Contact Us
 Email
Let's Go For Coffee

Dear readers,

Who has said that the Jewish people are the moral conscience of the world?

No, it’s not a great Jewish prophet, or a righteous non-Jew who admired the Jewish people. These words are ascribed to none other than Adolf Hitler, may his name be erased.

In Hitler’s words, “Conscience is a Jewish invention; it is a blemish like circumcision.”

He also said: “If one little Jewish boy survives without any Jewish education, with no synagogue and no Hebrew school, it [Judaism] is in his soul. Even if there had never been a synagogue or a Jewish school or an Old Testament, the Jewish spirit would still exist and exert its influence. It has been there from the beginning, and there is no Jew, not a single one, who does not personify it.” (Hitler’s Apocalypse)

To Hitler, having a moral conscience was repugnant and despicable; scruples could deprive an individual from realizing his self-gratifying goals. Unbelievably, Hitler understood, too, that every Jewish soul inherently has such an ethical spirit.

In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the first Jew and the forefather of our people, Abraham. Abraham is called Ivri, a Hebrew, and the name has stuck for his descendants. On a simple level, he was called Ivri because geographically he came from ever hanahar, the “other side of the river.” On a deeper level, he stood on the “other side” of the world in his principles and moral standing. In a dark decadent world, he shined the light of monotheism and divine moral clarity.

“You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). G‑d entrusted the Jewish people with the obligation of being “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6).

It’s a job description that not only is arduous, but has caused genuine envy as well as the deepest and most vile hatred. Most of humanity would rather yield to the prevailing status quo and social pressure, rather than deviate.

Abraham, too, could easily have chosen to follow the norm; instead, he followed his soul. As a result he was thrown into a burning furnace, was expelled from his home, was tested countless times, and only miraculously escaped with his life. Nevertheless, he stood tall and firm in what he knew to be the truth.

He passed on this legacy to his descendants.

Throughout our lives, we too have choices, to follow the tide or to swim upstream. To be satisfied with the status quo, or to improve our world through a higher spiritual service or a greater moral code, or by pursuing social venues to service others. Throughout the centuries, Abraham’s descendants have made disproportionate contributions in all these areas.

Our greatest haters realized that this was our fate. They also realized that this desire to make our world a home for G‑d is inherently embedded within our Jewish soul.

Within each and every one of 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 reader,

A while ago, my family went biking in a secluded area along a picturesque nature path. The path was a few miles long, and if you completed it you made a full circle and ended up back at its beginning.

The route had small hills throughout. We loved cycling down those hills; it was effortless and enjoyable, the pull of gravity doing all the work for us.

Uphill, though, was a different story altogether. That’s when the going got tough. We needed to use all our muscle strength to cycle forward. But we soon learned that if we used the momentum from the easy ride down to propel us at least part of the way up, it made the ride easier. It also helped to keep in mind that after our strenuous effort, we would soon be rewarded with something easier—maybe even a fun ride downhill.

Life is full of these hills, big and small. Sometimes we’re cycling on easy street, enjoying the free ride. More often, it feels like we’re exerting too much energy and moving forward far too slowly.

But no matter how short or long the rides up or down, the pattern is pretty much cyclical; hills melt into valleys, and then swell into hills again.

This week we celebrate the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah, as we finish the yearly cycle of Torah readings. The Torah is divided into portions; every Shabbat we read one, sometimes two, portions, to complete the entire Torah. To celebrate our completion of the cycle, we joyously dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah in circles that go round and round, reflecting the circles and cycle of life itself.

Interestingly, the last Torah reading, Vezot Haberachah, doesn’t have its own Shabbat on which it is read. Instead, we read it on the holiday of Simchat Torah, while on the Shabbat following Simchat Torah we have already begun with the first Torah portion of Bereishit.

Perhaps the point is that there should never be a closing Shabbat in which the Torah is concluded. Rather, the readings are continuous, always ongoing, beginning immediately afresh, never taking a break and never ending.

Simchat Torah marks the climax of a three-week period of holidays ranging from awe-inspiring to joyous. As a bridge between the holiday season and the rest of the mundane year, it is the most joyous of holidays, even more than Sukkot, the season of rejoicing.

Perhaps its message to us is that life can be full of cyclical ups and downs, but at all times we need to remember to keep moving forward. And only through our continuous movement forward, riding the hills and the valleys, will we find the greatest joys, in the continuous cyclical path of life.

Wishing you a most joyous holiday!

