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Why Do We Act in a Way That Contradicts Our Faith?

February 20, 2020 9:49 PM

Dear Readers,

There are countless stories throughout our history about Jews who didn’t believe in Torah and didn’t practise its mitzvot, and were not even connected to their community, but who refused to bow to idols or give up their religion, even on the penalty of death.

What compelled them to die as a Jew, when otherwise they could have been saved? What motivated them to keep that one strand of connection alive and strong, despite the consequences? Though outwardly they didn’t behave as a Jew, something deep within their soul stirred and made it unfathomable for them to sever their soul’s only connection with what they intuitively knew and felt was true, and they refused to be considered anything but a Jew—no matter the ramifications.

Such actions can only be understood when we realize that at the core of the soul’s experience, before entering our world, was a limitless revelation of G‑d. Moreover, our soul is actually a piece of G‑d. When our soul feels threatened that it will be broken off from the Source of all reality, it exerts itself.

Irrespective of our day-to-day behavior or manifested beliefs, at the core of our soul is emunahan experience of G‑dliness that supersedes everything. Even the staunchest non-believing Jew has as much emunah as the most devout. It is simply passive, but it remains an essential part of who he is.

And yet, the Talmud talks about a thief who stands at the threshold of a house that he’s about to rob, praying to G‑d for success. What an oxymoron! How can he pray to G‑d who commanded, “Do not steal”?

Because we each possess two souls: a G‑dly soul and an animal, or natural soul.

Our animal soul is in a constant struggle with our G‑dly soul to become the primary or even exclusive source of our motivations. Doubts come because our natural soul is right now prevailing. We need to become better in touch with our G‑dly soul, which is still just as full of emunah (“faith”), but its power is temporarily being concealed.

That is why another root for emunah is from emunin, which means, “exercise” or “training.” Ever work out at a gym? As you exercise, you discover and strengthen muscles you never knew were there.

Suppose, though, that you never trained. In a dangerous situation, you might have the adrenalin rush to run away from a threat. But in order to have these abilities on a consistent basis, you need to train your muscles. Similarly, we need regular “soul exercises” to be in tune with this part of our soul.

A great place to start is by learning Torah, especially those areas that teach us what our soul is. Because the whole purpose of our lives is to translate what our soul intuitively knows into regular, daily action.

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.

Introducing a New Audio Series

February 20, 2020 9:00 PM

Dear Reader,

This week we welcome the Jewish month of Adar. Every month possesses a distinct spiritual essence, and Adar contains the quality of transformative joy, as the Talmud teaches, “When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy” (Taanit 29a).

On the 14th day of this month of Adar, we celebrate the holiday of Purim, the day established by Mordechai and Esther as a day of “feasting and rejoicing” in commemoration of the Jews’ salvation from Haman’s evil decree in the year 3,405 from creation (356 BCE).

Adar transforms sorrow into joy, a fearful and disunified people into a unified nation, committed and devoted to G‑d and His Torah, as we read in the Megillah, “The month that was reversed for them from grief to joy” (Esther 9:22).

We live in times that can often feel so dark and challenging. While sadness, despair or depression can hold us back and stagnate our progress towards change, happiness breaks through barriers, and helps us transform ourselves and our circumstances in ways we never thought possible.

So how can we access joy? By realizing that through our challenges, throughout our successes and our failures, our essential identity, our G‑dly soul—that piece of G‑d within us—is never affected, and remains completely pure and connected to G‑d.

Our relationship with the Master of the Universe is so deep, it rests at the very core of our being and can never be broken. In fact, even when we mess up and think we are walking away from G‑d, He anxiously awaits our return. No love could be deeper, no joy could be greater. This makes, really, every moment a moment for celebration.

In that vein, I think it is an appropriate week to introduce to you a new audio series that I’m very excited about. Women’s Tanya Classes by Rochel Shmukler is an interactive spiritual journey where you can study, discuss and apply the revolutionary ideas presented in the Tanya, a foremost work of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

The Tanya describes how we’ve been provided unlimited opportunities for our soul to connect with G‑d. Some of the topics in this series include: “The True Definition of Reality,” “Align Your Everyday Awareness with Your Core Self” and “Becoming the Embodiment of the Divine Will.”

Learning and meditating on these ideas can help us achieve true joy. When we feel sad, we feel heavy and defeated. But when we feel joyful, we become empowered to reach upwards and onwards and to become even better, more connected individuals.

Wishing you a Chodesh Tov, a happy and joyous month of Adar!

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.

Why You Will Never Swat a Fly Midair

February 13, 2020 5:29 PM

Dear Readers,

What forms our perceptions of reality? On what do we base how we view our world?

Logic and rational plays a big role. Human beings have the unique capacity to think, analyze and determine. But there are many other factors.

Here’s an example: Have you ever bought a lottery ticket, enticed by the allure of winning millions?

What are the chances of winning? Only one in 14 million people will win big, but we dream that we’ll be that one.

Here’s another scenario: Have you ever texted while driving?

One in four car accidents is caused by texting and driving. Moreover, the likelihood of causing an accident while texting is six times more than driving while intoxicated.

So why when it comes to texting, do we think, ‘No way! It’s not going to happen to me!’ And yet, with a lottery ticket, we think I’ll be that one?

Because we want to believe in that, and so it changes how we perceive reality. Our education, our background, the society we grew up in, our predispositions, emotions or inclinations, and many other dynamics color or blur our vision, so that some of our decisions are not rational.

Moreover, our brain is limited, and when it doesn’t have the tools to comprehend something, it creates a thought process based on our preconceived notions.

Consider this: Have you ever tried to swat a fly midair? You’re sure that you got a direct hit, but a second later, you see it buzzing away. What happened?

Compared to humans, flies essentially see the world in slow motion. A fly can execute six full turns per second, and most flies can flap their wings 200 cycles per second. Flies move so quickly that our eyes can’t follow them. But instead of our brain admitting that it can’t track such speed, based on the fly’s trajectory, it estimates where the fly will be. Our brain’s subjective tracking is wrong; thus, when we try to swat that fly, we fail.

If so many of our perceptions are colored by our subjective outlooks, is there any objective truth?

The Torah is called Torat Emet, the “Torah of Truth” because the Torah describes G‑d’s reality. G‑d who is the Creator of our world, and the Creator of each of us is the only definition of absolute truth.

Inside our soul is a small piece of G‑d. Relating to that part of our soul and allowing its expression is where we activate our emunah, commonly translated as “faith.” Emunah, from the root amein literally means “truth” (just like when we say “Amen” to blessings or prayers, it means, “it is true.”) This part of our soul sees the truth of reality and its experience of G‑dliness.

While our brain can detect the five senses of our world, emunah begins where our brain’s reason leaves off. Just as a metal detector can sense many things—though not emotions, of course—our rational faculties are limited. Emunah doesn’t necessarily contradict reason; it just takes us beyond it, to experience the supra-rational of the soul’s true reality.

Wishing you a soulful 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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