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Does G-d Have ADD?

May 31, 2009

Hold on my dear editors, before you get all up in arms in self-righteous indignation at my insolence, before you toss this article into your overflowing trash bin, and me with it out the office door, hear me out. G‑d knows more than anyone how much I need His help in my life. I certainly would not want to alienate or anger Him by being disrespectful!

Lately, when a close friend confided that she was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), I decided to learn a little bit more about this condition.

My research led me to understand that individuals with ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as it is now officially called, have problems coping with distractibility, procrastination and prioritization. They also have frequent mood swings, ranging from extreme attentiveness to cold negligence (could that explain why my friend sometimes doesn't call for weeks on end, and other times, several times a day?).

While many refer to ADD as a disorder, nowadays many experts on this topic are seeing it more as a "mode." As one explained, people with ADD often have tremendous advantages, such as "super-charged" creative brains, original out-of-the-box thinking and a perception of details that few of the rest of us would notice (like the tiny patch on my dining room ceiling where the paint is beginning to peel that my friend made sure to point out to me).

The problem, however, lies with their brains' filters—their inability to filter out unimportant or unnecessary details and distractions. Typically, someone with ADD will have so much information accosting him at every moment of his day that he is unable to prioritize, and often essential tasks get sidelined for other less important ones. With so much happening in their brains and the constant deluge of information, they also often find it difficult to pick up on normal social cues—unless they consciously focus on the needs of those around them (maybe that would explain her loudly pointing out the peeling paint just when I was trying to impress a room full of important guests…)

With their extremely detailed brains, people with ADD are often plagued by an unattainable pursuit of perfection, which in turn, prevents them from completing almost-finished tasks, in a vicious cycle of running off to the next thing and then the next… (hmmm, I guess that explains her many job changes…).

Which all leads me back to G‑d.

The Talmud declares that "the kingdom of Heaven is similar to the kingdom of earth"--that the structures of human society and the patterns of human behavior reflect the manner in which the Creator relates to and runs His world.

Everything in our physical world has a spiritual source.

So much so that one of the Chassidic Rebbes was able to identify a physical membrane in the brain, one that was medically unknown at the time, from his understanding of the spiritual realms. He understood that if this existed on the spiritual plane, it must have a counterpart in the physical body of man.

As well, once when an individual who had committed a very severe sin came for a private audience with Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch, "the Mitteler Rebbe," the Rebbe secluded himself for several hours in deep contemplation and somber introspection before responding. He explained that in order to help this individual he, too, had to find, on some level, some subtle, slight trace of that sin in his own character. It took him several hours of soul-searching until he could finally discover some resemblance of the source of that condition, in order to provide the individual with an appropriate path of return.

This story gives me comfort—even great and perfect people can relate to us smaller individuals because on some subtle level, they too experience some degree of the challenges or deficiencies that we have.

And so, I postulate, if the condition of ADD exists in our world, can it not mean that G‑d, the perfect being, at times chooses, for whatever reason, to enter into this mode of behavior in dealing with us?

And that's what brings me to possible subtle traces of distractibility, procrastination and pursuit of perfection in how G‑d chooses to run our world.

Personally, I am unable to fathom all the detailed tasks that G‑d must have on His post-it "To Do" list on His heavenly desk. But one thing that I do know has been His priority, from the beginning of time: to bring our world to a state of perfection and completion, its final redemption. That has been His stated purpose from time immemorial.

Throughout our long history, there have been many times when we felt like…AHHHH, it's finally going to happen. How many times did our nation become enthusiastically hopeful, trusting that G‑d is finally hearing our cries and "tuning in" to our suffering, to once and for all end it?

There were signs that the redemption was coming; there were predictions from great and righteous people of it happening imminently. And the dates came and passed…

We're still here in our bitter exile. And the only explanation that I can come up with is that G‑d is waiting for our world to reach its ultimate perfection. Just when the redemption is about to happen, He gets involved in all the other (minor, in comparison) projects and accomplishments that He wants completed.

