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Nixing Paradoxes

January 25, 2015

Dear reader,

My father-in-law, Rabbi Yankel Weisberg o.b.m., devoted his life to building up Torah institutions and communal organizations. In this capacity, he regularly consulted with leading Torah figures. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, the rosh yeshivah (dean) of Yeshivat Chaim Berlin, was one such individual.

In 1950, soon after the passing of the Previous Rebbe, the chassidim wanted his capable son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, to assume the leadership of the movement; but he was adamantly refusing.

My father-in-law asked Rabbi Hutner his opinion on the outcome. He was acquainted with the Rebbe and would travel to Crown Heights to pose to him profound questions on the teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidut.

He responded that on the one hand, the Rebbe loathed attention, pomp and prestige. Being the epitome of unbending truthfulness and such an unassuming individual, the Rebbe would find the position intolerable.

On the other hand, the Rebbe had such a sense of responsibility, and understood that the beautiful edifice and the six generations of self-sacrifice by the previous rebbeim could not merely be abandoned.

He concluded that the Rebbe’s staunch feelings of devotion might compel him to undertake the position, despite it being contrary to his nature.

The Rebbe, of course, did accept the leadership, and succeeded in building up Chabad-Lubavitch into the global, dynamic success story it has become. The Rebbe managed to lead this thriving movement without compromising on his inner desire for a quiet, reserved and unpretentious life, away from the public eye.

Living in a simple home, with unadorned furnishings, the Rebbe dressed in plain clothing. His office was modest; he took no vacations, and didn’t allow any attendant to carry his bags. Yet the Rebbe served as an authoritative leader, carrying supreme power and influence. The Rebbe didn’t compromise his standards, but at the same time reached out to every Jew, no matter the theological distance.

As unassuming as the Rebbe was, he was powerful. As much as the Rebbe was unbending to public opinion, he was intent on making the teachings of Judaism accessible to all.

The Rebbe successfully merged seemingly contradictory leadership paradigms because to the Rebbe, there was no contradiction. All divergent elements had one simple, pervasive goal—to make our world a holy abode for G‑d. And in this all-encompassing objective, every aspect and every detail found its perfect fit.

In life, we may be confronted by a situation that feels too formidable. It may seem to require a different person, gifted with a different personality, to succeed.

But perhaps at such moments we need to remember: Working for the sake of a higher goal gives us powers to transcend personal limitations, to overcome innate inclinations and even to merge opposites.

If our goal is to make our world a home for G‑d, contradictions, boundaries and impediments will be overcome.

Wishing you a successful 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.

#JeSuisJuif, #JeSuisCacher

January 11, 2015
The Hyper Cacher grocery store just outside of Paris was the site of terror, as shoppers were taken hostage during their pre-Shabbat shopping.
The Hyper Cacher grocery store just outside of Paris was the site of terror, as shoppers were taken hostage during their pre-Shabbat shopping.

Dear reader,

They went shopping, presumably to pick up those last-minute supplies before Shabbat: deli meats, gefilte fish or an extra salad dip. Being Jews, they frequented a kosher grocery store, Hyper Cacher, in eastern Paris.

And because they were Jews, they were targeted and murdered.

Yoav Hattab, the 21-year-old son of a rabbi in Tunis, had just returned to Paris to pursue his studies. Murdered in cold blood because he was a Jew.

Yohan Cohen, a 22-year-old worker in the supermarket who bravely attempted to grab the terrorist’s weapon. Shot in the head, his life cruelly cut short because he was a Jew.

Philippe Braham, an observant Jew in his forties and the father of four children who attend a Jewish school in Montrouge, a Paris suburb. Brutally massacred because he was a Jew.

Francois-Michel Saada, a man in his sixties, a husband and a father of two. Heartlessly slaughtered because he was a Jew.

Closely following the murders at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the terrorists went after the Jews. At an address to the nation Friday evening, French president François Hollande said the deadly attack in the kosher supermarket was unquestionably “an anti-Semitic attack.”

