Tag Archives: God

How to Avert Death Virtually Forever

3-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Though not obsessed with it, I’ll confess death scares me a little. Do you know what it means that your soul will spend eternity close to G-d (a.k.a. heaven) or far from Him (a.k.a. hell)? Me either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to avert death forever? But Parshas Re’eh insists we confront it, every day:

“See, I place before you today, a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 11:26)

How to Avert Death Virtually Forever

This Sabbath’s parsha reveals G-d’s blessing and curse. It describes the holiness of the Land of Israel. Then Moses explains more about how the Children of Israel must conduct themselves there. He spells out what to do with a false prophet and a person who entices another to go astray. The Israelites learn what it means to be G-d’s treasured people. Finally, the Torah teaches about tithes, forgiving loans, generosity, how to treat a slave, and the three pilgrimage festivals.

How Curse Equals Death

In the eponymous book of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites if they listen to G-d they will eat well. But, if they rebel they’ll be “devoured by the sword.” So good equals nourishment and bad equals death? That seems out of balance. But when you think about it, we often equate being hungry to dying. Ever said you were starved?

But even when full, you may be dying. Or perhaps more accurately, you’re killing yourself.

While still in the womb, you get a glimpse of your potential greatness. You don’t consciously remember it after you’re born. But the potential exists within your spirit. During life, your body and spirit are joined. You have the opportunity to live out your potential. How you do so determines whether each day life conquers death or vice versa.

Use Your Spirit to Avert Death

Have you ever watched a thoroughbred race? Four centuries of careful breeding have created animals that appear to sprint even when standing still. A thoroughbred’s body and spirit connect most deeply during the 30 seconds of racing. You can almost feel its joy as it flies down the track. Despite the danger, you see life defeating death as the horse displays the greatness to which it was born.

So it is sad to see a thoroughbred that can no longer run. Though it may live many more years, each day that passes is one where death conquers life.

Like the thoroughbred, you were born for distinction. The potential encoded into your spirit will lead you to a pinnacle. Unlike the horse, your life purpose isn’t obvious. The difficulty lies in figuring it out. You’re on track when you:

  • Engage your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t need to be in the clergy for your work to connect spiritually. Rather, you must invest your passion in what you do. For that matter, your life purpose may be an avocation. Your work may just be what you have to do to get the resources to trek your path to greatness.
  • Serve your fellow human beings. Google and Coca-Cola make as big a contribution to humanity as any non-profit. Without the support of a vibrant business sector, charities couldn’t survive. Your attitude toward serving trumps where you serve.
  • Connect with G-d most deeply. It may seem you’ll get closest to the Creator in a house of worship. Periodically you need the distraction-free environment. But if you find your most direct connection with G-d some other place you’ve got a clue about your life purpose.

Beyond these three qualities lies a universe of possibilities. One of my friends finds the Almighty in his lab. Another finds Him in the caves and wrecks where he and his family scuba dive. Yet another finds G-d in the early morning hours poring over words of Aramaic in the Talmud. Only one of them makes a living pursuing the greatness instilled in him in utero.

If you found your life purpose and each day finds you striving for it, congratulations! Every day you conquer death. If you’re still searching for your path to greatness, likewise you’re winning the daily battle of life versus death. You need have no fear that one day your body and spirit will separate. From what I’ve learned you’ll hardly notice. You’ve lived your life connected to its essence. You may regret leaving your loved ones. But you’ll have created an immortal memory.

Each day you decline to strive toward your life purpose, I’m sorry to tell you death rules your life. And you are the executioner. By failing to seek out the potential for greatness instilled in you, you make your life meaningless. You have chosen to be like the thoroughbred that can no longer run.

But no matter how many days you have let slip by, tomorrow, today, this minute you can flip the death life equation around. Examine the three qualities above. Reach out to loved ones. Take up the search again. Though you may feel like a pursuer of impossible dreams, you’ll be alive. In fact, you’ll avert death virtually forever.