So what's the solution?

From what I read, the key for someone with ADD (other than medication, therapy and possible changes of diet), is to come to an understanding of how his brain works, his strengths and his weaknesses and how his behavior is hurting not only himself, but also those that he truly loves. Once he is keenly aware of this, and attuned to the needs and feelings of those around him, he can learn that occasionally he must submit his own perspective and trust those around him.

So, perhaps it is time for us to honestly open up to G‑d. To really express to Him just how keenly we need this finale of His own grand plan. To show Him just how much this waiting is causing us to suffer.

And to ask Him to give up His desire for detailed perfection, and finally just make it happen!

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 Second Time Around

May 24, 2009

Dear Reader,

Have you ever asked yourself—or anyone else: If you could live your life all over again, what different choices would you make?

Most people—myself included—would answer this question with a slew of situations, big and little, that we would handle differently a second, more mature time around. From possibly exchanging the individual they married (ouch!), to choosing a different career path (I always wanted to be an astronaut), from the city or country where they live (Honolulu has fantastic beaches), the list of things that people would do differently are many.

Once, I heard a wise person respond to this question with a slant that caught me totally off guard. "What changes would I make? None. I wouldn't do anything differently."

Huh? Was he in denial over all his past mistakes? Or was he one of those previously-thought-to-be-non-existent individuals who lead that elusive "perfect" life? Or was he simply too arrogant to learn from his own setbacks to make better choices?

Or, perhaps he was truly wiser than most of us. Perhaps he came to a realization that "From G‑d, a man's steps are established" (Psalms 37:23). His destiny was predetermined, his footsteps guided from Above. All those choices he took credit – or discredit – for, were part of G‑d's master-plan.

Every decision that "he" made presented him with just the opportunity that he needed. There were no "good" or "bad" choices for him. Ultimately even those situations that were challenging were exactly what he needed in his personal destiny, for his ultimate good.

Ever consider that? Imagine how liberating such a perspective would be.

But, you ask, what about those decisions you made that really were dreadful. Like the time that you finally stood up to your overbearing Aunt Beatrice and told her precisely what you thought of her advice, only to immediately regret saying what you did, but still causing her not to speak to you for the last two decades since then…or the time with your boss, er, former boss—well, you get the picture… Or how about regrettable decisions you made in prioritizing your time, not spending enough of it with family and friends?

Unlike your job, your spouse, or your city of residence, ethical choices are yours alone. You can't chalk up those horrid choices to "destiny"—because your loss of composure and resulting behavior was a result of your personal free choice. These are choices that the Torah tells us that we must sincerely regret—that is what teshuvah (repentance) is all about!

But here the mystics introduce us to an interesting dichotomy: After we have made those less-than-perfect choices, there is an opportunity for us to exploit these decisions, and even their consequences, for our own benefit. In hindsight – and in hindsight only... – we accept that this is exactly what we needed, at that moment, for our individual spiritual progress. We may have chosen the regrettable path that got us into the bind, but the fact that we now are in a bind, that is ultimately part of His plan—we are intended to use this opportunities for our essential spiritual growth. When properly utilized, these setbacks, and the lessons we take from them, can propel us to incredible heights.

So…think about your answer to this question. If you could live your life all over again, how would YOU do it?

Differently, perhaps.

But you don't get to live life again.

So maybe the better question is: If you are living YOUR life today, complete with all the decisions that YOU made, how are you using EVERY one of those decision as an impetus for self-improvement?

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 did G-d Create Bullies?

May 17, 2009

He looks at me with such a wistful expression in his clear blue eyes. His young shoulders are sagging and he appears to be carrying the world's burdens.

"It is so hard to have a bully in my class," my son states sadly. "The bully always wants to be at the center of attention. He bosses us all around. Every game that we play, we have to follow everything that he orders. And all the other kids are afraid of him."

