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Dear reader,

When I was growing up, my father often brought unusual guests to our Shabbat table. My sisters and I referred to one of these guests as “Mr. Mna Mna.” He would guzzle down my mother’s delicacies, spilling some on our pristine white tablecloth. When the piping hot chicken soup was served, he’d slurp it, making loud “mna, mna” noises—and thus our nickname.

I don’t remember my father hearing us call “Mr. Mna Mna” by this name; he wouldn’t have been pleased. But I do remember my father according him the greatest respect, sitting him at his side and kindly offering him food first. As a child I wondered if my father hadn’t noticed the man’s strange behavior, but I couldn’t believe that he hadn’t smelled his foul body odor.

No matter; week after week, Mr. Mna Mna returned.

As I grew older, I became aware that Mr. Mna Mna was not unique to my family.

Look around and you will see Mr. and Mrs. Mna Mnas in Jewish communities the world over. They are invited for a nourishing meal, given fresh clothing or just a listening ear—whatever kindness the hour calls for.

I have a friend with a big heart who lives in a small house. She is constantly rearranging her (willing!) children, moving them out of their bedrooms to sleep the lonely souls that end up on her doorstep. Another friend, a successful businesswoman, clears her calendar once a week to visit lonely elders. She says she does it for herself, that it brings her joy. Another friend is training for a marathon to raise money for children with terminal illness, while another, a working mother, spends her Sundays at a center for special-needs children.

None of them consider their actions special.

We often notice—and focus on—the faults in our communities. This is important because in order to improve, we cannot be blind to our culpabilities. But it is also worthwhile to acknowledge all the good that is being done—all the hearts that are so big, all the kindness that abounds.

Ever ask someone who returned to their Jewish heritage what motivated them? Rather than deep philosophical and theological responses, I’ve often heard about simple-to-goodness deeds. Witnessing the love, care and deep pockets of a Jewish community made them want to be a part of whatever religion and peoplehood was causing this.

In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, the king of Moab, summons the Jew-hating prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel. Instead he ends up extolling their virtues, among which he declares: “For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills. . . . How goodly are your tents, O Jacob; your dwelling places, O Israel!”

Indeed! Wishing you all a week exploding with kindness!

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 reader,

Rational explanations sometimes fall short.

People are different. We have different outlooks, different needs and different ways of viewing reality. And what works for me may not be optimal for you, so rationally trying to convince you to do things “my” way can be ineffective.

For example, I can explain and explain to my husband, until I’m blue in the face, why he should do something “my” way, only for both of us to land at square one, with each one not having moved an inch towards the other’s perspective.

So rather than trying to convince him, I’ve learned to simply ask, “Please, just do it for me.”

This won’t persuade him of the merits of my way, which he obviously doesn’t appreciate. But he is willing to make personal sacrifices in order to prove his love to me. If doing something “for me” demonstrates how much he cares about my wants and how important I am in his life, he is willing to give it a try.

Because that isn’t “giving in” to “my” way, but is rather an opportunity for him to express the importance of our relationship—a bond that is so deep, it surpasses even personal perspectives.

The commandments of the Torah are divided into three general categories: eidot, testimonies; chukim, decrees; and mishpatim, laws.

Eidot are commandments that recall or testify to past significant events. Examples are Shabbat and the holidays.

Mishpatim are commandments that are understandable; we would arguably have instituted them if G‑d had not commanded them. Examples are honoring our parents and giving charity, and not stealing or murdering.

Chukim are mitzvot, like the laws of kashrut or family purity, which we accept as divine decrees, despite their incomprehensibility.

This week’s Torah portion begins with the most enigmatic of these laws: “This [law of the red heifer] is the chukah of the Torah . . .”

“This is the chukah of the Torah” (rather than “this is the chukah of the red heifer”) indicates that this inexplicable decree is the Torah—i.e., a foundation for the entire Torah. Meaning, all the commandments, whether understandable or not, are expressions of G‑d’s Will and transcend logic, even those that are clothed within logic.

For, in truth, the reason why we keep the commandments, logical or supra-rational (even if deep down we know it is for our benefit), is because G‑d has asked us. And only through chukim does this truth become evident.

Doing commandments just because G‑d asks demonstrates that our relationship with G‑d is far deeper than our individual experiences or personal conceptions. It reveals a bond that surpasses circumstances, logic and argument.

Because it reaches down to the very core of who we are.

Wishing you a great week ahead!

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 reader,

There’s the water that I drink in my wake-me-up, heavily caffeinated morning mug of hot coffee. There’s the water that creates my banish-all-sickness, nourishing chicken soup. There’s the water in the refreshing store-bought sorbet in my freezer. And there’s the water in my washing machine cleaning my soiled laundry.

