Tag Archives: God

Have You Accomplished Your Foremost Duty?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Pinchas – Numbers 25:10-30:1

My wife and I struggle about how to encourage our daughter’s independence.  My parents prodded me toward self-reliance from an early age.  I’m doing the same for Madeleine.  But Melanie gets a lot of satisfaction from taking care of her needs.  And who doesn’t like to be cared for?  At times we confuse Madeleine.  Watching the approach of her ninth year, my influence has become unmistakable. Perhaps our foremost duty, described in Parshas Pinchas, will be fulfilled:

…appoint a man over the assembly. (Numbers/Bamidbar 27:16)

Have You Accomplished Your Foremost Duty-

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d rewarding Pinchas for his zealousness. Then censuses are taken prior to the Israelites entering the Land. Zelophehad’s daughters petition to receive their father’s inheritance.   The laws of inheritance are detailed.   Joshua is appointed as Moses’s successor. Finally the Almighty establishes the offerings brought daily, on the Sabbath, and on holidays.

A Flock Needs a Shepherd

The generation G-d took out of slavery died off. But the younger one still needed guidance. The Children of Israel won’t wander through the wilderness any longer. They must conquer the land. Then they must adjust to a settled, agrarian life.

Such a major transition is difficult. Many new questions will arise. Moses knew he would not be there to answer them. No longer could he delay his foremost duty. He had to find a successor to continue guiding the Israelites.

Moses taught Joshua the son of Nun for years. Having served the great man for so long, Joshua proved his character by not falling prey to the negativity of the spies. He could shoulder spiritual responsibility for the Children of Israel.

Your Foremost Duty in Life

You may not be responsible for the souls of hundreds of thousands of people. But you have a family. You’re responsible for your loved ones spiritual wellbeing even after you’re gone.

It’s easy to pass along material wealth. A will or trust will distribute your physical property according to your wishes. What about your accumulated knowledge and wisdom? What will happen to it?

Children no longer spend decades serving their parents and learning at their feet the way Joshua did Moses. But that does not relieve you from making every effort at seeing they benefit from what you have learned in your life. Presumably during their childhood and teen years you passed on many lessons. Hopefully they took them to heart.

Imagine the impact on Joshua of Moses learning he not would be leading the Israelites into the land. His trusted mentor would die soon. At that moment, Joshua received the legacy. He would fulfill the Almighty’s directive to bring the people to the land.

You can have a similar effect on your children. Show them spiritual matters are at least as important as monetary ones. Whether they’re adults or still young, double down now on what you’ve done in the past. Consistently reach out to them. Demonstrate how to pursue a well-lived life. Write an ethical will. Give it equal importance to your property division. Nothing less than their future depends on it.

What have you planned to ensure your foremost duty is fulfilled? 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 Know 2 Ways to Feel You’re Improving?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9

Several months ago I was leaving a parking lot and got stuck behind a women who didn’t know how to use the credit card exit system. After about ten minutes I went to help her. As I walked up the parking lot attendant arrived and took charge of the situation. Returning to my car, the passenger in the car behind mine got out and ordered me to move on. I replied I was helping the lady. His response (read on) was like the one Balak chose in this week’s parsha, Balak:

And now, go please and curse this people for me, for it is too powerful for me… (Numbers/Bamidbar 22:6)

Do You Know 2 Ways to Feel You're Improving-

This Sabbath’s parsha tells the story of how Balak, the king of Moab, attempted to have Bilaam, one of the greatest prophets of all time, curse the Children of Israel. It includes my wife’s favorite story in Scripture, the talking donkey. The parsha ends with Pinchas spearing Prince Zimri and his Mindianite lover at the entrance to the Tenant of Meeting.

The Fundamental Biblical Concept

Several common themes can be seen throughout the Bible. Most prominent is G-d’s kingship. He gives instructions about how to live our lives. Another gets to the core of Balak’s appearance in the narrative. As you might recall, Moab was the child of Lot and his daughter. In spite of such a sordid beginning, he prospered and built a great nation. As king of the nation of Moab, Balak had wealth and power. He commanded the respect of his people and neighboring rulers.

Like any human being, Balak’s life was a series of choices. To what purpose would he put his wealth? How would he use his power? Each day he confronted these questions. The courses of action he took reveal his character.

So it is for every person. The choices you make each day tell people what kind of person you are. What you decide to say and do trumps any claims you make about integrity.

