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Embracing Fresh Beginnings

March 26, 2017

Dear Readers,

While every week is special in its own right, this week feels like one of new beginnings.

That’s because:

  1. The official season of spring is upon us.
  2. We greet the Jewish new month of Nissan this week. Nissan is the month of the holiday of Pesach, which is mandated to be in the spring season.
  3. And, finally, in the weekly Torah portion, we read Vayikra, which begins the third book of the Torah, Leviticus.

On the first day of the month of Nissan, two weeks before the Exodus, G‑d instructed Moses to sanctify the new month. This ushered in the first Jewish month and commenced the lunar calendar that Jews have been following ever since. It was the first commandment given to the newly born nation of Israel.

There is a dispute in the Talmud as to which month G‑d created the world. Rabbi Eliezer says the world was created in Tishrei, but Rabbi Yehoshua claims it was in this month of Nissan.

Like a sphere with two poles, the Jewish year has two “heads” or primary points of reference. We have Rosh Hashanah in the month of Tishrei, which is the “head of the year” and marks the first day of human history. And we have Nissan, heading the months of the year and marking our first steps as a Jewish nation.

Nissan is always in the spring. Spring signifies new opportunities. Nature has awakened from its long hibernation and is getting ready to burst into new life. So, too, each of us has an opportunity for new potential and growth. Just as the greenery breaks forth from its hiding place in the dark earth, we can break free from whatever was holding us back in our past to embrace an unrestrained future, brimming with optimism and possibilities.

Let’s use the energy of this new month and new season to tap into our greatest potential.

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate the holiday of Passover, whose Hebrew word, pesach, means “to leap.” We were miraculously freed from Egypt, whose Hebrew word, mitzrayim, means “restraints” and “constrictions.” From today onwards, let’s leap into the future, liberated from former restraints and brimming with new promises.

Wishing you a wonderful new week and new season!

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.

What’s Good About Failing?

Ki Tisa

March 12, 2017

Dear Readers,

I remember when my young daughter willfully did something against my explicit instruction. She averted her gaze trying to deny her act or perhaps trying to take it back. She feared anger, rejection, and disappointment. But most of all, she feared that this small misdeed would create a separation between us—an end to the loving relationship she cherished.

So we sat down and talked about mistakes, about owning up to them and moving forward. We discussed how perfection is an impossible goal, and how she is so much more than the sum total of her choices.

And then we talked about our relationship, and how my love for her is not dependent on her actions. The love is constant, unconditional. Even when I’m displeased, the love may be hidden, but it is just as strong. Most importantly, we spoke about how facing mistakes together helps us grow closer.


In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, the Jewish people commited the grave sin of worshipping the Golden Calf after having witnessed G‑d’s greatest revelations at Sinai.

Moses turned and descended from the mountain with the two Tablets of Testimony in his hands. As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dances. Moses’ anger burned, he threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them . . . (Ex. 32:19)

Only after Moses’s excessive supplications and the nation’s repentance was he commanded to carve out the second set of tablets. So serious was the Jewish people’s transgression that the Talmud (Sanhedrin 102) declares: “There is no misfortune that doesn’t have in it something of the Golden Calf.”

Yet, the name of this portion, Ki Tissa, literally means “when you raise up” (referring to a census of “raising heads”), implying that the Jewish people were actually elevated through this episode.

How is it possible for a grave sin to elevate?

The paradox of sin is that teshuvah, repentance, makes it possible to forge a greater connection with G‑d.

Before sinning, our relationship with G‑d need only be strong enough to keep us on track. After we sin, we realize that the enticement of sin meant more to us than our commitment. We then must search deeper within ourselves to develop a stronger relationship with G‑d whereby He means more to us than our indulgence.

Through teshuvah, our failings can be exploited and redirected positively.

The Talmud (Nedarim 22b) states: “Had Israel not sinned with the Golden Calf, they would have received only the Five Books of Moses and the book of Joshua. Why? Because ‘Much wisdom comes through much grief.’ ”(Ecc. 1:18)

Though we strive to have a relationship with G‑d in which we do not fail, mistakes are inevitable. Let’s use our mistakes to “to raise ourselves up” and develop an even deeper connection with G‑d.

The sin of the Golden Calf teaches us that mistakes—with G‑d and with our loved ones—can be opportunities to carve out “second tablets,” second chances, replete with even greater potential.

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.

How to Avoid Becoming Grumpy in the Golden Years

Tetzaveh

March 5, 2017

Dear Readers,

It almost felt like paradise on earth. In the dead of winter, we were spending a few glorious days surrounded by lush greenery and towering palm trees. A relative who owned a condo in Florida offered us a short getaway. It was a dream come true to escape the snow and luxuriate in the heat.

Of the thousands of people in this 55-plus community, some were snowbirds who worked in colder climates but were able to visit for a few weeks; others resided there year-round.

The premises were beautiful. We swam in one of the many pools dotting the grounds and took long walks along the scenic routes. The community center on the premises offered reading clubs, craft-making activities, game rooms, and movie nights.

What an ideal place to relax, where your only worry was whether to play tennis or paint ceramics. So, why were we meeting a disproportionate number of people who looked sad or grumpy? One woman wore a T-shirt with the words, “Living the dream!” But her face read, “Living a nightmare.”

This week’s Torah portion begins with G‑d commanding Moses about lighting the menorah.

“And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take pure olive oil, crushed for the light, to kindle the lamps continuously . . .Aaron and his sons shall set it up before the L‑rd from evening to morning; an everlasting statute for their generations . . . ” (Ex. 27:20-21)

The light of the candelabra is also a metaphor for the light every soul brings into our world. Every mitzvah we accomplish, every helpful act we do, every positive goal we achieve brings everlasting spiritual light into our environment.

To light the menorah, we need “crushed oil.”

The Talmud teaches: “Just as the olive yields light only when it is pounded, so are man’s greatest potentials realized only under the pressure of adversity.”

In order to bring light into our lives, we need some pressure and challenge. While none of us wants to be truly “crushed,” when we have that “impossible” deadline, when we embark on a goal that seems “unreachable,” when we push ourselves “beyond” our limits, we discover untapped reservoirs—and we discover our light.

Many of us dream of the day that we can retire and do nothing. But in reality, goals, pressures, and even some crushing responsibilities can help us discover our strength and creativity. When time hangs heavily on our shoulders, when our days revolve around finding ways to fill our moments, we feel useless, and our energy becomes focused on the negativity in our lives.

Want to generate light? Create new spiritual goals. No matter what stage of life, from “morning to night”—from our youth till even our very old age—continue aspiring to reach higher.

Rest, vacation, and relaxing in the sun may be necessary breaks. But to generate light, pressure yourself to keep contributing.

And that’s something I’ll need to keep in mind when my alarms rings next Monday morning.

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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