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Dear reader,

Wow, YOU did it!

This Friday night, after weeks of preparation and anticipation, we’ll be sitting down for the much-anticipated Seder beginning the Passover holiday.

Over the last couple of months, in my own home, we’ve been renovating our basement. Our goal was to have it ready for our guests for Passover. New walls were put up and the cement floor was broken to accommodate underground plumbing pipes.

I would never have guessed how much dirt and dust breaking up concrete generates.

Though all the work was in our basement and though we kept all the doors tightly closed, as if with a will of its own, the dust rose constantly. No matter how much I cleaned, dusted and mopped, for as long as the workers toiled in our basement, the thick layer of dust reappeared.

Minute by minute, it traveled throughout the entire house. To every surface. From the depths of the basement, it even traveled to the far reaches of our bedrooms, situated upstairs on the second floor.

Bookcases. Shelves. Dressers. Nothing big or small was spared. Every tiny niche and corner was covered with the stuff.

And as I prepare for Passover, all that dust in every corner of my home kind of reminds me of all the plagues covering every square inch of Egypt. A dusting of lice. Enveloping darkness. Frogs in every corner, even jumping into the ovens. No clear water, just liquid saturated with blood.

It also reminds me of the comprehensive Passover cleaning to eradicate every bit of leaven. This year, in our home, it was easy to see which part was cleaned, with the before-and-after clearly demarcated by the grayish-white film.

But it also reminds me of the many parts of our lives that get so covered and saturated with “dust”—unimportant, unwanted stuff that none of us need that creates a thin, dim film covering everything and preventing us from seeing to the true value or essence.

As we work on the physical cleaning, hopefully we’re also doing our spiritual work to rid our homes and characters from leaven, symbolizing layers of selfishness and self-inflating egos clouding our vision and perspective. Let's resolve to “pass over” some areas of our lives--those trivial areas that perhaps we have given more import than they are worth, and that consume us more than they should.

So Passover is about “passing over” and freeing ourselves from negative, unimportant things that hold us down, while reaching up and leaping—“passing over”—a drop higher.

Wishing us all a wonderful, happy and kosher Passover holiday, one in which each of us succeeds to lift our part of the world just a little bit 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,

The countdown has begun. There’s about two weeks left until the Passover holiday begins.

Supermarkets in major Jewish cities are in a frenzy. Shelves have been cleared of cakes and snacks, and are now covered with shelving paper and stacks of kosher-for-Passover holiday foods. Incredibly, the day after Passover, none of these expensive products will be worth their wrapping. But for now, consumers can’t get enough.

For the last while, too, I’ve been catching intense snippets of conversations from other Jewish women I bump into. Sometimes their conversation centers on new Passover recipes, other times it’s about the cupboards in their homes that still need to be cleaned, and yet other times it’s about where they will be spending the Seders.

Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday. It’s the holiday when we became G‑d’s chosen people. G‑d tangibly conveyed His love for us in that crucial first year as a nation.

On that first Passover in Egypt, we had not yet received the Torah with its many commandments. We had not yet accepted any of G‑d’s rules or laws, or the covenant as His chosen people. Nor had we become a light unto all the nations, who would teach morality and goodness in every country where we would eventually sojourn.

But on Passover, in our youthful years as a nation, just as our self-image was being forged, G‑d wanted to convey His infinite love for us. Not because of our dedication, self-sacrifice or commitment, but—just as we do with our own young children—just because we were His.

Perhaps that is why, of all the many Jewish holidays, the one that is most observed is Passover. For it represents G‑d’s love and connection to us that is timeless, unchanging and unconditional.

This innate love and self-worth has helped us to survive and thrive throughout all the centuries until today, amidst growth and prosperity, as well as suffering and persecutions.

So, on this special holiday when G‑d showed his unconditional love, let’s reach out to someone who may be alone, and invite him or her to celebrate our nationhood together.

And, as the clock ticks, tell me, what are you up to in your Passover preparations? Have you tried any new recipes? Where will you be spending the Seders?

I’d love to hear!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S. Our hearts go out to the Sassoon family upon the tragic loss of their seven children, killed by a fire that tore through their Brooklyn home. In these hectic days before Passover, let's take a moment to hug our children more tightly, say Psalms for the surviving mother and sister who are in critical condition, and do an extra good deed in merit of these precious souls.

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 readers,

Here’s the experiment: Count how many times today you send yourself negative self-messages.

Any self-directed criticism telling you that you “are not enough” counts as one. For example, tally how many times you berate yourself for not acting like a better parent/friend/spouse (why did I YELL?), or for not being more creative at work (why didn’t I come up with that idea?), or for not choosing healthier food selections (did I really need to devour that ENTIRE chocolate bar?).

I’ll bet you’ll come up with a pretty high number. As a result of all our criticism, many of us feel unworthy and inadequate, like we will never measure up.