How to Feel You’re Improving

Balak felt threatened by the Israelites. He knew G-d treasured them. Perhaps he was jealous. He had two choices:

  1. Take action to improve himself.
  2. Denigrate the Israelites so he’d feel better by comparison.

Had Balak chosen option one he would be remembered as a great man. Sadly he chose to attack the Children of Israel. The origin of Balak’s name attests to G-d’s verdict. Had he pursued self-improvement he might have been remembered as the devastator of sin. Instead, balaq means to waste or lay waste.

At times you’ll feel threatened or jealous. Such emotions are common. Anytime they challenge you your choices are the same as Balak’s.

The passenger who ordered me to move must have felt intimidated by my trying to help the confused woman. He lashed out at me saying, “Old man you’re too weak to help yourself let alone anyone else.” I was tempted to ask him, “Do you feel you’re improving yourself?”

I doubt you’d voice such a harsh putdown. But vocal tone and facial expression can do the same thing without words. In an unguarded moment do you make yourself feel you’re improving at someone else’s expense? You may feel like you’re boosting your self-confidence. But such gains are illusory. You just FEEL better. You aren’t better.

Choose actual self-improvement. When someone makes you feel jealous make then an example to strive for. Genuine self-esteem is built from real accomplishments.

How do you guard against feeling like you’ve improved at others’ expense? 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!

When You Decide is the Most Important Thing

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

As a kid, my weekly allowance was 5¢. It took months to save up a dollar. That’s $7.41 today. I was so excited by my immense wealth I went right out and spent it on a bat kite. I could never get it to fly and within two days it was ruined. My mother told me money burned a hole in my pocket. Plunged back into poverty, I could have used the lesson in Parshas Shelach:

Send forth men, for you…. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:1)

 When You Decide Is the Most Important Thing

This Sabbath’s parsha tells the story of the infamous twelve spies. They slandered the Land. So G-d decreed the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Next it details the meal and libation offerings that are brought with animal sacrifices. Then it covers the penalty for desecrating the Sabbath. It ends with the commandment to wear tzitzis, fringes, on the corners of a garment.

Distraction Leads to Disaster

The Israelites came to Moses and told him they wanted to spy out the land. Despite G-d’s promise that it was a land flowing with milk and honey, they wanted an eyewitness report. Moses presented the idea to the Almighty, who told Moses to decide. The rest as they say is history…

In last week’s parsha, Moses complained about the burden of leadership. The Almighty tells him, “Gather to me 70 men from the elders of Israel…” In contrast, here He tells Moses to, “Send forth the spies for YOU…” Clearly G-d did not like the idea. Nonetheless He deferred to Moses. The Almighty wants us to have free will. But why did Moses agree to the plan? As the leader he should have dissuaded the people.

The Midrash tells us Moses lacked his usual clarity of mind because he was still upset about his sister contracting tzaraas. (Tzaraas is the physical result of making a spiritual mistake.) His lapse of focus led to disaster since the generation that left Egypt would die in the wilderness.

First Decide if It’s the Right Time to Make a Decision

One of my favorite military axioms says, “Thought before action, if there’s time.” It sums up the first step of any decision. Is right now the best time to decide? Often the correct answer is no.

Do you have enough information to make a decision? Notice I didn’t say do you have all the information you need. Paralysis by analysis is as bad as deciding too quickly.

Will circumstances change between now and when you act on your decision? Delay may make more sense.

Are you in the right frame of mind to decide? If when you ask yourself this question you immediately answer yes, you’re in the wrong frame of mind. The inability to take a few moments for reflection indicates you’re gripped by anger, fear, or another strong emotion. Think about the last time you committed to something in the midst of an argument. Or maybe, like Moses, you declined to dispute a decision because you were preoccupied. Did you regret it?

As you know, I believe decisiveness and taking action are good. But good decisions start with your being fit to decide. Make a quick assessment of your frame of mind. When you have mental clarity be decisive. Then act!

What indicators tell you not to make a decision? 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 Transitions with Confidence

2-¼ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Beha’aloscha – Numbers 8:1-12:16

Military life requires making lots of transitions. You move every two or three years. Along with a new job, house, and school for your kids you may end up in a foreign country. With all that experience reintegrating into civilian life should be easy. Why then do so many veterans struggle? This week’s parsha, Beha’aloscha, gives a clue:

…and the Ark of the Covenant of G-d travelled before them a three-day distance to search out a resting place. (Numbers/Bamidbar 10:33)

How to Make Transitions with Confidence

This Sabbath’s parsha covers lighting the Menorah and the consecration of the Levites. Then it tells about bringing the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and Pesach Sheini (second Passover). The Israelites start their journeys. G-d leads them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Some of the people complain about eating the Manna. G-d responds. At the end of the parsha Miriam is afflicted with tzaraas.

