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Soul Powers You Didn’t Know You Had

November 9, 2018 1:50 PM

Dear Readers,

Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios?

Your child—or your co-worker—is grating on your nerves, trying your patience, complaining nonstop. Instinctively, you want to lash out harshly or respond sarcastically. Instead, you dig deep within yourself to find a response that is patient, wise and empathetic.

Sara is naturally introverted, and she shies away from any type of public speaking. After her close relative recovered from a serious illness, she was asked to host an event in her home to speak about the recovery process and the organizations that helped along the way. Though it was extremely hard for her, she felt so passionate about the cause that she agreed, digging deep within herself to find the resources.

A mother watched in horror as a large car ran over her toddler, trapping him underneath. Although she had never practiced any weight training—and though the car was far heavier than anything she could ever possibly lift—somehow in that frightening moment, she was able to access a strength beyond her natural self and succeeded in freeing her child.

Every day we battle darkness—emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Every challenge that we face requires us to find within ourselves inner resources, to access our “inner light” deep within.

Chassidic philosophy teaches us that there are three levels within our spiritual makeup.

  • Kochos pnimi’im, the soul’s conscious inner powers. These powers help us respond to a situation that might require our patience or wisdom by using our intellectual or emotional faculties, like the child or coworker example above.
  • Kochos makifim are the soul’s encompassing powers. This is our spiritual potential that transcends the soul’s conscious control, but encompasses and lifts it up. Even here we have two levels 1.) makif hakarov, an encompassing light that is close (i.e., within our reach); and 2.) makif harachok, an encompassing light that is distant, transcendent and bound with G‑dliness, beyond our reach.

The woman reaching beyond her comfort zone to do something entirely uncharacteristic for the sake of a cause that she is passionate about could be an example of the first. The mother who found transcendent strength far beyond her capabilities when it came to saving her precious child could be an example of the second.

There are times when we feel ourselves overwhelmed by such a darkness that we might even feel incapable of fighting this darkness. At such moments, we need to remember that the highest rung—the essential G‑dly potential lying at the core of our soul—can fight the inkiest darkness and access a light that is stronger.

This is the dimension of the soul that is an actual part of G‑d from above. It can never be blemished; it is intact within each of us, regardless of our present level, and always remains untainted.

And if we don’t stand in its way by thinking we can’t, then we can access it, even and especially in our darkest moments.

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.

Reframing: From ‘I’ve Got to … ’ to ‘I Get to … ’

November 4, 2018 2:10 AM

Dear Readers,

“It’s getting so cold outside. I just can’t stand the long, cold winter!”

“I have so much to take care of, I don’t even know where to begin. This is just way too much!”

“Why am I always the one to do all the grocery shopping, preparing and cooking for our family’s reunion? How am I going to get it all done?”

There’s so much in our daily schedules that we can complain about. Nothing ever seems to go how we want it, and let’s be honest, life can be tough with its myriad responsibilities and challenges. It’s easy to feel down, depressed and overwhelmed.

Or, we can reframe.

Imagine looking through a camera lens at beautiful nature scenes. It’s the fall season, and you see the glorious trees, with their leaves gently falling and their many panoramic colors. Now focus in on one of those leaves. Set the camera on a dark, ugly dark spot, and notice how shriveled and dried out the leaf appears. Now zoom back out and reframe again. You might see the dazzling colors, or you might notice the strong wind, chilling you to the bone.

Really, the choice is ours. It’s all there. But what frame do you want to see?

Reframing means to examine situations with a different slant, a different perspective. We can look at life as a burden or an opportunity. We can look at our many responsibilities as overwhelming, or we can be happy that we are strong, capable, and physically and emotionally able to do them. We can see the drudgery and coldness of the onset of the winter, or we can appreciate that we are alive to once again witness the change of seasons. We can lament the fact that we need to cook, work, clean or we can appreciate the fact that we have food, a job and a home.

Any situation can be reframed from “I’ve got to …” (read: burdensome, painful, negative) to “I get to …” (read: privilege, opportunity, positive). The day will be filled with the same activities, but it can look entirely different.

There is a famous Chassidic saying, tracht gut vet zain gut, meaning “think good and it will be good.” This means that if we have faith in G‑d, He will do something positive for us. G‑d will channel that faith to actually bring the revealed goodness in our life. Think positively, and G‑d will ensure that you will receive a positive outcome.

