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Dear Readers,

The other day, I misplaced my ring. I searched and searched where I thought it might have been lost, but couldn’t find it. Somehow, it just disappeared. Later on in the week, I found it. Inexplicably, without looking, as I went about my regular errands, it just reappeared. I have no idea how it got to that destination, but I was happy I had it back.

Think about the things that you have lost and found in your life. Most often, when we refer to a “find,” we refer to a lost object that we are now reunited with. But sometimes, we can also “find” ourselves.

It might be on a secluded mountain top, or we might just wake up one day to the realization that a part of us—a new talent, awareness or perspective—has surfaced. What was previously completely obscured now becomes clear. What changed? It’s hard to put our finger on it because it’s not something that we worked on in any orderly kind of manner. It’s not something that we scheduled; rather, it’s a realization and an understanding that has been bestowed on us. We found a missing part of ourselves.

In the terminology of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a), a “find” happens without planning: b’hesach hadaas, “in absence of awareness.” When we “find” something, we usually mean that an object of value comes to us unexpectedly.

That’s why it is interesting that this word is used in this week’s Torah portion to describe the Jewish people’s faith in G‑d.

“G‑d found them in a desert land and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye.” (Deuteronomy 32:10)

Rashi explains this verse as praise for the Jewish people: “G‑d found them faithful to Him in a desert land, for they accepted His Torah, His sovereignty and His yoke upon themselves.”

Rashi continues: An arid, desolate land, a place of howling jackals and ostriches. Yet even there, Israel followed their faith. They did not say to Moses, “How can we go out into the deserts, a place of drought and desolation?”

The Jewish people’s faith in G‑d transcended structure, order or limitations. They were committed to loyally follow G‑d to an unknown destination. Similarly, G‑d’s devotion to us mirrors ours, and His love extends beyond any system or rational.

Similar to a “find,” our faith is not something planned for, and is far deeper than any rational thinking. This week, the Jewish people will stand united in whatever location they may be to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. As we “crown” G‑d as our King, we pledge to continue to be committed to follow G‑d’s ways, and we ask G‑d to reciprocate His devotion to us.

Wishing you and all the Jewish people a shanah tovah—a year of peace, health, prosperity and loyalty to our mission of making our world a more G‑dly place.

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,

Weddings are on my mind. For the last couple of months, I have been eagerly preparing for my daughter’s wedding.

It was an exciting time with many details to take care of. But once in a while, as I crossed off another task from my “To Do” list, I wondered about all the ritual and formality. Why was there a need for an official ceremony when the love and commitment of the bride and the groom was so apparent?

Perhaps an answer can be found in this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, which begins with the words:

You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers and all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water. You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d (29:9-10).

The entire Jewish nation assembled—from the simple water carrier to their greatest leader—to enter a covenant with G‑d.

What is a covenant, and what is its purpose? A covenant is a formal agreement to do or not do something specified. Even if circumstances change in the future, even if each party discovers something about the other that causes them to feel differently, they will remain loyal to this agreement.

When we stood before G‑d as we entered this covenant becoming His people, He was assuring us (and we Him) that we will remain loyal to each other forever, even if future events cause us to temporarily lose favor.

At a wedding, the bride stands starry-eyed before her groom and he before her, and they only see beauty, potential and positive qualities. Nevertheless, they make a pact to one another that they will not allow any faults or follies, circumstances or challenges, or the difficult bends and curves that life throws at us to get in the way of this relationship.

Nitzavim is always read the week before Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov explains that “You stand upright this day” is a reference to Rosh Hashanah, the day on which we all stand in judgment before G‑d.

After the month of Elul, when we have reached a greater level of love and connection with G‑d, on Rosh Hashanah we pledge our unconditional commitment to G‑d as His people. And we pray that G‑d, too, reaffirms His covenant with us, even if our actions during the year are inconsistent with our current feelings.

We do this “all of you” together. We ask G‑d to love us unconditionally, just as we show our unconditional love for all our fellow Jews—even those who are culturally, religiously, socially, intellectually or economically on different levels than we are.

In the last many days, amidst the terrible destruction and havoc caused by Hurricane Harvey and, now, Hurricane Irma, we have also seen the care, love and connection of humanity as so many astounding acts of kindness and goodness have been performed.

Wishing safety to those who are still in the path of the hurricane and wishing healing and blessings to those that have been affected. Wishing you a sweet new year! May all our prayers be answered for the good!

