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What Hope Can Do for You

December 27, 2023 1:12 PM

Dear Readers,

I recently read about a scientific study that was conducted several years ago.

Rats were placed in water to see how long they could tread. On average, the rats survived for 15 minutes before drowning due to exhaustion. The researchers then did another test where, just before the rats expired, they took them out and let them rest for a few minutes before returning them to the water. This time around, even after having swum until they were exhausted, the rats were able to tread water for a whopping 60 hours. That’s two and a half days!

How is it possible? The researchers concluded that since the rats believed they would be rescued, that hope gave them the courage and strength to push themselves in ways that they would not have thought possible.

Perhaps there’s an important message for humans. By believing that there will be a positive end to our challenges, we can summon the strength to go so much further than we would ever have anticipated.

With the war ongoing in Israel and the number of casualties growing daily, the last few months have felt awfully dark and difficult. But believing that G‑d will help us emerge victorious gives us the strength to persevere. Throughout history, our belief that G‑d will provide an ultimately positive outcome for us and all mankind has given us the hope and ability to keep going.

Wishing you a wonderful week full of blessings. With heartfelt prayers for the safety and security of all our brethren, and the immediate return of the hostages to their families,

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

P.S. What makes you hopeful these days?

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.

“Not Just an Israeli, a Jew”

December 21, 2023 8:41 PM

Dear Readers,

This past week, I had a video call with Daniel Wais in Israel.

On October 7th, Daniel and his family were in Kibbutz Be’eri. Thank G‑d, he and his brothers were able to escape, uninjured. Tragically, his father, Shmuel, was murdered, and his mother, Judith, was kidnapped and taken as a hostage to Gaza.

The family did whatever they could, unsuccessfully, to try to get Judith released. In mid-November, the IDF called to tell him that they found his mother’s body, with gunshot wounds, near the Shefa hospital. Through a special operation, they were able to rescue her body and bring it back to Israel for proper Jewish burial.

Prior to receiving the news, along with many of the families of the hostages, Daniel had flown to New York—on a trip organized by Chabad of Israel—to pray at the Ohel of the Rebbe. He insisted on bringing along his guitar so that he could play for the other families, hoping to use the power of music and connection to touch their hearts and transform their pain into healing.

Daniel told me the trip was filled with so much love and compassion, it provided him with the power to go on.

My conversation with Daniel took place on the day after the sheloshim (30 days of mourning) for his mother. It was obviously a very emotional time for him and his family. When I asked how he was coping with so much pain and loss, he shared with me something that I thought was a deep testimony to the power of the Jewish soul.

Daniel said that he used to view himself as an Israeli. That was his identity. But after what he has experienced, both in Israel and abroad, he now feels the power of being a Jew. The kindness and outpouring that he has felt from Jews worldwide has made him realize the power of being part of the Jewish community. “We care for each other in such a deep way. It is empowering and helps me continue.”

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayechi,” which means “and he lived,” yet the portion is all about Jacob’s passing.

The Talmud (Taanit 5b) tells us: “Our father Yaakov did not die; as his progeny lives on, he too lives on.”

Throughout the millennia, the Jewish people have suffered countless trials and tribulations, innumerable massacres and persecutions. We may have been broken, but never crushed.

“As his progeny lives on, he too lives on.”

With heartfelt prayers for the safety of all our brothers and sisters worldwide, and for the immediate release of our hostages,

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

P.S. How has your identity as a Jew strengthened since October 7th?

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 Light that Burns Long After Chanukah

December 18, 2023 11:17 AM

Dear Readers,

By now, most of us have cleaned the dripped wax or oil off our menorahs and stored them away until next year. But what remains with us are the memories of the glistening candles and the experiences that we may have shared with our friends or families.

This year, Chanukah celebrations were different than those of the past. With the war raging in Israel and so many of our hostages still languishing somewhere in the dark tunnels of Gaza, many of us felt the message of Chanukah and the victory of light over the darkness even more relatable than in previous years.

While post-Oct. 7 the Jewish community has been feeling increasingly scared of antisemitic incidents, so many of us chose not to cower, but to proudly celebrate our identity. Many more individuals lit their menorahs in visible places, such as their doors or windows, with more confidence and resolve than ever before.

