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Dear Readers,

Have you heard of the new trend called “self-marriage”? Basically, it means marrying yourself.

Wikipedia defines it as “marriage by a person to oneself. It is known as a commitment that values self-love, and self-compassion. Supporters of the practice argue that it leads to a happier life . . . ”

Self-wedding planners are popping up to instruct how to create self-marriage sacred vows, self-marriage wedding rings and more.

The idea has also caused a flurry of discussions on related topics, like whether one can marry one’s pet. Proponents say: “Self-marriage is a commitment to valuing and prioritizing self-love and self-care within a culture that has neglected it.”

Perhaps this trend has arisen because our society feels that self-love is so essential. Torah agrees about the value of self-love—to some extent.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a cardinal principle in the Torah. You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself first.

Similarly, it’s essential to take care of yourself, value yourself—to seek your needs, goals and wants. A healthy self-esteem is what makes us whole and helps us function as human beings.

But perhaps here’s the crux of the difference.

Loving yourself is not an end in and of itself. We love ourselves because we are created with a Divine G‑dly spark, which means that G‑d loves us unconditionally even when we fail. But G‑d also has expectations of us. He knows what we can achieve and believes in us to do so, or at least to keep on trying.

Marriage is all about love, but it is anything but self-love. Marriage means finding enough love to love another. Marriage means relinquishing yourself. Ironically, it also means discovering more about yourself than you ever could alone.

Marriage is not all about sparks flying. Yes, of course, that should be part of it. The right chemistry and compatible personalities are important ingredients in deciding who to marry. But it is not the reason why you marry.

Maybe that’s why marriage has become somewhat unpopular nowadays. We like to feel good. We want quick fixes. We want pleasure. We want self-love. And at times, marriage can be the exact opposite. Nothing about marriage is a quick fix.

Marriage is about climbing a very steep mountain, whose peak is forever beyond your reach. You will fall and stumble too many times to count, only to haul yourself up again. You will scrape your heart until it sometimes feels like it’s gushing.

So why marry? (And I mean another person, not yourself!)

Because marriage is about partnering with another to negate yourself, only to become your greatest self. It is about stretching yourself to see beyond just “you.” It is about building something far greater than you could ever imagine. It is about creating a permanent, everlasting, Divine edifice in this world. It is about merging with another G‑dly being to create holiness in our world.

Marriage isn’t about feeling great. It is about becoming greater.

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,

I was in the airport with my husband, and we were “bageled.” My husband looks obviously Jewish with his long beard and flowing tzitzit. Perhaps that’s why this happens to us often.

A teenager with multiple tattoos casually approached us and disarmingly wished us a “Shabbat Shalom!” Though it was a Wednesday afternoon, the teen was obviously letting us know that he, too, is a member of the tribe.

Jews have a powerful urge to connect with one another. You could “bagel” someone by telling them outright that you are Jewish. But often, bageling has more subtle forms, such as inserting a Jewish phrase into a conversation to determine whether another person is Jewish.

So, at the currency exchange line, an elderly man may whisper to you, “I could use more Chanukah gelt!” Or, in the supermarket, a nearby shopper picks up an item and says, “These remind me of my Bubby's matzah balls ...”

What makes us feel the need to bagel? There are many theories.

Here is mine. When we see another Jewish soul—irrespective of how religious or affiliated we may be—a strong, inexplicable, perhaps mystical urge awakens our desire to connect with another part our own Divine core. It makes no difference if we are different ages, from different countries or at different levels of observance. We feel that intrinsic connection.

This week’s Torah portion, Tazriah, teaches us how deep that connection is with the commandment of circumcision.

On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Lev. 12:3)

The Midrash Rabba describes an interesting exchange between Isaac and Ishmael.

Said Ishmael to Isaac: “I am more beloved to G‑d than you, since I was circumcised at the age of thirteen, but you were circumcised as a baby and could not refuse.”

Isaac retorted: “All that you gave up to G‑d was three drops of blood. But lo, I am now thirty-seven years old, yet if G‑d desired of me that I be slaughtered, I would not refuse.”

Circumcision is just one mitzvah that teaches us what being Jewish means. When a baby is circumcised, he is completely unaware of its significance. Circumcision is done precisely at an age when it is a non-experience because, explains the Rebbe, it is attesting that the Jew’s relationship with G‑d goes beyond what a person thinks, feels or does.

Jewishness is a fact that applies equally to an infant or a sage. It is a not a common race, culture or historical experience, nor is it a matter of life-style or self-perception. It is a state of being. We are Jews because G‑d chose us.

