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Your Dreams and the Priestly Blessings

May 22, 2018

Dear Readers,

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to the priestly blessing.

The L‑rd spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them: “May the L‑rd bless you and watch over you. May the L‑rd cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you. May the L‑rd raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.”1

The first time the priest​ly ​blessing was pronounced was the day that the Tabernacle was inaugurated. Since that time, the Kohanim continue to bless the congregation (outside of Israel, on every holiday), creating a channel for Divine favor.

As we listen to their blessing (before their last words), we recite our own personal prayer asking to be healed of negative dreams:

Master of the Universe! I am yours and my dreams are yours. I have dreamed a dream and I do not know what it is. May it be Your will that all my dreams concerning myself and concerning anyone of Israel shall be for good. ... If they are good dreams, strengthen and reinforce them. But if they require healing, heal them. ... As you have transformed the curse of the wicked Bilaam from a curse to a blessing, so shall you transform all my dreams concerning myself and concerning all of Israel to good...

Why do we use such an opportune moment to pray for dreams that are considered meaningless?

Conceptually, every one of us is a dreamer.

We dream about our goals and aspirations, and about savoring our successes and cherished hopes. We dream, too, about what we don’t want our life to become. We look towards our future wondering if our dreams will materialize. Sometimes, perhaps we even question which of our ambitions have real merit; would life truly be better if all our dreams were realized?

Perhaps this is the deeper message in the prayer about our dreams said while the Kohanim chant their blessings.

Standing opposite the priests, we face our innermost soul, ready to re-evaluate our life’s dreams, expectations and values. In this moment of candor, we pray:

I have dreamed a dream and I do not know what it is.

May we be granted the wisdom to dream good dreams—positive and meaningful ambitions, hopes and desires that will truly promote our growth and welfare.

If they are good dreams, strengthen and reinforce them...

Help us to realize those good dreams and visions; strengthen and reinforce them.

But if they require healing, heal them...

But heal those dreams that are unhealthy or unrealistic. Remedy our perspective if it is distorted or confused. Focus our values, yearnings and aspirations to help us find the right path in life.

Dreams are such a significant part of being human. Let us continue to dream, hope and aspire. But only those dreams that are valuable, favorable and constructive—for us and for all of Israel.

And the congregation answers: Amen!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Footnotes

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.

Help Me Choose the Right Paint Color!

May 13, 2018

Dear Readers,

We’ll be moving to a new home soon and, as a result, I’ve been doing research on paint colors. I have lots (and I mean, lots!) of samples to help me choose just the right hues. While I wasn’t surprised that muted or pastel colors have many shades and variations, I thought that picking out a black or white would at least be simple.

Was I wrong!

White happens to be one of the hardest “colors” to select. Every shade has an undertone, ranging from warmer, creamier yellows to colder gray or blue tones. While the paint chip might look like it’s just a regular white, once it’s up on the wall, you might see it as green, purple or pink, depending on the light and time of day. Surprisingly, even black—the absence of color—has undertones ranging from blue-black, brown-black or charcoal-gray.

I also learned that colors are greatly affected by their surroundings. The very same color in a north-facing room can look completely different in a south-facing one with stronger sunlight. Moreover, other colors within the room, like your furnishings, or even trees outside the window can change the appearance of a color. So a white room with lots of shrubbery outside may reflect a green shade.

To really choose your perfect color, you need to see how it interacts with the many other things within its environment.

Which brings me to people. Every one of us is so complex! We all have fundamental “undertones,” positive and negative traits that can be triggered in different situations. Moreover, our environment plays a huge role in helping or preventing our true undertones from surfacing. The right, supportive circumstances can bring out our best colors.

So, if your child (or you) is not succeeding, check if the environment needs tweaking. Maybe he or she needs a different kind of learning style. Maybe you need a more creative work environment.

Pirkei Avot states, hevei zahir bemitzvah kallah kevachamurah, which literally means “be careful with small commandments as you are with more serious ones.” The word zahir, “careful,” also means “to illuminate.” Mitzvot, “commandments,” are G‑d’s guidebook, communicating with us how to lead the most enriched, blessed, meaningful life that refines and illuminates ourselves and our world.

This coming week we celebrate Shavuot, when the Jewish people received the Torah. We answered, naase venishma, “we will do and we will listen.” We vowed to do—to adhere to G‑d’s will—even before we understood all the particulars of what we were expected to do.

We commit ourselves to “do,” knowing this is G‑d’s will and ultimately best for us. But then must come nishma, “learning” how to uniquely apply ourselves to this body of laws and find our own path within the Torah.

This is all about learning how to find the right outlet, environment and surroundings to imbue our lives with our greatest hues and talents. So that all our undertones can truly shine!

Wishing you a Chag Sameach!

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.