How have you striven to find your life purpose? 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!

Think Sundae When Using Your Values

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Eikev – Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

Yes, the ice cream variety. It’s not a typo in the headline. Remember, Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. What does making an ice cream concoction have to do with making moral decisions? Ah, Parshas Eikev will show you:

…G-d will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to you…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 7:12)

Think Sundae When Using Your Values

In this Sabbath’s parsha, Moses talks about the reward the Children of Israel will receive for keeping the mitzvahs (usually translated commandments). He warns against letting prosperity seduce them and reminds them of their history.

Absolute Morality Versus Moral Relativism

Knowing the long list of ordinances they have to follow to earn their reward, can you imagine the Israelites might be a little scared? From the great patriarch Abraham, they learned the Almighty does righteousness and justice. With so many dos and don’ts, some must have thought, “Wow, I’ll never remember, let alone be able to follow, them all.” Despair could set in.

So G-d reminded the Israelites He would balance justice with kindness. The resulting blend, compassion, would be the standard.

No one value stands absolutely. We revere life. But when required to murder someone to save our own life we have to die. We honor truth. But when a killer asks where his victim is we should lie as convincingly as possible. In both cases, a sacred value must be balanced against the destruction that would be caused by upholding it.

Not there is no moral relativism in these cases. Nor is there an absolute moral principle. Rather, you must combine hallowed precepts to find the ethical, virtuous solution.

Finding Balance in Your Values

When you have to navigate your way through a difficult ethical issue, do it like you’re making a sundae.

  1. First, comes the foundation, the ice cream. It’s tempting to choose your favorite. But with so many good choices, make sure you pick the best one for the moment. What core principle is at issue? It forms the base from which you’ll build your response.
  2. Second, comes the sauce. Choose the right flavor to counterpoint and enhance the ice cream. Ladle it with care. Laid on too thick or thin, it overwhelms or gets lost in the ice cream. What value contrasts with the core principle you’ve chosen? Apply it to your solution in just the right amount to balance and deepen your solution.
  3. Third is the whipped cream. It takes a deft hand to bring it to a peak. What aspect of the person involved have you overlooked? Does he have a sensitivity that if taken into account will make your resolution more powerful? What value will connect him to your plan?
  4. Fourth are the nuts. Sprinkle them so they dot the whipped cream adding a pleasing crunch amidst all the softness. Most of us have a difficult time facing the hard realities of life. We can swallow them more easily when they’re enveloped by a more palatable presentation. Carefully communicate your response so it goes down smoothly.
  5. Last comes the cherry, tasting tart and sweet. Perched at the pinnacle of the sundae, it embodies the totality of your ice cream creation. When crafting a solution to a moral quandary, make sure to unify all the crucial values and emotions.

Five steps may seem a lot. But consider the stakes: a relationship, your reputation, your connection to G-d. Taking the time to see all sides of an issue and fashioning a balanced, principled response will save you and others from a longer period of agony.

A well-built sundae is to be savored. Think how much more satisfying it will taste to use your values well.

How do you decide your response to an ethical challenge? 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!

10 Ways You Can Reach God

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

Any golfer can tell you it takes a bagful of clubs to play an effective game. You need woods to hit long distances. Use irons for short and approach shots. And you make your money with a putter. As they say, “Drive for show, putt for dough.” There are golfers who play an entire course with just a driver. But they’ll play better with a complete set. The same goes for prayer. Parshas Va’eschanan shows one of 10 ways to reach G-d:

“And I implored to G-d at that time…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:23)

10 Ways You Can Reach God

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Moses begging G-d to change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments. He sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally, Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

How to Reach God

You know that how you talk to someone can affect the response you receive. Not as obvious is that the way you communicate impacts yourself. If you talk about a happy event with your shoulders slumped and your head hanging down it won’t feel as positive. If you sing to yourself when you’re sad, it can brighten your day.