Whether or not we practice our Judaism—whether or not we even feel affiliated—there is something in our inner core that inexplicably whispers to us a fundamental, unchangeable truth: “I am a Jew!”

And bageling is one of the most interesting ways of showing that!

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,

Who isn’t turned off by a hypocrite? Most of us try to keep away from people who act outwardly righteous, yet are immoral on the inside. Judaism admires the quality of being “of one mouth and one heart,” someone who feels as they act.

But that doesn’t mean you should always act or say how you feel!

Sure, we appreciate honesty, but don’t be ruthlessly insulting just because you’re in a lousy mood. Clearly, there are times when our insides are better left inside. Everyone around us doesn’t need to suffer from our grouchy temperament.

We learn this concept in this week’s parshah from the pig. Kosher land animals must chew their cuds and have split hoofs. The Torah lists four animals that have only one kosher symbol and are therefore not kosher. The camel, hyrax and hare chew their cud but don’t have split hoofs, whereas only the pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud.

And the swine, though it divides the hoof and is cloven-footed, yet it does not chew the cud; it is unclean to you. (Lev. 11:7)

The Midrash compares the swine to an individual who acts more “kosher” or righteous than he really is. “The swine, when reclining, puts forth its hooves, as if to say: ‘See, I am kosher!’”

Such hypocritical, deceitful behavior is reprehensible to us. Perhaps that’s why the pig has become the archetype of non-kosher animals.

Yet the Hebrew name for a pig is chazir, which literally means “to return.” “Why is its name called chazir? Because in the future, G‑d will return it to Israel.” (Ritv”a, Kidushin 49b)

The pig’s Hebrew name hints that it is unkosher for as long as it only has split hoofs. In the era of Moshiach, however, when its nature will be altered and it will chew its cud, it will become kosher (Ohr Chaim).

The animal’s physical symbols represent spiritual characteristics. Regurgitating its cud reflects the quality where one’s inner character is refined and introspective. Split hooves—the animal’s limb of activity—reflect outward, practical good deeds. The pig has split hooves, its good deeds are many; however, its innards are not yet refined.

From all the non-kosher animals, the pig is unique in its “return” to kosher status in the time of Moshiach when the world will be cleansed of negativity. And thus, the pig has an important message for us.

While we strive to be “kosher” in both our inner character and our outward deeds, no one is perfect. Just because your insides aren’t yet perfectly refined doesn’t mean that your deeds should be equally imperfect. So if you’re angry, refrain from lashing out. If you’re feeling stingy, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open your purse.

In fact, try the opposite. Focus on doing good deeds and acting outwardly kindly. Eventually, your insides will follow.

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,

In Southern New Jersey this year, we were fortunate to enjoy a mild winter. But in mid-March, just as we expected the first spring blooms, forecasters predicted a blizzard that would blanket us with one, or possibly two, feet of snow.

Signs along all the major highways cautioned against travel, due to the impending Nor’easter. A state of emergency was declared throughout much of the Northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania to Maine, urging people to stay put. Government offices and schools were announcing closures well ahead of time. Everyone was talking about winter storm Stella.

The night before the blizzard, my husband went to the supermarket to pick up a few essentials. The store was packed with like-minded shoppers, many also purchasing batteries and flashlights for the power outings that often accompany such severe weather. Many of the shelves were picked bare.

And then, the next morning, we woke to . . . nothing but a little inclement weather. While areas north and west of us did indeed experience the wrath of the long-anticipated storm, where we live, it was downgraded to heavy rains. Apparently, a few degrees of change in temperature completely altered our situation. Schools and stores were open. Our shovels that were standing at attention were abandoned, and our schedules resumed as normal.

Isn’t life like that? We anticipate something, good or bad, and we prepare for its affects. And then life surprises us. A few degrees, a slight change, and the results are vastly different.

The holiday of Passover will soon be upon us. The beaten slaves who had been subjected to backbreaking labor and unspeakable horrors were freed, while their Egyptian taskmasters were exposed to devastating plagues. As the masters drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, the freed slaves trekked to Mount Sinai to be chosen as G‑d’s people.

“In every generation, each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt.” This festival of freedom teaches us that even when the situation seems hopeless, when G‑d wills, it can be totally reversed.

We don’t always (do we ever?!) understand G‑d’s plan. Whether it’s the small things in life (like the nuisance of a winter storm in the spring) or in more important ones (like the major challenges that confront us), Divine Providence alone determines our fate.

Wishing each and every one of you liberation from the constraints and struggles of your lives! May we all experience personal, as well as national redemption, this Passover!

Wishing you a happy and kosher Passover!

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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