The Agony of an Ingrown Toe Nail

May 6, 2018

Dear Readers,

I was hopping around in pain. Every step felt tortuous.

No, I hadn’t broken or sprained my foot. And no, my shoes weren’t pinching. There was a far simpler reason for my pain.

I had an ingrown toe nail.

Did you ever have one? A miniscule piece of nail growing in the wrong direction causes such discomfort. If left unchecked, it can even cause a huge, pussy infection.

It’s amazing how something as innocent as a nail in such a minor place on our bodies (not on any of your body’s major organs, but on the foot’s toe!) can create unbearable suffering.

And yet, those very nails on our hands or toes can be so helpful. Nails can caution us about our health; malnutrition can change their color and provide an early warning. Nails help us scratch our back or scrape a piece of dirt off of the counter. We can gingerly use them to help pull a splinter out of a child’s skin. They can serve as a substitute for a guitar pick. When manicured, they add a pretty sparkle to our appearance.

But hopping around in agony, all I could think of was the suffering that this tiny nail was causing. Because sometimes something positive or even neutral in the wrong place or at the wrong time can wreak pain and devastation.

The Hebrew word middot, “characteristic,” also means “measurements.” When we work on our character, we need to work on measuring each of our traits for the proper responses in any given situation. When misplaced, a character trait that is usually positive can become negative, and vice versa.

Take kindness, for example. We should be utilizing this characteristic often, giving and sharing abundantly. But there are times when giving can be unproductive and possibly even destructive. Giving unconditionally to a child or an individual who is abusing our gifts or destroying them is not doing anyone a kindness. At the same time, withholding when we should be giving can be equally devastating.

Or consider anger—one of the worst character traits, which should be avoided at all costs. There are times when anger, or at least appearing to be angry, might be necessary. When a child does something terribly wrong, a parent or educator may need to appear “angry” to impress upon him or her how unacceptable that behavior was. (That doesn’t mean we need to yell or act out in anger; just the appearance of a disappointed face can sometimes be effective.)

During the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, as we prepare spiritually to receive the Torah, we work on our middot, by consistently and carefully measuring and monitoring our internal feelings and responses. Each of our character traits can be used positively or negatively, depending on the situation.

Because if even something like a tiny toe nail in the wrong place can wreak absolute misery, then imagine the power of something positive in the right place and at the right time.

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.

They Demolished the House Next Door

April 29, 2018

Dear Readers,

One day. That’s all it took.

Yesterday, I looked out my living-room window, and there was this gray, tired-looking, somewhat decrepit home that had stood in that same spot for the last many decades. Today, that house is gone; all that remains is an empty lot.

A rugged Caterpillar bulldozer arrived early in the morning and began clamoring away. We heard loud bangs, and by noon, half of the structure had been knocked down and cleared away into a nearby dumpster. The afternoon hours were spent hammering at the cement foundation; by dinner time, the tractor was clearing the remaining debris.

Throughout the day, as any of us passed through our living room, we would glance out the window and comment on how quickly this home was being smashed. “They’re up to the kitchen!” we would share or “That must be the last bedroom coming down!”

For years, families lived their lives in this home, and now it was gone. The entire structure in a single day!

From the other side of the street, we also hear loud noises. Vehicles come and go, and construction workers continuously set about their work. First, there were the huge shovels to dig deep below the ground. Then there was the especially enormous and noisy truck that laid the cement foundation. A few weeks later, framers were sawing and banging while constructing the structure’s wooden frame. Many trades were called in for their expertise: plumbers, electricians, trimmers, HVAC specialists and more.

Though they have been working continuously for more than half a year, that home is still nowhere near ready for occupation. More specialty fields will be commissioned to ensure that every part—from the raw architectural plans to the final finishes—is constructed to the owner’s wishes.

And yet, though it requires months or years and so many different experts to construct a beautiful home, in just one day it can be demolished. All it takes is one tough truck to ram it to the ground and destroy it.

Which makes me think of people.

It takes time, effort, kind words and wisdom to build up a person. Different kinds of “experts” in many fields are needed to bring out someone’s greatest potential. Yet each of us can offer our own small contribution to help building up some part of those individuals with whom we interact.

But it takes so little thought or effort to bang someone down and destroy. Harsh words, biting comments and uncaring actions can bring devastation so quickly.

And one ramming so often leads to the next. One negative word or attitude elicits an almost domino reaction, creating more negativity, until the whole beautiful structure crumbles to a pile of debris.

Word or actions have the power of destroying or building. Let’s choose to carefully and intricately to build up a world and humanity full of grace and goodness.

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.

Pushing the Wrong Buttons

April 22, 2018

Dear Readers,

Computers and I have a tenuous relationship. I can’t live without them; they are integral in the work that I do. And yet, they aggravate me to no end, plaguing me with issues and problems that keep on cropping up.

Take the other day.

