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Every one of the athlete's muscles were tensed in exertion to win the race…The artist strokes the brush over the canopy and is transported into a different world and dimension…The scientist's forehead is furrowed in absolute concentration over his experiment to prove his theory …The chef focuses intensely as he applies the garnish to his exquisite masterpiece…The novelist smiles as she unravels a mysterious twist to the saga…The architect measures the final plans for the skyscraper with exacting precision…

When you're engaged in a project, do you ever feel completely overtaken by the particulars that it entails? Your focus is total, your concentration complete.

You are totally in tune with the moment, and yet at the same time, you yearn for its completion. You imagine how accomplished you'll feel, how exquisite the product will turn out. Eagerly you await the final stroke when the brushstroke has been painted, the final moment when the race is over, the final touch when the book, building, or whatever project, big or small that you've been working on, has finally been completed.

Once that long anticipated moment passes, after the initial moment of euphoric joy, does an emptiness overtake you?

And yet surprisingly, do you ever find that once that long anticipated moment passes, after the initial moment of euphoric joy, an emptiness overtakes you? The creative space that has been so engaged in the project has now become empty, and, as a result, you've become restless. You wonder how to regain and rechannel the intense concentration, the absolute absorption, the total exertion.

But why? If the point of our work is in its completion, if the beautiful end result is our sought-after goal, why, then, at its completion, isn't our satisfaction enduring?

But perhaps the point is the steps along the way. Perhaps the means is an end in itself. And perhaps the exertion in and of itself, without the completed product has value, and, in fact, the greatest value.

Man was born to toil, states the book of Job.

We all have what to contribute. Whether it's a special gift we are working on for a loved one, whether it's a community program that we're co-ordinating or whether it's some project that we're dealing with at home or at work.

Productivity is the essence of life. As long as we are still breathing we long for more and we yearn to continue doing. Because happiness is only when we're utilizing our creative powers to contribute to our world.


So, finish that project, that race, that artistic masterpiece or that essay or project. Take a moment to appreciate your handiwork. And then move right on to the next project.

After all, we were all born to create.

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.

The sight of neon red lights flashing in the car’s rear-view mirror is enough to make even the strongest of stomachs queasy.

As the police car pulls up, I admit that my initial thought is whether fleeing is an option. But, as I come to my senses, I assess what I could possibly have done wrong—how fast was I driving, did I come to a full stop, did I signal as I swerved into the other lane, and how can I get my seatbelt buckled without the officer noticing . . . to, finally, how much is this going to cost me?

But that Thursday afternoon, as I sighted the flashing red lights, I could’ve leapt for joy.

The sight of neon red lights flashing in the car’s rear-view mirror is enough to make even the strongest of stomachs queasy.

We were en route to the airport, where I was to catch a flight for a speaking engagement. We were but a few miles short of our destination; traffic was smooth and, being that I hate the feel of sweaty palms and a heart beating faster than the clock ticks as I nervously scrutinize the long snaking lines at the airport, I’ve become a stickler for punctuality. We were right on schedule, even with some time to spare.

Until . . . it happened.

Driving south on the 400 Highway, just as my husband was beginning to change lanes toward the exit indicating Pearson International Airport, I noticed something dangerously obstructing the road. “Watch out!” I yelled, just as we bumpily sped over a stray tire. My husband skillfully veered our van to the shoulder of this busy highway, just as we came to a rocky stop, with a badly ripped, flat tire.

My eyes were fixated on the dashboard clock as I dialled CAA, only to be informed that the wait for assistance could be up to 45 minutes! The moments to my looming flight were dangerously escaping. My pulse was quickly rising and my mind was in a frenzy to come up with a practical alternative, but to no avail.

The airport was so close, yet it was so far away and unachievable.

And that was when I sighted those red neon flashes coming from behind our van.

“Do you think, maybe . . .” I heard my voice faltering and then growing more assertive. “When he comes to your window, I’m going to ask the police officer to drive me to the airport!”

I did. And surprisingly, Officer Aaron agreed. He even carried my suitcases.

The car that usually transports alleged criminals was now at my personal service.

I’ve arrived at the airport many times, but this was the first time with a police escort. As Officer Aaron opened the back door, which was locked from the inside, the realization of why these car doors don’t open by themselves hit me hard. The car that usually transports alleged criminals was now at my personal service. The officer whom I usually dread to see at my car’s window was now my hero and savior.

