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You've begun to work for a new company. During your first many weeks, you are learning the ropes, figuring out how to accomplish your assignments most efficiently. You are awed by the range of the company, overwhelmed by its many divisions and the extensive systems in place that execute its vision.

You are the new kid on the block, and like a newborn you gaze with reverential wonder and worshipful submission at your surroundings.

There is resistance. There are raised eyebrows. There are the nay-sayers and there are the know-it-alls.

And then…as time passes, you perceive a change within. You begin to notice inefficiencies in the hierarchy, leaks in the system, mistakes or lacks in the production line. You are no longer so new to the job that you are silenced by the higher-ups, but you are also not so entrenched in the company that you can't see beyond the set infrastructure. You bring new blood and a fresh perspective that visualizes how and where change can be effective. You have ideas and foresight that can revolutionize the old, and the stale.

And so…in your own way, you begin to make dents in the way things are done. At first, it is only on a small scale, but with growing courage, you begin to tackle issues company-wide. You suggest new projects and revolutionary proposals well beyond your jurisdiction. You want to inspire others to sail along with your dreams. What you lack in experience you are more than willing to make up in initiative, energy and exuberance.

And that's when you hit against the inertia. You encounter it at every step of the way. There is resistance. There are raised eyebrows. There are the nay-sayers and there are the know-it-alls. For every two steps of progress, someone is forcing you to regress one.

And soon…despite your convictions, you once again discern a change within. The criticism is having its effect. The sparkle of determination in your eyes has dimmed. You begin to wonder why you are expending so much effort. For the first time you hear yourself saying, "This isn't my department" and "I can't change the world." You've settled down. You've begun to accept the status quo, the easy path—the one with less resistance. You stop tackling new undertakings.

You've just entered into your complacent adulthood.

A baby enters this world. For his first many years, the child is discovering the wonder of his new world. He is awed by his environment, reverent of his elders who provide instruction, infrastructure and guidance.

But then, as time progresses, he becomes a teenager. That's when he realizes that things aren't functioning as perfectly as he originally believed. There are inconsistencies in the system, unfair hypocrisies, incongruities and distorted priorities. He wants change and what he knows he lacks in experience and wisdom, he's ready to make up with his stamina, convictions, enthusiasm and energy.

And then somewhere along the path to maturity, the teen encounters too many obstacles, too many nay-sayers, too many people telling him to mind his own business and stop rebelling against what is. His inspiration becomes quashed, his initiative dies.

To the outside eye, he may have "settled down" and outgrown his impractical idealism or youthful rebelliousness, but intuitively he knows he's lost a part of himself.

The Rebbe saw the years of teens as ones full of an unparalleled idealism and strength that just needed to be channelled appropriately:

The period of adolescence is nestled between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers are overflowing with adrenaline and confidence, feeling:"I want to change the way the world works." Adults burdened by the pressures of everyday life, convince themselves that this is the way it is, but young people cannot tolerate such resignation.

Youth are rebellious. But rebellion is not a crime. It can be the healthiest thing for a human—an energy that inspires a person to not give up easily, to refuse to tolerate injustice, to not go along with an idea just because everyone else is thinking it.

Some of us retain our youthful drive our entire lives; others never experience it.

No matter what our age, though, there is a "teenager" within each of us. In every situation that we find ourselves, we have the opportunity to find the positive aspects of our teenage perspective and harness its power. Bubbling within us is that youthful idealism--that ability to question the status quo, to fight for the underdog and to follow the dreams of our beliefs with undaunted courage and determination.

Let's not follow the nay-sayers. Or become one.

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.

This past week, my youngest child turned four.

Though every age of a child's development is special, to me, the age of four represents a unique transitional phase. At this stage, children leave behind their babyhood to become so much more independent in actions and expressions, while still retaining their special childhood innocence.

Ever since she was a baby, my daughter has cherished various childhood comforts—like her plush, favourite blanket or her special pacifier.

But waking up on the morning of her fourth birthday, she proudly announced, "Today, I am four! I am really H-U-G-E now!" She proceeded to inform me that now she would no longer need any of her childhood securities.

Parents of young children know how emotionally attached they can become to these soft toys or blankets. According to studies, almost 60% of children have some security object and most psychologists consider them to be beneficial in children's development. These comfort objects dispel a sense of anxiety and comfort them when they feel alone or scared. They are often used as "transitional objects" helping to provide a healthy relaxation of the bond between parent and child, encouraging the child to become more independent, adventurous and self-confident.

Some older children, though, have a hard time letting go of their childhood securities and treasure them well into adulthood. They don't see these objects as transitional, but actually begin attributing essential powers to the comfort article itself. Rather than reminding them of the warmth of their home or the love of their parents, these object become something that they rely on as a support. To them, these comfort objects are no longer a representation of security, but a crutch, making them more needy—something that they can't fall asleep without hugging, or overcome a tense situation without tenderly embracing.

