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Dear Readers,

Imagine that it’s the end of an especially trying week. You feel depleted emotionally, and physically drained. You bump into a particularly difficult individual—an acquaintance, colleague, neighbor—someone who has a knack of rubbing you in all the wrong ways.

Generally, you try very hard to remain positive with this individual, but it requires every ounce of your patience and guard not to fall into the trap of escalating negativity. Today of all days, is there any hope?

You bite your tongue, you take deep breaths, you try hard to remain pleasant, but the conversation quickly deteriorates.

And then something happens. Perhaps precisely as a result of your worn-out state, this individual recognizes your effort—and responds positively.

Surprisingly, from that point on, there is a change in the dynamics of the relationship. It’s almost as if this individual sensed that your effort was proof of how much he or she meant to you. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Perhaps your circumstances finally made you understand just how important this relationship is to you.


There is an interesting passage in this week’s Torah portion.

“If you shall say: What shall we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our produce! But I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years . . . ” (25:20–21)

The seventh year is shemittah, a Sabbatical year; Jews are not permitted to plant or reap. After planting uninterrupted for the previous five years, the sixth year’s growth is naturally less abundant. Nevertheless, G‑d assures us that this year will provide sustenance for that year, as well as for the seventh year and beyond.

Metaphorically, the seven-year shemittah cycle corresponds to the seven millennia of history. For six thousand years we labor in preparation for the seventh millennium, the era of Moshiach that is “wholly Shabbat and tranquility.”

We may wonder: “What shall we eat in the seventh year?” If the spiritual giants of earlier generations failed to bring about a perfect, tranquil world, what can possibly be expected of us? If the efforts from five millennia of history could not achieve the universal Sabbath, what can be expected of us, the “sixth year,” exhausted and depleted of spirit?

The Rebbe explains that precisely because our spiritual resources are so meager now after so many centuries of harrowing exile, our trials and achievements are so much more meaningful—and so much more precious to G‑d, who promises to bless our efforts.

And perhaps, too, our insistence to maintain a connection with G‑d despite the ravages of our exile finally makes us realize how important this relationship is.

Because often when our situation seems hopeless, when we are at our rope’s end and we still hold on, our smallest effort yields the greatest result.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

You’ve taken a wrong turn. You’ve made a decision that you now recognize is going to cost you dearly. Is there any way to get back on track? Can you make up for the lost time and momentum? Is the path of return too tedious and too impossibly difficult?

Judaism has an empowering and uplifting message, learned from the fascinating holiday of Pesach Sheni, “the Second Passover.”

In the first year after the Exodus, the Jewish people were instructed to bring the Paschal sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan and eat it that evening, just as they had done the previous year. There were individuals, however, who had become ritually impure and could not bring the offering. They approached Moses, asking for some recourse.

In response, G‑d established the 14th of Iyar as a Second Passover. Anyone who did not bring a Passover offering—either because of impurity or because he had willfully transgressed G‑d’s will—was given the opportunity to compensate for his shortcoming by bringing an offering on Pesach Sheni.

There are three points that I find fascinating about this holiday:

  1. Unlike other holidays, which were unilaterally commanded by G‑d, this holiday was inspired in response to the outcry of individuals.
  2. Unlike Passover, which is seven days in length, this holiday accomplishes its purpose in only one day.
  3. The holiday falls a month after Passover.

The lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it’s never too late.

No one is ever too lost or too forgone to make amends in their lives. When we stray or mess up, if we recognize how far gone we are and we are shaken to our core, we can rebound. But what’s fascinating is that this rebounding is not the regular step-by-step conventional formula. In a single instant—or in this case, in a single day—rather than the seven-day process of Passover, we can redefine our past and mold our future.

But for this to be real, it needs to come from deep within. It’s all about the inner cry—the resolve that we have to make change a reality in our lives.

And that is why Pesach Sheni needed to happen through our own motivation, by us crying out to G‑d that we shouldn’t be left out. This is also why it is celebrated in the month of Iyar, whose theme is individual endeavor, as exemplified through the counting of the Omer and our work on self-refinement.

We all mess up. We weren’t created as perfect individuals who can always make balanced judgements. But the good news is that we don’t need to. Even when we make the worst possible error, there is no cause for despair. Quite the contrary, there is cause for acknowledgement, resolve and then action.

