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Dear reader,

Possibly the most popular phrase in the Torah is “Love your fellow as yourself.”

Idealistic words, for sure, but possible? Can we love someone— a stranger—as much as we love ourselves?

On the most basic level, this means that we need to wish good upon others. Practical examples would be treating others with respect (just like we wish to be treated) and wanting good for others (just like we want).

On a deeper level, however, the Baal Shem Tov explains that if we see another as a child of G‑d, it enables us to feel a deep love for them.

Studies show that when a mother watches her child suffer, the neurons in her brain light up to reflect the exact areas of her child’s suffering. The pain we feel when our children suffer, or conversely the love that we feel when our children are happy, is real. If we look at our fellow as a child of G‑d, our Father, we, too, can feel love and empathy.

By while that may be true for those closest to us, how can we apply this idea to even strangers?

The Alter Rebbe tells us to see beyond the physical constrictions of the body and view another person as a soul. Then there is no “I” and “you”. We are both one essence just as both hands are part of one body.

This is in fact why this commandment is the basis of the entire Torah. If we can see our existence as not just a physical reality, but an expression of G‑dliness, we can master all of Torah.

But does that mean I need to be blind to the faults of another?

No! Just as we love ourselves totally but we still expect more from ourselves, we can love and respect another person even while seeing his mistakes. Being blinded to his faults, says the Rebbe, is actually apathy not love. Loving him means just as we justify our own failings and still love and respect ourselves, so too, we can find the justifications for another’s faults while still loving and respecting him for who he is.

Wow, lots of lofty ideas to think about. What do you do to love another?

Wishing you a week full of love, respect and generosity.

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,

A few weeks ago, I visited my hometown to attend the wedding of a dear friend’s son. I met several old friends, whom I had seen intermittently over the years.

One chided me for not being in touch to share some of the major events--celebrations or otherwise--that I had experienced over the years. We spoke about how life is so fast-paced and how difficult it is to find time to reconnect.

But really, as I thought about it, there was more to it. There are times when we need to process our emotions, joyful or sad, internally before we can reach out to share our experiences with others. Some people process their emotions, extrovertly, through others, while others do so more privately.

Only over the last few years, due in large part to the research of Susan Cain on the topic of introversion, have we learned as a society to appreciate this difference. This has greatly increased our awareness that all of us are unique and each of us has different tendencies--and that’s all alright.

Interestingly, the Torah’s laws of mourning demonstrate great sensitivity to the experience of the individual. When visiting a person who is sitting shiva, the seven-day mourning period after the loss of a beloved, we remain quiet until the mourner initiates conversation. If the mourner wishes to share with us his inner world, his personal memories, recollections or feelings, he will. If, on the other hand, he chooses to process it privately, we respect that, while still providing the comfort that we care.

We are now in the period between Passover and Shavuot when nationally we mourn the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s students who were punished for not showing proper respect.

Rabbi Akiva’s most famous teaching was: "Love your fellow as yourself” which he said was “a cardinal principle of the Torah." His students, however, loved each other so much that each wanted the other to practice what he felt was the best form of serving G‑d. Every student felt compelled to correct the erroneous behavior of his fellow, and to enlighten him to the true meaning of their master's words. Rabbi Akiva’s students failed to properly absorb the words of our sages: "Just as every person's face differs from the faces of his fellows, so, too, every person's mind differs from the minds of his fellows." Each of us has our own special path.

Though the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s students occurred many centuries ago, we still observe these laws of semi-mourning to internalize its profound message. We need to care enough about another that we share his hurts and help him to rectify his errors, while still respecting and valuing his individual path and uniqueness as a human being.

What a challenge!

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,

A tiny sliver of wood, so small it was hardly discernable. That’s all it was. But as my skin pressed against some rough surface, that tiny millimeter of wood broke off and lodged itself in my forefinger.

I would never have detected this invasion. But, a few days after it made its new abode in the tip of my finger, redness and irritation developed. Upon close inspection, it dawned on me that there was a splinter in my skin that needed to be removed post-haste. The longer I would wait, the more infected my finger--and perhaps even my entire arm and body would eventually become. That’s what happens when an alien, unwanted entity penetrate into our bodies; something small and innocuous spreads and develops into something far more harmful.

In the days between Passover to Shavuot we have begun a new count-down. For seven complete weeks, we count the Omer, until we finally reach the summit on Shavuot.

This counting is meant to also be a spiritual accounting, as we work to refine ourselves. The Kabbalists explain that each of these 7 weeks, we are meant to be working on another of the seven sefirot, the traits and drives of the human psyche. So, for example, the first week, we develop our trait of chessed, love. Every day of this week we refine that drive, as it is complimented and tempered by the other sefirot, (for example: love tempered by discipline, empathetic love, enduring love, humility in love, bonding love, etc.) for a total of seven times seven days and traits.

After we have undergone this methodical, 49-step process of self-refinement, we are ready to receive the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.

But doesn’t it seem like Judaism demands an awful lot of introspection and self-reflection? All the more so considering that this all follows the strict regimen of Passover; we’ve just meticulously cleansed our homes and ourselves from the ego represented by leaven. I mean, give me a break, more work now to rectify every particular soul trait?

But when I think of my splinter I realize just how much harm a foreign trait or value can cause. A character trait gone bad, or an alien value that has seeped into our psyche may start by taking over just the forefinger, but its effect quickly spreads to infect the entire body.

Luckily, without too much effort I noticed the splinter in time and was able to remove it. If only negative or selfish character traits could be fixed as easily.

Wishing you a great week!

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.

After enduring decades defined by pain and suffering, finally the Jewish people escaped from their horrific, backbreaking slavery in Egypt. At last this grueling chapter of their lives was coming to a close, and they could savor the sweet taste of liberty.

And just as the dawn of this new era was about to emerge, just as they were about to bite into their succulent freedom . . . all appears to be lost. Pharaoh and his legions have a change of heart and are chasing wildly after them, while the Red Sea lies before them like an impenetrable wall, blocking their path of escape.

But isn’t life like that? Just as soon as we’ve overcome one huge hurdle, there’s another one, just around the corner, waiting to greet us.

We work through our hardship. We are ready to give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back for a job well done, when along comes a new trial, a new responsibility, something new to contend with. Yes, life begins once again.

And perhaps that is the point—a reminder that there is no rest in this world; there are always new heights to climb, a new plateau to overcome and a new moment to seize.

Only in the messianic era will our lives be filled with tranquility, security and serenity.

Surprisingly, though, our sages tell us that when we finally experience that blissful time, we will look back at exile longingly. Longingly? What will we yearn for, when our lives have been so positively transformed?

We’ll miss the challenge. We’ll miss the sweat and blood. We’ll miss the euphoric feeling of climbing and reaching the summit.

On the 7th day of Passover, we celebrate the Jewish people’s crossing over a swollen sea that miraculously split to allow them to reach their freedom. We also anticipate the long-awaited day when the lives that we are so familiar with, gushing with too much pain and sorrow, will finally split and unveil a deeper, seamless, and more intimate relationship with G‑d.

As we make that last climb before the summit, as that last challenge of exile comes our way, let’s embrace the effort. Our nation’s long and difficult sojourn, their sweat, toil and miraculous perseverance over the many centuries of history, has finally paid off. Their journey to light up the most distant corners of the world has been well-traveled. We stand at the cusp of a new era, waiting to cross over and enter our holy land. And as our world seems to become crazier and more frenetic by the minute, let’s stop and smell the faint scent of redemption in the air.

Wishing you a chag sameach! May this holiday of freedom bring us our ultimate freedom!

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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