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Dear readers,

Unfortunately, too many of us have met “those kinds” of people.

On the outside, they act so perfectly pious and ultra-religious, as icons of faith and faultlessness. But once you get to know them, you realize that their purportedly high ideals are downright distortions, and their actions can be cruel and uncaring.

They give a bad rap to religion and faith. In fact, they may even vindicate their upside-down ethics or justify their callous behavior by claiming it’s all in the name of G‑d.

The damage they cause is deep.

There’s the elderly individual whose only experience with Judaism was a punitive Hebrew-school teacher decades ago, and as a result decided that he wants nothing further to do with Judaism or its G‑d.

There’s the teenager who encountered communal leaders whose indifferent behavior made a joke of the lofty ideals that they preached.

The judgmental attitudes of these supposed agents of G‑d make us all want to stay as far away from anything that they represent. Out of anger or hurt, we may even decide, on some level or in some variation: if this is Judaism, if this is its G‑d, I want out!

Sometimes our hurt and sense of justice is so strong that we can’t listen to our voice of reason that reminds us that these people do not represent anything but their own human failings. Too often, too, we refuse to differentiate between the messenger and the message. We may even allow them to affect our own choices.

Recently, someone affected by such behavior said to me, “Chana, don’t you think you’re going to have to find yourself another religion?”

My response was, “It’s sad enough that there may be people who act so destructively, perhaps due to their own faulty upbringing or personal life circumstances. It’s not for me to judge them. And it’s even more tragic that they distance people through their notions or behaviors.

“They may act as empty containers who do not internalize their ideals. They may be hijacking religion or faith. They may be giving everything that I hold so dear a bad reputation.

“But there is something that that they cannot do. They cannot take away from me my most valuable treasure.

“They cannot diminish my faith and my Judaism.

“And they cannot rob me of my precious relationship with my G‑d.”

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S.: This week we feature the incredible story of Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister. When asked if her horrific experiences ever made her not want to identify with being Jewish, she responded, “Never! If the Nazis had accomplished that, then they would have been victorious. And my loved ones would have died for naught!”

This week we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Iyar, which has the acronym “I am G‑d, your Healer.” May G‑d heal all our spiritual and physical ailments!

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.

Have you noticed the condition of the roads? Now that the snow has finally abated and the roads are cleared of ice and sleet, a new nuisance has surfaced.

Potholes.

You can’t drive far before the thump literally hits you. And just as you regain control of your leaping vehicle, you land with a new thud into the next, even deeper pothole, causing further damage to your car.

Though seemingly just an innocuous nuisance, potholes actually generate numerous mechanical failures and cost billions of dollars yearly to motorists.

During spring’s cycle of freezing and thawing, water seeps under the road’s pavement and weakens it. Heavy traffic over deteriorating pavement causes more stress, which leads to cracks and erosions. Without repairs, eventually chunks of pavement become loose and crack off, and the roads become the hazardous mess we’re driving on.

So, these irritating potholes are caused by insufficient pavement, inadequate drainage, and defects and cracks left unmaintained and unsealed.

As I cautiously drive though the city streets, trying to dodge the many unavoidable potholes, I begin to wonder: Is there perhaps a spiritual lesson in these potholes?

Like the roadways, when our homes aren’t sufficiently protected from negative influences seeping in, our principles begin eroding. As toxic emotions like anger, resentment or envy creep into our hearts—and we haven’t worked on repairing their damage—our safe environment becomes battered. It may begin as only a slight surface defect, but during the heavy traffic of life’s stressful moments, our every journey can become fraught with danger.

The antidote to this dangerous nuisance is maintaining a meaningful schedule. Moments of introspective prayer, times dedicated to Torah study, acts filled with giving and kindness can revitalize our perspective, drain the negativity and remind us of all that we have to be grateful for.

This week we change spiritual seasons. Pesach, the holiday of our liberation, comes to a close, and we begin our countdown towards Shavuot. During these seven weeks we prepare to receive the Torah anew by working on improving our character traits. In our spiritual climb upwards, let’s ensure that our environment is protected from anything that may erode our morals.

This week on TJW we feature 12 Things Kids Wish their Parents Knew, a must-read for every parent in cultivating the right atmosphere for our children. Shifra Sharfstein’s video Be Happy is about positive energy generating a positive reality. Rochel Holzkenner’s Soul Sister teaches us just how connected we are. And Chasing Judaism is one woman’s passionate story of finding her path.

Let’s avoid the spiritual potholes by infusing our homes with positive energy, protective warmth and nurturing wisdom.

Enjoy your ride! Safe driving!

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’ve been thinking about freedom. Since I’m having a hard time finding a workable definition, I decided to take an informal survey.

My overweight friend Fran considers caloric freedom the ultimate emancipation. Her idea of euphoria is to consume whatever she wants while reaching her ideal weight. But would Fran change her mind if she met skinny Susan, who despite her small size wears a steadfast expression of anxiety?

My accountant, Anthony, sees freedom as being free from all monetary limitations. Imagine acquiring enough wealth to spend as much as you want on whatever you want. It sounds intoxicating, but gossip tabloids, packed with the tragic lives of the rich and famous, tell a different story.

My favorite poet, Pierre, a child of the free-loving ’60s, sees freedom as being exempt from external authority. But can we truly say then that anyone is totally free—and would we even want to be free from authoritative guidelines in areas like health, safety or wellbeing?

Linda, my literal librarian, defines freedom as free of physical restraints or control. But though most of us aren’t physically confined, how many of us are emotionally or spiritually limited, controlled by others’ expectations, enslaved by our past experiences or restricted by our present mindset?

So, what does freedom mean to you? Do you know anyone who is absolutely “free”?

None of us can control our life’s circumstances. Life throws us hardship and hurt, challenges and sadness. But perhaps freedom means attaining autonomy over our perspective.

We can choose to see our reality as imprisoning or liberating, as painful or full of potential, as overwhelming or as growth-oriented.

We can choose to view our world as a corporeal sphere filled with selfish people whose limited lives are random and happenstance. Or we can strive to see souls purposefully tending G‑d’s garden, every moment being a catalyst for growth, bringing us to a better reality.

Passover is the season of freedom. It is that time of year when we can reach beyond our limitations and discover a new way to view our world, ourselves and others—through an infinitely richer and more meaningful lens.

So, in this season of liberation, here’s to finding and choosing our personal freedom.

Because, if you ask me, perspective is the key to liberation.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S.: This week, TJW is jam-packed with an amazing Passover assortment for every Jewish woman! If you like thoughtful reads, try Mirrors and The True Meaning of Freedom. For hilarious humor, there’s Welcome to Spaceship Passover and Sascha and the Kremels. Shmurah Matzah: An Acquired Taste is a story of personal growth, and Mother of Many is a fantastic commentary on the Haggadah, by and for women. Enjoy! And keep those comments coming!

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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