And that was when I imagined how so soon there will come a time when we will be able to appreciate a whole new dimension in every person and every situation. Now we may view an individual as so difficult, unappealing and abrasive, or a situation as so trying and spelling only impending doom. But there will come a time when we will suddenly be able to perceive a deeper, truer perspective. We will see beyond his rough externality to the beauty of his inner potential, beyond his outside crudeness to the special sensitive soul within. We will palpably perceive the inner goodness and integrity in every person and in every situation.

The time is close.

“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”

And the very car that is used to transport criminals will be transformed into a car that is simply doing a random act of kindness.

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.

This past Shabbat, I lectured to a wonderful community of men and women on the West Coast, on the topic of: Judaism, Making the World More Feminine. It brought back to mind, a discussion that took place a couple years ago, at one evening course that I had been teaching here in Toronto

"Chana, I've just started attending your courses, and I'm really enjoying them. You've opened my eyes to a new appreciation of Torah. I feel like I've gotten to know you and I see you are a modern and enlightened woman.

Tell me honestly, don't you ever feel Orthodoxy is unfair in its treatment of women?

"So tell me honestly, don't you ever feel Orthodoxy is unfair in its treatment of women? Aren't the Rabbis degrading to women? Sure, we go through the ancient sources, but how about nowadays? I mean, why can't a woman, for example, be called up to read from the Torah?" Vanessa approached me for the first time after one of my Monday evening classes.

Vanessa is a successful entrepreneur who owns a very large retail company selling computer software products in the Toronto area. She is fifty-two years old, but with her professional, natural make-up and her model's figure—thanks to her strenuous workouts with her personal trainer during her lunch breaks—easily passes for fifteen years her junior. Vanessa has never been married; she travels often and is a confident and articulate woman.

Recently, Vanessa resolved to delegate more of her company's responsibilities to enable her to enjoy more of what life offers. High on her priority list of what somehow got neglected during her career climb is her Jewish education, and, in particular, her Jewish feminine education.

Vanessa's new resolution and her somewhat lighter work week allowed her to implement two new things in her life.

First, Vanessa spoke to the Rabbi at her Temple and, together with a group of women, began learning for their "bat-mitzvah" celebration, several months away. Weekly, the women meet and are taught the proper chants for the reading of the Torah.

They will be "bat-mitzvahed" in the presence of many family members and friends and each woman will have the honor of being called up to the Torah to proudly recite the three or four verses from the Torah in the traditional sing-song chant. In addition, each woman was preparing to deliver a five to ten minute "Dvar Torah" or lecture on a prepared topic in Judaism. Vanessa had been practicing for weeks already and was beginning to explore different avenues for her speech.

Vanessa's second resolution was to attend a regular Torah class that related to her as a woman. She had checked out the Temple's adult education programs, but somehow, nothing grabbed her.

That was when she happened on a small ad in the local Jewish newspaper promoting a series on "Feminine Voices" given by a woman dean and offering a "text-based exploration of the lives of great Biblical women." The course promised to deliver a "refreshing and provocative understanding on feminine spirituality" as well as "insights in dealing with the daily challenges facing modern Jewish women." It sounded just like what she was looking for.

Vanessa wasn't acquainted with the group offering these courses, and though they were somehow connected with Chabad—in her mind, an extremely religious group—she decided nonetheless to invest her time in attending one class, and taking it from there. After the first class, Vanessa was intrigued and found herself coming back for more.

A group of women formed around Vanessa that Monday evening, some curious to understand the issue themselves; others, to hear how I would deal with it.

She enjoyed the hands-on source material, the intellectual presentation and, to her surprise, the other participants. Women who attended were as diverse as they come—in ideology, all the way from the extreme right-wing until the far left. Many shared their opinions, some of which she out-rightly rejected as too narrow-minded and illogical, but she, nevertheless, found the communication and sharing beneficial.

A group of women formed around Vanessa that Monday evening, some curious to understand the issue themselves; others, to hear how I would deal with it. It wasn't an unusual sight. In this course, no area of Judaism was off-limits and the non-threatening environment encouraged women to open up and explore the issues.

The hour was already late and I knew that I didn't have the time to go through a whole lecture on the different roles and missions of men and women. Nor could I elaborate right now on the mystical composition or the cosmic ramifications of each gender. Throughout the course these ideas were explored and an appreciation was forming. I always stressed the need to go back to the original sources, to remove our preconceived notions and allow each participant to judge for herself.

But for now, Vanessa was waiting for a quick response.

