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Freeing Yourself From the Demons of Your Past

April 25, 2016

Dear Readers,

How are you enjoying Passover so far? Wherever you may be, I hope you are having a wonderful time.

Passover is a festival of liberation. We became free people, no longer enslaved to our Egyptian masters.

Being enslaved has two parts to it. There is the physical circumstance of slavery—the torturous existence of being subjected, day after day, to the merciless whip of the taskmaster. But there is also psychological slavery—the slave’s mindset and conviction.

Mitzrayim denotes limitations, which we all have to certain degrees. For some, that may mean severe financial problems; for others, it could be serious health issues. And for still others, it may be the burden of an arduous psychological environment. These are the circumstances that constrain us.

But then come our own internal shackles. Even once freed from the abuse or suffering of our past, we may still be living a life inhibited by our own fear, pain or trauma.

We may become freed from our external Egypt, but if Pharaoh has come out with us, essentially, he continues to have full control, mastering our psyche. Our specific set of circumstances may have improved, but our life’s tumultuous inner terrain remains the same.

On the seventh day of Passover, we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. Even once they had been redeemed from Egypt, the Jews remained fearful of the Egyptian’s great might and power. Only after the sea split—and they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore—could they finally experience complete liberation.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as free when we’ve overcome an externally imposed limitation. We may be shocked, however, to discover that Pharaoh is still pursuing us even after we’ve escaped his Egypt. But the abuser closing in on us is the Pharaoh that we’ve allowed to accompany us.

So how do we eradicate these demons from our inner world? How do we transcend the personal Egypt within ourselves?

By splitting our inner sea.

To split the sea, G‑d “turned the sea into dry land.” Deep beneath the sea water lies buried a vibrant, beautiful inner life. The sea is a metaphor for material existence, which hides the G‑dly life force that maintains our exis­tence. To transform the sea into dry land means to reveal that neither we, nor our world, are separate from G‑d; that G‑d alone has full control over our lives and knows what’s best for us.

Only by revealing our deep inner truth—our infinite power coming from our infinite connection to the Divine force within us—can we hope to attain our complete liberation. Only then can we fully leave the demons of our past behind us.

Wishing you a very liberating chag!

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 Happens When You Transform Your Enemy

April 10, 2016

Dear Readers,

As a parent, it’s your greatest moment of triumph.

You’ve momentarily left the playroom. Your son begins to taunt his older sister. You’re about to rush in as referee to prevent the impending battle, when you pleasantly discover that your daughter hasn’t taken the bait. Instead of fighting back, retorting angrily or using her fists, she chooses a different response. She calmly explains to her brother—mimicking the soothing voice you try so hard to use—that she loves him too much to fight, and then distracts him with another activity.

Weeks, months and years of effective parenting have paid off! Your child has internalized your values.


This Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol, the “Great Shabbat.”

After eight decades of being victim to the Egyptians’ merciless cruelty, on the 10th of Nissan, on Shabbat, the Israelites prepare a paschal lamb. They explain to the Egyptians that G‑d instructed them to offer a sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan—the night of their redemption, and the night that G‑d would slay all the Egyptian firstborn.

Hearing this, the Egyptian firstborn plead with Pharaoh to liberate the Jews. When Pharaoh refuses, they rise up in an armed revolt. Many Egyptians died in battle.

This revolt was titled a “great miracle,” and it is commemorated every year on the Shabbat before Passover. These Egyptian firstborn finally understood the folly of their evil and sided with Moses, actively attacking their own government.

Chassidic thought explains that the greatest victory is not in fighting evil, but rather transforming it into good.

When the enemy becomes a friend and defender . . . When a negative inclination works energetically for good . . . When darkness is changed into light . . . When destruction becomes the impetus for building . . . And, when a powerful group of firstborn sons finally stands up against the ills of their society by defending those whom they had so wrongly mistreated.

Interestingly, the 10th of Nissan also marks the date of Miriam’s yahrtzeit, years later, after the Exodus. From a young age, Miriam fearlessly stood up against King Pharaoh when he instructed her to kill all the Jewish male newborns. Despite the hardships, despite the pain, one woman fanned the flame of faith of all the Jewish women of her generation, and succeeded in transforming their perspective with her courage and kindness.

This Shabbat is also called the “great” Shabbat because the haftorah speaks of the coming of Moshiach, referring to this day as the yom Hashem hagadol v’hanora, the “great” and awesome day of the L‑rd (Malachi 3:23).

This great and utopian era will not be a time of destruction, but of transformation; it will not be about commanding, but about communicating. It will not be about fighting, but about educating and changing the mindset of our foes, just as the perspective of the firstborns was positively altered.

May this week’s great Shabbat finally usher in this great and awesome time period!

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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