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How Food, Clothing and Home Represent Your Soul

December 26, 2018 11:48 AM

Dear Reader,

What are a person’s three basic needs? We all need: 1) food, 2) clothing; and 3) shelter.

These basic needs metaphorically represent three levels of our soul and our abilities to connect to its powers.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” We say that about food because it’s swallowed and ingested into our digestive system, and thereby literally becomes a part of our bodies. It gives us energy to act.

Food is an analogy to the conscious level of our soul’s powers that are controlled by our minds and emotions, and that make us take action. So when we act kindly or charitably even when we don’t instinctively want to, we are tapping into these conscious powers of the soul.

Clothing, on the other hand, is not part of the body; it’s worn over the body. But articles are measured to fit the body so that they are not too large or small. They say, “Clothing makes the man,” because our clothes project our image, revealing something about our style and ourselves.

Clothing is an analogy to the soul’s encompassing powers that are further away from us, and are more challenging to reach, but are still within our grasp. This part of our soul is actuated when we stretch ourselves, against our very nature, to experience a greater part of our selves.

And then there’s our home, which completely surrounds us, to the point that many people can live under the same roof. But when you close that front door and relax in your own home, you can kick off your shoes and really express your true self.

The home corresponds to the powers of our soul that are much harder to access; they transcend who we are (or who we think we are not). But if you can reach this deep part of your soul, then you can transcend your toughest limitations and discover your essential, greatest self.

This is the highest part of the soul—the part that is far harder to reach because it is an actual part of G‑d. This is the part of us that is never blemished; it’s intact within us regardless of our present level and always remains untainted.

Tapping into this awareness allows us to vanquish our greatest challenges and illuminate the darkest darkness.

So how do we finding this essential self? Ironically, through our absolute surrender of self, through the realization that it is not me who is fighting my battles, nor is it me who is succeeding in my triumphs. It is entirely G‑d.

It’s not easy to experience this level of our soul, and we might only tap into it in rare or special moments of inspiration or excruciating challenge. But through this absolute faith and ability to “let G‑d take over,” we hold the keys and prospects to transform ourselves and our 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.

Translating Torah’s Wisdom

December 25, 2018 7:37 PM

Dear Reader,

This week, we welcome the new month of Shevat.

The beginning of the book of Deuteronomy records that Moses “began to expound the Torah.” Rashi explains that “expounding” means that Moses translated the entire Torah into 70 languages. He began to do so a little more than a month before he passed away, on the first day of Shevat.

Why was it necessary for Moses to translate the Torah into 70 languages when the Jewish people all understood and spoke the holy tongue of Hebrew, in which the Torah was written?

To translate means to make something that is inaccessible accessible. So, you and I might ask good ole’ Google to translate a word, phrase or article for us from a foreign language so that we can understand the message it is conveying.

We might also “translate” thoughts or ideas by bringing them down to the level that another person could comprehend. A professor of physics might “translate” the laws of physics by bringing examples and teaching them in a way that his students can grasp these rules and ideas. Or a parent might “translate” a concept or word for her child by teaching its meaning, showing how it’s used in a sentence and how it can apply to his or her life.

Moses translated the entire Torah into the 70 languages of the world even though his direct audience would not understand these translations. He did so to teach a fundamental lesson before his death—that the teachings and lessons of the Torah were relevant to all people, at all times, in all situations.

He was showing, too, that the wisdom of the Torah is applicable and relevant in all areas of our world, and can serve as a source of light and illumination. By being the first one to translate the Torah into a secular tongue, Moses made it easier for the Jewish people of future generations to continue this process.

Moses taught that we can take a worldly language—something that is not inherently holy—and use it to communicate G‑d’s truth. Moreover, he taught us that we can, and must, do this in all aspects of our lives, even and especially the mundane ones. We can “translate” Torah’s ideals and principles to affect every arena in our dealing with the world—from eating to earning a living to interpersonal relationships—and thereby elevate them to holiness.

By doing so, we change the nature of our world and bring out the inherent purpose for which it was created: to make a home for G‑d in our lowly, mundane, physical world, infused with the light of Torah.

As we enter the new month of Shevat, can you share ways that you “translate” the Torah’s wisdom to apply it to your personal life and 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.

About Feeling Guilty, Inadequate, and Ready to Give Up

December 13, 2018 3:44 PM

Dear Readers,

A woman approached me after a recent lecture to ask advice about a painful dilemma.

She had been married and had a son before her marriage dissolved. After some time, she met someone else, and they eventually married. He adopted her son like his own, and they had a beautiful relationship. For years, she and her husband tried to have a child together, but to no avail. Facing secondary fertility issues and being already in her 40s, she feared that another child would not be on her future horizon.

She asked if she should convince her husband to divorce her so that he could remarry and have his own family. Was she being fair to him, she tearfully probed, keeping him married to a woman who could not provide him with the love and joy of his own offspring?

I asked her more about her relationship. She reassured me that it was good, and that her husband loved her son. I asked her what her husband thought of this plan. She said that he was opposed to it, but that she felt she wasn’t being “fair” to him. She cried, saying she was so overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and asked if this would be the “right” thing to do.

We discussed how she wanted so badly to bring another child into this world to create more love in her home, but that to do so she was willing to destroy the beautiful love that already existed. We also spoke about ways to increase love, by sharing our homes and hearts with others. We spoke about different ways of “fathering” children, and teaching or mentoring others who may be less fortunate.

And then we spoke about guilt and feelings of inadequacy, and how these are usually not positive or productive emotions, but ones that we need to eradicate entirely.

Our discussion made me think of how many times guilt and feelings of not being “good enough” can make us act destructively, and may even convince us that we are doing the “right” thing by following an erroneous direction. We may be training to learn a new skill or a new career, and we’re ready to give it all up because of our own harsh self-judgements. A friend or acquaintance may be asking us advice, but in our “humility,” we feel inadequate to share our wisdom or life experiences. In our religious or spiritual lives, we might feel such profound feelings of guilt in our relationship with G‑d that we wonder whether it’s even worth trying. But like this husband, G‑d desires our relationship, no matter how unworthy we feel.

Let’s destroy these feelings of guilt and inadequacy. They’re not positive; they’re destructive. They make us give up on the people and experiences we love most. And they make us give up on ourselves by not allowing us to accept ourselves for who we are—a beautiful soul we can work on to become even greater.

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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