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They Demolished the House Next Door

April 29, 2018

Dear Readers,

One day. That’s all it took.

Yesterday, I looked out my living-room window, and there was this gray, tired-looking, somewhat decrepit home that had stood in that same spot for the last many decades. Today, that house is gone; all that remains is an empty lot.

A rugged Caterpillar bulldozer arrived early in the morning and began clamoring away. We heard loud bangs, and by noon, half of the structure had been knocked down and cleared away into a nearby dumpster. The afternoon hours were spent hammering at the cement foundation; by dinner time, the tractor was clearing the remaining debris.

Throughout the day, as any of us passed through our living room, we would glance out the window and comment on how quickly this home was being smashed. “They’re up to the kitchen!” we would share or “That must be the last bedroom coming down!”

For years, families lived their lives in this home, and now it was gone. The entire structure in a single day!

From the other side of the street, we also hear loud noises. Vehicles come and go, and construction workers continuously set about their work. First, there were the huge shovels to dig deep below the ground. Then there was the especially enormous and noisy truck that laid the cement foundation. A few weeks later, framers were sawing and banging while constructing the structure’s wooden frame. Many trades were called in for their expertise: plumbers, electricians, trimmers, HVAC specialists and more.

Though they have been working continuously for more than half a year, that home is still nowhere near ready for occupation. More specialty fields will be commissioned to ensure that every part—from the raw architectural plans to the final finishes—is constructed to the owner’s wishes.

And yet, though it requires months or years and so many different experts to construct a beautiful home, in just one day it can be demolished. All it takes is one tough truck to ram it to the ground and destroy it.

Which makes me think of people.

It takes time, effort, kind words and wisdom to build up a person. Different kinds of “experts” in many fields are needed to bring out someone’s greatest potential. Yet each of us can offer our own small contribution to help building up some part of those individuals with whom we interact.

But it takes so little thought or effort to bang someone down and destroy. Harsh words, biting comments and uncaring actions can bring devastation so quickly.

And one ramming so often leads to the next. One negative word or attitude elicits an almost domino reaction, creating more negativity, until the whole beautiful structure crumbles to a pile of debris.

Word or actions have the power of destroying or building. Let’s choose to carefully and intricately to build up a world and humanity full of grace and goodness.

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.

Pushing the Wrong Buttons

April 22, 2018

Dear Readers,

Computers and I have a tenuous relationship. I can’t live without them; they are integral in the work that I do. And yet, they aggravate me to no end, plaguing me with issues and problems that keep on cropping up.

Take the other day.

I was trying to connect my Wi-Fi in order to use the Internet. My computer should be doing this automatically as soon as I log on. The problem was, it didn’t. My computer was stuck in airplane mode, and the Wi-Fi connection was disabled.

There’s a simple solution to this, I thought. I pushed the Wi-Fi “On” button on the screen. Something seemed to be happening; the circle going round and round told me that my computer was working on connecting. Except it didn’t.

I restarted my computer. Same issue. I tried pushing the Wi-Fi button “On” and airplane mode “Off” over and over again. Each time, it looked like it would work, only to be stuck in the same airplane mode, unable to connect.

This was frustrating. I needed my Wi-Fi. And I was determined to get it to work—on my own.

Deep breathe. Try again. Try troubleshooting. More deep breathing. More rebooting.

Nearly an hour later, I admitted defeat. I went to ask a family member. He fiddled with the buttons, over and over. He, too, wasn’t having any luck. He looked up the problem online, and apparently, Dell laptops can sometimes get stuck in this mode. At this point, I was desperate for my computer to work and even ready to call tech support at work headquarters.

But then my son (a computer genius) arrived home from out of town. I was sure he wouldn’t be able to do anything, and I really didn’t want to bother him the minute he walked in, but I figured it was at least worth a try. Two minutes later, he called out: “Ma, it’s working now.”

“You’re kidding?!” I was shocked. He pointed to a physical button at the side of my computer. “You see this button? It must have somehow been pressed, and as a result, it turned off the Wi-Fi. Next time, just make sure this button is pushed to Wi-Fi and you shouldn’t have a problem.”

A little physical button at the side of my computer? I could manage that!

Buttons.

Sometimes, the wrong button is pushed in our psychological or spiritual composition. We wake up on the wrong side of the bed; someone says something that triggers us; something happens that makes us feel deflated. We may try to overcome our foul mood, but nothing seems to work. We’re just not connecting. Not to our inner selves. Not to others. And we may not even be aware of what actually is causing these feelings within us. We try to reboot, but it just doesn’t happen.

What’s the magical button you use that can help you reconnect? I’d love to hear.

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.

