Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.
Let's Go For Coffee

The ‘Usefulness’ of Science at Passover Time

March 28, 2019 11:36 AM

Dear Readers,

My 10-year-old son threw something out there the other day that I wasn’t prepared for. It turns out that he thinks, or maybe just happened to say, that “science wasn’t useful.”

What? What!

I prodded the statement. What about science isn’t useful? I asked. Don’t you ever experiment, dabble with stuff? But he shrugged off the questions.

I went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Stirring instant powder into the hot water, listening to the clink, clink, clink of the spoon against the ceramic, I pondered both his thoughts and my impending duties cleaning the kitchen—and everywhere else—ahead of Passover. Staring into that swirling water, it hit me.

I sat my son down with his own mug and a packet of hot chocolate, pouring boiling water in and letting him carefully stir it. See, I said—science. Someone made that mix just so that it could melt into water and create a tasty drink. I took him over to the dishwasher and poured liquid detergent into the compartment, and then had him push the “Start” button to activate it (later, sparkling dishes). We went to the laundry room, and I told him to pop one of those tablets into the rising water, watching it disintegrate and turn sudsy. We went outside to the driveway, where I instructed him to sprinkle baking soda on some oil left by our car, explaining that it will absorb the rainbow splotch and then we can sweep away the white powder.

But the “aha” moment came that night, when I got out a bottle of rubbing alcohol and his favorite white button-down shirt, on which was a long, blue ballpoint-pen line. Scrubbing the mark, it eventually faded, after which I sprayed stain stuff on it, washed it and voilà—ink gone.

He smiled. He got it.

Years ago, a chavruta (Torah-study partner), who like me had babies at the time and was immersed in all the dishes, laundry and other cleaning that accompanied young children, said she got through it by finding the Jewishness, the spirituality in it all. Clean clothes made her children feel loved and secure, and helped boost their day; home-cooked meals supported their health and ability to learn. She felt closer to G‑d as she went about caring for her family. It was part of her daily holy work and in a way, it was freeing, too.

That’s how many of us feel as we contemplate Passover cleaning. We do so as we approach a time in Jewish history when our freedom suddenly became tangible—to the point where we didn’t even have time for our bread to rise. (Imagine that new edible discovery!) While there may not be a particular methodology involved in brushing crumbs into a dustpan or changing the dishware, there is a mental formula to our preparations, a spiritual recipe to cleansing our homes and heads ahead of the eight-day holiday.

There is, indeed, a science to it all.

Note: The Household Hacks column is filled with helpful cleaning tips to prepare your home for Passover and to use year-round. Feel free to post your favorite tips in the comment section below.

Carin M. Smilk, 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.

A Stranger Was Eating MY Chocolate-Chip Cookies!

March 22, 2019 12:09 PM

Dear Readers,

There was a cute story circulating on social media recently, earlier popularized in Chicken Soup for the Soul.1

It was about a man in an airport. At a kiosk, he bought a newspaper and a bag of chocolate-chip cookies to munch on while awaiting his flight. He sits down, and another traveler sits down near him. He takes a chocolate-chip cookie from the bag on the chair in between him and his fellow traveler, and then watches in shock … as the stranger takes one, too!

How dare this stranger take a cookie from his bag without even asking?! He says nothing, but gives the man a disdainful look. He eats another cookie and watches incredulously as the stranger again helps himself to another cookie, and then, another.

There’s now one remaining cookie left in the bag. He watches as the other guy breaks the last cookie, takes half and smilingly gestures to him to have the rest. Now, he is really inflamed. The chutzpah of this guy to help himself to my last cookie!

Before long, he boards his plane. Comfortably settled, he reaches into his carry-on case and his hand touches … his own, unopened bag of chocolate-chip cookies.

It now dawns on him that the cookies he had been eating weren’t his, but the other traveler’s, bought at the same airport kiosk. The one who had acted so brazenly was he—not his fellow traveler! And yet, the stranger was so magnanimous about sharing even his last treat.

The story teaches us about not judging others, and how sometimes the very acts that we look down at are things we may inadvertently be doing ourselves.

But there’s a deeper lesson to this story as well.

The word tzedakah is commonly translated as “charity.” Really, it means “uprightness” or “justice.” We may think that we are being charitable with our money when we gift it to the poor, but G‑d is telling us that He has given us our material possessions specifically so that we can share it with others. We are merely doing justice. G‑d gives us directly and gives to the poor by enabling us to give to them.

How often do we think that we are the kind ones sharing our chocolate-chip cookies? In truth, we are simply doing justice by sharing with others what G‑d entrusted to us.

As we approach the holiday of Passover, now is the time to think about giving to those in need. Does a member of your community require help with Passover expenses? Does a neighbor need help in paying his grocery bill? Is there someone who could use an invitation to attend a Seder or a holiday meal?

If we have, we are fortunate that G‑d has given us the opportunity to give to others.

It may look like the cookies are ours. But in reality, they are only ours to share.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Footnotes
1.

https://www.chickensoup.com/book-story/35305/the-cookie-thief.

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.

Debunking the Myth of the Jewish Menstrual Slap

March 13, 2019 12:13 PM

Dear Readers,

I was recently asked about a supposedly Jewish “custom” of a girl being slapped across her face by her mother upon getting her first menstrual period. After “reddening” her daughter’s cheeks, the mother blesses her with fertility while warning against extramarital sex. Since she has now reached sexual maturity by “becoming a woman,” the thinking goes, she is taught that sexuality is sinful or immoral.