Even some non-Jews, like many residents of Wyoming, chose to show solidarity with the Jewish people by likewise lighting a menorah on their window sills.

It was heartening to read about the hundreds of menorahs decorated by children who were evacuated from communities near the Gaza border that were delivered to our soldiers in the Gaza Strip. The menorahs were lovingly packed and sent with sweet treats and letters to remind our troops that the Jewish people are awaiting their safe return.

But the favorite image that remains imprinted in my mind is that of the giant, 15-foot menorah that was brought into Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, by a group of Chabad rabbis who also serve in the IDF as reserve soldiers. These soldiers traveled deep into Gaza to erect the menorah and it symbolized so much in this ongoing war.

In this week’s episode of Ordinary People with Extraordinary Stories, Rabbi Levi Mendelson describes how this menorah was brought into Gaza. He also shares personal stories from the family members of hostages and wounded soldiers whom he has visited. These heroes give us a glimpse into the beautiful, inextinguishable light of the Jewish people and how, despite the incredible darkness that they have witnessed, they still keep their light of faith and optimism shining brightly.

And, perhaps that is really the ongoing, deeper message of the miracle of Chanukah that remains with us long after our menorahs have been stored away: the continuous light of the Jewish soul that refuses to be smothered.

With prayers for the safety and security of all our brothers and sisters, and with heartfelt wishes that our hostages be quickly returned to their families.

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.

Wishing for a Chanukah Miracle

December 7, 2023 6:51 PM

Dear Readers,

There is no denying that reading the news nowadays is not a happy activity. We’re inundated with horrific stories that don’t make any sense. It feels like our world has simply gone crazy.

This week, we celebrate Chanukah, when the forces of light and goodness triumphed over darkness and evil. As we celebrate the miraculous holiday of Chanukah, I find myself looking deeply into the glow of the radiant candles as I try to absorb their message. Here are some ideas that come to mind:

  • They are bright
  • They reach upward, striving higher
  • Even a small glow brightens a heavy gloomy darkness
  • They are physical but also mystically spiritual
  • They represent optimism and power
  • We increase the number of candles every day, bringing more and more light into our world
  • They stand tall, shining brightly irrespective of what’s around them, unaffected by the surrounding dark environment

The message of Chanukah is that light has power over darkness. When the darkness around us is all-pervasive, we need to do our part to fill it with light. We cannot become paralyzed or immobilized; to the contrary, we need to shine our light and believe in its power to illuminate the darkness.

Wishing each of you a happy, beautiful, en-LIGHT-ening Chanukah.

Wishing that we will all experience our own Chanukah miracle, with the return of all of our hostages, and the complete security and safety of all our brothers and sisters.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

P.S. What is your Chanukah wish this year?

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.

To Those Who Want to Obliterate Us

December 1, 2023 7:58 AM

Dear Readers,

Once upon a time, there was a small flame that burnt brightly. Wherever the flame went, it brought light and illumination to its surroundings. But because of that, there were also those who tried to extinguish it.

The wind tried blowing it out. The water tried to drown it. The sand tried snuffing it. And the darkness tried to overpower it. But no matter what, the small flame continued to shine brightly.

There were moments when the flame itself doubted its light-producing capabilities. There were even times when it yearned to be just as dark as the blackness around it.

But something in the flame kept it shining brightly. Some called it stubbornness. Others attributed it to fate or luck, while others predicted its eventual demise. Only a few recognized it as the indestructible Jewish soul, forever and intrinsically bound to its Creator.

Chanukah is the festival of lights. We light the menorah to commemorate the victory of light over darkness. We celebrate how a small Jewish uprising miraculously overpowered the tough Greek army and fought to keep the Torah and its mitzvot. We remember the miracle of a small cruse of oil that was sufficient to light the menorah for only one day but burned brightly for eight days.

And on Chanukah, we also commemorate the miracle of the Jewish people, a nation that refused to be obliterated.

The story of the small flame is the story of the Jewish people. It is the story that we witness in every generation, and it is the story of Israel at war today.

With heartfelt prayers for open, wondrous miracles, for the return of all our hostages, and for peace and security for all the Jewish people.

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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