On the other hand, I’ve met more than a few individuals who have acted like they were the greatest gift to mankind. They don’t see any of their inadequacies, nor any need to work on themselves to be kinder, more understanding individuals.

So, how can we balance a healthy and realistic self-image while still striving to improve? Is self-esteem really about feeling like we’ve “arrived” and are as good or as talented as it gets?

This week’s Torah portion teaches us a lesson from Moses who reached the heights of spiritual communication and connection with G‑d. Moses should have had a pretty healthy self-image, and yet, we don’t see even a tinge of arrogance. Moreover, the commentaries note that the small aleph in the word Vayikrah, beginning this Parshah, hints to us that Moses was the most humble person who ever walked this earth.

How? Did Moses not realize his exceptional qualities? Why didn’t he feel even a touch of arrogance?

Because true humility--as well as a truly positive self-image--does not come from denying or aggrandizing our talents but rather from acknowledging that all our abilities are a present from G‑d. If G‑d had given another person the same qualities, he may have surpassed my own accomplishments. But G‑d provides me with these channels to accomplish His will in the best manner possible--as only I can.

So, humility as well as a healthy sense of self (--and maybe even that chocolate bar!) can coincide. We just need to bring G‑d into the picture.

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

PS. This week, we have two great Parshah articles on this topic, each with their own unique twist. See: The Most Empowering Message You Can Give Your Child and When My Daughter Learned to Say No.

PPS. Here's another challenge for you! As you start your Passover cleaning, send us in a short video clip or picture of you doing your preparations. We'll post the best ones on TheJewishWoman Facebook page, where we'll also be posting clips from your favorite authors. Like us and see our page here.

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,

In the art of Japanese flower arrangements, space is left around each of the flowers, in order to properly appreciate the beauty of every flower. The empty space is considered just as important as each flower to achieve the overall effect.

Our lives are often so cluttered with so much “doing”, we tend to forget the need for the empty space of “being”. We live in a time when many of us feel obsessed with work, whether we actually work outside the home or not, whether we work out of necessity or choice.

What role should “doing” play in our life? And as a society are we just far too obsessed with work?

This week’s Torah portion teaches us about a special day of the week when we close our cell phones and computer screens, and focus on an entirely different dimension of reality: “being.” The Shabbat reminds us to put our work life in its proper priority. It helps us to understand too that though we need to exert effort, ultimately our work is only a means and a channel for divine blessing and sustenance.

In our three dimensional world there are six directions: North-South; East-West; Up-Down. The Kabbalists compare these six directions to the six days of the week when we are in an outward bound, masculine mode of doing and mastering creation.

But there is a seventh dimension: the dot inside that holds all the six different directions in their place, without which the others would not be. This resembles the feminine Shabbat, and the feminine mode of being. The Shabbat is considered the source of blessing for the coming week and enables us to absorb all our blessings from the week.

So here are some ideas to think about this week: When you meet someone, how do you define yourself, by what you do or by who you are? What does “being” versus “doing” mean to you? And, how do you get in touch with “being”?

Wishing you a wonderful week, and a good balance between doing and being.

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 readers,

One of the most dramatic scenes from our nation’s history unfolds as Moses descends Mt. Sinai holding the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Witnessing his people worshipping a golden calf, he throws down the tablets, shattering the priceless covenantal agreement between the Jewish people and G‑d.

Biblical commentaries offer various reasons why Moses broke the tablets. One explanation is that he was attempting to save the nation from G‑d’s wrath by destroying the contract that they had flagrantly breached.

But in breaking the tablets at this critical moment, Moses was also engraving on his people’s psyche an essential message that would remain with them for eternity.

Perhaps Moses was telling them that because their “contractual agreement” with G‑d had been violated and destroyed, G‑d was now effectively freed from any commitment to them. And yet, although the contract had been shattered, G‑d would not desert them. Even without a “contract,” they would remain His chosen people.

Moses wanted the Jewish people to see that G‑d’s connection to them goes beyond contractual agreements, beyond circumstances and bad choices, and even beyond logic itself. It is an essential, unbreakable bond of love for all times and places.

And perhaps, in his dramatic act, Moses was also asking the Jewish people to reciprocate, by rededicating themselves to G‑d for all times as His chosen people—even when it would become difficult.

Even in circumstances when it would not be rational or seem beneficial . . . even if it would seem that He was not keeping His promises to us . . . even if other nations would hate us for it . . . and even if it would mean reaching deep within our souls to access a tiny ember of flickering faith.

The Jewish people understood the lesson in Moses’ dramatic act. It became etched into the very fabric of our nation.

Centuries later they rededicated themselves to being G‑d’s nation on the holiday of Purim, when Haman tried to kill each and every one of them, yet not even a single Jew considered converting to another faith to be spared his death sentence.

And until today, Moses’ message helps us to turn to G‑d and restore our connection again and again, even during the most trying times.

Do you have a personal story when it was a struggle for you to maintain your faith yet you held strong? Please share.

L’Chaim! Wishing you a very joyous Purim!

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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