Let's Go For Coffee

Have You Ever Stuffed Tissues Down a Sink Drain?

April 26, 2009

She looks at me with those large brown eyes. I try to decipher her expression. There's a hint of sadness, doubt, and even fear. She averts her gaze, trying to deny her act, as if she's trying to take it back.

Usually she looks to me with such warmth, such expectance of love and pride. But now she's not sure. She fears anger. She fears rejection. She fears disappointment. But most of all she fears that this small act will create a separation between us—an end to the loving relationship that she has come to know so well.

What did she do? One of the many little everyday misdeeds that children do. Some, out of mischievousness; some, out of curiosity and wonder, a desire to experiment and understand her world. Some are complete accidents, never intended to do anything wrong; and some are willful, because right now she really doesn't want to listen to me or anyone else.

She's unsure what to do now. Will denying erase it, or will that upset me more? Will I prove her wrong, or will she evade facing her misdeed?

And so we sit down to talk. We talk about mistakes. We talk about how everyone makes mistakes. We talk about owning up to our mistakes and moving forward. We talk about how perfection is an unrealistic and impossible goal. We talk about how she is so much more than the sum total of her choices.

And then we talk about our relationship. How my love for her is not dependent on her actions. How her mistakes don't erase or erode my love and how her talents don't increase it. How the love is a constant. Unconditional. How even when I'm upset or angry, though my love may be hidden, it is just as strong. And, perhaps most importantly, how facing mistakes together helps us both grow closer.

Slowly she is beginning to understand. Slowly the expression of fear and doubt in her big brown eyes has begun to dissipate. Slowly she regains her confidence in herself, in our connection. Slowly her cheer returns.

Now we're able to even laugh together about past misdeeds. Like the time when she stuffed tissues down the sink drain, out of total curiosity, and was horrified to see it create a flood. How hard it was for her at the time to admit that mistake. But now she is able to see it within a context of growth and maturation.

And as I sit with her and talk about mistakes, mine and hers, I think of You, looking compassionately into our eyes—eyes that at times are so full of fear, doubt and uncertainty. Eyes that portray our cheerlessness, our lack of confidence in moving forward, and our feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Eyes that convey such hopeless, negative feelings that brings us to deny, escape, reject and spiral downward—even further away from You.

And I think of you teaching us about the essence of Your love towards us.

And teaching us to go beyond our fear of our mistakes.

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.

Will You Dream with Me?

April 19, 2009

One very cold, very dark evening in the middle of a particularly brutal Canadian winter, four cars were parked outside a home on a deserted side street of our Thornhill neighborhood.

Inside the home, five women were huddled around the dining room table, animatedly discussing and planning. Over herbal tea and low-fat cranberry cookies, the five women, representing different synagogues and outreach centers in our area, shared their dream and vision.

The last few months had been particularly difficult for all of us. As part of the Jewish nation, we collectively shared our pain, suffering, worries and prayers. The Mumbai tragedy had hit us all hard and, before recovering, we once again found ourselves gathered tensely in prayers as our valiant soldiers entered Gaza to defend our people and Land, while misguided and hate-filled protesters the world-over furiously objected against our right to self-defense, and, in some cases, called for our destruction.

And so, gathered around that table, we shared our thoughts. We had a vision; and over the next couple of hours it became more tangible, as we planned, shared, organized and planned some more.

If in difficult, tragic times we were able to gather in unity and prayers, could we do so without any impetus of danger?

We would make an evening of unity for all the women of our area. An evening when we would gather together, disregarding all our differences but focusing solely on our similarities. For that night (and hopefully more to follow) we would look beyond the disparities in our philosophies, customs or value systems. It wouldn't matter what our level of observance was or wasn't, how or whether we opted to cover our hair, what choices we made in educating our children, or the level of Kashrut that we did or didn't keep in our homes.

For the terrorists of Mumbai and Gaza, these differences were clearly insignificant in their keen desire to destroy us all. And now, we too, would make a gathering of unity where these distinctions would not separate us.

It took work and planning, several email exchanges and a bunch of phone calls. But for the first time in Toronto's history, a flyer advertising our women's evening of unity proudly bore the logos of three synagogues and outreach centers that hitherto had never worked together.