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,

A friend of mine was going on a special vacation trip to Europe with her husband. Justifying her extravagance, she jokingly explained: “I work hard all year. At my shiva, I want my children to say that their mother also knew how to enjoy herself!”

We laughed. But then the conversation became a little more serious as she turned to my other friend and asked her: “What do you want your children to say at your shiva?”

Caught off-guard, my friend answered honestly: “I want my children to say that I loved them. And that I believed in them.”

I thought it was a good, off-the-cuff response. What parent doesn’t want that for her children? These are two ingredients at the foundation of our children’s growth and development. When a child knows that his parents love him unconditionally and believe in him, the child gains the confidence to reach higher and work harder to become his or her greatest self.

We are now in the month of Elul, quickly approaching the High Holidays. It’s time for introspection, for a long, hard look at the past year. An honest evaluation might reveal all the things that we had hoped to accomplish, but didn’t. As another year passes us by, we remember all those times we fell short, and we are reminded of our mortality.

It is a somber time that is rife with opportunity, but also possibly guilt and hopelessness, as we come to terms with how far we have to go and how little we have achieved.

This week marks the 18th of Elul, the birthday of revolutionary pioneers who made Jewish mysticism accessible to all: the Baal Shem Tov, and the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. These two spiritual giants taught us that we are all children of G‑d, who loves us more than the love of a parent to an only child. No matter where we are on the spiritual rung, each of us possesses a Divine spark that has infinite capabilities and cannot be snuffed out.

We are here in this world to grow, improve and connect to G‑d. But our imperfections should not depress us. Our shortcomings do not define us; rather, they give us reason to celebrate our effort in coming closer to G‑d, revealing that spark inside.

Now, during the last few days of the month of Elul, is our time to reach higher and work harder on improving ourselves for the coming year.

Let’s do so with joy in our hearts and confidence in our capabilities—knowing that our heavenly Parent loves us and believes in us.

Wishing you a ketiva v’chatima tova! May you be written and inscribed for blessings in the coming year!

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,

Our daily prayers have just gotten a little bit longer.

From the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hoshana Rabbah on the holiday of Sukkot, we’ve begun reciting an extra Psalm at the end of our prayers.

This Psalm (Chapter 27) begins with the words “G‑d is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The L-d is the strength of my life, whom shall I dread? . . . For He will hide me in His tabernacle on a day of adversity . . . ”

This prayer is appropriate for this time of year since it hints to the upcoming holidays. “Light” refers to Rosh Hashanah, which like light wakes us from our slumber to remind us to return to G‑d. “Salvation” refers to the holy day of Yom Kippur, when we take leave of all our wrongs from the past year through forgiveness and atonement. And “tabernacle” (sukkah in Hebrew) refers to the holiday of Sukkot.

In this Psalm, King David eloquently begs G‑d to save him from his many enemies. As his adversaries pursue him, he enumerates three stages of deliverance.

  1. G‑d illuminates his path so he can flee.
  2. G‑d protects him and removes the danger.
  3. G‑d brings him to a place of refuge.

Whether we find ourselves in the throes of a terrible illness, a financial crisis or a severe emotional problem, these are the three stages of deliverance we all seek.

Worry, sadness and despair associated with a challenge can be overwhelming. Darkness haunts and immobilizes us, blocking our path so we cannot see. The first step to recovery is finding a ray of light or hope to illuminate the enveloping darkness.

Next we need a path—a real solution for our problem so that the severity of the danger or difficulty is eased.

And finally, even after a solution is in place, we need to learn how to find serenity—a calm state of mind, a place of refuge from which to handle the inevitable struggles.

As the year draws to a close and a new one full of promise peeks around the corner, we ask G‑d to help us through our personal trials. The concluding words of the prayer are the foundation for improving our mindset. “Hope in the L‑rd, be strong and let your heart be valiant, hope in the L‑rd.”

May the coming year be a year of blessing for us all, where we find salvation from our challenges, as well as a year of deliverance and redemption for our nation and our entire world.

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,

Ever notice how time passes by so quickly? Seasons turn ever so swiftly; days meld into weeks; weeks merge into months. But every so often, something happens that makes us stop, think and re-evaluate. Are we heading in the right direction? Are we accomplishing the goals that we set out for ourselves? What positive change can and should we introduce into our lives?

