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Dear reader,

I love this time of year. The leaves are turning luxuriant autumn shades; my favorites are the rich, deep mahoganies, auburns and burgundies. There is glorious color everywhere.

In the spring, flowers brighten our world with their brilliant, vivid primary colors. They make me think of bright-eyed children, enveloped in a joie de vivre. They face their days with daring, colorful enthusiasm and flamboyant joy.

But the fall’s aging leaves, the mustard yellows and burnt orange, clinging to life with their last breath, mesmerize me. These leaves are like a mature individual, made wise by his shades of life experiences. Their deeper colors symbolize a fuller perspective of hues and a more multidimensional perception of our world—and of our relationship with our Creator.

Each of us, too, has personal moments of glory when we’re in full bloom, admired by those around us. But these moments too wither, as the wheel of life turns and our moments of accomplishment fade.

Lately, these glorious leaves have been arriving at their final destination—with their final descent to the ground. The trees, soon to be bared, remind me of the celebratory cycle of life, and how quickly love and birth changes seasons into loss and heartbreak.

Yet the fading trees outside my window also seem to be whispering an inspiring message. The small sapling that was so weak and hapless that it could almost be blown about by the raging winter winds has grown taller, thicker. Its branches now reach up to the heavens; its roots have taken a firm grip in the earth. Though its leaves have fallen away throughout each of the seasons, its core has developed and matured.

Through the passage of time, each of us, too—and our nation as a whole—develops into a stronger being, with a surer sense of who we are and deeper convictions.

Over the last few weeks, as the Jewish people, we’ve experienced too much loss and heartbreak. Hopelessly, we’ve watched the precious lives of our brothers and sisters being smothered to death with guns and knives, murdered by those who hate us.

And yet, even as precious, beautiful leaves are ripped away from our tall tree by these winds of hate, the tree of our nation, the Jewish people, continues to grow stronger, our roots extending ever deeper.

There are those who think they can break us or destroy us. They take away from us our best and greatest, our most colorful and beautiful. But they do not understand that the Jewish tree “is a tree of life for those who grasp it.”

Am Yisroel Chai! Let us pray and resolve to do extra mitzvot for the safety of our brethren. But as we do, let us remember that the tree of the Jewish people is alive, its roots are strong and resilient, and its branches continue to reach ever higher.

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,

Are you ever filled with such despair that you feel like your life is hopeless? In such moments, prayer is the opportunity that G‑d offers us to communicate with Him, to turn to our Creator for comfort and salvation.

And yet, during such challenging times, as you pray, do you ever hear yourself thinking: “Now, hold on, this is too much to be asking. There’s just no way that G‑d is going to move heaven and earth to grant me this request. Maybe I should ask for something a little bit more realistic, a tad more practical.”

In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, G‑d promises Abraham to make him “into a great nation.” Years later, after undergoing trials and tribulations, G‑d reassures Abraham and tells him, “Fear not, Abram; I am your shield; your reward is exceedingly great.”

Abraham responds, “Behold, You have given me no seed.” Of what purpose is all that You are blessing me with if I cannot have a child of my own to continue after me?

At this point, “G‑d took him outside and said, ‘Gaze now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them!’ And G‑d said to him, ‘So shall be your offspring!’” (Genesis 15:5)

Rashi questions the need for bringing Abraham outdoors. Simply understood, G‑d was taking Abraham out of his tent to see the stars outdoors, since his children would be as numerous as them.

But on a deeper level, G‑d was implying to Abraham that he needs to step outside the natural order and rely on G‑d’s miracles.

Abraham said: “Master of the universe, I have studied my astrological pattern, and it is clear that I will not sire a son.” G‑d responded, “Go outside the sphere of the stars, because no stars control the destiny of Israel!”

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: “How do we know that no star controls the destiny of Israel? From the verse “He took him outside.” (Talmud, Shabbos 156a)

Abraham realized that according to the rules of nature, he was not destined to have a child. He realized that naturally Sarah would not have a child. But G‑d was telling him: a Jew must go outside—he must leave the natural order, because his prayer has the power to reach his infinite G‑d, who extends beyond the sphere of this world.

Prayer can create the miraculous by elevating us beyond the natural order.

Indeed, thirteen years later, when that miraculous son is born to Abraham and Sarah, he is called Yitzchak (Isaac), which means “laughter.”

From this son of laughter descends the great nation of laughter with whom G‑d establishes His special bond.

Because the very essence of the Jew and his existence is forever a laughing, miraculous wonder—explainable only through our prayers and our deep bond with our Creator.