His expression is so sad; but I am even more saddened that at the young age of ten, my son has already come to accept bullying as an unchangeable fact of life.

There are "little" bullies—like the aggressive and dominating boy in my son's fifth grade class; a situation that we're trying to deal with so that he need not come home so sad, day after day.

But then there are the world's "big" bullies—those who take pleasure in intimidating and mistreating those that are smaller or weaker or in less influential positions than them.

Though bullies are a universal scourge, as the Jewish people, we've suffered perhaps more than all others from the bully phenomenon, we've shed rivers of tears over these bullies. From Pharaoh in Egypt, who mercilessly slaughtered our infants, till today, there have been Hitler-like tyrants throughout the generations, who rule through intimidation and mistreatment.

Which makes me wonder about the source of bullying—where did the concept of such inequality begin?

The Talmud (Chulin 60b) records an incident that happened on one of the first days of creation that I've always found intriguing:

The moon said to G‑d: "Sovereign of the Universe, can two kings share a single crown?"

G‑d replied: "Go and make yourself smaller."

"Sovereign of the Universe," she said to Him, "because I made a proper claim before You, am I to make myself smaller?"

…On seeing that the moon would not be consoled, the Holy One said, "Bring an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller."

Initially the sun and moon were equal in size and luminescence. But the moon pointed out a fundamental flaw in creation—how can two "kings" equally dominate the same territory? G‑d commands the moon to make herself smaller, implying that one luminary needs to be bigger. The moon complains that this decision is unjust. G‑d agrees, but instead of remedying the situation asks that we offer a sin-offering every month to atone for this injustice.

I've always wondered at this. What is the message of making the moon smaller and why would G‑d, the perfect Being, need a sin offering for diminishing her size?

But perhaps the lesson of the waning moon is that G‑d is providing us with the potential for growth through our rises and declines, through our ability to be givers or receivers.

We live in a world of inequality where some of us will be stronger, richer, smarter, better connected and more influential, powerful or charismatic. How will we use these positions of superiority? How will we treat those beneath us?

And, will we seize our descents or positions of weakness as opportunities to reach higher? To gain a new perspective of compassion, sensitivity and faith?

But even with these newfound insights and spiritual gains, the times when we are down are hard and (at least from our perspective) so unfair.

To this G‑d says, "I see your tears. I hear your cries. I empathize with your pain. And despite its necessity, because I diminished you in size, and put you through the suffering of inequality, I will bring an atonement offering."

G‑d also promises us that there will come a time when humanity will evolve and realize the responsibility of these positions of strength and realize, too, the benefits gained from being a receiver. And at that time, the moon will regain her former stature and shine with the same luminescence as the sun.

G‑d makes it our duty and our mission to get us to that period.

We do so by not allowing bullies to create suffering and injustices in our world.

Big ones. And even little ones.

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.

When It's Time to Say Goodbye

May 10, 2009

It's almost like she dances in and out of my life.

Truthfully, it's not like she ever really leaves. A child is always in her mother's heart and mind. But the hours that we are physically in each other's presence, talking, sharing and just enjoying one another's company, are so special.

And then the moment arrives. She thanks me for her wonderful stay and she kisses me goodbye. Her childhood room is once again empty and my downcast mood begins to mirror the gray clouds outdoors.

It's not that I'm unhappy about where she is going. Nor would I want it any other way. Together with her wonderful husband, the two are returning to their own lovely home, to their work, to doing the good things that they both do. To the life that they are building together. To where they are supposed to be.

And it's not that my home is now empty. She is my oldest; several of her siblings still remain. Our home will still be filled with the cheery daily noises and chatter of a lively bunch of young kids and teens, staying up till all hours of the night.

But she will be missed. Because each child is special.

So as she comes to say goodbye, I tell her how I hate goodbyes. And we plan ahead to the next time she will visit, in just a few short months.