My daughter's words on the morning of her fourth birthday, made me think about whether as adults perhaps we also hold on to some "spiritual security blankets." These spiritual security blankets can sometimes be positive or empowering, but sometimes serve only as a crutch, where we neglect to see our deeds within their greater context and attribute unnecessary importance to the deed itself.

Take the daily ritual of prayer, for example. Prayer is meant to reinforce within us our bond to our Creator. It is meant to achieve a sense of comfort that whenever we are in need, whenever we are in pain or trouble, we can call out to our Parent, who always hears us and watches over us, with infinite love and goodness.

Do our words or actions give us a wrong sense of security--that we have fulfilled our obligations, while really missing out on the deeper, essential connection?

Yet, how often does prayer become a security blanket in a negative sense, where we no longer work on cultivating our connection to our Creator, but attribute significance to even words recited by rote, in a hurry, without any meaning or feeling?

While I'm not suggesting that the action of prayer itself has no merit, or that we should stop praying or doing any positive acts that lack the emotion. Each and every mitzvah performed even without the proper intentions is undoubtedly still positive and worthwhile.

But what I am suggesting is that when these rituals are done without thought or meaning, we're losing out—we've got the body of the mitzvah, but without its soul and essence. Is it any surprise then that rather than finishing off our prayers with a renewed faith and assurance that G‑d is watching us and doing what's best for us, that the empty words leave us likewise feeling empty? Almost like eating a high caloric meal with little nutritious value, do the words give us a false sense of "fullness", while being spiritually unnutritious? Have we just engaged in a holy, spiritual act, or an empty one that assuages our guilt and promotes a misplaced sense of spiritual connection?

Or take another very common example of our daily interactions with our loved ones, our spouses or our children. How often do we greet our children with mechanical endearing words but without really giving thought to the bonds of our relationship? We nod encouragingly to them as we automatically ask them about their day, or we give them a peck on their cheek as they run out the door in the morning, while our minds are busy with other "important" things. We might feel a comforting sense of connectedness, but do our words or actions give us a wrong sense of security--that we have fulfilled our obligations towards them, while really missing out on the deeper, essential connection?

Security blankets are great for children. They comfort them and make for wonderful transitional objects along a child's path towards maturity and independence.

But perhaps as adults it is time to re-examine our daily actions, rituals and relationships and rediscover their intended meaning--rather than merely retaining them as a comforting security blanket.

Do you have a spiritual security blanket? Does it fill you with empty spiritual calories or does it empower you to reach a greater spiritual awareness?

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.

It was a Friday afternoon. There must have been about forty or more of us gathered in the large room, floor-to-ceiling mirrors covering the surrounding walls. Despite the weariness and lagging energy that comes after a long and full week, we were moving energetically, following the exacting—and strenuous—commands of the auburn haired woman facing us in the front of the room.

"Higher," Melissa shouted. As she walked through the room to examine—and reprove—each of us, we sheepishly struggled to please her.

"Faster," went her next charge as we strained ourselves further. "C'mon, you can do better than that!" she continuously admonished. "Further…deeper…stronger!"

"Now hold your positions," our taskmaster demanded. I noticed the painful grimace on the facial expressions of many of the others, myself included. But despite her gruelling insistence of moving us at a dizzying pace and forming all types of twisted and convoluted shapes, none of us dared to disobey her. The more she pressed us on, the greater we labored to meet her onerous directives.

Despite her gruelling insistence of moving us at a dizzying pace, none of us dared to disobey her.

Were we in some kind of enforced boot camp, being punished for some heinous crime?

No, we were a group of middle class, suburban women who were here entirely on our own volition. In fact, after an hour of this arduous treatment, most of us even approached Melissa before leaving to thank her. Moreover, we had even paid a membership due for the privilege of being in this room and follow her directives.

We, like scores of men and women around the world, were in an exercise class offered by our fitness center. Precisely due to her taxing demands, Melissa was one of the favourite and most sought-after instructors.


Not at all.

Not when you consider that we understood that the discipline that she demanded of us was entirely for our own benefits—to provide us with the strength and energy of a healthy physique. We realized her expertise and therefore didn't doubt each of her demands or distrust the particular techniques she employed. And we understood too, that this was something valuable enough to clear some time even on a busy Friday afternoon.

Perhaps, something to consider on any of the many occasions when we may feel lethargic about performing some of the spiritual pulls and pushes of our day—exercises designed especially for our benefit, to strengthen our spiritual well-being.

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.

If you were to stare evil in the eye, what would you see? What would be its character traits? What would form its origins?

Of the many malevolent characters recorded in the Bible, Amalek, the grandson of Esau, stands out as the greatest villain. He is the archetypal enemy of our people. He is the father of the nation that first waged war against the Jewish people upon their miraculous emergence from their Egyptian bondage.