This week, we greet the new month of Elul. This is the month immediately prior to the New Year, which connects the past year with the coming year, and demands stocktaking and introspection. It is also the month that has the acronym, Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li—“I am to My beloved and My beloved is to me.” We approach G‑d with a desire to return and connect, and G‑d reciprocates with Divine expressions of mercy and forgiveness.

G‑d is closest to us; He beckons us and asks us to come close to Him. He asks us to make Him a real and active part in our lives.

There is no better time than now to introduce positive change into our lives—to reflect on all our negative addictions, all those unhealthy choices that we automatically and so easily steer to mindlessly. Now is the time to take a closer look at our schedules and evaluate how we can saturate our days with more positive, nurturing spirituality.

Change can be daunting. But real change begins not with major upheaval, but with incremental acts. Just a small change of direction can lead to a whole new world of opportunity.

Change is always possible. But this month, we have the added advantage of G‑d reaching out to us and extending a hand to help.

Let’s grab it.

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,

I was walking in a crime-ridden neighborhood of Brooklyn, and there was a shabby-looking man with an outstretched arm, asking for charity. I had some cash in my purse, but I didn’t want to draw attention to it. I quickened my pace, looked straight ahead and pretended not to see.

It was the end of a hard and aggravating day. Nothing had gone the way I had planned or wanted. My husband walked into our home, ready to share something that had happened that excited him. I chose not to see his eagerness. I chose not to share in his exuberance, but to remain in my own cloud-filled, dark corner of reality.

I had had a busy and exhausting week when I met a woman who hinted that she wanted to be invited for a Shabbat meal. Did she have to choose this week—the Shabbat that we had planned to make a simple, easy one, without guests? I closed my eyes to her need and closed my ears to her hints.

So many times in life, we choose not to see. We choose to remain blind to another’s wants, needs or pain, preferring to remain oblivious and ignore it.

This week’s Torah portion begins with the words: See, I give you today a blessing and a curse (Deuteronomy 11:26)

Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance (5:1-3), states that freedom of choice has been granted to every man. If he desires to turn towards a good path, the ability to do so is in his hands . . .

He further writes, “This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments. As it is written [Deuteronomy 30:15]: ‘See, I have set before you life [and good, and death and evil]’ . . . For if there were to exist something in the very essence of a person’s nature which would compel him toward a specific path, a specific conviction, a specific character trait or a specific deed . . . how could G‑d command us through the prophets, ‘Do this’ and ‘do not do this’ . . . ?”

G‑d is asking us to open our eyes. See the needs of those around you. See the beauty in giving. See the splendor in opening yourself up to do just a bit more than you thought you could.

Wishing us all a week of seeing!

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,

I met an elderly, loving couple who had been married for many, many years. I wondered: What kept their relationship fresh? What sustained their warmth and tenderness over time?

Did they gift each other special, luxurious items on birthdays, anniversaries or commemorative events? Did they have grand gestures of self-sacrifice that kept them so close?

Not at all. It was the constant, ordinary gestures that permeated every aspect of their relationship. It was the small acts of kindness throughout their day. Their phone calls to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Offers to bring each other a hot cup of coffee or a fuzzy pair of slippers, or to wash the dishes left in the sink. The notes on the fridge to remind the other of something that was important for them.

This week’s Torah portion is called Eikev, and it begins with the verse: “It will be because [eikev] you will heed these ordinances and keep them, that G‑d will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you . . . ”(Deuteronomy 7:12–13)

In this verse, G‑d is teaching us how we can keep our relationship with Him alive and thriving throughout our long and difficult exile. Several commentaries explain the interesting usage of the word eikev, which literally means “because” but also means a “heel.”

Rashi comments:Eikev, the Hebrew word for “because,” literally means “heel.” If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels [i.e., which a person treats as being of minor importance].”

The Rebbe elaborates: “Our commitment to Torah should permeate us entirely, even our heel—the lowest and the least sensitive part of the person. In other words, our relationship with G‑d should not be confined to the holy days of the year or to certain “holy” hours we devote to prayer and study, but should also embrace our everyday activities.”

Relationships thrive through gestures of love and affection repeated in regular interactions. These small things—like spending time together, complimenting each other or performing thoughtful acts—ensure that each individual understands how much he or she is cared for.

So how do you think a successful relationship with G‑d would look? What would a person do throughout their day if he or she is devoted to making G‑d happy? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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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