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Here’s One Time You Should NOT Think Positively

Re'eh

August 7, 2020 11:12 AM

Dear Readers,

Optimism and positivity.

That’s the Torah’s approach to how we should view almost every circumstance. We try to see the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

Even during trying times, we highlight what we have rather than what is lacking, and all that we need to be grateful for, as opposed to focusing on our wants and needs.

On a psychological level, this approach is very beneficial. The more we emphasize our gratitude, the more positive we become as people. As I heard from one motivational instructor, “It’s not that happy people are thankful, it’s that thankful people are happy.”

But on a spiritual level, this approach is even more powerful. Positive thinking can actually change our reality in a significant way.

“Think good, and it will be good” is a popular Chassidic saying, which means that positive thoughts create a positive reality. When we open the channels of our faith in G‑d by trusting Him to create a good outcome, we generate what we are hoping for. By believing that G‑d is infinite, able to provide for us in a way that we perceive as positive, G‑d reciprocates and directs that positive reality into our lives.

Even if things get so bad and we don’t see those positive outcomes—and we see no seed of goodness in our suffering—we assure ourselves with our faith. “All that G‑d does is ultimately for our own good” we tell ourselves, even if we can’t currently comprehend how that is so.

But there’s one time when this attitude just does not work. Moreover, not only is it not praiseworthy to be positive, it is actually downright destructive.

That is when it comes to others.

Never look at the suffering of another person and think, “Well, at least he has something good in his life to be grateful for.” Similarly, thoughts like, “This was meant to be” or, “All is for the good” is completely out of place when it comes to another person.

When you see someone suffering, it is downright cruel to think that this individual has been given a test in order to strengthen him or help her become a better person. Our job is not to philosophically come to terms with another’s pain, but to alleviate it.

This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh speaks about the commandment of charity.

If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities . . . you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother.

Rather, open, open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking . . .

You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; for because of this thing G‑d will bless you in all your work and in all your endeavors. (Deut 15:7-9)

The Talmud (Bava Batra 10a) comments: “Rabbi Elazar would give a coin to a pauper, and only then would he pray.”

So, the Torah’s approach is this: The next time you see someone suffering, drop the smugly righteous “It’s all good” mantra. Instead, roll up your sleeves and see what you can do to help.

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 Neighbor’s Secret

July 13, 2020 3:52 PM

Dear Readers,

This week, Jews everywhere observe the Fast of the Ninth of Av, the saddest day on our calendar. Both Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date, unleashing a period of suffering from which our nation has never fully recovered.

The Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. Rather than feeling and acting like a united people, we chose to create divisions.

When we are so consumed with ourselves and our own needs, hurts and ambitions, we leave no room for anyone else. We begin to despise another person simply because of the space they consume. Our world becomes too small for anyone other than ourselves, and we resent the positions that they fill, the homes that they dwell in, and even the ideologies or politics that they adhere to. We may give reasons for why we hate them, but these reasons are secondary to the fact that they are simply occupying their own space, taking away from our own.

We remain in exile today because we need to learn how to foster baseless love—how to open ourselves up to doing wanton acts of kindness by caring for another beyond reason.

Over the last many months, we’ve seen many acts of kindness all around us. I want to share with you one example that has touched me.

My parents, being in their 80s, have not ventured out for the last several months due to COVID-19. A neighbor has been calling my mother regularly to ask if she could pick up anything for her.

This woman would always call early in the morning and say that she’s leaving soon to do her grocery shopping. Several hours later, she would ring the bell and drop off the package by the doorstep so that my parents wouldn’t risk exposure.

One day, my mother discovered what this woman had been doing during those daytime hours. Apparently, this woman’s daughter was very sick with cancer in the hospital, and she was spending her days at her bedside. Yet she kept these personal circumstances to herself, not even hinting at her plight, knowing that my mother would never trouble her with her own needs if she knew what the woman was going through.

At a time when she must have felt so distraught, pained and overwhelmed with the health challenges in her family, this selfless woman made room to think about how she could assist another—and how she could do so in the finest way possible. What an example of sheer kindheartedness, seeing beyond ourselves and expressing wanton love to another!

I want to wish this beautiful woman that her daughter should have a speedy and full recovery, and that her noble act should join with the countless others around the world to finally tip the balance and usher in an era when there will be no more illness, hardship or suffering.

Wishing you an easy fast!

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.

Looking for the Feminine Voice

July 2, 2020 5:13 PM

Dear Readers,

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the daughters of Tzelafchad and how they petitioned Moses to grant them an inheritance in the land of Israel since their father had died and had no sons.

The Chassidic masters explain that each of the forty-two legs of the journey from Egypt to the Holy Land reflects another generation and stage in our world history. The incident of the daughters of Tzelafchad occurred on the last stop of this journey. It represents the end of our cosmic journey, right before our ultimate conquest of the Land, in the messianic age.

Since the patriarchs, there have been great women who displayed spiritual qualities that their husbands (who were themselves righteous leaders of Israel) could not attain. These individuals experienced a taste of the messianic era in their lives, when the feminine values will rise above the masculine.

During the generation of the desert, the women, too, repaired what the men broke down by refusing to participate in the Golden Calf and by refusing to listen to the negative counsel of the spies. The daughters of Tzelafchad petitioned to receive an inheritance, when the men had been unwilling to enter the Land.

The great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal, explains (Shaar Hagilgulim) that the generation of the final redemption is a reincarnation of the souls of those who were freed from Egypt. Their strong feminine values will be mirrored in the last leg of our history, causing and heralding the ultimate redemption, when the feminine role will be cherished.

We are that generation. And there is no time better than now when we so desperately need the feminine voice and the feminine qualities of receptiveness, nurturance, and empathy to change the very nature and hostility of our world and transform it into a home for G‑d.

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 (and who isn’t?), encircling them with love, empathy and practical assistance.

Wishing you a wonderful, nurturing 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 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.
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