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 that there are some people who just always seem to be happy? No matter their circumstance, no matter what is happening in their lives, they always seem more easygoing. There is a certain contentedness in who and what they are and what is going on in their lives. It’s almost like they are surrounded by a cloud of equanimity.

And then there are people (like me!) who always seem to feel a certain restlessness with our lives. A certain discontent. A striving for more.

I often wonder if the two styles can coexist.

Can a person be a “seeker” for more in all areas of their lives, while still being “happy,” “easygoing” and “content” with what is? Or is the discontent perhaps the fuel pushing those seekers to do more, to experience more, to achieve more and to try that little bit harder?

There is only one holiday that is called the “season of happiness”—the holiday of Sukkot. It is not Pesach, when we became free people from our Egyptian exile; not Shavuot, when we experienced the awesome revelation of communicating with G‑d.

Sukkot celebrates and reenacts G‑d’s protective clouds of glory shielding us during our sojourn in the desert. Nowadays, too, we leave our permanent homes and live in our sukkah huts to demonstrate and develop our belief in our utter dependency on G‑d, who embraces and protects us.

So during the High Holiday season, and the awesome days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we work on ourselves and we strive to be more and do more. We make important commitments for the coming year, as we rededicate ourselves to be better people and to have a stronger connection with G‑d.

And though we need to take those steps and make those efforts, then comes Sukkot and we acknowledge that ultimately, in the grand scheme, it is G‑d who decides our life’s journey. It is His clouds of glory, not our own initiatives that protect us and propel us in our sojourn forward.

Perhaps this is the secret to our true inner happiness—whether we are naturally “seekers” or naturally “content” with our lives. Perhaps it is the dawning of this fundamental realization that Sukkot develops within us, more than any of our own efforts and our own work that is the catalyst of our happiness and joy.

We have a poster hung up in our home that reads: “Your journey is unfolding exactly as it should be.” It’s a comforting meditation and, I think, the crux of the message of Sukkot.

Ultimately, try as we might, or try as we should, we are all in G‑d’s arms, surrounded by His clouds of glory. Every moment. Every day. Every journey.

And that should surround all of us, seekers and strivers alike, with a comforting cloud of equanimity—and joy.

Wishing you a most joyous Sukkot holiday!

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,

Can you add up the following:

Crystal-like droplets + rays of light + a person observing?

Answer: Witnessing a beautiful, spectacular rainbow.

When Noach exits the ark in this week’s Torah portion, G‑d shows him a rainbow, symbolizing His promise not to bring another flood to destroy mankind.

To understand more about rainbows and how they are formed, I did a quick search on Wikipedia.

A rainbow is caused by both reflection and refraction of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky in the form of a multicolored arc.

A rainbow isn’t an object and cannot be physically approached. Many rainbows exist; however, one can only be seen depending on the particular observer’s viewpoint as droplets of light are illuminated by the sun. All raindrops refract and reflect the sunlight in the same way, but only the light from some raindrops reaches the observer’s eye.

In order to be able to see a rainbow, you need clear water droplets that reflect and refract the rays of light. You also need to be at the right vantage point to experience this striking wonder.

In the world before the Flood, matter was too opaque for crystal-like water droplets to form. This mirrored the spiritual reality of the time, when people were in a receiving mode, not one of returning or refracting. The light shone but the people didn’t create with it. They were too thick, too self-centered to allow meaning and purpose to illuminate them and affect the world. The pre-Flood world was a land that was filled with chamas—corruption, violence and stealing.

The rainbow reminds us that we each have the ability to reflect light and use it to create more goodness and brightness in our world. Through divine moral clarity, we can use our own unique prisms to create beautiful multicolored hues.

But in order to see those spectacular beams of light, we also need to stand at a particular angle. We need to be willing to look and see the light of another.

We’ve just completed a round of joyous, uplifting and awe-inspiring holidays during the packed month of Tishrei. This week, we welcome the new month of Cheshvan, which is devoid of special days. Now is the time to to take the light of inspiration that we’ve just experienced and shine it into our everyday lives. Now is when clarity is crucial.

Can we make ourselves translucent to receive the light of spirituality even in our mundane, heavily packed and overworked schedules? And, will we allow ourselves to pause, witness and appreciate the light-filled, multicolored qualities of another?

Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (the author of Bnei Yisasschar) quotes from the Zohar that an especially bright rainbow portends the imminent revelation of the light of Moshiach.

So, let’s look out for those beautiful rainbows, just as we let ourselves be one.

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.
Recent Posts
Blog Archive