As a great quote reads: There are those who debate whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. And then there are those who realize that the glass is refillable.

Let’s refill those glasses!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Reader,

Optimism and positivity.

That’s the Torah’s approach to how we should view almost every circumstance. We try to see the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

Even during trying times, we highlight what we have rather than what is lacking, and all that we need to be grateful for, as opposed to focusing on our wants and needs.

On a psychological level, this is very beneficial. The more we emphasize our gratitude, the more positive we become as people. As I heard from one motivational instructor, “It’s not that happy people are thankful, it’s that thankful people are happy.”

But on a spiritual level, this approach is even more powerful. Positive thinking can actually change our reality in a majorly good way.

“Think good, and it will be good” is a popular Chassidic saying that means that positive thoughts create a positive reality. When we open the channels of our faith in G‑d by trusting Him to create a good outcome, we generate what we are hoping for. By believing that G‑d is infinite so He can provide for us in a way that we perceive as positive, G‑d reciprocates and directs that positive reality into our lives.

Even if things get so bad and we don’t see those positive outcomes—and we see no seed of goodness in our suffering—we assure ourselves with our faith. “All that G‑d does is ultimately for our own good” we tell ourselves, even if we can’t currently comprehend how that is so.

But there’s one time when this attitude just does not work. Moreover, not only is it not praiseworthy to be positive, it is actually downright destructive.

That is when it comes to others.

Never look at the suffering of another person and think, “Well, at least he has something good in his life to be grateful for.” Similarly, thoughts like “This was meant to be” or “All is for the good” is completely out of place when it comes to another person.

When you see someone suffering, it is downright cruel to think that this individual has been given a test in order to strengthen him or help her become a better person. Our job is not to philosophically come to terms with another’s pain, but to alleviate it.

So, the Torah’s approach is this: The next time you see someone suffering, drop the smugly righteous “It’s all good” mantra. Instead, roll up your sleeves and see what you can do to help.

Wishing us all an amazing week of helping others!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

One of the advantages of living in Southern New Jersey is the close proximity to several states along the Northeast Corridor. I’m just a few hours’ drive from so many vibrant cities.

And recently, I discovered a hassle-free and relaxing way of getting there—through the popular Amtrak train.

No need to rush through long lines of airport security or to navigate crowded highways. The train offers a relaxing trip, with free Wi-Fi, all the way from Boston in the north to Washington, D.C.

This past fall, I took a train to Rhode Island, and I was transfixed by the gorgeous scenery and changing colors of the foliage just outside my window. Recently, I traveled to Virginia, equally mesmerized as the train bolted past barren forests and deserted lakes in the dead of winter.

As I boarded, I noticed a sign that cautioned, “Watch the gap.” This sign is similar to the ones in London’s uber-efficient mass-transit system, the Underground. In England, mementos are readily available in tourist areas imprinted with the famous “Mind the Gap” slogan.

The Amtrak signs, like the London Underground, caution travelers to watch their step when boarding and leaving the train, and to carefully walk over the slight space between the train and platform.

Noticing these signs, I thought that as we travel through our own life’s journeys, we need caution specifically when we are going on a new path. When we comfortably travel in one direction, the gaps aren’t so obvious. It’s when we take a different track or when we leave one to examine another that we need to heed the gaps that can cause us to fall. As we embark and disembark, we are presented with new choices, each with potential slip-ups and possible falls.

On the Jewish calendar, we are now on a spiritual journey from Passover to Shavuot, a 49-day methodical process of self-refinement within the human psyche. Each week, we examine a new character trait that needs spiritual and emotional refinement. Each day within that week, we focus on all the different aspects of that trait. In our first week, for example, we tackle chesed (lovingkindness); in the second week, gevurah (discipline); and so on.

As we travel through each of the days of the week, we concentrate on refining this trait in our lives by exploring its parameters and boundaries. And as we begin our travels each week—as we venture to new directions in our quest for self-improvement—we need to mind the gaps and watch out for the possible stumbles in finding the proper expression of each trait.

It’s only in shifting directions and tackling new possibilities that we reach our ultimate destinations.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

How are you enjoying Passover so far? Wherever you may be, I hope you are having a wonderful time.

Passover is a festival of liberation. We became free people, no longer enslaved to our Egyptian masters.

