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Dear Reader,

Ten-year-old Sara stormed into her home. “Mom!” She was on the verge of tears, “I can’t stand Deborah! She’s the MEANEST person!”

Deborah, the class bully, had once again made life miserable for Sara.

“Don’t let silly little Deborah upset you. Cheer up!” Sara’s mother reassured her.

Noticing Sara’s still disconsolate expression, she continued, “Come, let’s make you a special treat. That should make you feel much better . . . !”


This week’s Torah portion, Bo (“come”), describes the last plagues visited upon the Egyptians, culminating with the exodus of the Jewish people. In the opening verse, G‑d instructs Moses, “Come to Pharaoh . . . ,” to warn Pharaoh of the upcoming plagues and to demand their release.

Since the name of each Torah section conveys its primary message, why is Bo not titled “Freedom,” or something that describes the extraordinary exodus?

In fact, the name, “Come [to Pharaoh],” reminds us of the opposite—of the Jewish people’s slavery. Moses needed to petition Pharaoh and appeal to him to free his people.

Commentaries also question the usage of the term, “come to Pharaoh” instead of the more appropriate form, “go to Pharaoh.”

But perhaps, the title holds the psychological key for finding solutions to our challenges.

The Zohar explains that by instructing Moses to “come to Pharaoh,” G‑d was inviting Moses to confront the essence of the Egyptian ruler. G‑d tells Moses to enter into Pharaoh, in the sense of entering deep within the mind and character of Egypt’s arch-idol.

To liberate the children of Israel from the shackles of their servitude, it was not sufficient for Moses, their leader, to merely “go” to Pharaoh and have a peripheral vision of this leader’s strength. Moses needed to fully confront Pharaoh within his “home base.” He needed to enter into Pharaoh’s mindset, into the bowels of his psyche, into the innards of his consciousness in order to comprehend the root of his power and his tenacious, tyrannical hold on the Jewish people.

This was the first step towards liberation.

Moses was the “shepherd” and ultimate “parent” of our people, tending to our every need. His conduct teaches us how to help our children (and ourselves) through their respective enslavements, constrictions or challenges.

The Torah teaches us that in order to free someone from the shackles of their problems, fears and insecurities, we must “come to Pharaoh.”

Don’t dismiss your child’s issues as insignificant. Don’t reassure her that this “little” incident will pass without validating what she is experiencing. Don’t distract her from her problem without dealing with it.

Experience her pain, frustration and insecurity. Explore her feelings and validate her challenges. Picture her monsters and feel her fears; understand what is suffocating her growth. Help her face her obstacles, rather than avoid them.

Only after you have fully entered into the domain of what is oppressing the individual can you hope to succeed in providing the solutions for her liberation.

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,

“That’s it! I’ve had enough!”

Do you hear yourself saying those words as you resolve to work on breaking a bad habit that has gotten a stronghold on your life? It could be as seemingly innocuous as biting your nails or checking your email too many times an hour (or minute!).

Or it could be something more worrisome, like eating patterns that threaten your health, emotional responses that threaten your relationships or shopping routines that threaten your financial security.

Whatever it is, you’ve come to the conclusion that these negative practices are enslaving you. You are ready to take control, determined to create positive and lasting change.

Now comes the hard part. How?

In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, G‑d assures Moses that He will liberate the Jewish people from their Egyptian bondage.

“Say to the children of Israel: 'I am the L‑rd, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a G‑d to you, and you will know that I am the L‑rd your G‑d. . . . I will bring you to the land . . . ”

With these words, G‑d teaches us how to become a free nation. Moreover, we can use these steps to free ourselves from our personal enslavements.

1. I will bring you out.

Firstly, physically remove (“bring yourself out” and away from) the temptation. The chocolate bars or potato chips in your pantry are beckoning? Eliminate these unhealthy choices from your home! You’re checking your emails during quality time with loved ones? Turn off your phone!

2. I will save you.

Now that you’ve removed the negative temptation, fill the void with something positive (“save yourself” in a practical way). Feel an urge to munch on something unhealthy? Call a friend. Ready to lose your temper and lash out in anger? Listen to a Torah class or go for a walk to calm down.

3. I will redeem you.

You’ve taken proactive, practical steps to conquer your negative habits. Now it’s time to analyze how you got here in the first place. To eliminate the possibility of replacing one compulsion with another, you need to address its underlying cause (to “redeem yourself”). Was it boredom? Fear? Stress? Face the emotional issues that created this crutch.

4. I will take you to Me as a people.

After addressing your emotional landscape, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your spiritual welfare. The purpose of our redemption was to “take you to Me.” Strengthen your relationship with G‑d to ensure meaning, fulfillment and purpose.

5. I will bring you to the land.

After exerting all the necessary effort, know that true freedom (bringing you to the promised land of your goals) comes only from G‑d. Remember: G‑d controls every aspect of our world, and our power comes only from Him.