I was trying to connect my Wi-Fi in order to use the Internet. My computer should be doing this automatically as soon as I log on. The problem was, it didn’t. My computer was stuck in airplane mode, and the Wi-Fi connection was disabled.

There’s a simple solution to this, I thought. I pushed the Wi-Fi “On” button on the screen. Something seemed to be happening; the circle going round and round told me that my computer was working on connecting. Except it didn’t.

I restarted my computer. Same issue. I tried pushing the Wi-Fi button “On” and airplane mode “Off” over and over again. Each time, it looked like it would work, only to be stuck in the same airplane mode, unable to connect.

This was frustrating. I needed my Wi-Fi. And I was determined to get it to work—on my own.

Deep breathe. Try again. Try troubleshooting. More deep breathing. More rebooting.

Nearly an hour later, I admitted defeat. I went to ask a family member. He fiddled with the buttons, over and over. He, too, wasn’t having any luck. He looked up the problem online, and apparently, Dell laptops can sometimes get stuck in this mode. At this point, I was desperate for my computer to work and even ready to call tech support at work headquarters.

But then my son (a computer genius) arrived home from out of town. I was sure he wouldn’t be able to do anything, and I really didn’t want to bother him the minute he walked in, but I figured it was at least worth a try. Two minutes later, he called out: “Ma, it’s working now.”

“You’re kidding?!” I was shocked. He pointed to a physical button at the side of my computer. “You see this button? It must have somehow been pressed, and as a result, it turned off the Wi-Fi. Next time, just make sure this button is pushed to Wi-Fi and you shouldn’t have a problem.”

A little physical button at the side of my computer? I could manage that!

Buttons.

Sometimes, the wrong button is pushed in our psychological or spiritual composition. We wake up on the wrong side of the bed; someone says something that triggers us; something happens that makes us feel deflated. We may try to overcome our foul mood, but nothing seems to work. We’re just not connecting. Not to our inner selves. Not to others. And we may not even be aware of what actually is causing these feelings within us. We try to reboot, but it just doesn’t happen.

What’s the magical button you use that can help you reconnect? I’d love to hear.

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.

The Highs and Lows of Life

April 15, 2018

Dear Readers,

Life is a never-ending cycle of low points that meld into high points, only to revert back again. Every day, we experience night, only to awake to the energy of day. We work during the mundane six days of the week and then bask in the holiness of Shabbat. The winter season ushers in lifelessness while the summer rejuvenates.

In parshat Metzorah, we are introduced to the halachic terms of tumah and taharah. Some of these lows and highs of life can be defined by these terms. Loosely translated, tumah means “impurity,” and taharah means “purity.” These terms have nothing to do with physical cleanliness, but are wholly spiritual concepts.

Tumah would more correctly be defined as an absence of holiness, while taharah would mean a state of readiness to receive or be imbued with holiness. Though sometimes tumah can be caused intentionally by sinning and pushing G‑d away from one’s life, many forms of tumah are inborn in the rhythm of life itself, and have no association with sin, or negativity, at all.

The severest source of tumah is a corpse. Bereft of its soul to provide holiness and vitality, the body remains in a state of void, and, therefore, in a state of impurity. Anyone coming in contact with a dead body is likewise considered ritually impure.

Similarly, during sleep, the soul temporarily leaves the body to ascend on high (therefore, sleep is considered 1/60th of death). Upon awakening, the hands, through which the soul departs, are considered tameh until they are ritually washed. Though the hands are not dirty, they must be purified since the body experienced a void of holiness.

The ultimate purpose of tumah, or of any concealment of G‑d’s revelation—a low on life’s cosmic wheel—is to achieve a higher level by transforming it. For the bottom of life’s cosmic wheel portends the top, and not only affect the topmost part, but is an integral part of it.

Sleep furnishes strength for the hours of wakefulness. Weekdays supply the framework for change and creativity, so that we can absorb blessing and peace on Shabbat. Similarly, throughout exile, we have the opportunity to uproot negativity so that we can attain the era of redemption, when we will reveal the Divine essence of creation.

During menstruation, a woman has the status of tumah. This is a built-in component of her natural monthly cycle, demonstrating her descent from a peak level of holinesswhen she has the ability to conceive a new life through the union with her husband.

Tumah doesn’t imply sinfulness, degradation or inferiority. On the contrary, it emphasizes the great level of holiness inherent in woman’s G‑dly power to create and nurture a new life, and underlines the holiness of a husband and wife’s intimate union. Since a woman possesses this lofty potential, she also bears its void; hence, her status as tameh. She experienced “the touch of death,” so to speak, with the loss of potential life, as reflected by her menstruation.

Through the natural rhythms of her body, a woman keeps re-experiencing her wondrous G‑dly power to create.

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.