The way you communicate with the Almighty shapes the nature and power of your prayer. The Midrash, a compendium of commentary on the Torah, lists 10 expressions of prayer:

  1. Pleading. You turn to God and make an articulate plea for release from a difficult situation.
  2. Crying Out. Like pleading, but rather than being comprehensible words the prayer is a wordless cry from your heart.
  3. Moaning. Deeper than crying out, your expression of pain reaches God as an appeal for help.
  4. Singing. You sing God’s praises for His blessing of good times. Or you intone words of solace in His support when life challenges you.
  5. Entreaty. You repeat a request, even when you think the Almighty has said no. It demonstrates your belief that at any time God can help you.
  6. Self-Fortification. Praying just to connect with the Creator during challenging times.
  7. Calling Out. You call to God by name acknowledging He stands ready to help at any moment.
  8. Falling Down. You need not physically collapse. Rather, you rid yourself of pride. You adopt an attitude of mental and spiritual humility that all control is in God’s hands.
  9. Praying. Basic speaking with the Almighty that recognizes He embodies truth.
  10. Imploring. Beseeching God to grant your petition while recognizing you do not merit it.

You can learn to communicate better with your spouse and children. Many classes are available. Unfortunately rarely will you find training to connect better with the Creator.

Learning more than one expression of prayer will help you reach God in ways previously unavailable to you. Practice one of these modes before you need it. Can you articulate the words of a plea or song? Can you focus your despair into a cry or a moan? Can your muster enough stamina to entreat? Can you subdue your ego long enough to fall down?

You may have worked hard to learn a second language. Doing so probably brought you greater business or social opportunities. Untroubled, you may not see a good reason for mastering multiple ways to connect with God. Remember, He always responds to your prayers. But the answer you get may depend on the expression you use.

Despite his lofty status, Moses used every form of prayer to connect with the Almighty. Follow his example. Next time you really need Him, be prepared to reach God.

How many expressions of prayer do you use now? 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 Actually Love Your Enemies

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Devarim – Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

I hate people who constantly criticize me. That may sound harsh. But I bet you feel the same way. Most don’t know you well or at all. They have no idea what burdens you carry. Still, the Torah says, “love the stranger as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34) The real problem: too often their criticisms are true. Parshas Devraim explains what to do about such enemies:

“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 1:1)

How to Actually Love Your Enemies

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fifth and final book of the Torah. Deuteronomy (Devarim in Hebrew) is known as Mishneh Torah, meaning repetition, review, or explanation of the Torah. The Children of Israel heard the previous four books of the Torah directly from G-d who spoke through Moses’s throat. But Moses received Deuteronomy from G-d in the way other Prophets received their messages. Then at a later date conveyed it to the Israelites.

God Stirs Things Up

The Hebrew devarim means words. It also means things. The double meaning is on purpose. Moses spoke words but he also related certain events. He reminded the Israelites of past mistakes. So right before the triumphant entrance into the land of Israel, the Almighty tells Moses to scold his followers.

Wow! How would you feel if right before you graduated from high school or got a big promotion someone you respected listed all your blunders for the previous 40 years? Sounds like a downer to me.

God knew what He was doing. During the transition ahead the Children of Israel would face many challenges. During hardship their faith tended to slip. The Almighty clarified the challenge ahead by stirring up memories of past events. It must have been difficult for the Israelites to hear their faults recounted. But they were better off being armed with knowledge of who they really were.

Your Lovable Enemies

Transitions require honest accountings of strength and weaknesses. That way you can play to the former and reinforce the latter.  Loved ones often underplay your shortcomings. They want to encourage you. Highlighting negatives seems downright cruel. After all, won’t they undermine your confidence if they suggest you have limitations?

Not so your enemies. They’ll let you have it with both barrels. They couldn’t care less about your self-esteem or prospects for success. Spewing vitriol makes them feel good. So they do.

The more they sting, the more closely you should examine their words. What may have been a random swipe may turn out to be golden insight you can use.