On another level, “think good and it will be good” can mean if your mindset is positive—if you are thinking of your situation in terms of what you “get” to do, rather than what you have “got” to do—then your entire perspective and attitude will be positive. Rather than complaining about all the bad in your life, you will actually see how good your life really is!

What a positive thought!

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.

It Wasn’t Just New Wrinkles on Her Face

November 4, 2018 1:16 AM

Dear Readers,

There once was a group of women who were studying the book of Malachi. They were interested in understanding the verse comparing G‑d to a silversmith: “G‑d will be like a refiner and purifier of silver.” So one woman visited a silversmith.

He showed her how he held the silver where the flames were hottest in order to remove its impurities. Closely watching it every second, he explained that if he kept it in the fire too long, it would be destroyed.

“How do you know when the silver is refined?” she asked.

He replied, “When I see my own image reflected on it.”


I thought of this story when I attended the wedding of my friend’s daughter. I had seen my friend sporadically over the past few years, and she had been through some hard times. Her younger child had been sick with cancer and had undergone a battery of painful treatments. After many months in and out of the hospital, her son was finally declared triumphant over his illness. She was ecstatic, but her joy was short-lived. Soon after, in a routine check-up, the doctors discovered that the illness had returned in full force.

Over the last many months, my friend once again endured the terrible agony of watching her child undergo medical treatments. Her life once again became consumed with fighting for his survival.

Tonight, celebrating her daughter’s wedding, her son was on the path to recovery.

Her face was so happy and full of gratitude, and yet her joy was also almost restrained—as if she was afraid to be too happy, lest something go wrong once again.

I hugged my friend. I could see the pain that she had been through reflected on her face, in new worry lines and wrinkles. I could almost see the many tears she had cried and the hardships she had endured.

As I watched her, I thought how none of us understands the ways of G‑d. None of us can fathom why anyone needs to be put into a “hot spot” or “fire” of life. I thought of the verse in Malachi, and I wondered about people who are put through the fire of life but seem to “break” from it.

Still, etched on her face was the evidence that throughout it all, G‑d had “held” her. Her strength of character, her deeper faith, her renewed conviction demonstrated the new person she had become, with the Divine imprint clearly reflected on her face. I silently prayed that she know no more suffering.

And then I thought of each and every one of us, who in some form or another is put through a trial, a hardship or a terrible challenge, and how G‑d “holds our hands” while we writhe in these hot spots to become the people we are meant to be. As we struggle to make the best life and world for ourselves and our families, outlined on all of our faces is the Divine imprint.

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.

Watch Out: Kindness Is Contagious!

October 22, 2018 5:12 PM

Dear Readers,

As the editor of theJewishwoman.org, I appreciate the far reach and power that the Internet has in creating and spreading positive learning experiences. I regularly receive communication from readers in remote places who are so appreciative of being part of our virtual community. And I cherish every single one of these letters.

But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how technology can actually transform a neighborhood into a community—connecting strangers and making them into one big family, while providing daily practical help.

When we moved to Pomona in Upstate New York, I was asked by different neighbors if I wanted to be put on various WhatsApp groups. Before long, I was on a block chat, several neighborhood groups, a school-bus group, a shul group and more!

Daily, I get updates about where the school bus is on its long winding route, which helps us know how much time until the bus will be at our corner. Weekly, I hear about learning opportunities, shul times and other interesting community activities or programs. I also learn about clothes, toys or furniture that is no longer needed and can be picked up to be used by others, recommendations for doctors, cleaning help or information about fixing things around the house.

But as I read the chats, I notice something even more amazing.

“Anyone have a bottle of milk that they can spare till next week, so I don’t have to run to the store right now?”

“Anyone driving to ... (nearby town) who can pick up a package for me?”

“Anyone happen to be in the kosher supermarket now that can pick me up something that’s waiting and paid for at the customer-service counter?”

And surprisingly, within seconds, the positive responses come in, offering lifts to locations, packages dropped off, extra groceries purchased and so much more.

Even more amazingly, I am noticing that the good will just keeps on spreading as more and more people offer their time or resources to help others.

A new friend who recently moved to the area told me in synagogue this past Shabbat, “I couldn’t believe how many people were offering to inconvenience themselves in order to help out others that they don’t even know in our community. When I saw that, I, too, felt that I wanted to do whatever I can to help. Instead of ignoring a request or thinking let someone else volunteer, I just want to jump in and be the one to respond!”

Goodness is so contagious! One small act to help another quickly multiplies into am entire neighborhood of people eager to help one another.

When seeing a community so organized and connected—and so willing to help—it makes me wonder how wonderful it would be to have this in every neighborhood!

