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A Look Into G-d’s Largest Storehouse

April 8, 2019 1:44 PM

Dear Readers,

Seen on a sign: Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a “steering wheel” that directs the right path throughout.


Every week from Passover until Shavuot, as well as throughout the summer months, we learn a chapter from Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers”).

In one of the passages in this week’s chapter, Rabbi Shimon states: “When you pray, do not make your prayer a routine act, but an entreaty for mercy and supplication before the Omnipresent, as it says, ‘For He is gracious and compassionate … ’; and do not judge yourself to be a wicked person.” (Avot 2:13)

What does making our prayer a “routine act” mean when there are set times and words for our prayers? And what is the connection to viewing ourselves as wicked?

The word for “routine” in Hebrew is keva, which connotes something burdensome and obligatory that we wish to get rid of or be done with. It also means something established and routine. Prayer should not be about getting through a necessary recital of specific words. Prayer is a gift at any time of day or night. It is our opportunity to communicate personally, expressing our innermost feelings to G‑d. Prayer, “the service of the heart,” is communicating with G‑d, sharing our heartfelt thoughts, our problems, burdens, dreams and desires.

Moreover, we shouldn’t view our prayers as limited words that we recite to elicit a prescribed response from G‑d. To the contrary, this is our chance to forge an infinite connection with G‑d, irrespective of our merits or worthiness.

The Midrash explains that G‑d showed Moses many Divine storehouses of rewards; one for those who do good deeds, another for those who study Torah and so on for the rewards of various mitzvot. G‑d then showed him the largest storehouse.

Moses asked, “For whom is this storehouse?”

G‑d replied, “This storehouse is for those who lack merit; it is what is given for free.”

When we acknowledge that no matter how much good we can do in our lives, it is insignificant compared to all that G‑d gives us, that’s when we can receive from this storehouse. This is the largest storehouse—the one not limited by what we deserve, but is simply given to us out of G‑d’s absolute kindness and compassion (Avnei Nezer).

And yet, at the same time, even while we feel unworthy before all of G‑d’s goodness, and we ask G‑d simply to give us due to His benevolence, we are not meant to view ourselves as wicked.

Our behavior is influenced by our self-image. Think you can and you will; think you are unable or unworthy, and you will be hopelessly trapped. Consider yourself wicked, and you will never struggle to reach higher. But view yourself as a soul, an actual part of G‑d, and you will strive to realize your infinite potential.

Especially now, as rockets rain down on Israel and bullets were sprayed in Poway, wishing us all a week of heartfelt prayers and infinite kindness!

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.

My Conversation With a Teen

April 3, 2019 12:25 PM

Dear Readers,

I was having a conversation with an especially mature teenager.

“Really, there is so little about ourselves that we can be proud of,” she insisted. “Our character traits are mostly inborn, based on genetics, or formed through our life’s experiences. Whether we are smart or pretty is also just a gift that we were born with.” She mused thoughtfully.

“So, in truth,” she continued. “The only thing that we can really be proud of that we accomplish on our own is when we work on changing something about ourselves.”

That’s what I love about teenagers. They can be so deep and insightful, and so brutally honest with themselves.

The Rebbe taught: “Young people are overflowing with a mixture of adrenaline and confidence—‘I want to change the way the world works,’ teenagers often think. ‘I can change the world.’ This is the conflict between them and adults: Young people abhor the status quo, while adults’ lives revolve around it.”

“So, what are practical things that I can work on for positive change?” She probed.

It was one of those rare moments that a teenager opens up, and I knew that I needed to come up with genuine responses.

“For me, feeling gratitude is difficult.” I suggest. “Making a list on paper or in my head of the things to be grateful for every day—from ‘small’ things, like the fact that the sun is shining, to my health, home and family—helps me recognize all the good in my life and actually makes me a happier person.”

She liked that idea. But she pushed me for another suggestion.

I thought for a few minutes and was relieved when another idea popped into my mind. “OK, here’s something else,” I said. “Every day, do something to make another person happy. It can be a small thing, like saying thank you to your bus driver, or complimenting your friend who looks lonely, or showing appreciation to the check-out person. Any nice word or gesture to make someone smile. How’s that?” I asked.

“The truth is,” she said agreeably, “that at any given moment, most of us are so focused on ourselves and how we’re feeling. We analyze to death whether we’re disappointed with an outcome or how a friend is treating us, or how popular we are with our group. So, this is a good way to take the focus away from me and what I want by focusing, at least for a short time, on making another person happy.”



These days between Passover and Shavuot are meant to be journeys into the inner terrain of ourselves. We prepare to receive the Torah by becoming better people. The Hebrew word for character traits is middot, which also means measurements. When we do our inner work, we measure and create more of certain qualities and less of others in order to grow as better human beings.

Do you have any suggestions for small things that we can do to create big change within ourselves?

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.

