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Dear Readers,

This Tuesday is Tisha B’Av, the fast of the ninth day of Av. On this saddest and most tragic day, both Holy Temples were set aflame, and many other calamities befell our people.

During this fast day, which begins Monday at sunset, we read Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations and recite prayers and poems that vividly describe the pogroms, crusades, inquisitions and holocausts that our nation has endured throughout the last 2000 years of exile. Besides fasting, we also mourn by abstaining from certain pleasures: washing, applying lotions or creams, wearing leather shoes, even marital relations. Until midday on Tuesday, we sit on the floor or on low stools, as we would in other times of mourning.

The Holy Temple was G‑d’s home on earth—where G‑d’s presence was tangible, where spirituality and meaning were palpable. Three times a year, on the festivals, our nation would visit the Temple to profoundly feel G‑d’s presence. They would return home invigorated by their experience, their hearts and souls afire with purpose, resolving to bring their relationship with G‑d into all aspects of their daily lives.

Our sages tell us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see it rebuilt with the coming of Moshiach. After we grieve, we need to move forward from our pain and sorrow into deed and action, doing whatever we can to create a better tomorrow. Remembering the pain of destruction is part of declaring our certainty, faith and resilience in there being a better future, and motivating us towards help making that a reality.

Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast! May all the mournful dates on our calendar very soon be transformed into days of tremendous joy and happiness.

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,

This week we usher in the Jewish month of Av, the saddest and darkest month on our calendar. On the ninth day of this month, we commemorate the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, as well as many other tragedies.

In our lives, we all have light-filled days when we feel at peace with our inner selves and aligned with our mission in this world. But more often than not, we have dark and sad days when we seem out of sync. These are the times in our lives that are painful and full of unused potential, when we feel disconnected from our spiritual selves and our Maker.

Yet, often it is precisely in the blackness and difficulties of our lives that our fortitude, faith and strength as human beings emerge. Those circumstances highlight the hidden potency of our inner souls and bring out their greatness.

Just as anxiety is meant to agitate us into action, darkness, too, must be used as a springboard for further growth and to acquire a deeper sensitivity. There is a Chassidic saying that nothing is as whole as a broken heart—as long as our grief is constructive, such turmoil brings us to action.

And that’s why the name of this dark month is so appropriate. Av means “father” in Hebrew. Other months seem to have more significant name associations: Nissan, the month of nissim (“miracles”); the High Holidays are in Tishrei, new beginnings. What relevance does fatherhood have to this sad month, when some of the most painful events in our history occurred?

Av is the month when we hit our lowest point as a nation, when we can easily feel deserted and alone. And perhaps that is precisely why this month needs to be called “Father.”

Only a father can you look you in the eye with a tenderness that says you are straying, and that it’s time to return. Only a parent can guide you to a better direction with an unquestionable firmness that still holds warmth and sensitivity. Only a parent can punish without alienating—his love hidden, but still apparent.

It is customary to add to this month the name “Menachem,” which means “comforter” or “consoler,” so that it becomes “Menachem Av”: the “comforting Father.”

As we begin this month of Menachem Av, may each of us finally feel our Creator’s loving, everlasting embrace.

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,

This past week, a friend shared with me that an acquaintance had unexpectedly reached out to her son and did a special favor for him. Throughout his teenage years, my friend has always had a testy relationship with that particular child. Nevertheless, when she heard about the sweet gesture, done so unpredictably by this acquaintance, she felt extremely grateful to him for befriending her son and showing him that warmth.

Now, every time she mentions this individual in any of our conversations, it is with a special tenderness, admiration and genuine respect—all because of one small act, done for her son.

My friend is no exception. I am sure most parents feel that way. Indeed, the way to a mother’s heart is through being kind to her child.

When someone does something positive for my children, I feel extremely grateful. You may have angered me in the past or I may feel resentful towards you for whatever misdeed, but if you do a favor for one of my children, that will erase it all. Conversely, you and I can be best of friends, but if you act unkindly toward my child, consider the friendship over!

I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that this is not only true with human parents, but also with our Creator. Treat G‑d’s children compassionately, and He’ll forgive and overlook your own misdeeds. But malign His children—act nastily or condescendingly towards them—and you will have hurt the very core of your relationship with G‑d.

So when you think you are “standing up for G‑d” by judging His children, think again. G‑d doesn’t need us to serve as His judge and jury. Instead, He wants us to feel and spread kindness, compassion and empathy for all His children, even those who sometimes “test” Him.

