Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.
Let's Go For Coffee

What Is Faith According to Judaism?

January 13, 2020 3:11 PM

Dear Readers,

In the final days of the war of 1967, when the Arab nations were banded against Israel, a group of soldiers had finally reached the Kotel, the holiest site in Judaism, and place of the first and second Temple.

Many of the soldiers came from religious and traditional backgrounds, and stood in awe, crying that the Kotel had been liberated. One soldier from a secular background watched and then also began to cry. A religious soldier who often debated with him approached and asked, “I don’t understand, to us the Kotel is everything! But why do you cry?”

The soldier answered simply, “Ani bocheh al mah sheani lo bocheh! ‘I am crying over the fact that I am not crying!’ I watch you and see your deep connection, and I cry because I sense that I am missing that.”

There are countless stories where something was kindled within a “non-observant” Jew to wake him up to his faith and traditions. But why? What causes such a reaction?

The dictionary defines faith as “a strong belief in G‑d or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” Meaning, “a person of faith” is someone who keeps to the doctrines of that religion, usually due to fear or conditioning.

Judaism looks at faith, or emunah, completely differently, which explains why even someone who doesn’t act as “a believer” can still have deep faith.

Faith, according to Judaism is based on two things:

1) Our soul experienced G‑d firsthand before descending to this world.

Before descending to this world, our soul experienced an infinite G‑dly revelation. This revelation is a part of our essential selves, and its impression is indelible. Moreover, since this revelation was infinite, when we tap into it, we have access to unlimited powers.

2) Faith is intrinsic to what our soul is.

Chassidic thought teaches that our soul is an actual part of G‑d, “breathed” into our being. This is an essential part of us. This means that not only was our soul granted an infinite revelation, which would imply a “G‑d and us” or “You and me” relationship, but that we have an actual part of G‑d within each of us.

So faith is something deep within us. Irrespective of our understanding or our behavior, no matter how we dress or how many mitzvot we keep, faith is a part of who we are. Whether or not we act with this awareness, each one of us is eternally connected to G‑d. We may not be aware of it or it may be buried, but our connection is accessible, waiting for us to activate it.

So faith, according to Judaism, is really about allowing our soul to experience what it remembers and what it essentially is. Faith is that dimension of ourselves that helps us to be in touch with our true reality.

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 six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

Living Fragmented Lives

January 2, 2020 10:13 PM

Dear Readers,

If I had to choose one word to describe the suffering and unhappiness in our world, it would be fragmentation. We live fragmented lives.

We don’t see any connection or meaning behind the issues of our lives. We view people as separate from us, rather than as part of a unified, symbiotic whole. We view time and events as disjointed, with no theme or underlying purpose.

That’s why even though we may be surrounded by so much good, we can get upset by an insult, a thoughtless remark or something that doesn’t go as well as planned. Experiences in our lives that we perceive as “negative” become overpowering and cause such suffering. Because when I am imprisoned within the moment, I am unable to see beyond this particular event, this challenge that I am confronting, this streak of bad luck I am currently facing. These challenging situations are senseless to me and thus overwhelmingly painful.

Galut is usually translated as “exile.” But galut is not simply a state of banishment from our land or our inability to live as practicing Jews. In our times, we are able to physically live in Israel, and in most other countries we are able to practice Torah and mitzvot. But we are still very much in galut.

Because galut means being imprisoned within a fragmented perception of reality, on all levels: time, space, self and community. It affects how we view ourselves, others and all the events in our lives. It is our inability to see the underlying synergy.

Geulah, “redemption,” on the other hand, is seeing the wholeness and the core G‑dliness within creation. It is the perception of the connecting thread, the Divine force running through everything—people, places and events. It is viewing each event as leading up to a purpose, having a mission and a reason; and understanding that there will be a grand finale when all these loose ends will be wholesomely tied together.

That’s why the Hebrew word for “exile,” golah differs only in one letter from its counterpart, geulah, “redemption.” Golah is missing the aleph (numerically, one). It lacks the perception of Oneness, unity, wholeness, goodness and the foundational purpose of creation.

Without the aleph, we behold the very same world, but it is a world of fragmentation, restlessness and frustrations. Happiness and fulfillment are lacking since there is no goal, no past and no future.

Insert the aleph, though, and a context emerges.

Every mitzvah that we do draws down this aleph awareness within each of us, and within the world at large. Mitzvah means connection. Every mitzvah uncovers the concealed purpose of this moment or of this created matter, and thereby connects us to our Creator. It reminds us that we are here to serve an essential purpose, and that every experience is necessary and meaningful—even those that may cause us such distress—in bringing about a glorious future.

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 six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

The Monsey Stabbing Just a Short Drive From My Home

December 30, 2019 10:32 AM

Dear Readers,

Over Chanukah, my children visited us from Chicago. After Shabbat, after the seventh lighting of the menorah, they were preparing to leave. My son-in-law and two older grandchildren were rushing in and out, busily loading their van for their long drive home early the next morning.

And then, we heard the horrendous news of the stabbing in Monsey, N.Y.: A man entered a rabbi’s home and began viciously attacking those gathered for a Chanukah get-together. This took place just a short drive from my house. Our eyes were pealed to our phones, watching the latest newsflash on community chats. We now understood why our neighbor, a Hatzalah volunteer had sped down our street just moments earlier.