Throughout our long history, Amalek's murderous intentions have had many anti-Semitic heirs. One of these was Haman, in the Purim miracle, who sought to annihilate every Jew from the face of civilized society.

Traditionally, any mortal threat to the Jewish people is referred to as an Amalekite design.

What are the origins of such a character, who has proven to be the nemesis of the Jewish people and their G‑dly quest throughout all time?

In Gen. 36:12, we are introduced to Amalek's parents. "Timna was a concubine to Elifaz, son of Esau, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz."

Some verses later, we are told more about Timna's background. "And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam and Lotan's sister was Timna." (Gen. 36:22)

We are also given information about the status of Lotan, Timna's brother. "These are the chiefs who came of the Horites: the chief Lotan, the chief Shobal, the child Ziboen, etc." (Gen. 36:29).

Elifaz's concubine, Timna, was no common woman, but was the product of a royal family, her brother claiming the position of one of the Horite chiefs.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) fills in some missing details by explaining that Timna sought to convert to Judaism and came to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but they refused to accept her. She became a concubine to Elifaz instead, insisting, "It is better to be a maidservant to this nation than to be a princess in any other nation."

Being from the seed of Abraham and Sara was so prestigious that such an action was not extreme.

Timna perceived the great respect and honor given to this clan and she was willing to sacrifice her personal dignity in order to be attached to such a prominent and prestigious people, even if her connection would be a servile one.

I've always been puzzled by this story.

Timna's actions seem so righteous, so altruistic and pure. Why then would they result in a child who represents the antithesis of goodness and who is the very paradigm of evil?

But perhaps events in modern society can shed greater light on the inner anatomy of evil.

The greatest evil in our time is undoubtedly manifested by suicide bombers (practically all of whom are part of the Islamic faith). According to data reported by Robin Wright in the Washington Post recently, these bombings are on the rise:

"Suicide bombers conducted 658 attacks around the world last year…more than double the number in any of the past 25 years…The bombings have spread to dozens of countries in five continents, killed more than 21,350 people and injured about 50,000 since 1983…The highest annual numbers have occurred in the past four years."

According to William Saletan of, the logic of these bombings is that:

"The more people you kill, the more you demoralize the infidel because the infidel is too weak to tolerate the shedding of blood.

"But not you. You're strong. You're willing to guarantee, not just risk, the deaths of your followers to deliver the bombs. And they're willing to die. You don't have to tether your mechanism to a dog or mongoose and hope the dumb beast does its job. You've got much smarter animals at your disposal: human beings."

On the surface level, the psyche of a suicide bomber seems to be a spiritual one—to get closer to the G‑d that they've constructed. But on closer analysis, it becomes obvious that theirs is the lowest form of greed, selfishness and evil. They willingly shatter innocent lives and bring immeasurable pain and suffering, in order to reach the imaginary pinnacle of their personal, gross physical pleasures.

The motive behind these men and women "of faith" is their realization that our world is a temporal place where it is impossible to have ongoing infinite pleasures. These ongoing physical delights can only be attained in their world to come.

The manifestation of Amalek in our generation can be said to be in these suicide bombers. And the seed of their motivation is mirrored in the actions of their ancestress, Timna.

Our patriarchs and matriarchs selflessly gave of themselves to reach out to humanity and teach the beauty of monotheism and G‑d's path of truth. They eagerly taught and accepted converts into their midst--that was their stated goal. If they rejected Timna, it was out of their perception that her motives were insincere.

Timna was not searching for G‑d, but rather for her personal aggrandizement. Her motives were not selfless, but rather all about her self.

Had Timna truly wanted to join a nation serving G‑d and following His ways, she would not have "settled" for joining the family of Esau, whose path was the antithesis of the Abrahamitic teachings. Timna desired, rather, to be part of a powerful but not necessarily G‑dly or spiritual people.

She was willing to temporarily sacrifice her personal status, but only for what she perceived as a greater, more fulfilling eminence. Her actions were not about G‑d, but entirely about herself. Our perceptive patriarchs realized this and therefore rejected her from joining the nation of G‑d.

In the era of Redemption, evil will be eradicated and all mankind will be rectified. Only one nation—that of Amalek—will not be a part of this vision.

"Their hand is on G‑d's throne, (this denotes a Divine oath), G‑d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations." (Ex. 17:16)

Amalek is beyond repair. Their evil punctuates their entire selves because they represent the opposite of G‑dliness. Their devotion is entirely egocentric, even while dressed up as an act of devotion to G‑d, and as such represents the greatest evil fathomable.

For the greatest distortion of goodness is an act of selfish malevolence adorned in the religious garb of purity; an act of evil acted out in the noble name of G‑d.

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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