I began explaining the practical ramifications of a woman being called up before a group of men and how this contradicted the vision of modesty according to Judaism. I told how the laws were made to safeguard a woman's honor and image and avoid cheapening or selling her physicality, as is unfortunately so prevalent in society nowadays.

Vanessa understood and partially agreed, but I could see that she wasn't entirely convinced.

"Vanessa, do you ever light Shabbat candles?" I asked.

"As a little girl, I remember my mother lighting every week. We never kept Shabbat in the traditional way but every Friday night we ate a family meal together by her shining candles. I have fond memories of those lightings. A moment of peace and serenity."

"Let me ask you a silly question, Vanessa." I ventured. "The Shabbat candles are traditionally lit by the women and girls of the house, unless of course there isn't one available." The women all nodded as I cited the law. "Have you ever heard of a movement of men vocally insisting on their right to be the ones to light the Shabbat candles instead?"

At the word marketing, Vanessa's trained entrepreneur ears perked up.

The women smiled. "Of course not. But how does this connect to my question?" Vanessa was beginning to get impatient.

"Just a second, Vanessa. Seriously, think for a moment. Why is it that men are not clamoring for this privilege? You yourself said that it is a beautiful moment, and it is a special Mitzvah to usher in the holy day of Shabbat. So, why don't the men argue for this privilege, instead of playing second fiddle to women's lighting?"

The women's faces were blank. They didn't understand where I was heading. "I'm not sure," Vanessa finally responded.

"Let me tell you of a male that weekly protests this unfair treatment." The women looked curious. "Every Friday, 18 minutes before sunset, I and my three daughters light the Shabbat candles. My youngest, an adorable three year old boy, stands at the sidelines, protesting that he isn't able to do so—light his own candles, just like his sisters, and is only able to merely 'pretend' to do so." Vanessa and the others smiled at the image.

"What I am getting at," I continued, "is that perhaps the reason men don't clamor for this mitzvah—or any of our other special mitzvot, like our special mitzvah of mikva—is because we aren't marketing ourselves properly."

At the word "marketing," Vanessa's trained entrepreneur ears perked up. "How so?"

"Well, a three year old, without societal imposed impressions, appreciates the beauty of a woman's mitzvah. But as we mature, maybe we are buying into society's unfair expectations that what a man is commanded to do must be important, spiritual and exciting. On the other hand, society screams loudly, what a woman does—hey, that's just not so important.

"Maybe, what Judaism is saying is, don't buy into that vision.

"Man and woman are different biologically, psychologically, and spiritually. That doesn't mean one is superior or inferior, but merely that we have different needs and different missions," I continued.

"Maybe it is time that we remove our biased, adult vision and we begin to appreciate who and what we are. Let's teach society, as well, to value a true definition of womanhood, rather than exchanging it for what we are not."

Vanessa looked pensive. "Are you saying that the entire premise of wanting to do a traditionally male mitzvah is buying into society's chauvinistic notion that women's issues, or in this case, mitzvot, are any lower or worth any less than men's?"

"I am saying that the purpose of this course is to explore the issues and realize the spiritual importance of each of our mitzvot. We learn from biblical role models, as well, to discover the Torah view on true womanhood. We learn it, understand its value and then we can teach it to the world—"

"You mean market it," Vanessa interrupted, "so that perhaps 30 year olds will also appreciate what your 3 year old intuitively understood about womanhood and woman's mitzvot." Vanessa smiled.

"Of course, you can be a partner in this marketing scheme," I smiled, mischievously in return.

"You can be a partner in this marketing scheme," I smiled mischievously.

"How?" Vanessa's eyes narrowed and her features became serious, as though she was leading a board meeting that very moment. "Do you mean by continuing to learn at this course?"

"Yes, of course that's true and part of it. But also by being an active participant—by doing."

We continued speaking a little longer that Monday evening, and slowly the group began to disperse. I went home very late and exhausted that evening, but knowing, too, that even in Vanessa's hectic schedule, four days would be enough time for her to buy her own candle to make the world a brighter place on the upcoming Friday night.

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.

I love my sleep. And I need it desperately. Though it is something I rarely get. If I am lucky, I have about five hours of shut eye a night. If I am lucky. Many other nights that is reduced to only four, sometimes three. Being that I get up at 7:00 am to get the kids ready for school, I try to head to bed at 2:00 am. But last night, to my utter dismay, before I knew it, the clock read 3:00 am.

Day light savings time.