Being enslaved has two parts to it. There is the physical circumstance of slavery—the torturous existence of being subjected, day after day, to the merciless whip of the taskmaster. But there is also psychological slavery—the slave’s mindset and conviction.

Mitzrayim denotes limitations, which we all have to certain degrees. For some, that may mean severe financial problems; for others, it could be serious health issues. And for still others, it may be the burden of an arduous psychological environment. These are the circumstances that constrain us.

But then come our own internal shackles. Even once freed from the abuse or suffering of our past, we may still be living a life inhibited by our own fear, pain or trauma.

We may become freed from our external Egypt, but if Pharaoh has come out with us, essentially, he continues to have full control, mastering our psyche. Our specific set of circumstances may have improved, but our life’s tumultuous inner terrain remains the same.

On the seventh day of Passover, we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. Even once they had been redeemed from Egypt, the Jews remained fearful of the Egyptian’s great might and power. Only after the sea split—and they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore—could they finally experience complete liberation.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as free when we’ve overcome an externally imposed limitation. We may be shocked, however, to discover that Pharaoh is still pursuing us even after we’ve escaped his Egypt. But the abuser closing in on us is the Pharaoh that we’ve allowed to accompany us.

So how do we eradicate these demons from our inner world? How do we transcend the personal Egypt within ourselves?

By splitting our inner sea.

To split the sea, G‑d “turned the sea into dry land.” Deep beneath the sea water lies buried a vibrant, beautiful inner life. The sea is a metaphor for material existence, which hides the G‑dly life force that maintains our exis­tence. To transform the sea into dry land means to reveal that neither we, nor our world, are separate from G‑d; that G‑d alone has full control over our lives and knows what’s best for us.

Only by revealing our deep inner truth—our infinite power coming from our infinite connection to the Divine force within us—can we hope to attain our complete liberation. Only then can we fully leave the demons of our past behind us.

Wishing you a very liberating chag!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

This coming Tuesday is the 11th of Nissan, the anniversary of the birth of the Rebbe.

Many years ago, the head of a Jewish organization came to the Rebbe shortly before Passover. “I have a proposal,” he told the Rebbe. “This year at Passover, let us all remember those who perished in the Holocaust.

“Let every Jewish family set an empty chair at their seder in memory of those who were exterminated because they were Jews and who therefore cannot join a seder.”

The Rebbe, however, was not fully pleased with his suggestion. Characteristically, he responded to these good intentions by asking, “But why should the extra chair remain empty? Let every Jewish family fill the extra chair (or even two chairs!) with a Jew—a Jew who otherwise would not be at a seder or a Jew who perhaps does not know the meaning of a seder. By filling the empty chair, we have achieved the best memory—and revenge—for the Six Million who perished.”

This coming Friday night, Jews the world over will sit down to their festive Passover seder. Passover is a time of liberation and freedom, and yet as we look around the world, there is so much fear and terror, so much loneliness and isolation, as well as so much poverty and suffering.

Over the last year, much has happened too to Jews in Israel and around the world. The lives of too many of our brethren have been snuffed out through bombs, knives or bullets, simply because they were Jews. As the Passover festivities quickly approach, perhaps it is an opportune time to give a moment of thought to some of those empty chairs—of beloved fathers and mothers or sisters and brothers—who will be so sorely missed from their family gatherings.

And perhaps, too, in their honor and as revenge for their brutally spilled blood, we should think of how we can each add a chair with a living Jew at our own seders. Perhaps we can bring a smile to a lonely or anguished soul who would appreciate being with us at our table, or we can reach out to a Jew who may not know what Passover is all about.

Wishing you a very joyous Passover! May this season of liberation finally bring liberty and peace to our world!

Chag Sameach!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

As a parent, it’s your greatest moment of triumph.

You’ve momentarily left the playroom. Your son begins to taunt his older sister. You’re about to rush in as referee to prevent the impending battle, when you pleasantly discover that your daughter hasn’t taken the bait. Instead of fighting back, retorting angrily or using her fists, she chooses a different response. She calmly explains to her brother—mimicking the soothing voice you try so hard to use—that she loves him too much to fight, and then distracts him with another activity.

Weeks, months and years of effective parenting have paid off! Your child has internalized your values.


This Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol, the “Great Shabbat.”

