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Dear Readers,

Years ago, I panicked when I was invited to a remote meeting. Not being technically inclined, I worried that I would make some really dumb mistake before this geek. I tried to schedule our meeting after 4:15 PM, so that I could get some help from my technical assistant—my 10-year-old son, who by then would be home from elementary school.

Nowadays that son spends his time studying in a yeshivah, but he still helps me from afar. My new in-house personal assistant is my 12-year-old daughter. To her, and to the younger generation, technology is intuitive.

Why are children so much better with apps, electronic toys and computers than their adult counterparts?

Researchers at the University of California set out to find out.

They discovered that young children, even 4-year-olds who couldn’t tie their shoes yet, were better at gadgets than adults.

Psychologist Alison Gopnik, who led the study, thinks it’s because children approach solving problems differently. They try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies. “Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children. Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working,” she said.

When approaching a solution, adults rely on their ingrained way of doing things, whether or not it’s been successful. Children, on the other hand, have much more flexible, fluid thinking and are far more willing to explore an unlikely hypothesis. In fact, the younger the child is, the more flexible his or her thinking.

We often get stuck with the familiar, afraid to make necessary changes outside our comfort zone. We approach our relationships by dancing the same steps and reacting instinctively, even if that has intensified the conflict in the past. We solve problems using the same tried-and-true methods, even if these created the problems. We may be afraid to leave an unhappy job or circumstance because it is all we know.

In this week’s Torah portion, when the spies return from scouting the Land of Israel, all but two shared a false negative report. One of their statements was:

“It is a land that consumes its inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32).

The word for “its inhabitants,” yoshvehah, literally means “its settlers.”

The chassidic master Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka extrapolates from these words: “The Holy Land does not tolerate [but rather ‘consumes’] those who settle down, content with their achievements . . .”

Holiness means constantly climbing and reaching higher. We cannot allow our lives to “be settled” with stagnation; at every stage, we need to explore new opportunities for growth.

Through their technical expertise and by their constant open-minded curiosity, children remind us that our ingrained patterns shouldn’t keep us stuck in a rut. To truly thrive, we need to open our minds to new possibilities and keep reaching higher.

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.

Dear Readers,

“Fifteen days left!” That was a note on the fridge of a hard-working teacher, counting down till the end of her school year. My children, too, are doing a similar countdown.

How often do we will away time? Caught in a traffic jam, we fume about how long it is taking us to arrive at our destination. In a doctor’s waiting room, we tap impatiently while awaiting our turn. Though our tapping and fuming doesn’t make the time go any faster, it expresses how we want to move on to “the more important stuff.”

As women, especially, we enthusiastically await life’s next milestones—the baby finally sleeping through the night, speaking her first words, walking his first steps, beginning that first day at school—only to wake up one day to an empty home, wondering where the time went.

We can’t wait to graduate, earn our degrees and begin our first job. Then, we’re eager for the next, better job opportunity until we find ourselves pondering when we will finally save enough to retire.

Interestingly, when recording the life of righteous people, like Abraham and Sarah, the Torah uses the phrase, “zekeinim, baim bayomimthey were old, they entered many days.” If they were old, isn’t it obvious that they lived many days? The wording implies, however, that living many days isn’t necessarily entering our days. We can will away our time, looking for the next prospect, or we can live in the moment, entering each of our days by experiencing them fully.

Similarly, in this week’s Torah portion, we learn about how the Jewish people journeyed in the desert.

“Whether it was for two days, a month or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Sanctuary, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they traveled. At the L‑rd’s bidding they would encamp, and at the L‑rd’s bidding they would travel.” (Numbers 9:22-23)

Sometimes, they camped for weeks at a location; other times they remained for just a day. At every location, the Levites assembled the Sanctuary, including the wall sections, pillars, tapestries, furnishing and every one of its hundreds of foundation sockets. Several thousand Levites were needed for this formidable task.

Was it really necessary to assemble and disassemble the entire structure if they were to remain for only one day at a particular location?

The Rebbe explains that this teaches us that every one of our “stations” in life is significant. At times, we may feel that we are just at a waiting point, at a stage before the next, more meaningful phase. But every day, every moment—somehow, even those caught at the long supermarket checkout line—can be entered into and transformed into an opportunity for growth.

At every juncture, we need to assemble our own Sanctuary by finding a way, at this moment, to join heaven and earth.

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 learned a new word recently: “mansplaining.”

Wikipedia defines it as: “a portmanteau of the words man and explaining; to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.”

