Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

Date Night With God

A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year.

date night

Sustaining them is not always easy. One consistent practice I suggest to young parents is a date night. Too often their lives become consumed by their children’s. (I can attest to it.)

Yet, one of the best ways we can teach children the importance of family and relationships is by demonstrating dedication to one another. A date night helps make that into a habit.

A Little Time for Each Other

The habit can also help our relationship with God. Daily prayer is important, but a regular evening or morning of worship nurtures the relationship.

God knew that long ago and instituted a regular date with each of us called the Sabbath. For an hour or two, we sit with God. We pray, we sing, we eat. We talk about our week and let God speak into our lives. 

The benefits this date night are manifold.

1. Space to grow: In the business of life, we can become so caught up in the trees that we miss the forest. The Sabbath lets us look at our lives from what the philosopher Spinoza called “the perspective of eternity.” We see what is insignificant and remind ourselves of what matters most.

Just like a married couple sometimes needs to step outside the grind of carpools and soccer games to remind themselves of their abiding love, so we need to step outside the messiness of the everyday and see the holiness up above.

2. Time to listen: God does not often speak directly. We need to discern God’s word. There is a reason the ancient Israelites received God’s law in the wilderness. They were not distracted by buildings and crowds. 

The Sabbath is an opportunity to set daily distractions aside. In Jewish tradition we do not spend money or do physical labor. We rest. We reflect. We listen.

3. Energy to re-engage: Human beings are not energizer bunnies. We do not keep going and going and going. We need to pause in order to persist. We need to stop in order to surge. We need to recharge in order to return.

God built a day for rest into the natural order. The Sabbath is not only an obligation. It is a gift. And it is a gift that keeps on giving.

How a Sinner Became the Ancestor of Israel’s Greatest King

The most important Israelite tribe stems from line of Judah. Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. His name comes from the Hebrew root “yahdah,” which means “gratitude.”

King David came from the Tribe of Judah.

King David came from the Tribe of Judah.

The beginning of Judah’s life is marked by treachery and emotional indifference. He convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to traveling slave traders. Then he impregnates his daughter-in-law Tamar.

But then something happens. Judah awakens to a sense of right and wrong. He realizes he had hurt Tamar and acknowledges it saying, “She is more righteous than I.” (Genesis 38:26)

The Ancestor of King David

This act also establishes Judah’s hereditary significance. One of the children born to his daughter-in-law becomes the ancestor of King David. The tribe of Judah becomes the tribe of the Kings of Israel. 

Judah’s character transformation becomes more evident in next several chapters of Genesis. When he and his brothers travel to Egypt in search of food during the famine, Judah is their leader and spokesman.

He offers himself up as a hostage to Joseph when Joseph demands the brothers bring bring their youngest brother Benjamin to Egypt. When Joseph refuses, Judah succeeds in persuading their father Jacob to allow them to bring Benjamin to Egypt, and pledges to defend Benjamin with his own life.

It is Judah’s plea on behalf of Benjamin that finally leads Joseph to reveal his true identity to his shocked brothers. 

The Lone Survivor

Along with the Levites, Judah’s descendants become the only Israelite tribe to survive the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. Three factors account for their survival.

  • First, their territorial basis in Jerusalem. Through the ingenuity of King Hezekiah, who came from the tribe of Judah, Jerusalem survived the assault of the Assyrians through the construction of a water tunnel between the Gihon Spring and the Old City.
  • Second, their loyalty to King David. After the death of King Saul, the other tribes remained loyal to the Saul’s clan. Only the tribe of Judah supported the ascension of David. David’s success led to the success of the tribe of Judah.
  • Third, the tribe of Judah integrated other Israelite and non-Israelite tribes. The tribe of Benjamin was much smaller than Judah, and it eventually assimilated into it. Scholars have also discovered evidence that several Canaanites tribes became part of Judah through conquest and intermarriage.

 A Profound Legacy

Several of the Bible’s most significant figures come from the tribe of Judah. Beside King David and Jesus, most of the Hebrew prophets are Judahites.

The word “Jew,” first used in the Book of Esther, is derived from Judah, indicating the disproportionate number of Israelites who came from the tribe of Judah.

The Bible also teaches that the Messiah must come from the Tribe of Judah. Scholars trace this requirement to later generations understanding of the reign of King David as Israel’s golden age.

David united the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and oversaw an era of great conquest and prosperity. The return of one of his descendants to the throne would restore that glory.

 

A Prayer for Our Troops and Families

I grew up with stories of my grandfather’s service during World War II. The stories conveyed inspiration, humor and love all at once.

grandpa

The dedication he felt to our country remains with me, and it explains the extraordinary tears I shed invoking a blessing at a deployment ceremony here in Chicago.

I had never been asked to give a blessing for departing troops, and I did not know a deployment ceremony even existed. It was a struggle.

What can I say to men and women who will not see their spouses, parents, children, boyfriends and girlfriends for 14 months? How can I bring comfort to their loved ones?

Does Prayer Work

These questions go to the heart of prayer. Do we pray for ourselves or others? Does God answer our prayers? Does prayer work even if we don’t hear God’s answer?

I believe prayer works, but not in the way we often think. An elevator works when it takes us up and down. Prayer works when it invests our lives with meaning and purpose, with comfort and understanding.

Prayer works when it brings out our most noble, empathetic and loving virtues.Prayer works when it changes us.

The Prayer

Here are the words I shared: Rabbi Deployment Ceremony

In Judaism the highest value is pikuach nefesh, the saving of a life. We are commanded to set aside all other tasks in order to save a life in need. That is what you are doing today. That is what you will do over the next 14 months. So let us pray:

Eternal God, we give you profound thanks for all those who serve our nation. Give them strength. Give them love. Bless them with your presence. Sharpen their skills. Make their judgments true.

Help them serve with wisdom, honor and integrity. May their faith be fostered and may they answer fear with courage. May your angels hold them and guide them, May your presence give them strength, hope and faith.

And bless their families, Oh God. Their mothers and fathers, spouses and children, loved ones: all who love them and will miss them. Bring them comfort and strength.

Let them know the blessing of their loved one’s service, the gifts they bring to the world, the courage with which they inspire us all. Let them be their strength, Oh God. Let them know you are near to them and to their loved ones, giving them your love and your grace.

And be present with our country’s leaders and officers, Oh God. Give them wise judgment, commitment and courage. Let them know of your love for them and guide them in protecting the freedom, liberty and justice we cherish.

We turn to You, Oh God, and in the words an ancient Jewish prayer we say, “May God grant strength unto our people, and may God bless all people with peace.” Amen

 

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A Prayer for the New Year

Beginnings are times of blessing. They are also times for reflection. As we enter the new year, let us look for ways to bless one another and be a blessing for the world. And let us reflect on what makes our lives a unique blessing and gift to the world.

birth

Every year, to help me in this task, I read a favorite prayer composed by Rabbi Alvin Fine. It pictures life as a journey with many beginnings and endings.

Underlying those moments is the Eternal Spirit, the God of the Universe, whose Presence is our greatest blessing. I share this prayer with the hope it brings blessings and comfort.

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage…To life everlasting.

 

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Date Night With God
A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year. Sustaining them is not always easy. One consistent practice I suggest to young parent

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