Push That Curtain a Little Harder

April 3, 2019 12:22 PM

Dear Readers,

Once, there was a group of nature workers who needed to move a herd of antelopes to a new location. The problem was how could they get these huge animals to co-operate?

The workers surrounded the approaching stampede with a thin curtain to block their way. As the antelopes quickly approached, they saw the curtain in front of them and stopped in their tracks.

Why?

In the antelopes’ perception, the thin curtain was as strong as a wall; they didn’t even attempt to pass through. Had they simply exerted themselves a little, the curtains would have easily parted under their weight.


After experiencing the miraculous 10 plagues, the Jewish people finally left the misery of their Egyptian exile. G‑d led them in a roundabout way that took them through the desert to the Red Sea. Perhaps this was G‑d’s way of teaching them a vital lesson that they needed to learn before accepting the Torah at Sinai.

Pharaoh heard about their travels, thought that they were lost and regretted allowing them to leave. He pursued them with his choicest cavalry and caught up to them just as they were approaching the Red Sea.

The Jewish people were now in a terrible predicament—the Egyptians were behind them, and the Red Sea was before them. After all that they had gone through during their years of slavery, many despaired, feeling terrified and overpowered.

Moses encouraged them telling them, “Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of the L‑rd, which He will show to you today … the L‑rd will fight for you!”

Moses led them forward until they came to the very borders of the Red Sea. G‑d spoke to Moses: “Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground.”

But each of the tribes hesitated. Everyone was afraid to jump into a raging sea. One man, however, Nachshon, son of Aminodov, prince of the tribe of Judah, unhesitatingly demonstrated his faith and jumped into the sea.


How often do we encounter challenges that we feel are impossible to overcome? They seem like an impenetrable wall. Anxiety, dread and defeat begin to claw at, and cling to, the tendrils of our aching hearts. Our limited perception of ourselves keeps us captured in place, instead of freeing us to move forward with our trust in G‑d that we can succeed and grow by overcoming this obstacle.

Our sages teach us that nothing stands in the way of the will. We cannot allow hurdles to prevent us from progressing towards our life’s mission.

Travel ahead with the belief that with G‑d at your side, you will not allow challenges, self-limiting perceptions, someone else’s opinion, complications or impediments from stopping you.

Push your curtain a little harder, and be surprised by the power of your weight.

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.

Why Do We Focus So Much on Children on Passover?

April 3, 2019 12:17 PM

Dear Readers,

Have you ever wondered why we focus so much on children on Passover?

Every parent-child relationship (in normal circumstances) is filled with an outpouring of unbreakable love. But there is something extra-special about a parent’s relationship with a very young child or infant.

Watch a parent lovingly caress their newborn, waking up at all hours of the night to tend to the child’s many needs. In those first months of life, the newborn doesn’t acknowledge and has yet to learn how to smile, communicate or even gaze knowingly at their parent.

Eventually, the baby grows up and is able to give back in the form of talking or laughing, hugging or kissing, and can even do small things to show their gratitude. But in those initial stages, the relationship is only about the parent giving and the child taking.

But the parent isn’t giving because of their child’s particular capabilities, talents or cognitive abilities. The parent gives simply because of their unconditional love.

There are many metaphors that are used to describe G‑d’s relationship with the Jewish people. Sometimes, we are called G‑d’s bride; other times, G‑d’s children; sometimes, G‑d is our Spouse, Shepherd, Master and more. While each metaphor brings out something unique, the parent-child relationship demonstrates the aspect of unreserved giving.

This was especially evident at the holiday of Passover. Emerging from Egypt, we had not yet received the Torah and were in our infancy, being “born” as G‑d’s chosen nation. Spiritually, we were at a very low level, steeped in immorality. And yet, despite how much we were lacking, G‑d showed unrestricted love, choosing us as His nation, redeeming us from our bondage and gifting us with the precious Torah. G‑d’s love was like a parent to their newborn.

“On the day you were born,” says Ezekiel regarding our ancestor as the time of Exodus, “your navel was not cut, neither were you washed with water for cleansing, nor were you salted, nor swaddled at all.”

G‑d cared for us like a doting parent coddles a newborn.

Perhaps that is why on Passover, we emphasize the role of children. On every holiday, children are encouraged to participate, but this is most noticeable on Passover, when children hold a central role. The majority of the Seder is directed to them.

In doing so, we are showing that at the core of our relationship, each of us is that child. On Passover, G‑d reached out to each of us and showed us that His love is inherent.

The Rebbe, whose birthday falls this week on the 11 of Nissan, constantly reminded us of the beloved stature of every Jew, irrespective of their age, status or level of practice.

Once we can begin to fathom the depth of this outpouring of love, we can (and should) be motivated to move forward and “reciprocate” in doing our part to please G‑d. But at our core must be the awareness that G‑d’s love for us is steadfast and constant. Beni bechori Yisroel, You, Israel are My beloved firstborn.

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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