We are now in the period of the “Three Weeks,” mourning the destruction of the Temple, which was caused due to baseless hatred. Now is the perfect time for us to focus on love.

Let’s extend ourselves and act especially kind to G‑d’s children . . . and we will have found the secret path to G‑d’s “heart.”

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,

A friend of mine is a cancer survivor. Generally, she’s upbeat, positive, grateful and hopeful about her long-term recovery. But every once in a while, she vents about some of the stupid things people say to her.

When bumping into her at Walmart, one individual told her: “Oy, I just can’t imagine it happening to me!”

“What does this person think?” my friend asks me. “That I thought it would happen to me? Does she think that I conjured up this nightmare in my imagination and that if she murmurs, ‘I can’t imagine’ enough times, it will keep her on the safe side of the divide?!”

My friend’s pain made me reflect on our hurtful behavior.

Whether a physical or mental ailment, a disability, divorce or financial disaster—and any other kind of unfortunate circumstance—don’t we often try to construct our own “divide”? Subconsciously, we try to convince ourselves that if we remain on our side of the wall, we’ll be safe from this painful situation happening? We create a mode of “us” and “them” with the delusional thoughts that if we can somehow “justify” what happened to them, then that will make us safe from suffering such misfortune.

In truth, none of us are masters over our circumstances. We don’t sit in the driver seat to determine where or how our lives will be steered. We are not in control of our destiny.

What we are in control of is how we react to our situations—what we allow ourselves to become as the paths of our lives unfold.

And part of that choice is how we relate to those around us. We can choose to build walls of separation that provide a false sense of security to barricade ourselves from another’s “contagious” misfortune. Or we can choose to be there for others, just as we would want them to be there for us.

This week begins the “Three Weeks,” the annual period of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple and our ongoing exile. It begins on the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE.

The second Temple was destroyed because Jews were guilty of harboring baseless hatred towards each other. Rather than feeling and acting like a united people, they chose to see separations. We remain in exile today because we need to learn how to foster baseless love.

We can help correct that by breaking down the barriers that divide us, including those barriers we create to judge, feel superior or act callously towards others. Instead, let’s build a shelter of protection that surrounds those who are going through tough times, encircling them with love, empathy and practical assistance.

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,

There’s a joke about a mother who was walking with her daughter along the beach at the water’s edge. Suddenly, a huge wave sweeps the little girl out to sea.

“Oh, G‑d,” laments the mother, turning her face heavenward. “This was my baby—the love and joy of my life. Give her back to me, and I’ll give charity every day for the rest of my life!”

Suddenly, another enormous wave deposits the girl back on the sand. Looking back up to heaven, the mother says, “She had on a hat!”

It’s easy to lose perspective.

There’s the couple who yearned for a baby for many years. Months and years pass, and their aches intensify. When the wife finally becomes pregnant, their joy knows no bounds. But unfortunately, it is short-lived. The couple soon finds themselves bickering about everything—small things, like what color to paint their baby’s bedroom to larger issues, like who will be her caregiver when her parents are away.

Or there are the parents who are overjoyed to hear that their daughter has finally found her soulmate. As they begin to prepare for her wedding day, they become utterly disappointed to learn that the venue they had always dreamed of was booked solid.

Does it sound unreal? It happens all the time.

How often do we pray for a certain outcome? We are overcome with relief and gratitude when our wishes finally materialize. But how long does our satisfaction last? How long does it take until we become irritated with some detail that wasn’t anticipated or some part of our idyllic plan that hasn’t occurred?

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the story of the Jews at the end of their 40-year sojourn in the desert. They are camped by the Jordan River just outside of the Land of Israel.

Over the last several decades, they had gone through so much. They had passed and failed many tests and challenges. They had grown and matured as a people. Finally, they are at the cusp of achieving their dream, ready to cross over into the Promised Land!

And then what happens? They lose perspective.

Israel dwelled in Shittim. And the people began to go astray after the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1)

Debauchery, harlotry and idolatry ensue, reaching its peak when finally one man, Pinchas, stands up from the crowd and acts quickly to put an end to the sins.

Losing focus and becoming distracted are all too easy. Even when we are about to achieve our goal, we often stumble because we lose our vision and forget what is truly important.

This week, like Pinchas, let’s focus on rising to the challenge of keeping a proper perspective, even when things don’t go exactly as planned.

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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