After eight decades of being victim to the Egyptians’ merciless cruelty, on the 10th of Nissan, on Shabbat, the Israelites prepare a paschal lamb. They explain to the Egyptians that G‑d instructed them to offer a sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan—the night of their redemption, and the night that G‑d would slay all the Egyptian firstborn.

Hearing this, the Egyptian firstborn plead with Pharaoh to liberate the Jews. When Pharaoh refuses, they rise up in an armed revolt. Many Egyptians died in battle.

This revolt was titled a “great miracle,” and it is commemorated every year on the Shabbat before Passover. These Egyptian firstborn finally understood the folly of their evil and sided with Moses, actively attacking their own government.

Chassidic thought explains that the greatest victory is not in fighting evil, but rather transforming it into good.

When the enemy becomes a friend and defender . . . When a negative inclination works energetically for good . . . When darkness is changed into light . . . When destruction becomes the impetus for building . . . And, when a powerful group of firstborn sons finally stands up against the ills of their society by defending those whom they had so wrongly mistreated.

Interestingly, the 10th of Nissan also marks the date of Miriam’s yahrtzeit, years later, after the Exodus. From a young age, Miriam fearlessly stood up against King Pharaoh when he instructed her to kill all the Jewish male newborns. Despite the hardships, despite the pain, one woman fanned the flame of faith of all the Jewish women of her generation, and succeeded in transforming their perspective with her courage and kindness.

This Shabbat is also called the “great” Shabbat because the haftorah speaks of the coming of Moshiach, referring to this day as the yom Hashem hagadol v’hanora, the “great” and awesome day of the L‑rd (Malachi 3:23).

This great and utopian era will not be a time of destruction, but of transformation; it will not be about commanding, but about communicating. It will not be about fighting, but about educating and changing the mindset of our foes, just as the perspective of the firstborns was positively altered.

May this week’s great Shabbat finally usher in this great and awesome time period!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

Dear Readers,

Last week, my granddaughter strung together her first couple of words. Yesterday, my grandson took his first step.

These were special moments and extraordinary accomplishments on my grandchildren’s journey toward maturation. But these moments were the culmination of weeks and months of efforts. My granddaughter didn’t suddenly begin to speak, just as my grandson didn’t suddenly learn to walk.

Acquiring language is a complex process. From the moment they are born, babies start to learn this skill. First, they organize sensory information, disentangling sounds and categorizing them. Then they learn to recognize the meaning in all that noise. And from now until she enters school, my granddaughter will be learning the meaning of about eight new words a day to master a mind-boggling 11,000 words.

Similarly, my grandson didn’t learn how to walk in one day. From the moment he was born, his legs and muscles were growing stronger and more disciplined. First, he learned how to sit up, then to co-ordinate his arms and legs by crawling. Finally, he pulled himself up and gained the necessary balance to take that momentous step forward.

And yet, when we look at these young children, we often don’t recognize all that is going on within enabling them to acquire these skills.

Because growth and change are continuous, even without us realizing it.

As you woke up this morning, did you sense the feeling that spring was in the air? Before long, the barren trees that greeted us all winter will be weighed down by bright-green leaves, with the scent of budding flowers in the air tantalizing us.

When was the moment that spring had sprung? While we may not have noticed, throughout the barren desolate winter, deep within the frozen soil, the necessary rejuvenation was already taking place.

This week, we welcome the month of Nissan, which is a month of miracles and the month that we celebrate Passover, our freedom from Egyptian bondage. We adjust the calendar so that the month of Nissan always arrives in the spring season.

After Moses delivered a message of hope and freedom, the tyranny and suffering of the Jewish slaves in Egypt became worse. But while externally their hardships were intensifying, the potential of their freedom was preparing to burst through the unyielding surface. Despite the desperation of their situation, after hundreds of years in exile, the Jewish people marched triumphantly out of Egypt.

And perhaps this is the message of the Jewish people’s liberation in this season. Even in moments when we feel frozen-over, impoverished and stripped of our strength, we need to remember the growth and positive change taking place deep within. Our situation may look bleak, but we canbreak free from our own restraints by realizing and accessing the hidden reservoirs buried within.

May this month of miracles finally bring us the long-awaited redemption, as all of humanity springs forth into an era of peace and prosperity.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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