Wishing you a liberating 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 Reader,

I was taking a walk with a friend. As we approached a large house, she said abruptly: “Let’s cross the street!”

It turns out that my friend and her husband had had a business partnership with the homeowner. The partnership had soured; he had wronged and cheated my friend. The very mention of his name or walking by the home triggered in her a negative response. Despite her current business success, she cannot overcome her feelings of anger.

I understand her because I react similarly. Don’t we all harbor inside of us memories that elicit our strongest emotions against individuals who deceived or misled us?

In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph and his brothers return from burying their father, Jacob. Joseph stops at the pit that his brothers had thrown him into. His brothers become frightened, saying: “What if Joseph will hate us, and will pay us back the evil which we did to him?” (Gen. 50:15)

The brothers appeal to Joseph, cautioning him that his father had warned him not to take revenge.

Jacob, in fact, had never done so; he would not suspect Joseph of revenge. Nor did Joseph ever intend for vengeance. He made a detour at the pit—not to reignite negative memories, but to have the opportunity to recite the blessing we are commanded to say at a place where a miracle was performed for us. (Midrash Tanchuma)

Joseph weeps that his brothers had suspected him of such behavior. He reassures them: “Don't be afraid. Am I instead of G‑d? You intended evil but G‑d meant it for good . . . ” (Gen. 50: 19-20)

How was Joseph able to get past his suffering without harboring any grudge against his brothers?

On the day his brothers sold him as a slave, Joseph had been a vulnerable teenager. His comfortable life as his father’s beloved son was changed forever. His brothers had acted callously and cruelly. But as far as Joseph was concerned, that was something between them and G‑d. What happened to him—being sold as a slave, descending to Egypt, becoming Pharaoh’s viceroy and, ultimately, saving his family from famine—was all G‑d’s grand plan.

Joseph reached an awareness that G‑d is in control of everything; therefore, his brothers had done nothing to him outside of G‑d’s design.

Too many of us hold on to what feels like justifiable resentment. In truth, the resentment only perpetuates and prolongs our own hurt.

Joseph teaches us how to get past this: Surrender to the knowledge that all that happens to you is part of G‑d’s benevolent plan. The individual that wounded you may have intended evil, but that is between that individual and G‑d. As far as you’re concerned, your life is following the exact script that G‑d wants for you.

This realization helps us begin to rid ourselves of the heavy burden of anger, resentment and hate. It also allows us to open ourselves up to receive the good that G‑d has in store for us.

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,

Nowadays, many of us feel a need to “zone out” or “anesthetize” ourselves from the pressures of life. We’ll retreat to social media or any other mind-deadening activity to escape from feeling “too much” reality.

We’ve gotten pretty good at numbing our emotions, but do we ever consider what makes us passionate? What gets our blood pumping? What excites us and arouses our emotions? And, most importantly, how do we channel those deep feelings into positive action?

This week’s parshah,Vayigash, describes the heart-wrenching reunion between Jacob and his beloved son, Joseph. For 22 agonizing years, they had been separated, with Jacob fearing the worst. What will happen at their first meeting?

Joseph’s emotional response is expected; he falls on his father’s neck and weeps (Gen 46:29).

Jacob’s reaction, however, is unusual. He does not embrace or kiss Joseph. Instead, he recites the Shema prayer (Rashi, ibid).

Why did Jacob choose this profoundly passionate, heartfelt moment to occupy himself with prayer?

The Chassidic Masters explain: Jacob knew that never in his life would his love be aroused as it was at that moment. So he chose to utilize this tremendous welling of emotion to serve His Creator, channeling it to fuel his love for G‑d.

Imagine how many tears Jacob shed during those long, anguished years. Finally, he is reunited with a child who was torn from him during his tender teen years. As Jacob’s heart spills over with an overabundance of love and gratitude, he chooses to channel those feelings into prayer.

As a parent, I often wonder, when do our children see us express our passion? In what situations do they see us express great joy or grief?

Do our children see our regret over the huge sale we missed or the expensive dish that broke, or do they see us exult over the kindness that they just exhibited? Do they witness our weighted pressures over financial matters, or do they see our eagerness and delight in helping another? What messages are we giving them about what is truly important to us?

And, in our happiest (or saddest) moments, how do we channel our most deep-felt emotions? Do we use our moments of intense happiness to give thanks and appreciation to our Creator? Do we use our successes and good fortune to remember the plight of others?

As he descends to Egypt, Jacob enters his final chapter of life. He will now prepare his children for their destiny of becoming the nation worthy of receiving the Torah, with the ultimate goal of transforming our world into G‑d’s intended home.

Through his reaction at this most passionate moment of his life, Jacob imparts an essential message for us during our own life journeys, throughout our long exile.

He teaches us to ask: What makes us passionate, and how can we direct our greatest passions in the most positive ways?

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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