The latest massacre brings back too many other memories of similar recent bloodbaths, like the one in Mumbai in 2008; Toulouse in 2012; or Har Nof, Jerusalem, in 2014.

Jewish blood. Flowing freely.

An infant in a baby carriage. Fathers wrapped in tefillin. Teenagers heading home at night. Children studying at their Jewish school.

Jewish blood. Flowing freely.

On prayerbooks. On prayer shawls. And on jars of kosher pickles.

And what is our answer?

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, we read of the Jewish people’s heartfelt cries of agony during the brutality of their Egyptian exile, a place where Jewish blood flowed freely, where babies were cemented alive into brick walls and where terror abounded.

How did the Jewish people eventually leave this exile?

By remembering who they were. By remaining separate from their heartless tormentors. By not assimilating. By holding strong to their beliefs and hopes.

In a couple of weeks we will read how the Jewish people jubilantly cross the Red Sea, leaving behind their captors with songs of thanksgiving on their lips. How? By holding on to their faith and customs.

Today, as we cry out in pain and tears together with our brothers and sisters in France, we need to remember: evil will not stop us. The Jewish nation is alive. Am Yisroel Chai.

Today, and every day, we need to remember who we are and why we are. As we go shopping for our Shabbat provisions—or our daily groceries—let us proudly say, JeSuisCacher.

We need to proudly act like Jews. We need to proudly be Jews. JeSuisJuif.

For the victims. For the senseless loss of life. For ourselves. And for a better world.

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.

From the Pen of a Child

January 4, 2015

Dear readers,

In this week’s Torah portion, Pharaoh wants to annihilate the Jewish people. He understands that the most effective method is through the children. If there are no future Jewish children, there is no future Jewish people.

Pharaoh commanded that all the male baby boys be thrown into the Nile River, while all the baby girls techayun. The simple meaning of the verse is that he allowed the girls to remain alive, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains his intent was “to make them live”, i.e. to steep the girls in the Egyptian culture and make them live an assimilated life, forgetting their Jewish traditions.

Pharaoh knew that there would be no continuation of the Jewish people if he could successfully eliminate the children, the boys physically and the girls spiritually.

The Jewish people have always invested enormous energy in our children’s education, realizing they are our future.

Due to the prominent role of children, this week’s editor’s note is written by my ten-year-old daughter, Sara Leah, who shares her own original thought on this week’s Torah portion, which she is currently learning in school. This is how we succeed in fighting the Pharaohs—then and now—and keep our nation strong! Enjoy! —CW


“I’m telling you, it’s true! Why don’t you believe me?” I said to the doubtful person opposite me.

Ever had that annoying moment when someone doesn’t believe you? But what would you do if you were G‑d trying to convince a doubtful person?

In this week’s Parshah, G‑d speaks to Moses from a burning thornbush that was not consumed. G‑d appeared to Moses in a lowly thornbush rather than in a tall, beautiful tree to show him that G‑d felt the pain of His nation.

During this encounter, G‑d asks Moses to go to Pharaoh to save the Jews.

Moses asks G‑d, “What is Your name that I should tell the Jews?”

Moses did not literally mean to ask G‑d His name, but rather, through which quality shown by His name would He take the Jewish people out of exile.

G‑d answers, “E-he-yeh asher e-he-yeh,” meaning, “I will be with you in this exile just as I will be with you in future exiles.”

Moses replied, “Why should I mention to them about future exiles? Isn’t this one already too difficult to handle?”

G‑d replied, “E-he-yeh,” I will be with you.

That first exile was a long time ago. But now we are in another exile, the exile of Edom. And to successfully withstand it, we must believe and remember what G‑d said to Moses long ago. He said that He will be with us in our future exiles.

Now, is that future exile! Let’s be strengthened by remembering G‑d’s reassuring words that He is with us.

Wishing all of you a week full of belief,

Sara Leah Weisberg,
Daughter of the 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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