The Symbolism of the Ark

The Ark contained the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, both the complete second set and the fragments of the first set that Moses broke. The Tablets encompassed all the wisdom and guidance the Israelites needed in their new home. Had they followed it to the letter their transition to life in the Land of Israel would have been smooth.

At first it was. The Israelites conquered Jericho. But the men of Ai defeated them in the next battle. Achan son of Carmi had taken consecrated property in violation of the Almighty’s command. Joshua brought Achan to his senses. He admitted his crime and was punished. At first the Israelites were afraid to try and take Ai again. G-d reassured them and led them to victory.

Requirements for Successful Transitions

Achan’s crime impeded success. By succumbing to temptation and stealing he showed he wasn’t ready for life in the Land of Israel. He failed to stay true to his values. As a result, the Israelites lost the first battle for Ai. The entire nation seemed headed for permanent defeat. So they took responsibility for their misdeed and punished Achan.

But the Israelites were still afraid. So the Almighty reminded them that one failure doesn’t define their character. Having dealt with Achan, they could reclaim their confidence in themselves and G-d. By doing so they proved they were ready to continue their transition. They won the next battle.

To make a successful transition, self-confidence is paramount. To be confident you have to

  1. Be crystal clear about your values. During transitions it’s easy to become morally confused amidst the chaos. Take the time to calibrate your moral compass. Get total clarity about how you will act no matter how stressful life becomes.
  2. Internalize that failure is only the information you need to make a better effort next time.

The Ark led the way into the Land because it symbolizes both of these essentials. Inside it were the second, intact Tablets setting down enduring life values. That the broken first tablets were in the Ark too showed the Israelites could overcome catastrophe.

Transitions are the most stressful periods in your life. Even with advance planning things will go wrong. When you have clarity about your values you will know how to overcome such challenges. Find a Joshua in your life to hold you accountable and keep you moving forward. Armed with a positive attitude toward failure, you’ll be unstoppable.

What has prevented you from making successful transitions in the past? 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’ll answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Find Your Heart’s Desire… In Seconds

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bamidbar – Numbers 1:1-4:20

Have you had this challenge? My daughter hates her name. A while back she tried to convince my wife to let her change it. Madliyen, her name in Hebrew, translates to Madeleine in English. It took a long time to come up with an elegant name. But she’s convinced it doesn’t fit her heart’s desire. So we had a little talk about names based on this week’s parsha, Bamidbar:

And the tribe of Gad, and the leader of the children of Gad, Eliasaph son of Reuel… (Numbers/Bamidbar 1:2)

How to Find Your Heart’s Desire…In Seconds

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers. It’s Hebrew name, Bamidbar, means wilderness.  G-d commands Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel.  Next He gives the arrangement of the tribes into four camps that will travel with and encamp around the Holy Ark.  Then the Levites are appointed to the service of the Tabernacle in place of the first-born. From this comes the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the first-born, still done today.

What’s in a Name?

Many people choose their children’s names because they sound good. But words have meaning. So do names. In Parshas Vayeitzei, Jacob’s wives express their aspirations or exasperation in the names of their sons and daughter. Earlier in the Torah, Isaac gets his name from Sarah laughing at the idea she’ll have a child when she is so old.

My daughter’s name comes from the Hebrew verb that means to draw (water). In the Torah, water symbolizes wisdom. Put the verb in the reflexive tense, add the suffix for females, and you get Madliyen. My wife and I hope she will uplift women.

Despite my explaining it to her, Madeleine remains unconvinced. We hope as she matures she will find value in the mission we wish for her.

Finding Your Heart’s Desire

Your parents may have been less than intentional about embedding aspirations in your name. Still, your name has meaning. Have you ever checked into it?

At names.org you can find a lot of information about your name. Included are its language and meaning both as a word and by individual letters. It doesn’t have my daughter’s name. But mine means handsome. Hey, no conceit here. Blame my parents.

Take a few seconds and research your name at names.org. What insight do you get into your heart’s desire or life’s mission? Does it highlight part of your character? Not satisfied? Text you folks and ask them why they named you as they did. The answer may surprise you.

Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. True enough. But you’re more complex than a flower. Finding your heart’s desire may change the direction of your life.

What does your name mean? 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!

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