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When You Mess Up

Behaalotecha

May 15, 2016

Dear Reader,

You’ve taken a wrong turn. You’ve made a decision that you now recognize is going to cost you dearly. Is there any way to get back on track? Can you make up for the lost time and momentum? Is the path of return too tedious and too impossibly difficult?

Judaism has an empowering and uplifting message, learned from the fascinating holiday of Pesach Sheni, “the Second Passover.”

In the first year after the Exodus, the Jewish people were instructed to bring the Paschal sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan and eat it that evening, just as they had done the previous year. There were individuals, however, who had become ritually impure and could not bring the offering. They approached Moses, asking for some recourse.

"We are ritually unclean (because of contact) with a dead person, but why should we be deprived, that we may not offer the offering of G‑d in its appointed season among the children of Israel?"

And Moses said to them: "Stand by, and I will hear what G‑d will command concerning you." (Numbers 9:7-8)

In response, G‑d established the 14th of Iyar as a Second Passover. Anyone who did not bring a Passover offering—because of impurity—was given the opportunity to compensate for his shortcoming by bringing an offering on Pesach Sheni.

And G‑d spoke to Moses saying:"…If any man of you, or of your future generations, shall be impure by reason of contact with a dead body, or be on a journey afar off, he shall keep the Passover to G‑d. On the fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs…" (Numbers 9:9-11)

There are three points that I find fascinating about this holiday:

1) Unlike other holidays, which were unilaterally commanded by G‑d, this holiday was inspired in response to the outcry of individuals.

2) Unlike Passover, which is seven days in length, this holiday accomplishes its purpose in only one day.

3) The holiday falls a month after Passover.

The lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it’s never too late.

No one is ever too lost to make amends in their lives. When we stray or mess up, if we recognize how far gone we are and we are shaken to our core, we can rebound. But what’s fascinating is that this rebounding is not the regular step-by-step conventional formula. In a single instant—or in this case, in a single day—rather than the seven-day process of Passover, we can redefine our past and mold our future.

But for this to be real, it needs to come from deep within. It’s all about the inner cry—the resolve that we have to make change a reality in our lives.

And that is why Pesach Sheni needed to happen through our own motivation, by us crying out to G‑d that we shouldn’t be left out. This is also why it is celebrated in the month of Iyar, whose theme is individual endeavor, as exemplified through the counting of the Omer and our work on self-refinement.

We all mess up. We weren’t created as perfect individuals who can always make balanced judgements. But the good news is that we don’t need to. Even when we make the worst possible error, there is no cause for despair. Quite the contrary, there is cause for acknowledgement, resolve and then action.

As a great quote reads: There are those who debate whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. And then there are those who realize that the glass is refillable.

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.

Here’s One Time You Should NOT Think Positively

May 8, 2016

Dear Reader,

Optimism and positivity.

That’s the Torah’s approach to how we should view almost every circumstance. We try to see the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

Even during trying times, we highlight what we have rather than what is lacking, and all that we need to be grateful for, as opposed to focusing on our wants and needs.

On a psychological level, this is very beneficial. The more we emphasize our gratitude, the more positive we become as people. As I heard from one motivational instructor, “It’s not that happy people are thankful, it’s that thankful people are happy.”

But on a spiritual level, this approach is even more powerful. Positive thinking can actually change our reality in a majorly good way.

“Think good, and it will be good” is a popular Chassidic saying that means that positive thoughts create a positive reality. When we open the channels of our faith in G‑d by trusting Him to create a good outcome, we generate what we are hoping for. By believing that G‑d is infinite so He can provide for us in a way that we perceive as positive, G‑d reciprocates and directs that positive reality into our lives.

Even if things get so bad and we don’t see those positive outcomes—and we see no seed of goodness in our suffering—we assure ourselves with our faith. “All that G‑d does is ultimately for our own good” we tell ourselves, even if we can’t currently comprehend how that is so.

But there’s one time when this attitude just does not work. Moreover, not only is it not praiseworthy to be positive, it is actually downright destructive.

That is when it comes to others.

Never look at the suffering of another person and think, “Well, at least he has something good in his life to be grateful for.” Similarly, thoughts like “This was meant to be” or “All is for the good” is completely out of place when it comes to another person.

When you see someone suffering, it is downright cruel to think that this individual has been given a test in order to strengthen him or help her become a better person. Our job is not to philosophically come to terms with another’s pain, but to alleviate it.

So, the Torah’s approach is this: The next time you see someone suffering, drop the smugly righteous “It’s all good” mantra. Instead, roll up your sleeves and see what you can do to help.

Wishing us all an amazing week of helping others!

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.

Mind the Gap

May 1, 2016

Dear Readers,

One of the advantages of living in Southern New Jersey is the close proximity to several states along the Northeast Corridor. I’m just a few hours’ drive from so many vibrant cities.

And recently, I discovered a hassle-free and relaxing way of getting there—through the popular Amtrak train.

No need to rush through long lines of airport security or to navigate crowded highways. The train offers a relaxing trip, with free Wi-Fi, all the way from Boston in the north to Washington, D.C.

This past fall, I took a train to Rhode Island, and I was transfixed by the gorgeous scenery and changing colors of the foliage just outside my window. Recently, I traveled to Virginia, equally mesmerized as the train bolted past barren forests and deserted lakes in the dead of winter.

As I boarded, I noticed a sign that cautioned, “Watch the gap.” This sign is similar to the ones in London’s uber-efficient mass-transit system, the Underground. In England, mementos are readily available in tourist areas imprinted with the famous “Mind the Gap” slogan.

The Amtrak signs, like the London Underground, caution travelers to watch their step when boarding and leaving the train, and to carefully walk over the slight space between the train and platform.

Noticing these signs, I thought that as we travel through our own life’s journeys, we need caution specifically when we are going on a new path. When we comfortably travel in one direction, the gaps aren’t so obvious. It’s when we take a different track or when we leave one to examine another that we need to heed the gaps that can cause us to fall. As we embark and disembark, we are presented with new choices, each with potential slip-ups and possible falls.

On the Jewish calendar, we are now on a spiritual journey from Passover to Shavuot, a 49-day methodical process of self-refinement within the human psyche. Each week, we examine a new character trait that needs spiritual and emotional refinement. Each day within that week, we focus on all the different aspects of that trait. In our first week, for example, we tackle chesed (lovingkindness); in the second week, gevurah (discipline); and so on.

As we travel through each of the days of the week, we concentrate on refining this trait in our lives by exploring its parameters and boundaries. And as we begin our travels each week—as we venture to new directions in our quest for self-improvement—we need to mind the gaps and watch out for the possible stumbles in finding the proper expression of each trait.

It’s only in shifting directions and tackling new possibilities that we reach our ultimate destinations.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

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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