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Dear Readers,

Like many of you, I love the holiday of Chanukah. It is a time of so much joy, festivities and light-filled family gatherings.

Chanukah’s story of salvation also teaches us deep lessons that we can apply to our own lives throughout the year.

Here are eight lessons that I learn from the Chanukah miracles that teach a beautiful perspective on how to live a more meaningful life:

  1. Few can win over many. It’s not the numbers that are always so significant; it’s the passion and the power of your conviction.
  2. Don’t conform to popular opinion just because it is popular. Stay true to yourself and your inner values.
  3. A little light can dispel much darkness. One positive word or one positive action can erase so much gloom.
  4. Don’t fight darkness; enlighten it by shining the light of truth and purpose. Don’t dwell on negativity or failures; instead, focus on positive change.
  5. Increase the light every night. Don’t be satisfied with your achievements; keep aiming higher.
  6. It is not enough to light up one’s own self; light up the outdoors as well. Share your wisdom and good fortune with others.
  7. When we go beyond our natural abilities, G‑d responds with miracles.
  8. The Jewish people are a miraculous nation. Despite all those who tried to decimate us, we are here to stay—and to thrive and flourish.

What lessons do you learn from the Chanukah lights? Please share in the comments below.

Wishing you a very joyous, light-filled Chanukah!

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 few weeks ago, a friend invited my family for Shabbat dinner. On the table, I noticed a highly unusual item. Alongside the delicious food and beautiful dishes was a live walkie-talkie placed close to the father.

My friend’s husband is a volunteer for Hatzalah, a Jewish volunteer ambulance service that provides emergency pre-hospital care. As a paramedic, he is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing life-saving assistance. The Torah permits (actually, commands) us to break the laws of Shabbat to save lives.

My friend told me that her husband often gets called in the middle of the night, occasionally, a few times a night. Sometimes, just as he is falling into a deep sleep, he’ll need to jump out of bed again. As the only paramedic in the area, he averages two to three calls every Shabbat.

Though her husband has a full-time job and is the father of a busy household of many children, including a toddler, he still finds time and energy for this holy work. My friend (who also works) and her children are incredibly proud of him. The kids speak passionately about his activities even though it means that their father might leave a family celebration, and that each of them has to pitch in more to help. The family understands the precious mitzvah of saving lives, and knows that their encouragement and support enables him to do it.

In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave. While deliberating what to do with him, the brothers decide to throw him into a pit. “The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Gen 37:24)

If the pit was empty, isn’t it obvious that there was no water in it? The Talmud (Shabbat 22a) learns from this unusual wording that although there was no water in the pit, there were scorpions inside.

The Chassidic masters comment on this passage: The mind and heart of man are never empty. If there is no life-nourishing “water,” there are “snakes and scorpions in it.”

In our lives, we need to be busy with something meaningful. Our minds and hearts are not empty vacuums; they will quickly fill. “Water” refers to Torah and its nourishing teachings. If our minds are occupied with Torah teachings—and our hearts and schedules are jam-packed with good deeds—there won’t be any space for negativity to creep in.

Not all of us need to be like my incredibly selfless friend, on call day and night saving lives. But as I left my neighbor’s home, I realized that despite how busy we all think we are, how much fuller our schedules can actually become.

Let’s find something positive that we feel passionate about and let’s work on filling up our days (to the brim!) with meaningful acts.

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,

An old fable is told of a father who moved into a home backing onto a forest. He repeatedly warned his young and mischievous son about the dangers of the forest and its many ferocious beasts. But the son ignored his father and chose to explore his surroundings.

One day, the young boy climbed over the fence enclosing his home and ventured into the forest. Deciding that it was time to teach his son a lesson, the father dressed up as a bear and followed his son.

As the vicious bear chased him, the child cried out, “Daddy! Daddy! Help me! Save me!” But his father did not appear.

The bear attacked the boy, and his screams grew louder and more frantic. Finally, with his last ounce of strength, he escaped the bear’s claws, climbed over the fence and breathlessly ran home.

