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Dear Reader,

It seems like I’m constantly reading about the new best “super” food. First, it was quinoa, followed by kale.

Then, after stuffing my freezer with fresh fish, I read the warnings about mercury levels, and that I should never, ever buy farmed salmon.

Last month I read the benefits of a diet rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates. This month I was informed about harmful antibiotics fed to animals and the dangers of excess animal fat.

And, of course, the jury is still out on the exact pros and cons of a writer’s best friend—coffee.

Daily, we learn about new hidden toxins in our food. Is organic food safer? Are genetically modified grains dangerous? What are the effects of preservatives?

When it comes to nutrition, we are probably the most educated generation to date. We’ve become sensitized to the cause and effect of negative influences on or bodies, on our psyche and on our world.

The innocent-looking food doesn’t appear dangerous. The harmless piece of chicken that was supposedly given antibodies looks exactly like the free-range, grain-fed poultry sold for double the price. And who could distinguish organic bananas from regular ones?

But as informed consumers, we recognize that it isn’t only what we see that makes an impact. This is true in all areas of life, but nowhere is this more consequential than in the food we ingest, where the food actually becomes assimilated into our flesh.

So we’ve come to realize the subtle but potentially dire effects on our food, but do we ever consider our food’s spiritual “profiles”? Does the food or drink that we consume affect us on a spiritual plane, on a soul level, influencing our character and natural tendencies?

This week’s Parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah’s dietary laws. Kosher land animals must be slaughtered in a very specific manner, and have split hooves and chew their cud. Fish need fins and scales, and there is a list of forbidden fowl.

Notice how all kosher animals and fowl have the characteristics of being non-predatory, peaceful and non-destructive.

Moreover, perhaps, the non-kosher animal’s closed hoof represents a spiritual quality of rigidity—being closed off and untouched to the plight of others. Do the kosher animal’s “split” and “open” hooves symbolize approachability and sensitivity, as well as receptiveness to growth? Does chewing its cud remind us how we too need to chew things over, and not be too quick or impulsive to judge?

Similarly, do the fins that propel a kosher fish forward represent its ambition, which needs to be tempered, like all of our ambitions, by protective scales representing integrity and principles?

On the surface, we may not be able to differentiate between many kosher and non-kosher foodstuffs. But on a spiritual and mystical level, the qualities of every creature affect us profoundly. Unkosher food may be just as physically nutritious, but its spiritual traits can clog our spiritual arteries from being able to assimilate a Torah consciousness.

And perhaps there is no generation better equipped to understand this than our own.

Bon appétit!

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,

Miracles.

Do you wish you’d see more? Ever wonder why G‑d doesn’t perform for you the split-the-sea variety?

Ari Sacher doesn’t wonder. As a rocket scientist, he is not someone that you’d expect to talk about miracles, but he claims to see them often.

I met Ari when he lectured at a Shabbaton in Wilmington, Del., hosted by my amazing cousins and dedicated shluchim, Rabbi Chuni and Oryah Vogel.

Ari works as the system engineer for the Iron Dome, Israel’s sophisticated system designed to track and shoot down missiles fired at Israeli cities.

The Iron Dome was developed after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, when 4,500 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel, killing 43 Israeli civilians and seriously injured 75, while also damaging some 12,000 buildings.

How different things were in Operation Defensive Edge. The Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent of a whopping 800 rockets fired. Hamas sought to attack the heart of Israel, but it was thwarted.

In simple terms, that means that the Iron Dome saved lives–the lives of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. Precious lives.

But what is the connection between a defense system and miracles?

As I wrote, Ari is a scientist. He works with other scientists, all with stellar IQs. He analyzes complicated scientific data determining odds and likelihoods, and knows these formulas like the back of his hand.

Ari is intimately aware of the history behind the Iron Dome: the scientific challenges, the huge costs and resources (each interceptor alone costs $100,000), the political disagreements, its successes and its limitations.

“In developing the Iron Dome, there were many different directions that could have been taken, each with their own restrictions. The fact that this system was chosen and that it performed so successfully, both operationally and politically, was not a given,” he explains. “No other anti-missile system has ever performed nearly as well, in combat or in test.

“The Iron Dome’s stellar performance was clearly the hand of G‑d,” he believes. “But because the system was designed, developed and operated by humans, people attribute its success to humans.”

In looking for grand miracles, we often fail to recognize all the events that needed to be aligned, all the particular points of the puzzle that had to come together, all of the “coincidences” that had to happen.

“G‑d was holding the steering wheel the entire time,” emphasizes Ari, the rocket scientist.


