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‘Despite Your Efforts, I Will Remain a Steadfast Jew!’

October 16, 2019 1:39 PM

Dear Readers,

In this week’s parshah, we meet our forefather, Abraham. From his earliest age, he was a lone man fighting against the pervasive values, teaching a belief in G‑d and a moral life.

No sooner was this mighty one weaned, than his mind began to seek and wonder: How do the heavenly bodies circle without a moving force? Who turns them?

At the age of forty, Abraham recognized his Creator. … He began to debate with the people of Ur Casdim saying: “This is not the way of truth that you are following.” He smashed the idols and began to teach the people that it is only fitting to serve the One G‑d. …

When he began to defeat them with his arguments, the king wished to kill him; he was miraculously saved. He departed to Charan and continued to call in a great voice to the world, teaching them that there is One G‑d (Mishneh Torah, Laws Concerning Idol Worship 1:3).

When Abraham is 75 years old, G‑d calls him and tells him, “Go to you, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”

Abraham had already reached the full capacity of his conscious powers, so what is G‑d teaching him now?

G‑d shows him a higher part of himself. There is a higher self in man that lies beyond “his land, birthplace and father’s house,” and is free of all that defines and confines him. This higher self is beyond natural desires, the influence of our home or society and even our rational being. It is the spark of G‑d that is the core of his soul—the image of G‑d in which he was created.

This spark is within each of us, eternally connected to G‑d. It endures pogroms and holocausts, health scares and financial crisis, and sustains us through life’s many hardships.

There is an incredibly touching story recorded in the book Shevet Yehudah that describes the power of this Divine spark within each of us.

During the Spanish Expulsion in 1492, an old Chacham (“wise leader”) together with his family were fleeing for their lives. Suddenly, Arabs attacked, murdering his son-in-law and daughter before his eyes. Half-crazed from grief, the Chacham grabs his infant grandson and flees the desert. This baby was all that remained from his family.

Walking through the scorching desert sun, the Chacham faints. When he awakes, he sees that his grandson has died from thirst and dehydration. Numb with anguish, the Chacham digs a grave. As he is burying him, he turns his eyes heavenward and cries: “It is clear that there are forces above that are determined to alienate me from my G‑d. I say to you: Despite all your best efforts, I will remain a steadfast Jew!”

Wishing you a wonderful 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.

The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Criticizing Another Person

October 16, 2019 1:36 PM

Dear Readers,

The other day, my husband and I had a visitor. He was loud and boisterous, making inappropriate jokes. He made his presence felt in an unpleasant way.

Even though I was trying not to judge, my impression of this individual was not positive. In the back of my mind, I was disapproving. Why does he talk so flamboyantly? Does he need to act so audaciously? Doesn’t he realize that his comments are so inappropriate? And look at his garish clothes!

It wasn’t until several days later that my husband learned something about him. “Did you know that he has a child with special needs who is severely disabled that he cares for?” he asked me. Of course, I had no idea.

I then understood that his “boisterous” manner was his way of coping with his challenge. His jokes and his comments were his way of staying above the darkness that was his reality by keeping a positive and joyous mindset.

Suddenly, my perspective was turned on its head. This man wasn’t the one who needed judging—it was me, for judging him!

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the tower, which was built in Babel to rebel against G‑d.

G‑d descended to see the city and the tower, which the sons of man had built (Gen. 11:5).

Rashi explains: Obviously, G‑d did not need to “come down” in order to see their crime; but He wished to teach all future judges not to judge a defendant until they see [the case] and understand it.

As parents, educators, friends or colleagues, there are times that we need to intervene and share our negative feedback. But before doing so, we need to “come down” from our condescending positions to see the individual’s reality. We need to acknowledge, too, that rarely, can we fully understand the other person’s circumstances.

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves before judging or criticizing:

  • What am I trying to accomplish with my words?
  • Am I having a bad day, and is this is my way of getting it off my chest? Should I revisit this issue once I’m feeling more positive?
  • Do I want something specific changed or improved? Will my words accomplish that or will they simply alienate?
  • Do I have a close enough relationship to broach this topic?
  • Do I understand and feel empathetic for what this person is going through? Am I talking down to or relating to his perspective?
  • Are my words biting? Can I reword my criticism so that it is feedback rather than condemnation?
  • How can I strategize with this individual not only to focus on what’s wrong, but to accentuate the results that we would like to see?

Feel free to add any additional questions in the comment section below.

Our words and even our thoughts carry a tremendous amount of energy; if we have some forethought, they can be so positive.

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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