“Daddy, didn’t you hear me?!” He cried to his father. “A bear was attacking me! I called you, but you didn’t come!”

“My son,” his father lovingly answered. “Didn’t you realize? I was the bear.”

I thought of this story as I read this week’s Torah portion. Jacob prepares to meet his brother, Esau, after 20 years of enmity and is “greatly afraid and distressed.” (Gen. 32:8)

Jacob emerges from this meeting whole. Upon parting, he assures Esau that he will travel at his own pace and will eventually meet him in Seir. Seir refers to the Messianic era when there will no longer be conflict between Jacob and Esau (Midrash Rabbah on Gen. 33:14).

The meeting between Jacob and Esau represents the cosmic meeting between light and darkness, Divine consciousness and ego-centeredness, spirituality and physicality, and good and bad.

Jacob was seeking not only to offset his brother, so he would not harm him, but to encourage Esau to join forces with him. Jacob realized, however, that harnessing Esau’s strengths would be a long and arduous process that would only happen in the Messianic era.

We, too, are traveling towards “Seir” at our own pace. Until we arrive there, our lives are consumed with Esau encounters of fighting negativity and overcoming challenges.

But, if G‑d is all good, why do we need so many of these encounters? Why is life such a dark and difficult battle?

It’s a question that we can never fully answer, for if we could justify evil, wouldn’t we become it? If we understood the role of darkness, we wouldn’t work so hard to eradicate it.

Nevertheless, the Kabbalists explain that G‑d created evil so that it can be exploited by goodness. Darkness and cruelty exist in order to be transformed into light. Challenges abound so that we can dig deep within ourselves and mine our infinite potential.

As we face our challenges, as we encounter our battles with Esau, it can help us to remember that the bear isn’t as fearful as he seems.

Hiding beneath his costume is our Father, trying to teach 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,

I remember the moments after my first child was born. As I cuddled my daughter in my arms, so close to me, I was overcome with parental protectiveness. I remember thinking that I would always hold her so close, secure in the warmth of my embrace, safeguarded from the trials of life. I would forever shield her innocence and spare her from the coldness and negativity of this world.

I had the same thought with the subsequent birth of each of my children. Fierce, maternal emotions that I never knew I had were born as I held the innocent, helpless new life.

But, of course, try as we do, and as much as we would like, these thoughts are wishful thinking. Our children grow up and encounter the challenges of this world. As painful as it sometimes is to let them go, only in confronting the “real world” do they develop their own individuality and grow to become their greatest selves.

This week’s parshah begins with the word Vayeitzei, “he went out,” and embodies the message of this portion.

Jacob went out from Be’er Sheva, and he went to Charan (Genesis 28:10).

In order for Jacob to become the patriarch of the Jewish people, he had to “go out,” to leave the haven of an insular life, as well as the material and spiritual comforts of his home, and face the challenges of a hostile world.

Jacob leaves the spiritual idyll of Be’er Sheva in the Holy land to travel to Charan. Be’er Sheva literally means the “well of seven” and metaphorically refers to the seven Divine attributes of the soul. Charan literally means “wrath,” and was a place of lies, deception, struggle and manipulation. In the materialistic, contentious land of Charan, Jacob marries and fathers the tribes of Israel.

Jacob’s journey reflects the journey of all of our lives.

A newborn baby’s soul cries bitterly as it descends from its cozy, spiritual home to face a harsh, combative world, antagonistic of all things that the soul knew, loved and was comforted by. Yet, in facing the many challenges and in staying strong to its values, the soul finds its mission and raison d’etre.

To Charan” is indicated by the Hebrew letter hey suffixed to the word Charan. Hey is the second letter of the Tetragrammaton (the name of G‑d) through which G‑d created our physical world (Menachot 29b).

No matter in which city or country we currently live, we are all citizens of Charan. Each day, we face the challenges of our Charan life. And, as much as we want to protect ourselves and our children from the ravages of our world, it is precisely here that each of us fulfills the purpose for which our world was created.

To help make our world a better place—a home and haven for G‑d.

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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