So many different shapes, forms, flavors and usages, but at the core is the same essential property—droplets of water.

People, too, can appear radically different in diverse situations. But, sometimes, if you look closely, at the core, you may discover the droplet, their unifying character or quality. For example, the way a person reacts under duress or tension, just as how he chooses to respond in a relaxed mode, can reveal something deep about his approach to life.

This week’s Torah portion tells the story of Korach inciting a mutiny against Moses. Joining Korach are 250 distinguished members of the community who offer the sacrosanct ketoret (incense) to prove their worthiness for the priesthood, claiming that “the entire nation (and not just Aaron or the priests) is holy!”

The earth swallows the mutineers, and a fire consumes the ketoret-offerers. In the aftermath, G‑d commands that the offering pans be “beaten into sheets used to plate the altar; for they have been offered to G‑d, and have become sanctified.” (17:2–3)

The Rebbe learns an incredible lesson from these copper pans being transformed into the altar on which sacrifices were offered in the Tabernacle, G‑d’s home.

The very metal of these pans was hallowed by an act which was motivated by a holy desire. Though these mutineers acted sinfully and as a result were severely punished, beneath their complaint was a desire--however misguided--to come close to G‑d.

From this the Rebbe extrapolates: “If such is G‑d’s regard for a piece of inanimate metal, certainly no human being is irredeemable. For no matter how deleterious his deeds, they hide a desire and striving, intrinsic to every creature of G‑d, for the goodness and perfection of the divine.”

One short teaching on one verse on one episode of the Torah. One droplet of wisdom, mind blowing in its scope.

Rather than castigating a sinful group of rebellious, jealous individuals to eternal admonishment, the Rebbe concentrates on their underlying positive motive. Moreover, through this unfortunate episode, he teaches G‑d’s infinite love for all of us—even when we sin or are misguided.

And this all embracing way of thinking: digging and mining the positive core value because our world is created by G‑d to serve Him and everything must therefore have some redeeming value--especially G‑d’s chosen people—is intrinsic to how the Rebbe teaches us to view our world.

This coming Shabbat is the 3rd of Tammuz, the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. A yarhtzeit is deeply meaningful because it is the day in which the righteous person’s scholarship and good deeds are revealed in an elevated state--and thus even more accessible to each of us.

The Rebbe taught us how to view our world and how to transform it into a better reality.

One small droplet.

And one profound, life-altering gestalt--that utterly alters how we approach ourselves, each other and our very world.

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,

Throughout most of my childhood, I was chubby. And I don’t mean a little chubby; I was downright fat. It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I actually slimmed down.

My concerned mother consulted our wise pediatrician, who was like a member of our family. He advised her not to worry. “Just offer her healthy choices. When the time is right, she will be self-motivated.”

A friend of my mother who was passionate about nutrition thought otherwise. Long before today’s popular trend, her kitchen pantry was stuffed with seeds and nuts. She even had whole spelt flour. Who ever heard of that? Whenever her children wanted “real” snacks, they’d sneak to someone else’s home—ours—and dispose of the evidence.

She took me aside for a private conversation. Surprisingly, her approach wasn’t to teach me the value of healthy eating, which I might have found useful. “Chana,” she said. “I know that you are such a smart girl.” she paused as I wondered where this was heading. “But,” she continued, “When people meet you, they will never know! They will automatically judge you because fat people are often considered not very smart . . . and lazy!”

I must have been 9 or 10 at the time, but I clearly remember feeling sorry for her. Was that her perspective? Does she really do things because of what people think? Does she expect me to lose weight because of a wrong bias in our society? Why in the world would I care what people who I meet think, when the loss is only theirs!

Over the summer, between sixth and seventh grade, my makeover occurred. I guess I became more conscious of my appearance, or maybe I decided I wanted a bigger wardrobe selection than unshapely dresses. I figured out my own eating plan—basically, cutting down on unnecessary sweets and including more fruits and vegetables. My growth spurt over the summer, along with my more carefully selected foods, transformed me so much that when I returned to seventh grade, no one recognized me. The fat, ugly duckling had turned into the beautiful, svelte swan.

I am certainly not proud of my status as a fat child. As a mother, I offer my children healthy food options and educate them about the value of nutritious eating. But even more than nourishing them to be physically healthy people, I hope that, like my parents, I will be able to convey the importance of being true to themselves, irrespective of prevalent attitudes.

Because while weight comes and goes (especially during those pregnancies!), our self-perception, self-confidence and personal values are something that the pounds on the scale shouldn’t ever tip.

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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