Follow these three steps:

  1. Listen. Actually hear what they are saying. The tendency is to ignore harsh words. The better you can train yourself to listen to what your enemies say the better use you can make of it.
  2. Consider. By focusing on listening first you reduce the chance of an emotional response. Having heard what was said, you can calmly decide if it contains any facts. Did they just vent anger? Or was a kernel of truth spoken?
  3. Absorb. If any of their criticism is valid, take it on board. To do otherwise is to play into their hands. Why do you want to avoid improving yourself merely because the source is repugnant? By the way, there’s no better way to antagonize your enemies than by gaining from their efforts. (If they hurt themselves it’s not revenge!)

Granted this process is a difficult one. You’ll never get it down completely. I know I haven’t. Negativity need not be bad. The trick is to use it to propel your life forward.

How do you deal with your enemies? 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!

Do You Really Want to Be the Sovereign?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Pinchas Mattos-Masei – Numbers 30:2-36:13

“It’s good to be king” is a line from Mel Brooks’s movie History of the World, Part 1. It’s also a lyric and song title from Tom Petty’s 1994 Wildflowers album. Both rhapsodize about the joys of holding sovereign power. A king’s life seems idyllic. He answers to no one, except the Almighty. But parshas Mattos-Masei points out the downside of supreme authority:

“For in the City of Refuge he will dwell until the death of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest)…” (Numbers/Bamidbar 35:28)

Do You Really Want to Be the Sovereign-

This Sabbath’s double parsha begins with Mattos. It discusses how to take a vow. Next the Israelites go to war against Midian. In the aftermath they learn how to make utensils kosher. Then the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and half of Manasheh ask to have their portion of the land on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

The second parsha, Masei, reviews the journey taken by the Israelites from Egypt through the wilderness, ending at the border of the land of Israel. Then it gives instructions on how to divide the land and designate cities for the Levites and Cities of Refuge. It ends by designating who is eligible to seek safe harbor in them.

The Drawback of Being the High Priest

Few people have ever received the adulation of Aaron, the first High Priest. The Israelites loved him, especially for his ability to make peace between them. They esteemed the High Priests from Elazar, Aaron’s son, to Shimon HaTzadik. Aside from the arduousness of their duties, it seems being the High Priest was a pleasant job.

But if someone unintentionally killed another person, the High Priest’s life lost some of its luster. The killer could avoid being killed in revenge by the redeemer of the blood. He had to seek sanctuary in a City of Refuge. Once confirmed by the court, he lived there until the High Priest died.

What did the High Priest have to do with an unintended death? A person killed unintentionally reflected a lack of morality on the part of the Israelites. As the supreme moral authority, the High Priest bore responsibility. If he had been setting the proper example the death would not have happened. So he had to live knowing the killer was praying for his death so he could leave the City of Refuge.

Imagine more than one killer living out his days in sanctuary. This was not the discomfort you may experience knowing Islamofacists want to murder Westerners. It was directed specifically at him. How must he have felt knowing specific individuals and their family members prayed constantly that he would die?

How Do You Handle Being a Sovereign?

You may not realize it, but if you’re an American citizen you’re a sovereign. Not an absolute monarch like a king or queen, but part of the corporate body that holds ultimate power in the United States. The Constitution delegates authority to act on our behalf to the president, congress, and the Supreme Court. But they are agents. They do not remove sovereignty from us.

Over the years I’ve heard various people say, “He’s not my president.” They’re wrong. Like it or not, the people elected to exercise the power of their offices act on behalf of all citizens.

You may be among the many people disturbed by the choices for president. You may have pledged not to vote for one or both candidates. Certainly you have the free will to do so. Though it is the duty of a citizen to vote you can refuse.

But you still bear your responsibility as a sovereign.

You need not die to escape it. But you’ll have to terminate your citizenship to avoid it.

At times the High Priest led a burdensome life. Such is the nature of supreme authority. In some ways the load is as heavy for an American citizen.

How will you deal with being the sovereign? 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!