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What Coffee, Chicken Soup, Sorbet and Laundry Have in Common

Korach

June 14, 2015

Dear Reader,

There’s the water that I drink in my wake-me-up, heavily caffeinated morning mug of hot coffee. There’s the water that creates my banish-all-sickness, nourishing chicken soup. There’s the water in the refreshing store-bought sorbet in my freezer. And there’s the water in my washing machine cleaning my soiled laundry.

So many different shapes, forms, flavors, and usages, but at the core is the same essential property—droplets of water.

People, too, can appear radically different in diverse situations. But, sometimes, if you look closely at the core, you may discover the droplet, their unifying character or quality. For example, the way a person reacts under duress or tension, just as how he chooses to respond in a relaxed mode, can reveal something deep about his approach to life.


Korach incited a mutiny against Moses. Joining Korach were 250 distinguished members of the community who offered the sacrosanct ketoret(incense) to prove their worthiness for the priesthood, claiming that “the entire nation (and not just Aaron or the priests) is holy!”

The earth swallowed the mutineers, and a fire consumed the ketoret-offerers. In the aftermath, G‑d commanded that the offering pans be “beaten into sheets used to plate the altar; for they have been offered to G‑d, and have become sanctified.” (Numbers 17:2–3)

The Lubavitcher Rebbe learns an incredible lesson from these copper pans being transformed into the altar on which sacrifices were offered in the Tabernacle, G‑d’s home.

The very metal of these pans was hallowed by an act which was motivated by a holy desire. Though these mutineers acted sinfully and, as a result, were severely punished, beneath their complaint was a desire—however misguided—to come close to G‑d.

From this the Rebbe extrapolates: “If such is G‑d’s regard for a piece of inanimate metal, certainly no human being is irredeemable. For no matter how deleterious his deeds, they hide a desire and striving, intrinsic to every creature of G‑d, for the goodness and perfection of the divine.” (Likkutei Sichot)

One short teaching, on one verse, on one episode of the Torah. One droplet of wisdom, mind blowing in its scope.

Rather than castigating a sinful group of rebellious, jealous individuals to eternal admonishment, the Rebbe concentrates on their underlying positive motive. Moreover, through this unfortunate episode, he teaches G‑d’s infinite love for all of us—even when we sin or are misguided.

And this all-embracing way of thinking: digging and mining the positive core value, because our world is created by G‑d to serve Him and everything must therefore have some redeeming value—especially G‑d’s chosen people—is intrinsic to how the Rebbe teaches us to view our world.

One small droplet.

And one profound, life-altering gestalt—that utterly alters how we approach ourselves, each other, and our very world.

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.

How I Lost Weight & Gained Confidence

June 7, 2015

Dear Readers,

Throughout most of my childhood, I was chubby. And I don’t mean a little chubby; I was downright fat. It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I actually slimmed down.

My concerned mother consulted our wise pediatrician, who was like a member of our family. He advised her not to worry. “Just offer her healthy choices. When the time is right, she will be self-motivated.”

A friend of my mother who was passionate about nutrition thought otherwise. Long before today’s popular trend, her kitchen pantry was stuffed with seeds and nuts. She even had whole spelt flour. Who ever heard of that? Whenever her children wanted “real” snacks, they’d sneak to someone else’s home—ours—and dispose of the evidence.

She took me aside for a private conversation. Surprisingly, her approach wasn’t to teach me the value of healthy eating, which I might have found useful. “Chana,” she said. “I know that you are such a smart girl.” she paused as I wondered where this was heading. “But,” she continued, “When people meet you, they will never know! They will automatically judge you because fat people are often considered not very smart . . . and lazy!”

I must have been 9 or 10 at the time, but I clearly remember feeling sorry for her. Was that her perspective? Does she really do things because of what people think? Does she expect me to lose weight because of a wrong bias in our society? Why in the world would I care what people who I meet think, when the loss is only theirs!

Over the summer, between sixth and seventh grade, my makeover occurred. I guess I became more conscious of my appearance, or maybe I decided I wanted a bigger wardrobe selection than unshapely dresses. I figured out my own eating plan—basically, cutting down on unnecessary sweets and including more fruits and vegetables. My growth spurt over the summer, along with my more carefully selected foods, transformed me so much that when I returned to seventh grade, no one recognized me. The fat, ugly duckling had turned into the beautiful, svelte swan.

I am certainly not proud of my status as a fat child. As a mother, I offer my children healthy food options and educate them about the value of nutritious eating. But even more than nourishing them to be physically healthy people, I hope that, like my parents, I will be able to convey the importance of being true to themselves, irrespective of prevalent attitudes.

Because while weight comes and goes (especially during those pregnancies!), our self-perception, self-confidence and personal values are something that the pounds on the scale shouldn’t ever tip.

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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