I must say, I am not a big fan. On the one hand, I love the extra hour of sunlight. And there is no question that extra time on a Friday to prepare for Shabbat is the best. But for right now, until I adjust, I feel like I've been robbed of an hour, and it is an hour I desperately need.

Just the other week I was returning from a speaking engagement and flew back from the West Coast to Philadelphia. I left on the red eye flight, had a layover, and returned at what should have been 9:00 am. But of course, add three hours to that, and it was already noon and by the time I was home, the day was practically over.

Time.

It is something so precious and yet something constantly taken advantage of. Hours can just disappear. Days can disappear. And unfortunately, even years can disappear.

The only thing that gives meaning to time is how time is spent. When utilized properly, it is productive, it can create. When misused, when abused, it simply vanishes, disappears, never to be regained again.

There is the common expression that time flies when you are having fun. Amazingly, when you are doing something you enjoy, hours can fly by in what feels like minutes. And yet, when you are doing something boring, difficult or even painful, you become intensely aware of every single second. Get on that elliptical and hit level five and see just how long ten minutes really are!

Is it possible for us to live our lives in a way where we can be aware of every second that passes? Can you imagine if every minute spent was focused and thought through and if we were truly present? For all of us who have lost loved ones, is there anything you wouldn't trade for one more minute with that person, even ten more seconds? Can you think about how much you could pack into that time? How if without all the distractions of the world you could just focus. Totally focus and utilize every single moment?

Torah has always instilled within us the importance of time. And how everything, absolutely everything, can and does change in that split second. The moment before Shabbat comes in and the moment after is the world of difference. So too with all of our holidays, with all of the time we experience throughout the year.

We just began the second month of Adar. This year we were blessed with two months of joy, two months in which we are taught to increase in our happiness. And yet, that time can also fly be if we allow it to. We can spend the time before Purim worrying about Passover. Or we can choose to spend the days before Purim, being in the time. Being in the moment.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe reportedly once asked the Chassidim what time something would begin. The reply was that they would begin around 10:00 or 10:15. The Rebbe answered, "Which one is it? 10:00 or 10:15? Do you know how much I can accomplish in fifteen minutes!"

Daylight savings time should not just mean one less hour of sleep. It should serve as a reminder of how precious every hour is. How meaningful and how powerful our time is. And it should motivate us to realize that time can be taken away, and once it is, it is never returned. So we must utilize the time we have, while we have it, and respect and cherish that we are fortunate to have it to use.

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.

"Mommies never cry," my three-year-old announced to me this morning as I was helping her get dressed for nursery school.

"Mommies don't cry?" I repeated to make sure I understood.

"No. Never." She confidently confirmed.

"So what do Mommies do when they get sad?" I asked.

"They don't get sad," she responded. "Mommies are BIG. BIG people know that when they want something, they should just ask their Mommies and they will get it, instead of crying!"

She was referring to the lesson we had read in one of her books, about the futility of crying in anger or frustration and the benefit of articulating one's needs or wants clearly.

But her words also brought to mind an article that a friend had recently emailed me about Newsweek's feature article called, "Happiness—Enough Already" just made me rethink the whole issue of happiness.

Fed by hundreds of self-help books "the happiness movement took off in the 1990s with two legitimate developments: discoveries about the brain activity underlying well-being and the emergence of 'positive psychology.'" But it quickly morphed into a push for ever-greater states of happiness that did not want people to "listen to their hearts" but to rather have them "clinically silenced."

According to Newsweek:

"Although 85 per cent of Americans say they're pretty happy, the happiness industry sends the insistent message that moderate levels of well-being aren't enough: not only can we all be happier but we practically have a duty to be so. What was once considered normal sadness is something to be smothered, even shunned."

Interestingly, new research is finding that being happier is not always better:

"Once a moderate level of happiness is achieved further increases can sometimes be detrimental to income, career success, education and political participation. On a scale from one to ten, where 10 is extremely happy, 8s were more successful than 9s and 10s getting more education and earning more. That probably reflects the fact that people who are somewhat discontent, but not so depressed as to be paralyzed, are more motivated to improve both their own lot and the lot of their community. In contrast, people at the top of the jolliness charts feel no such urgency. If you're totally satisfied with your life and with how things are going in the world, you don't feel very motivated to work for change."

So is sadness positive? Or are we supposed to always try to be happy?

There is a famous saying from one of the great Chassidic masters that although depression is not a sin, it often leads to many sins. And though happiness is not a mitzvah (commandment), it brings to many mitzvot.