Let us continue to pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Israel and for a speedy recovery of those who were wounded.

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,

My youngest daughter told me that she really likes one of her teachers because she makes her lessons “so interesting.” At every opportunity, this teacher brings tangible objects into the classroom. She regularly conducts experiments to visually illustrate concepts, just as she uses practical metaphors to make abstract ideas more concrete.

Every teacher knows that if you want an idea to really come alive for your students, you need to involve them—and as many of their senses—as possible.

And that’s one of the things that I love so much about Judaism. It’s a veritable living classroom. At every step of our day, week or month, there are scenarios that make us stop and consider something about our lives.

Take food. Every holiday has its own symbolic foods that aren’t just supposed to enhance our gastronomic experience (or our waistline), but to actually make us think about the experience. So, just as we begin a fresh new year, we dip an apple or challah into honey, so that we will think about sweetness and consider how to bring more of it into our lives and the lives of others.

But it goes further than food. To impress us with the concept of unity on Sukkot, we tangibly hold and make a blessing on four different kinds. To remember the power of a lone voice of light, we physically kindle a Chanukah menorah in the darkest of months to light up our environment.

And it’s not just about holidays.

This past summer we went on a few road trips. At the start, one member of the family read aloud tefillat haderech, the prayer said for traveling, and we all repeated. The prayer beseeches G‑d for our safety, reminding us of a time when traveling was laced with danger, like the possibility of being attacked by robbers or wild animals. While driving nowadays in a car may not present such dangers, the prayer reminds us that as we travel beyond our comfort zones we need extra protection and guidance from Above.

On one of our road trips my daughter noticed a rainbow in the sky, providing us the opportunity to say its blessing. The rainbow was G‑d’s promise to Noach not to destroy our world. In fact, our sages teach that when a rainbow appears, it is a reminder that that we deserve to be flooded again. On the other hand, a bright rainbow also portends the imminent revelation of the light of Moshiach. The lesson of the rainbow’s blessing for us was about how each of us can bring more beautiful color into our world.

And so, over and over, Judaism takes an apple or a citron, a candle or a rainbow, and gives us a tangible opportunity to pause and consider a message that we should incorporate into our lives.

Wishing you a great week, full of real life lessons.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S. As the terrorist attacks continue, our thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in Israel. Join us in doing extra mitzvot as a merit for their safety and as we pray for the recovery of all those who have been wounded.

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 was the last weekend of the summer, and we seized the opportunity to visit my parents in Toronto. After a beautiful Shabbat together, we decided to break up our long drive home by stopping midway.

That is how we found ourselves driving along the serene country roads leading to Watkins Glen State Park in the New York Finger Lakes region. My husband had read that it had a reputation of leaving visitors spellbound by its natural beauty and awe.

The Glen is only 2 miles long, but its stream descends 400 feet, winding over and under waterfalls. Hiking on the main gorge trail, which includes 19 waterfalls, we were not disappointed, and couldn’t believe the stunning views at every bend.

We kept snapping pictures, sure that we didn’t want to miss the picturesque view only to find one even more gorgeous as we continued along the stone walkways over bridges and through tunnels. We could have stayed all day, but realized we better head home if we were to arrive before midnight.

What made the views so astounding was the stream of water cutting through the Gorge. The steep drop creates a powerful torrent that eroded the underlying rock at different rates and left behind a staircase of waterfalls, breathtaking cascades and pools of water.

As my husband, two daughters and I walked over and under the waterfalls, we reflected on the power of the continuous water stream to bend and reshape hard stone. It reminded us of the story of the 40-year-old illiterate shepherd who was inspired by droplets of water that created a deep hole on a huge stone. He wondered if it was too late for his own stony heart to be softened by studying the wisdom of the Torah. Akiva the shepherd became the great Rabbi Akiva, the wisest scholar of his day, who had 24,000 pupils, and often told them that it was a drop of water that changed his life.

We’ve just experienced a month overflowing with the rush of one long continuous spiritual high. Our days were crammed with the awe-inspiring and joyous holidays throughout the month of Tishrei. Many of us may have made resolutions of positive change that we hope to introduce into our lives, to keep up the connection and inspiration throughout the year.

But then we enter into the mundanity of the day-to-day, and somehow those resolutions feel lame. The spiritual highs have been replaced by the drudgery of paying bills and trudging through a routine of far too long to-do lists.

So, perhaps now would be a good time to remember the lesson of the dripping water.

Seemingly small, continuous meaningful acts do matter. A soft drip-drop, consistently applied over time, can puncture the mundane terrain.

And create astounding beauty.

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead!

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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