As they walk to their car, I suddenly remember a beautiful Midrash explaining why we celebrate the holiday of Shemini Atzeret on the day following the festival of Sukkot, even though the day has no special commemorative significance.

The analogy is given of a king who invited his sons to a feast for a number of days. When the time came for them to leave, the king says: "My sons! Please, stay with me just one more day, for your parting is difficult for me!"

So parting is even hard on G‑d. So difficult, in fact, that He asks us to remain, after a number of days, just one more day.

G‑d is enjoying us. We too are enjoying being together with Him. Undoubtedly, we're gaining and growing in our spiritual focus by being in such close proximity to Him.

And yet, though He asks us to stay one more day, He doesn't ask us to remain forever. He expects us—and wants us—to take leave. To move on to what we are here to accomplish.

In fact this scene repeats itself daily. We pray. We intimately communicate with G‑d. We are in His presence, enveloped by His love and ascending to lofty heights. He is enjoying and we are enjoying. And then, we finish and He expects us to move on. To our daily life. To our daily business. To our work in this world.

Wouldn't it be nice to always be together? To relish each other's company? To spend our days surrounded by family, around beautiful holiday meals and rituals, away from the mundane pressures and tensions of everyday life?

It sounds nice. But that's not what our work in this world is meant to be.

Our job is to roll up our sleeves and change our corner of our world. Each of us has a special place, his own special home and his own special fate. At times, during the trajectory of our lives, our paths cross. In those gratifying moments, we meet and share. We meet and recharge.

But then we move forward to channeling our every encounter into a service of the Divine. In a destiny that is uniquely our own.

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.

With a Little Help from Above

May 3, 2009

Overheard in the synagogue, during the rabbi's sermon:

"Bella, I haven't seen you in ages. How have you been?"

"Thank G‑d, Harriet. Life goes on. Time passes and we all get older. Some aches and pains...arthritis in the knees, you know...but thank G‑d, otherwise good."

"Tell me. How's your oldest son, Sam? Oy, Bella, I remember the rivers of tears you spilled over that boy! What a run for your money he gave you!"

"Harriet, you know my hair turned gray as a result of that boy…You remember the grief he gave us? It was one mischief after another."

"How could I forget, Bella? The whole town knew about him and his antics. You remember the stern spinster Miss Simpson, who retired from her fifty-year teaching post as a result of his pranks? So, nu, where is he now? What's he up to these days?"

"Would you believe me, Harriet, if I told you now he gives me the most nachas from all my children! Yes, even more than his older brother, Rob, who always was a straight 'A' student. In fact, not a day passes that Sam doesn't call me to ask me how I'm feeling."

"Really, Bella? It can't be!"

"Yes, it's true. Sam's married now, with three beautiful children."

"Sam? I would never have believed he could settle down!"

"He moved out to Jersey. He became a pillar of the community—the shul president and he is an executive member on the board of his children's school. He works on one communal project after another. And he has a successful business that keeps growing."

"Sam? Incredible! How things turn around…!"

"And a model husband he is, that Sam. Treats his wife like a queen. You should see the palace he built for her."

"If I didn't hear it from your own mouth, I would never believe this, Bella. What a change. I'm so happy to hear."

"Oh yes, a real change. Almost a miracle. You can't imagine how much I prayed for him, over the years. I learned the meaning of prayer on that boy."

Have you ever wondered why the kid who was the town terror somehow turned himself around to become an upstanding individual? The teenager who gave the most heartache suddenly settled down to become the favorite uncle, or most beloved member of the community, giving his parents even more nachas than his refined, ever-do-gooder brother?

You could attribute it to maturation. To a sudden shift in paradigm where the mischief-maker decided that enough is enough and it's time to settle down and use his energy productively.

But often enough the change is so pronounced, the blessings so evident, that it seems like more than just time is at work here.

Maybe so. Maybe the incessant prayers for him have finally been heard and realized.

Have a child whom you are giving up hope on? Try praying for him.

It worked for Bella. And Sam.

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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