Happiness indeed has many positive benefits, yet experiencing pain when something is not working out will spur us to grow. When a problem is defined, it can be eliminated and as the saying goes, "the knowledge of the disease is half the cure." There is tremendous inertia when it comes to changing our personalities, and when a person feels pained or saddened, this motivation can push the person to change.

While depression can be destructive, occasional sadness can be beneficial.

On the other hand, depression can paralyze a person and prevent him from solving those very same problems. This is the depression that the Chassidic masters describe as being worse than sin.

But, as Newsweek asserts, while depression can be destructive, occasional sadness can be beneficial, propelling us to do more, to act upon our circumstances and create a change. Sadness can allow us to express our inner emotions in creating intense dialogue with our Creator and in motivating us to bring about self-change.

That's as far as where we can effect change.

But once we have exhausted our abilities and our prayers, perhaps we need to reach the second stage of realizing and accepting that this is from a Higher will, a Will that indeed understands what is best for us—while still allowing ourselves the time and space to reach that acceptance, rather than clinically or artificially imposing it upon ourselves.


So I guess my little profound three-year-old was right all along. If we're BIG enough to realize that all we need to do is ask our Mommy, or our Creator, for the help we need (and big enough to realize that it's for our benefit when this is denied to us)—then maybe there truly is no reason to cry!

But perhaps until we get there, for those of us that aren't quite so "big"--and in order to promote our own self-growth along the way--there's nothing wrong with a little sadness. In fact, it may even be good for you!

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.

We're in the kitchen now. My three-year-old is standing at my side, atop a kitchen chair, propped right in front of the sink. I'm rushing to have dinner prepared by the time my other children hungrily storm through the front door. But my three-year-old is in no hurry.

"I'm helping Mommy!" she announces with a proud grin on her face.

"Yes, you're always my big helper." I confirm generously as I notice her square her shoulders and stand a little taller, as I swiftly dice the vegetables.

Just about every afternoon, Sara Leah "helps" me. She dutifully accompanies me, tugging at my side as we run errands, tend to chores or cook dinners. She even "helps" me in my work by pressing buttons on my computer, typing keys or leaving her fingerprints on my screen.

Some afternoons, I wonder why I allow her to partner with me in my endeavors.

Some afternoons, I wonder why I allow her to partner with me in my endeavors.

After assigning her to place the diced vegetables in the pot, I'll inevitably notice a trail of the colourful squares along the floor. After she washes out the plastic bowls, I'll rewash them and wipe down the dripping counters. After she carefully pours the measured cup of sugar, I detect a layer of white dust blanketing the counters. And for each of her savory licks of the batter, the time required to rewash, re-dry and re-combine the ingredients is practically doubled.

So why do I allow Sara Leah to stand so proudly at my side as my helper?

I could say that I do it for her—because she enjoys it immensely.

I could also answer that it builds her self-esteem, that it teaches her co-ordination skills, or because it trains her to be a team member.

Or maybe I do it for the delight of being able to give to her these gifts.

Though all of those are true, there's more to why I allow Sara Leah's tedious, time-consuming and, at times, even nerve wracking involvement.

Truth be told, it really is me who gains immensely from her help. No, it's not the benefit of the work that she thinks she's helping with, but I do derive the pleasure in forging, developing and strengthening our special relationship.


There are different explanations as to why You, G‑d created our world.

Some explain it as Your generosity toward us, "to do good to His creatures." It is simply a free gift for us to experience the beauty of life. An opportunity for each of us to grow, learn and develop.

Others explain that You, too, derive delight from being able to give to us. You are the essence of good, and the nature of good is to bestow goodness.

But the Chassidic masters understand it deeper yet. You ask us to partner with You in Your world, because ultimately we do help You—we even give something back to You.

Though You don't need our involvement, which can be so lacking and flawed for such a perfect and infinite One, our help is treasured.

Because ultimately in every act of our partnership, even in our flawed efforts, maybe especially in them, we are providing You with something—with an opportunity to forge a relationship with us.

You had no need or "reason" for creating our world but desired to have two opposites at once:

A very mundane, real world...

...discovering its Creator.

And that kind of relationship is something that only little, faulty beings like us, here in this world, can provide for You.


In our own small ways, each of us uses our unique talents to "partner" with G‑d and make our world a better place. What are your talents? Can you share how you use them (even in a small way) to "partner" with G‑d?

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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