This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The Purim miracle happened naturally: Vashti’s refusal, Esther’s beauty, a plot overheard by Mordechai, the king’s sleepless night and so on. The events were deliberately orchestrated from Above, but the Conductor stood behind stage

In this way, Purim is the greatest of miracles. It is a miracle in which the natural order is not circumvented or superseded, but in which nature itself becomes the device of the miraculous and an instrument of the Divine will.

And our lives? Aren’t they too are a constant dialog with G‑d?

Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to the conversation.

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,

This week I had a great week.

The sun was shining outside just as brilliantly as my inner sun.

I was productive. I wrote essays; the ideas flowed from my pen. I taught extensively, returning from each class exhausted but exhilarated. I was flying high, exuberant. I was meeting people, connecting and touching them deeply just as I was being touched by them. Instead of becoming tired or depleted, the more I did, the more energized I became.

Life was smiling at me. Hey, I even got an unexpected check in the mail that I had given up on. The week flew by in a dizzying haze of contentment.

How different this week was from last week.

Last week my work was stunted. My ideas were disjointed. I felt ill at ease with my life and with my accomplishments. There seemed to be a perpetual cloud over my home.

No matter what I was doing, I felt restless, uninspired. I couldn’t find my equilibrium, no matter how much I relaxed or how much I worked. I couldn’t find solutions to my inner confusion.

In the supermarket or on the streets, people seemed impatient; my friends and family sounded annoyed. The news I read reported tragedy and sadness, and the bills on my desk were unsettling.

Isn’t life like that? Some days we’re riding high. Other days we’re in the pits.

Some days it’s natural for us to do good things; the more we do, the higher we climb on an upward ascent to even more positivity. Other times we get stuck on a downward spiral of circumstances that rob us of opportunity, and before we know it we’re in a rut, depleted of energy and initiative.

This week’s Torah portion begins with G‑d calling Moses:

G‑d called to Moses; and G‑d spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying:

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: A man who shall bring of you an offering to G‑d . . .

The book of Leviticus teaches the laws of sacrifices. Interestingly, the last letter of the first word in this book—Vayikra, G‑d’s call to Moses—is written with an unusually small aleph. A scribal abnormality; what does it tell us?

There are all kinds of “offerings” we can give to G‑d: our energy and talents, our dispositions and thoughts, our words and deeds. These all create a kinder home for G‑d in this world.

When the world is smiling at us, when we are feeling “big” and productive, it can be easier to feel connected to G‑d. But what about during the drudgery or smallness of life, when we are feeling unfulfilled and uninspired?

Maintaining our connection—finding our “offering”—in times of dullness and restlessness remains our greatest challenge.

And perhaps that’s when we most need to remember: Vayikra, G‑d is calling to us, even in these moments of smallness and loneliness, inviting us to bring our offering and to come close.

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,

She was growing in her journey towards a Torah lifestyle. She had questions about faith. She was scared.

“So many young people are dying nowadays. So many good people. Why is this happening? Why is G‑d doing this?”

It is the question of all times. The question that none of us can ever answer.

As much as we speak about our faith in G‑d’s goodness and in the “bigger” picture, G‑d is unfathomable. Human beings never can—and never should—understand suffering and pain, because understanding it somehow legitimizes it and accepts it. And what can be crueler than that?

She wanted to tell me about her daughter.

The deeper our love is, the more intense is our want—no, our need—that everything should turn out good. The more we love, the higher the stakes become and the greater our fear of potential loss.

“I love her so much; she is my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to her. How can I learn to let go? Not to stifle her, but to leave it up to G‑d.”

And then she told me her story.

She couldn’t have children for many years. She went to specialists. She paid for the most expensive treatments. Finally, she found the top doctor in his field.

It wasn’t easy to secure an appointment. Somehow, she managed. He saw her and was willing to take on her case. Unbelievably, he had a cancellation. He would schedule her for the next Monday afternoon.

She looked at her calendar and refused.

He was shocked; this never happened. People cleared their schedules of the most important appointments, the most lucrative deals, just to see him.

“You are willing to jeopardize your treatment?” he asked in disbelief.

“I can’t,” she answered. “Monday is Yom Kippur.” She didn’t need to explain. The doctor may not have been observant, but he was Jewish. One Jewish soul faced another.

“I see,” he deliberated for just a moment. “In that case, you aren’t just going to pray on Monday. You are going to pray like you’ve never prayed before, as if your life depended on it!” He then found her a different appointment.

Her pregnancy had its ups and downs. At one point the amniotic fluid almost disappeared. She was advised to abort. She refused. She told them never to ask her again. Months later they asked again. She still refused.

Her precious daughter, the child that she was now so devoted to, was born healthy.

As is so often the case, it was clear that her own story provided the direction she was seeking. She carried the keys to the questions that tormented her.

How could she let G‑d take over? She already had.

For this was the child who was born only because she let G‑d take over. Again and again.

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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