Minute by nerve-wracking minute, we were updated. Pictures circulated of stretchers being carried to ambulances with police surrounding the area, sirens blaring, and soon, of the names of those injured. Many took on to recite chapters of Psalms, praying for the wounded. Warnings were issued to lock doors as the attacker was still not apprehended. My husband ran outside to tell our children, and my grandson, who overheard, had a hard time falling asleep that night.

As time progressed, we learned that the criminal had been caught, thanks to a brave man in the rabbi’s house who chased him away with a table and told the police the license plate of the car he used to flee. As Sunday morning dawned, we awoke to the news that of the five people injured, one was critical and was undergoing his second surgery. More Psalms were recited.

Our community chat groups are still focused almost exclusively on the stabbing. There is talk about organizing defense classes, and many women have signed on. There are conversations about greater security in our schools and shuls, including hiring guards and training to use guns. Practical advice is being circulated about how to be more vigilant, as well as discussions to have with our children traumatized from this insanity.

I am also reading discussions focused on spiritual growth, as many take on more mitzvot and look inner to fortify ourselves spiritually to become stronger, better human beings who can bring G‑dliness to our world.

These actions are all important.

People are scared. Coming just weeks after the horrific Jersey City shootings, many wonder if they will ever feel safe to shop in a kosher supermarket, walk to synagogue or send their children off to school. And this isn’t only happening in our quiet, sleepy suburban town. My daughter tells me that in Chicago, a local kosher grocery just steps from her home had its window smashed; and days ago, friends suffered from hate crimes in Brooklyn, N.Y. For a while already, there has been a proliferation of open acts of anti-Semitism—acts that make your hair stand on end—in European cities, where many are afraid to openly dress as Jews. The climate of fright is all around us.

And yet, yesterday there was also a dedication for a new Torah to a shul just down the street from the stabbing, with a strong police presence, as throngs of Jews united to celebrate. Last night, the last night of Chanukah, as the menorah was fully lit, with all eight candles shining brightly against the dark outdoors, my teenage daughter’s class had a Chanukah gathering in our home. My son returns today from helping a shliach bring the light of Chanukah to others, and my daughter and son-in-law just sent pictures of their many Chanukah activities as shluchim to the Bahamas. These things remind me that despite the horror, our Torah is eternal, and the Jewish people are here to stay and thrive, and transform the darkness of our world into a beautiful G‑dly home.

As I gazed last night into the menorah’s candles, praying for the safety of my family and Jews the world over, I prayed that the overpowering darkness will quickly be vanquished by these small but potent lights, and by the many powerful acts of kindness throughout our world—ushering in a time of light 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 six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

4 Ways You and Your Relationships Resemble Oil

December 9, 2019 2:15 PM

Dear Readers,

In the grocery stores where I live at this time of year, olive oil is practically jumping off the shelves, to be used in so many savory dishes. Whether you make traditional latkes or spruce them up with healthier versions (broccoli or zucchini latkes, anyone?) or whether you enjoy homemade chocolate doughnuts filled with custard or a store-bought variety, oil is an essential component, used in our food to remember the small cruse of olive oil in the Temple that miraculously burned for eight days. We use the olive oil, too, to light the flames of our own menorahs as we commemorate the Chanukah miracle.

Jewish customs have profound depth and are not haphazard. A deeper look at the properties of olive oil teaches us about ourselves and our relationships.

  1. To make olive oil, you need to crush ripe olives to get the purest oil.
  2. Oil is notoriously hard to remove since it penetrates deeply into whatever it touches. (Be careful not to spill any on your clothes!)
  3. Oil naturally keeps to itself and separates from other liquids. (If you’ve ever made a salad dressing with oil, you’ll know how hard it is to keep it mixed.)
  4. Oil always rises to the top, leaving the other liquids sinking below.

So how are we like oil?

  1. The mystics compare our soul to oil. It may take crushing circumstances for us to fully come in tune with the depths of our soul’s powers or calling.
  2. But when we do reveal that beautiful part within us, it can penetrate deeply and enrich whatever parts of our lives that it touches.
  3. The soul is always pristine. No matter what negativity we have been involved with, our soul remains a pure part of G‑d. No matter how badly we may have acted, we are still a child of G‑d able to shine our light, undiluted by any past experience.
  4. Allowing our soul to shine within us helps us to rise to the top to become the best person we can be, exposing our greatest potentials.

In our relationships with others, we are also like oil. How so?

  1. To forge a relationship and truly connect with another, we need to crush our ego and haughtiness, and open ourselves up to see the other’s perspective.
  2. When we no longer fear exposing our vulnerability, we can penetrate into another’s life and enrichen the lives we touch.
  3. To reach deep dimensions in relationships, we need to first be a wholesome individual. We cannot expect others to complete us or create our happiness if we haven’t worked on developing our inner selves.
  4. The strength of another is far greater than the sum total of two individuals. When we develop positive, heathy relationships, we can rise to the top, reaching beyond our limitations.

Wishing you a very Happy Chanukah!

Enjoy your delicious dishes and coming in tune with your deepest self!

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 six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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 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 six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Recent Posts
Blog Archive