In our special evening, each community would be represented, whether through the main inspirational speakers or in the preliminary words of greetings, whether in coordinating the "ice breaker" activity or in being the venue to host the event.

As the advertisements began to be distributed, more and more synagogues—even those whose original reaction was lukewarm or whose adult education schedule was already too full—asked to join and be a part of this evening.

The result? This week, those same five initial women are meeting once again. This time we're meeting to discuss an even bigger, follow-up event because the most repeated feedback from the overflowing crowds that attended was, "This is great! When's the next unity evening being planned?"

Because the Jewish people is tired of suffering. We are ready to join together in unison as G‑d's chosen people. We are coming to a collective, intuitive realization that we share too much to be divided over the petty differences that break us apart.

And so, as we plan for hopefully bigger and better programs in our Thornhill community, I now have a new dream.

Now I am dreaming that these "unity evenings" will spread to more and more communities, male and female, all across our city, all across Canada, North America and the world-over.

I dream that we will become big enough people to see beyond our small differences.

And I dream that despite our differences, we will be able to appreciate the good in each other and work with one another to accomplish our joint goal of bringing more goodness to our world.

Do you, too, share my dream?

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 is Passover the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday?

April 5, 2009

She doesn't just walk; she practically glides along, with a light-hearted bounce. Her laughter is infectious, her giggle ever-present. Every moment is an opportunity, a learning experience. Her world is a wonder to discover and she feels proud of even her smallest achievements.

She is my four-year-old daughter, soon to be turning five. She's at the age where she's already developed a unique personality. She has gained sufficient maturity to reciprocate in our relationship. But she is still young enough that the heaviness of life's issues has not yet begun to haunt her. Her joie de vivre is still intuitive, natural and spontaneous.

And yet, as I eagerly greet her smiling face every morning, I am keenly aware that now and in the immediate years to come—in her young childhood—her self-image is being formed. Every interaction, every exchange will forge an essential impression on her emerging psyche.

Like a delicate seedling in its tender years of maturation, she is now developing an awareness of herself and her place in this world. And with a sudden heaviness, I realize what an integral role I play in whether her lightness and brightness will be enhanced or be diminished.

So, along with wanting to teach her so many things, so many skills, and so much knowledge about the world around her, more than anything, I want to give her the precious gift of self-love. An inherent love, not because of anything she knows or does, but because of who she is, a creation of G‑d.

In these formative years, I want to teach her that her mistakes don't detract from her value. That she can—and should—grow and learn, but she should never allow failures to chip away at her inner core, her cheer or her confidence.

I want to teach her that her accomplishments, talents, great personality and charisma are some of her winning attributes, but that her self-worth is not dependent on these or on how others view her. She is unique. She has a mission that she, and only she, can accomplish.

And I want to imbue her with the feeling that my love for her is unconditional. Not because she is adorable, capable, bright or sweet, which she is. But just because she is my daughter, forever and for all times.

These are formidable values that I want to impart. And yet, it is in these crucial, youthful years that she will develop this innate awareness of who she is.

Passover is the holiday when we became G‑d's chosen people. In those crucial, first years as a nation, G‑d tangibly conveyed His love for us.

We had no mitzvot, nor any merits and we didn't deserve to be redeemed. Yet, G‑d showed us unconditional love that was not dependent on our spiritual strengths, talents or stamina.

He chose us not because of what we would accomplish in the years and millennia to come.

Not because we would accept His covenant, His rules, and His laws.

Not because of our dedication, self-sacrifice or commitment.

Not because we were to become a light unto all the nations and teach morality and goodness in every country where we would sojourn.

On many other Jewish holidays, we commemorate, celebrate and rejoice in these particular aspects of our relationship and development as G‑d's chosen nation.

But on Passover, in our youthful years as a nation, just as our self-image was being forged, G‑d wanted to convey to us His infinite love for us. Just because we are His.

Perhaps that is why, of all the many Jewish holidays, the one that is most observed—even by those who profess to be "unobservant"--is Passover and the Passover Seder.

For it represents G‑d's love and connection to us that is timeless, unchanging and unconditional.

A love that is ever-present, irrespective of what we do. But simply because of who we are—His chosen one.

This innate love and self-worth has helped us to survive and thrive as a nation, throughout all of our years of growth and prosperity, and even times of suffering and difficulty—until today.

Because self-worth is something you acquire in your youth.

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