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Do You Know Where Your Teenager is?--An Ode to All Teens

May 25, 2008

You've begun to work for a new company. During your first many weeks, you are learning the ropes, figuring out how to accomplish your assignments most efficiently. You are awed by the range of the company, overwhelmed by its many divisions and the extensive systems in place that execute its vision.

You are the new kid on the block, and like a newborn you gaze with reverential wonder and worshipful submission at your surroundings.

There is resistance. There are raised eyebrows. There are the nay-sayers and there are the know-it-alls.

And then…as time passes, you perceive a change within. You begin to notice inefficiencies in the hierarchy, leaks in the system, mistakes or lacks in the production line. You are no longer so new to the job that you are silenced by the higher-ups, but you are also not so entrenched in the company that you can't see beyond the set infrastructure. You bring new blood and a fresh perspective that visualizes how and where change can be effective. You have ideas and foresight that can revolutionize the old, and the stale.

And so…in your own way, you begin to make dents in the way things are done. At first, it is only on a small scale, but with growing courage, you begin to tackle issues company-wide. You suggest new projects and revolutionary proposals well beyond your jurisdiction. You want to inspire others to sail along with your dreams. What you lack in experience you are more than willing to make up in initiative, energy and exuberance.

And that's when you hit against the inertia. You encounter it at every step of the way. There is resistance. There are raised eyebrows. There are the nay-sayers and there are the know-it-alls. For every two steps of progress, someone is forcing you to regress one.

And soon…despite your convictions, you once again discern a change within. The criticism is having its effect. The sparkle of determination in your eyes has dimmed. You begin to wonder why you are expending so much effort. For the first time you hear yourself saying, "This isn't my department" and "I can't change the world." You've settled down. You've begun to accept the status quo, the easy path—the one with less resistance. You stop tackling new undertakings.

You've just entered into your complacent adulthood.


A baby enters this world. For his first many years, the child is discovering the wonder of his new world. He is awed by his environment, reverent of his elders who provide instruction, infrastructure and guidance.

But then, as time progresses, he becomes a teenager. That's when he realizes that things aren't functioning as perfectly as he originally believed. There are inconsistencies in the system, unfair hypocrisies, incongruities and distorted priorities. He wants change and what he knows he lacks in experience and wisdom, he's ready to make up with his stamina, convictions, enthusiasm and energy.

And then somewhere along the path to maturity, the teen encounters too many obstacles, too many nay-sayers, too many people telling him to mind his own business and stop rebelling against what is. His inspiration becomes quashed, his initiative dies.

To the outside eye, he may have "settled down" and outgrown his impractical idealism or youthful rebelliousness, but intuitively he knows he's lost a part of himself.

The Rebbe saw the years of teens as ones full of an unparalleled idealism and strength that just needed to be channelled appropriately:

The period of adolescence is nestled between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers are overflowing with adrenaline and confidence, feeling:"I want to change the way the world works." Adults burdened by the pressures of everyday life, convince themselves that this is the way it is, but young people cannot tolerate such resignation.

Youth are rebellious. But rebellion is not a crime. It can be the healthiest thing for a human—an energy that inspires a person to not give up easily, to refuse to tolerate injustice, to not go along with an idea just because everyone else is thinking it.


Some of us retain our youthful drive our entire lives; others never experience it.

No matter what our age, though, there is a "teenager" within each of us. In every situation that we find ourselves, we have the opportunity to find the positive aspects of our teenage perspective and harness its power. Bubbling within us is that youthful idealism—that ability to question the status quo, to fight for the underdog and to follow the dreams of our beliefs with undaunted courage and determination.

Let's not follow the nay-sayers. Or become one.

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.

Spiritual Security Blankets

May 18, 2008

This past week, my youngest child turned four.

Though every age of a child's development is special, to me, the age of four represents a unique transitional phase. At this stage, children leave behind their babyhood to become so much more independent in actions and expressions, while still retaining their special childhood innocence.

Ever since she was a baby, my daughter has cherished various childhood comforts—like her plush, favourite blanket or her special pacifier.

But waking up on the morning of her fourth birthday, she proudly announced, "Today, I am four! I am really H-U-G-E now!" She proceeded to inform me that now she would no longer need any of her childhood securities.

Parents of young children know how emotionally attached they can become to these soft toys or blankets. According to studies, almost 60% of children have some security object and most psychologists consider them to be beneficial in children's development. These comfort objects dispel a sense of anxiety and comfort them when they feel alone or scared. They are often used as "transitional objects" helping to provide a healthy relaxation of the bond between parent and child, encouraging the child to become more independent, adventurous and self-confident.