Mothers Huddled (and Hopeful) in the Rain

April 8, 2018

Dear Readers,

We were four mothers huddled together that early Thursday morning. We all scheduled our children’s roadside driving tests for the first appointments of the day and had arrived in close proximity of one another. As the clouds gave way to a light drizzle, we shifted into a glass-covered outdoor shelter, but the winds still penetrated, blowing straight through our bulky coats.

One mother was dressed in professional clothing and was undoubtedly rushing off to work as soon as her child’s 8 a.m. appointment concluded. Another could barely speak English; it was clear that this wasn’t her or her daughter’s first language.

We made some small talk. First, about the changing weather—how just yesterday we experienced almost summer-like weather (“We had highs even higher than Florida,” one Mom commented). Today, it felt more like February, with winter’s grip still strong.

Clustering in the cold, we each waited and wondered if our children would pass their driving tests. We closely examined their instructors, wondering how strict they would be. With our eyes, we followed our children driving around the circular path, mentally willing them to remember to stop a full stop, and watching if they were struggling with their parallel parking or bumping any of the orange cones set up along the way.

No doubt, we had each tried to prepare our children for this moment. They had studied and succeeded in passing their written tests, acing the detailed questions. They had painstakingly practiced with driving instructors and spent many hours on the road with family members, who carefully watched and scrutinized their driving patterns.

Though each of us moms came from different backgrounds, we all shared a parent’s concern—wanting our children to succeed in this test, but more than that, hoping that we had prepared our children to safely navigate their vehicles. We realized, too, that the ultimate test would come when our children would drive on their own, making turns and decisions without our help.

Our children returned, one by one, several moments later. Some were ecstatic to have passed their tests, and some were downcast with instructions on what they needed to work on for next time.

Watching the procedure—the passes and the failures—I realized that this experience taught us some important principles about safely navigating through life’s roads and circumstances:

  1. Even if theoretically you know the right answers on a written test, that doesn’t automatically translate into practice, in choosing the right action.
  2. Often, we are put are in a situation where we have to make decisive, split-second decisions (sometimes, even pertaining to life and death). To make the right choice, our instincts have to be honed to react correctly.
  3. Practice, practice and more practice, especially when not under the pressure of a test, trains our instincts.
  4. Sometimes, you need to fail in order to try harder and learn more. That often makes you a safer and better navigator of life’s passages.

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.

Go Ahead: Take the Plunge!

April 2, 2018

Dear Readers,

What prevents us from taking the path of change to better our lives?

Sometimes, it is a fear of the unknown. We’d rather embrace a familiar present, no matter how painful. We worry about where change will lead, even while acknowledging that it can bring a better future.

Sometimes, it is the fear of others. What will others think? Will I be blamed, criticized or judged?

So often, it is the fear of ourselves. We don’t feel ready; we’re not yet “good enough” to take on this venture. We see our flaws and imperfections, and define ourselves through this lens. Rather than embracing who we are and working to improve, we feel unworthy, stuck in the mode of wishing who we could be, instead of who we already are. Our unrealistic striving for perfection prevents us from achieving what we can.

Some 3,000 years ago, as our ancestors became a nation, we were shown how to confront such insecurities.

After their miraculous Egyptian exodus, G‑d commanded the Jewish people to travel towards Sinai. But how? The people found themselves stuck—in front of them was the raging Sea of Reeds; behind them was the vengeful Egyptian army.

Fear created paralysis.

There were those who feared the unknown—a life of Egyptian servitude was preferred! Others feared the consequences of their actions—death would be better! Others were so stuck that they could do no more than move their lips in prayer. Still others considered backtracking, attempting to fight the Egyptians and their injustices.

Undoubtedly, many felt unworthy of G‑d’s help. After centuries of enslavement in the bowels of Egyptian culture, they, too, had slipped into the depths of depravity and corruption. How could they expect to become G‑d’s chosen nation?

And then there was Nachshon, son of Aminodov.

Nachshon wasn’t in denial. He was aware of both the might of the Egyptians and the fearful seawaters—and that he and his fellows were no match for either. He also grasped his nation’s lowly spiritual status.

But his fear of inadequacy didn’t stop him. This was a challenge—a huge one—from which they would certainly need G‑d’s miraculous assistance. The only way to confront challenges, however, is to move ahead, embracing who we are and what we need to do.

G‑d had chosen this nation. G‑d believed in them. G‑d would surely help them to become the great nation that He envisioned. And so, Nachshon courageously stepped into the waters that miraculously split . . .


In our lives, there are times when contemplation is needed. There are situations when heartfelt prayers are necessary. Other times, we must fight against what is holding us back. There are even times when we need to retreat and find a different path towards our goals.

But at no point should we allow the paralysis of fear to prevent us from advancing. We need to keep moving onwards, with the confidence and belief that G‑d is at our side.

G‑d doesn’t expect our perfection, but He does demand our efforts. And our belief that, together with G‑d, we can!

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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