When a person, usually a male, mansplains it means that he has little respect for the listener since he assumes that the listener, being female, does not have the same capacity to understand as a male.

Women who have been subjected to mansplaining describe that this invalidation silences women, crushes their feminine perspective and dismisses them as being less credible. But truthfully, it also robs the male of something valuable—a perspective that would enrich his own.

Though a fairly new word, perhaps this week’s Torah portion admonishes us against this behavior.

The Sota is a woman whose husband suspects (and has limited evidence of) her infidelity. The couple comes to the Temple where a kohen fills an earthen vessel with Temple water and bitter earth, and dissolves in it the letters of G‑d’s name. When she drinks the bitter waters, the unfaithful wife dies; the faithful one is exonerated and blessed.

The Chassidic masters explain this episode metaphorically as a struggle between spirituality and physicality, between the soul and the body, and between the masculine and feminine perspectives.

The soul, represented by the husband, cannot fathom the value of the body, represented by the feminine. The soul views physicality as something detracting from his Divine service and does not appreciate her needs or perspectives.

But while the body’s temptations often hold the soul back, that’s only one side. The soul could not accomplish its mission—or perform any mitzvah, for that matter—without its body: its brain, mouth, hands and legs. G‑d chose to give the Torah to human beings—souls cloaked in physical bodies—and not angels. The Torah commands us about earthly matters and how to live in our physical world. In fact, in the feminine era of Moshiach, we will understand the body’s true value, and the soul will actually “be nourished by the body.”

That is why in the Sota episode, after the struggle between the soul and the body, the name of G‑d is dissolved specifically in an earthen vessel, validating the significant role played by feminine earthiness and physicality.

So, perhaps the lesson for us is not to have a one-dimensional worldview that disparages or disregards people or perspectives that differ from our own. By marrying the spiritual with the physical, by wedding the masculine with the feminine, by incorporating a range of diversity, we become greater beings.

Let’s stop mansplaining, womansplaining or peoplesplaining, and start seeing the inherent worth in all of G‑d’s creations.

Let’s open our eyes to appreciate the value of someone or something beyond ourselves. We will not only broaden and enrich our personal understanding, but we will also achieve the impossible—of joining heaven and earth.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

P.S. Have you ever been mansplained? How did you respond?

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,

Years ago, when I was in school, there was no uniform policy. Any long-sleeved, white blouse with any navy mid-length skirt could be worn. We expressed our individuality through the particular style blouse or skirt that we chose.

In schools that do enforce uniforms, students will often distinguish themselves by colorful hair accessories or bold jewelry.

In his book on prison life, Erving Goffman writes that when people are incarcerated, they make their clothing look different—by stretching out their sock, for example—so that it doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

We all need some way to express our individuality. And yet, when given our autonomy, don’t we want to have what “everyone’s wearing”? Ironically, we sometimes express our individuality by copying “everyone else.”

Seemingly, we have two opposing forces tugging at us: our need to stand out as individuals vs. our need for belonging.

In fact, too much individuality can often lead to a lack of identity.

Psychology professor Martin Seligman bemoans this aspect of modern society. “In the past quarter-century, events occurred that so weakened our commitment to larger entities as to leave us almost naked before the ordinary assaults of life ... . Where can one now turn for identity, for purpose and for hope? When we need spiritual furniture, we look around and see that all the comfortable leather sofas and stuffed chairs have been removed, and all that’s left to sit on is a small, frail folding chair: the self.”

In our pursuit of individuality, have we forgotten the goal of community?

In this week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, the tribes camped in the wilderness, “each man by his division with the flag of their fathers’ house.”

Rashi explains: “Every division shall have its own flag staff, with a colored flag hanging on it; the color of one being different from the color of any other.”

Each tribe had its own leader, its own place to camp, its own color and flag, and its own representative stone on the breastplate worn by the High Priest. Each tribe was allotted its portion in Israel that best suited its vocation, as shepherds, vintners, seafaring merchants, scholars, etc.

Bamidbar is always read around the holiday of Shavuot, when the Jewish people received the Torah as “one man, with one heart.” Their communal unity did not stop them from having distinct tribal identities.

And perhaps here is the crux of successfully integrating individuality with community.

We all need to feel a sense of belonging to something greater—a people, a community, a way of life. Only when we feel a secure sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves can we really have the freedom to discover our individuality.

But this larger entity must also provide the framework for each of us to strive to become our unique personal best.

Wishing you a wonderful Shavuot holiday! May we learn to feel “as one man with one heart” while finding our own oneness as well!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

P.S. What takes precedence in your life: your sense of belonging or individuality?

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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