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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 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 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 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 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,

It seems like I’m constantly reading about the new best “super” food. First, it was quinoa, followed by kale.

Then, after stuffing my freezer with fresh fish, I read the warnings about mercury levels, and that I should never, ever buy farmed salmon.

Last month I read the benefits of a diet rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates. This month I was informed about harmful antibiotics fed to animals and the dangers of excess animal fat.

And, of course, the jury is still out on the exact pros and cons of a writer’s best friend—coffee.

Daily, we learn about new hidden toxins in our food. Is organic food safer? Are genetically modified grains dangerous? What are the effects of preservatives?

When it comes to nutrition, we are probably the most educated generation to date. We’ve become sensitized to the cause and effect of negative influences on or bodies, on our psyche and on our world.

The innocent-looking food doesn’t appear dangerous. The harmless piece of chicken that was supposedly given antibodies looks exactly like the free-range, grain-fed poultry sold for double the price. And who could distinguish organic bananas from regular ones?

But as informed consumers, we recognize that it isn’t only what we see that makes an impact. This is true in all areas of life, but nowhere is this more consequential than in the food we ingest, where the food actually becomes assimilated into our flesh.

So we’ve come to realize the subtle but potentially dire effects on our food, but do we ever consider our food’s spiritual “profiles”? Does the food or drink that we consume affect us on a spiritual plane, on a soul level, influencing our character and natural tendencies?

This week’s Parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah’s dietary laws. Kosher land animals must be slaughtered in a very specific manner, and have split hooves and chew their cud. Fish need fins and scales, and there is a list of forbidden fowl.

Notice how all kosher animals and fowl have the characteristics of being non-predatory, peaceful and non-destructive.

Moreover, perhaps, the non-kosher animal’s closed hoof represents a spiritual quality of rigidity—being closed off and untouched to the plight of others. Do the kosher animal’s “split” and “open” hooves symbolize approachability and sensitivity, as well as receptiveness to growth? Does chewing its cud remind us how we too need to chew things over, and not be too quick or impulsive to judge?

Similarly, do the fins that propel a kosher fish forward represent its ambition, which needs to be tempered, like all of our ambitions, by protective scales representing integrity and principles?

On the surface, we may not be able to differentiate between many kosher and non-kosher foodstuffs. But on a spiritual and mystical level, the qualities of every creature affect us profoundly. Unkosher food may be just as physically nutritious, but its spiritual traits can clog our spiritual arteries from being able to assimilate a Torah consciousness.

And perhaps there is no generation better equipped to understand this than our own.

Bon appétit!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of 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,


Do you wish you’d see more? Ever wonder why G‑d doesn’t perform for you the split-the-sea variety?

Ari Sacher doesn’t wonder. As a rocket scientist, he is not someone that you’d expect to talk about miracles, but he claims to see them often.

I met Ari when he lectured at a Shabbaton in Wilmington, Del., hosted by my amazing cousins and dedicated shluchim, Rabbi Chuni and Oryah Vogel.

Ari works as the system engineer for the Iron Dome, Israel’s sophisticated system designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities.

The Iron Dome was developed after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, when 4,500 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel, killing 43 Israeli civilians and seriously injured 75, while also damaging some 12,000 buildings.

How different things were in Operation Defensive Edge. The Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent of a whopping 800 rockets fired. Hamas sought to attack the heart of Israel, but it was thwarted.

In simple terms, that means that the Iron Dome saved lives–the lives of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. Precious lives.

But what is the connection between a defense system and miracles?

As I wrote, Ari is a scientist. He works with other scientists, all with stellar IQs. He analyzes complicated scientific data determining odds and likelihoods, and knows these formulas like the back of his hand.

Ari is intimately aware of the history behind the Iron Dome: the scientific challenges, the huge costs and resources (each interceptor alone costs $100,000), the political disagreements, its successes and its limitations.

“In developing the Iron Dome, there were many different directions that could have been taken, each with their own restrictions. The fact that this system was chosen and that it performed so successfully, both operationally and politically, was not a given,” he explains. “No other anti-missile system has ever performed nearly as well, in combat or in test.

“The Iron Dome’s stellar performance was clearly the hand of G‑d,” he believes. “But because the system was designed, developed and operated by humans, people attribute its success to humans.”

In looking for grand miracles, we often fail to recognize all the events that needed to be aligned, all the particular points of the puzzle that had to come together, all of the “coincidences” that had to happen.

“G‑d was holding the steering wheel the entire time,” emphasizes Ari, the rocket scientist.

This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The Purim miracle happened naturally: Vashti’s refusal, Esther’s beauty, a plot overheard by Mordechai, the king’s sleepless night and so on. The events were deliberately orchestrated from Above, but the Conductor stood behind stage

In this way, Purim is the greatest of miracles. It is a miracle in which the natural order is not circumvented or superseded, but in which nature itself becomes the device of the miraculous and an instrument of the Divine will.