Can you share ways, small or big, in which we can make our communities or neighborhoods better?

(And yes, I do have an unopened bottle of milk to spare. With pleasure!)

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.

Rerouting Our Spiritual Path

October 15, 2018 5:11 PM

Dear Readers,

The minute after I pressed “confirm order,” I regretted it.

I checked my email for the confirmation, and sure enough, there was my glaring mistake. After our recent move, I had updated my online shopping accounts to reflect our new address, but somehow this order had reverted back to our old address.

This was going to be a problem. When we moved out of our home, construction was being done by the new owner. A package to our old address, in all likelihood, would simply get lost.

And so began my ordeal of working with customer service. As soon as office hours opened the next morning, I called the company to ask them to either cancel my order or redirect it. “I do apologize, Ma’am, but once the order has been made, it is sent to our warehouse and there is nothing we can do to change the delivery. Please call the shipper, though, who will be able to redirect the package.”

After two calls to UPS, and more than two hours on the phone with customer service and technical support, I had achieved nothing (aside from acquiring a huge headache). The bottom line was that I could not unpress the “confirm order.” What had taken me a minute to do was costing me hours of time and money, and even the geeks and computer techies couldn’t undo it.

Fortunately, this was just a matter of wasted time and money. But in life, we also sometimes cause actions that we regret, creating a huge distance between where we want to be and where we truly are. We wish there was a way to reroute or cancel our decision. Is there?

When G‑d created this world, He knew He was creating imperfect beings who would mess up. And so, He created a concept, a gift, called teshuvah, the ability to erase past mistakes. Logically, it really doesn’t make any sense. It’s impossible to go back in time and undo something that you yourself did. Unless, of course, we realize that time, too, is a creation, and G‑d has abilities that are far beyond logic.

Although we think about teshuvah during the High Holiday season, it’s something that applies year-round. When it comes to our spiritual growth, we can undo our mistakes with the important caveat that we learn and grow from them.

This week, we read about the life of Sarah—all “100 and 20 and seven years.” The interesting phrase teaches us that at every stage, she lived a life of consistent perfection. That doesn’t mean that she knew at age 7 what she learned at 100; rather, she used every stage and every opportunity as a learning and growth experience.

As human beings, we will unfortunately make mistakes and do things we regret. We need to correct whatever we can, and learn and grow from whatever we cannot.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S. It seems that with enough effort (and help from geeks), even packages can be redirected. Several days later, my package arrived at … my new address!

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.

I Misjudged

October 15, 2018 5:07 PM

Dear Readers,

I met a woman the other day. In addition to being the mother of several children, she had a very successful career. She had worked her way up the rungs of her profession and was now considered one of the top members in this challenging field. She had a no-nonsense look about her, and she appeared smug, almost arrogant.

I met her soon after I had heard gossip about her. A friend had consulted her to help with a situation, and she wasn’t forthcoming with any assistance. My impression of this woman was cemented. In my mind, she was cold and arrogant—not someone I would likely want to become too close with.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly we form impressions of people? How quick we are to judge them, based on superficial cues?

In the days that followed, I met this woman again, and she started up a conversation. As her daughter climbed onto her lap, she told me that unlike her own children, she didn’t have much of a childhood. Her mother had passed away when she was a pre-teen and left behind several children; she was the oldest. The responsibility of caring for her young siblings fell on her shoulders. She quickly learned how to cook, how to buy clothes and how to take care of their needs. While her classmates were busy studying for tests or going on outings, she had responsibilities. Until today, she was close to her siblings; they often leaned on her for advice or support. She gave me an example of one in a dire situation, and she was taking on the challenge.

She said this all very matter of factly, without bitterness or sadness about her past, and without pride or conceit. She was not trying to elicit my sympathy nor show me how much kindness she did. She spoke simply without emotion, as if she was sharing a memory from her distant past or an encounter that she had yesterday at work.

I went home after that short meeting with a completely different impression of this woman. Her hard work had paid off, and she now enjoyed a more affluent, happy life. But what I had judged as gruffness or smugness were merely necessary tools she used in coping with the challenges she had been given early on in life. Beneath her outward hardness or emotionlessness was a soft and giving heart.

Over the next few weeks, our paths crossed once again, and I noticed several other small and big acts of kindness that this woman was involved in.

I learned an important lesson about judging people. We all are so much more than we appear to be. We all have a past and a present; we all have challenges that we’re dealing with that others are completely unaware of. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and judge less, and when we do, favorably.

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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