to keep a balance to preserve your goodness.

When are you most likely to overindulge good traits or emotions? 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 Have a Peaceful Marriage

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

When I think of the perfect marriage, peace comes to mind. In Hebrew, we call this shalom bayis. Hannah and I would never disagree. Calm would always reign in our home. Every married couple seems to want this. Yet, I don’t know of one who has a peaceful marriage. Not that you should compare yourself to others. But it would be nice to find at least one example of the ideal. Now that I’ve read Parshas Shoftim, it turns out I misunderstood what shalom bayis is:

“When you approach a city to make war against it, and you will call out to it for peace.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 20:10)

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts and how to handle certain crucial types of cases. It gives the procedure for appointing a King. Then it details the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests) and how to tell if someone is really a prophet. Next, it explains how to set up cities of refuge and how the Israelites should conduct a war. It ends with the procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder.

Did Tolstoy Create a Major Misunderstanding?

I can’t say for sure it started with Tolstoy. But his most famous novel anchors the idea that peace is the opposite of war. It seems logical. In war, people fight and kill. With peace comes the cessation of hostilities. Killing stops.

But even the most cursory view of history shows that killing doesn’t end during times of peace. As well, human strife short of killing continues unabated. War is only the most obvious lack of peace. But peace itself transcends the end of battle.

The verse from this week’s parsha also seems to make war and peace opposites. But that comes from the difficulty of translating Hebrew into English. Shalom, the word translated as peace, means much more. Think abut the verse for a minute. If shalom meant no combat operations, they could just not have attacked.

Underlying shalom is the spiritual state of wholeness that comes from harmony. It requires more than just not fighting. Picture the gears in a watch. Each has its place and function. When they work in harmony the watch is wholly accurate. It still make noises, and if you listened carefully enough you would hear the gears grind slightly. Such is the way things work. But let one gear get out of line and the watch will run fast or slow. Its wholeness born of harmony is gone.

The Israelites faced a similar challenge in the land of Israel. How could they create a harmonious society with such misaligned peoples? They sacrificed children and considered murder an acceptable social behavior. Worship consisted of defecating on their gods. The shalom the Children of Israel called out for required the city to morally reform. As long as it continued its depraved behavior, no basis for shalom/peace could exist.

A Peaceful Marriage

Even if the city had reformed, no doubt there would have been disagreements. People who share the same values still argue. It’s part of the human condition.

The same applies to your marriage. Shalom will not come from lack of arguments. Avoiding confrontations will destroy it as surely as violent confrontations. The path to a peaceful marriage lies in harmonizing your values and morals. If they are out of alignment, arguing will continue unabated because no basis exists for reconciliation.

Once your values are in concert, disagreements will lead to greater mutual understanding and a firmer marital bond. You and your spouse will still shout at each other from time to time. Sometimes your home may feel unlivable. But when calmer heads prevail, you’ll see the wholeness that comes from harmony has been there all along. Indeed, you have a peaceful marriage.

What do you do about misaligned values? 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!

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!