And our lives? Aren’t they too are a constant dialog with G‑d?

Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to the conversation.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of 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,

This week I had a great week.

The sun was shining outside just as brilliantly as my inner sun.

I was productive. I wrote essays; the ideas flowed from my pen. I taught extensively, returning from each class exhausted but exhilarated. I was flying high, exuberant. I was meeting people, connecting and touching them deeply just as I was being touched by them. Instead of becoming tired or depleted, the more I did, the more energized I became.

Life was smiling at me. Hey, I even got an unexpected check in the mail that I had given up on. The week flew by in a dizzying haze of contentment.

How different this week was from last week.

Last week my work was stunted. My ideas were disjointed. I felt ill at ease with my life and with my accomplishments. There seemed to be a perpetual cloud over my home.

No matter what I was doing, I felt restless, uninspired. I couldn’t find my equilibrium, no matter how much I relaxed or how much I worked. I couldn’t find solutions to my inner confusion.

In the supermarket or on the streets, people seemed impatient; my friends and family sounded annoyed. The news I read reported tragedy and sadness, and the bills on my desk were unsettling.

Isn’t life like that? Some days we’re riding high. Other days we’re in the pits.

Some days it’s natural for us to do good things; the more we do, the higher we climb on an upward ascent to even more positivity. Other times we get stuck on a downward spiral of circumstances that rob us of opportunity, and before we know it we’re in a rut, depleted of energy and initiative.

This week’s Torah portion begins with G‑d calling Moses:

G‑d called to Moses; and G‑d spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying:

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: A man who shall bring of you an offering to G‑d . . .

The book of Leviticus teaches the laws of sacrifices. Interestingly, the last letter of the first word in this book—Vayikra, G‑d’s call to Moses—is written with an unusually small aleph. A scribal abnormality; what does it tell us?

There are all kinds of “offerings” we can give to G‑d: our energy and talents, our dispositions and thoughts, our words and deeds. These all create a kinder home for G‑d in this world.

When the world is smiling at us, when we are feeling “big” and productive, it can be easier to feel connected to G‑d. But what about during the drudgery or smallness of life, when we are feeling unfulfilled and uninspired?

Maintaining our connection—finding our “offering”—in times of dullness and restlessness remains our greatest challenge.

And perhaps that’s when we most need to remember: Vayikra, G‑d is calling to us, even in these moments of smallness and loneliness, inviting us to bring our offering and to come close.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of 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,

She was growing in her journey towards a Torah lifestyle. She had questions about faith. She was scared.

“So many young people are dying nowadays. So many good people. Why is this happening? Why is G‑d doing this?”

It is the question of all times. The question that none of us can ever answer.

As much as we speak about our faith in G‑d’s goodness and in the “bigger” picture, G‑d is unfathomable. Human beings never can—and never should—understand suffering and pain, because understanding it somehow legitimizes it and accepts it. And what can be crueler than that?

She wanted to tell me about her daughter.

The deeper our love is, the more intense is our want—no, our need—that everything should turn out good. The more we love, the higher the stakes become and the greater our fear of potential loss.

“I love her so much; she is my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to her. How can I learn to let go? Not to stifle her, but to leave it up to G‑d.”

And then she told me her story.

She couldn’t have children for many years. She went to specialists. She paid for the most expensive treatments. Finally, she found the top doctor in his field.

It wasn’t easy to secure an appointment. Somehow, she managed. He saw her and was willing to take on her case. Unbelievably, he had a cancellation. He would schedule her for the next Monday afternoon.

She looked at her calendar and refused.

He was shocked; this never happened. People cleared their schedules of the most important appointments, the most lucrative deals, just to see him.

“You are willing to jeopardize your treatment?” he asked in disbelief.

“I can’t,” she answered. “Monday is Yom Kippur.” She didn’t need to explain. The doctor may not have been observant, but he was Jewish. One Jewish soul faced another.

“I see,” he deliberated for just a moment. “In that case, you aren’t just going to pray on Monday. You are going to pray like you’ve never prayed before, as if your life depended on it!” He then found her a different appointment.

Her pregnancy had its ups and downs. At one point the amniotic fluid almost disappeared. She was advised to abort. She refused. She told them never to ask her again. Months later they asked again. She still refused.

Her precious daughter, the child that she was now so devoted to, was born healthy.

As is so often the case, it was clear that her own story provided the direction she was seeking. She carried the keys to the questions that tormented her.

How could she let G‑d take over? She already had.

For this was the child who was born only because she let G‑d take over. Again and again.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of 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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