To be honest, I had never heard of this “custom” andI was shocked by how many online commentators thought this came from Jewish teachings was actually shocked by how many online commentators thought this came from Jewish teachings. For the record, this “menstrual slap” is not a Jewish custom. It seems to originate from non-Jewish cultures that viewed women as evil or sinful, which couldn’t be further from the Torah’s perspective.

The Torah calls the first woman Chava, from the root word chai, meaning “life,” since she is the mother of all life. Whether she merits to have physical children or not, the archetype of a woman is one who nourishes the physical, spiritual and emotional growth of those around her.

The Kabbalists describe women as a physical expression of the Shechina—the nurturing, comforting Divine Presence accompanying us even in the darkest exile:

Before a man is married, obviously the Shechinah is not with him at all, since the principal element that draws the Shechinah to a person is the feminine element. In fact, each man stands between two females: The corporeal woman below to whom he must provide food, clothing and affection. And the Shechinah which stands over him to bless him … 1

The wife completes her husband and connects him to his spiritual source. While some religions view sexuality as a weakness of man, a necessary evil that is dirty or undesirable, sex within the framework of a Jewish marriage is not only encouraged, but considered holy and sanctified.

The Hebrew word for “love,” ahavah, is numerically equivalent to echad, meaning “one.” The sum of both words totals 26, the numerical equivalent for G‑d’s quintessential Name, the Tetragrammaton. A couple’s love expresses the oneness reflective of their essential unity, and when the two join together in love and physical intimacy, they draw down G‑d’s presence.2

Where there is no union of male and female, man is not worthy of beholding the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.3

Interestingly, the Holy of Holies in the Temple is referred to as Cheder Hamitot,”4 or “bedroom chamber,” emphasizing the metaphorical relationship between G‑d and His people as that of bride and groom. This shows the hallowed regard that Judaism attributes to the intimate union of husband and wife, being that the Holy of Holies is referred to as the master bedroom!

The laws of Taharat Hamishpacha or “family purity,” also demonstrate the holiness of the physical union between man and woman.

Briefly stated, the lawsEven the most powerful of physical drives can be touched with holiness stipulate that a husband and wife refrain from physical contact from the onset of the wife’s menstrual period, with a minimum of five days, plus seven days thereafter. After the woman immerses in the mikvah, or ritual Jewish bath, they resume relations and experience renewed excitement and intimacy within their marriage.

These laws show us that even the most powerful of physical drives can be touched with a code of holiness. The physical flesh does not carry a tinge of contempt, but rather becomes refined, so it, too, can be vested with the spiritual.

By following these laws, the Holy of Holies not only resembles the bedroom chamber, but one’s very own bedroom becomes the Holy of Holies.

With that in mind, it goes without saying that reaching puberty is not something that warrants a slap, shaming or the like. It is a sacred moment—the induction into the wonderful world of Jewish womanhood, and the portal to a new stage of spiritual fulfillment and joy.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

Footnotes
1.

Tomer Devorah, Chapter 9.

2.

From the teachings of R' Nachman Breslover - Likutei Maharan.

3.

Zohar III, Acharei Mot 59a.

4.

Rashi on Kings 2, 11:2; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:2.

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 Purim Demonstrated Our Deepest Connection to G-d

March 7, 2019 4:09 PM

Dear Readers,

The Scroll of Esther begins its tale in the year 371 BCE with King Achashverosh throwing an extravagant party celebrating his third anniversary of his ascending the throne.

All citizens were invited to the lavish festivities, and no expense was spared. Golden goblets were brought out; no cup was used more than once, and no two goblets were alike. The holy vessels used in the priestly service of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), which had been looted and razed almost 70 years earlier by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnetzer, were also displayed and used.

King Achashverosh adorned himself in special robes woven from pure golden threads and the finest colors of linen fabrics. These garments had been worn by the Jewish High Priest in his services in the Beit Hamikdash.

Achashverosh dared to don these holy, priestly robes and use these holy utensils because this was, in fact, one of Achashverosh’s main reasons for the festivities. He had miscalculated the ominous prophecy of Jeremiah, promising the Jewish people’s return to Israel after a 70-year period of exile. Achashverosh was rejoicing that the Jewish people’s return to their land would never happen.

Mordechai warned the Jews not to participate in the feasts, but apprehensive of appearing ungrateful, few listened. Though the king served kosher food so they would not sin against any Torah law, by the holy nation attending these parties they were taking part in something fundamentally worse. They were effectively celebrating their separation from the Holy Land, from the Holy Temple and from their close relationship with G‑d. This was a terrible affront to G‑d.

How could such a profound wrongdoing be rectified? Only if the Jewish nation could somehow be able to reveal that nothing is more precious to them than their relationship with G‑d. They may have acted in a rash manner showing disgrace and disrespect, but in truth, nothing is as valuable to them as their connection to G‑d.

Unbeknown to Haman, when he decreed the annihilation of the Jews, he was unwittingly serving as a tool to reunite G‑d with His People.

For an entire year—from the time that his decree was publicized until it would take effect—the Jews lived in a constant state of fear and danger. Although they could have saved themselves by converting to the Persian religion, no one considered this means of escape. The Jews of Persia thus proved that maintaining a bond with G‑d was more valuable to them than life itself.


From the story of Purim, we learn:

Despite how we may be acting outwardly, at the deepest soul level, Jews feel that their connection to G‑d is more precious than anything, even life itself.

It also shows us G‑d’s love for us. What seems like a terrible decree or horrifying challenge may be a tool for helping us reach a deeper awareness and connection with Him.

Happy Purim! May all of our challenges be transformed into magnificent, overwhelming joy!

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.
Recent Posts
Blog Archive