Mothers Huddled (and Hopeful) in the Rain

April 8, 2018

Dear Readers,

We were four mothers huddled together that early Thursday morning. We all scheduled our children’s roadside driving tests for the first appointments of the day and had arrived in close proximity of one another. As the clouds gave way to a light drizzle, we shifted into a glass-covered outdoor shelter, but the winds still penetrated, blowing straight through our bulky coats.

One mother was dressed in professional clothing and was undoubtedly rushing off to work as soon as her child’s 8 a.m. appointment concluded. Another could barely speak English; it was clear that this wasn’t her or her daughter’s first language.

We made some small talk. First, about the changing weather—how just yesterday we experienced almost summer-like weather (“We had highs even higher than Florida,” one Mom commented). Today, it felt more like February, with winter’s grip still strong.

Clustering in the cold, we each waited and wondered if our children would pass their driving tests. We closely examined their instructors, wondering how strict they would be. With our eyes, we followed our children driving around the circular path, mentally willing them to remember to stop a full stop, and watching if they were struggling with their parallel parking or bumping any of the orange cones set up along the way.

No doubt, we had each tried to prepare our children for this moment. They had studied and succeeded in passing their written tests, acing the detailed questions. They had painstakingly practiced with driving instructors and spent many hours on the road with family members, who carefully watched and scrutinized their driving patterns.

Though each of us moms came from different backgrounds, we all shared a parent’s concern—wanting our children to succeed in this test, but more than that, hoping that we had prepared our children to safely navigate their vehicles. We realized, too, that the ultimate test would come when our children would drive on their own, making turns and decisions without our help.

Our children returned, one by one, several moments later. Some were ecstatic to have passed their tests, and some were downcast with instructions on what they needed to work on for next time.

Watching the procedure—the passes and the failures—I realized that this experience taught us some important principles about safely navigating through life’s roads and circumstances:

  1. Even if theoretically you know the right answers on a written test, that doesn’t automatically translate into practice, in choosing the right action.
  2. Often, we are put are in a situation where we have to make decisive, split-second decisions (sometimes, even pertaining to life and death). To make the right choice, our instincts have to be honed to react correctly.
  3. Practice, practice and more practice, especially when not under the pressure of a test, trains our instincts.
  4. Sometimes, you need to fail in order to try harder and learn more. That often makes you a safer and better navigator of life’s passages.

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.

Go Ahead: Take the Plunge!

April 2, 2018

Dear Readers,

What prevents us from taking the path of change to better our lives?

Sometimes, it is a fear of the unknown. We’d rather embrace a familiar present, no matter how painful. We worry about where change will lead, even while acknowledging that it can bring a better future.

Sometimes, it is the fear of others. What will others think? Will I be blamed, criticized or judged?

So often, it is the fear of ourselves. We don’t feel ready; we’re not yet “good enough” to take on this venture. We see our flaws and imperfections, and define ourselves through this lens. Rather than embracing who we are and working to improve, we feel unworthy, stuck in the mode of wishing who we could be, instead of who we already are. Our unrealistic striving for perfection prevents us from achieving what we can.

Some 3,000 years ago, as our ancestors became a nation, we were shown how to confront such insecurities.

After their miraculous Egyptian exodus, G‑d commanded the Jewish people to travel towards Sinai. But how? The people found themselves stuck—in front of them was the raging Sea of Reeds; behind them was the vengeful Egyptian army.

Fear created paralysis.

There were those who feared the unknown—a life of Egyptian servitude was preferred! Others feared the consequences of their actions—death would be better! Others were so stuck that they could do no more than move their lips in prayer. Still others considered backtracking, attempting to fight the Egyptians and their injustices.

Undoubtedly, many felt unworthy of G‑d’s help. After centuries of enslavement in the bowels of Egyptian culture, they, too, had slipped into the depths of depravity and corruption. How could they expect to become G‑d’s chosen nation?

And then there was Nachshon, son of Aminodov.

Nachshon wasn’t in denial. He was aware of both the might of the Egyptians and the fearful seawaters—and that he and his fellows were no match for either. He also grasped his nation’s lowly spiritual status.

But his fear of inadequacy didn’t stop him. This was a challenge—a huge one—from which they would certainly need G‑d’s miraculous assistance. The only way to confront challenges, however, is to move ahead, embracing who we are and what we need to do.

G‑d had chosen this nation. G‑d believed in them. G‑d would surely help them to become the great nation that He envisioned. And so, Nachshon courageously stepped into the waters that miraculously split . . .


In our lives, there are times when contemplation is needed. There are situations when heartfelt prayers are necessary. Other times, we must fight against what is holding us back. There are even times when we need to retreat and find a different path towards our goals.

But at no point should we allow the paralysis of fear to prevent us from advancing. We need to keep moving onwards, with the confidence and belief that G‑d is at our side.

G‑d doesn’t expect our perfection, but He does demand our efforts. And our belief that, together with G‑d, we can!

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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