Some older children, though, have a hard time letting go of their childhood securities and treasure them well into adulthood. They don't see these objects as transitional, but actually begin attributing essential powers to the comfort article itself. Rather than reminding them of the warmth of their home or the love of their parents, these object become something that they rely on as a support. To them, these comfort objects are no longer a representation of security, but a crutch, making them more needy—something that they can't fall asleep without hugging, or overcome a tense situation without tenderly embracing.

My daughter's words on the morning of her fourth birthday, made me think about whether as adults perhaps we also hold on to some "spiritual security blankets." These spiritual security blankets can sometimes be positive or empowering, but sometimes serve only as a crutch, where we neglect to see our deeds within their greater context and attribute unnecessary importance to the deed itself.

Take the daily ritual of prayer, for example. Prayer is meant to reinforce within us our bond to our Creator. It is meant to achieve a sense of comfort that whenever we are in need, whenever we are in pain or trouble, we can call out to our Parent, who always hears us and watches over us, with infinite love and goodness.

Do our words or actions give us a wrong sense of security—that we have fulfilled our obligations, while really missing out on the deeper, essential connection?

Yet, how often does prayer become a security blanket in a negative sense, where we no longer work on cultivating our connection to our Creator, but attribute significance to even words recited by rote, in a hurry, without any meaning or feeling?

While I'm not suggesting that the action of prayer itself has no merit, or that we should stop praying or doing any positive acts that lack the emotion. Each and every mitzvah performed even without the proper intentions is undoubtedly still positive and worthwhile.

But what I am suggesting is that when these rituals are done without thought or meaning, we're losing out—we've got the body of the mitzvah, but without its soul and essence. Is it any surprise then that rather than finishing off our prayers with a renewed faith and assurance that G‑d is watching us and doing what's best for us, that the empty words leave us likewise feeling empty? Almost like eating a high caloric meal with little nutritious value, do the words give us a false sense of "fullness", while being spiritually unnutritious? Have we just engaged in a holy, spiritual act, or an empty one that assuages our guilt and promotes a misplaced sense of spiritual connection?

Or take another very common example of our daily interactions with our loved ones, our spouses or our children. How often do we greet our children with mechanical endearing words but without really giving thought to the bonds of our relationship? We nod encouragingly to them as we automatically ask them about their day, or we give them a peck on their cheek as they run out the door in the morning, while our minds are busy with other "important" things. We might feel a comforting sense of connectedness, but do our words or actions give us a wrong sense of security—that we have fulfilled our obligations towards them, while really missing out on the deeper, essential connection?


Security blankets are great for children. They comfort them and make for wonderful transitional objects along a child's path towards maturity and independence.

But perhaps as adults it is time to re-examine our daily actions, rituals and relationships and rediscover their intended meaning—rather than merely retaining them as a comforting security blanket.

Do you have a spiritual security blanket? Does it fill you with empty spiritual calories or does it empower you to reach a greater spiritual awareness?

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.

The Instructor’s Exacting Commands

May 11, 2008

It was a Friday afternoon. There must have been about forty or more of us gathered in the large room, floor-to-ceiling mirrors covering the surrounding walls. Despite the weariness and lagging energy that comes after a long and full week, we were moving energetically, following the exacting—and strenuous—commands of the auburn haired woman facing us in the front of the room.

"Higher," Melissa shouted. As she walked through the room to examine—and reprove—each of us, we sheepishly struggled to please her.

"Faster," went her next charge as we strained ourselves further. "C'mon, you can do better than that!" she continuously admonished. "Further…deeper…stronger!"

"Now hold your positions," our taskmaster demanded. I noticed the painful grimace on the facial expressions of many of the others, myself included. But despite her gruelling insistence of moving us at a dizzying pace and forming all types of twisted and convoluted shapes, none of us dared to disobey her. The more she pressed us on, the greater we labored to meet her onerous directives.

Despite her gruelling insistence of moving us at a dizzying pace, none of us dared to disobey her.

Were we in some kind of enforced boot camp, being punished for some heinous crime?

No, we were a group of middle class, suburban women who were here entirely on our own volition. In fact, after an hour of this arduous treatment, most of us even approached Melissa before leaving to thank her. Moreover, we had even paid a membership due for the privilege of being in this room and follow her directives.

We, like scores of men and women around the world, were in an exercise class offered by our fitness center. Precisely due to her taxing demands, Melissa was one of the favourite and most sought-after instructors.

Strange?

Not at all.

Not when you consider that we understood that the discipline that she demanded of us was entirely for our own benefits—to provide us with the strength and energy of a healthy physique. We realized her expertise and therefore didn't doubt each of her demands or distrust the particular techniques she employed. And we understood too, that this was something valuable enough to clear some time even on a busy Friday afternoon.


Perhaps, something to consider on any of the many occasions when we may feel lethargic about performing some of the spiritual pulls and pushes of our day—exercises designed especially for our benefit, to strengthen our spiritual well-being.

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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