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Hearing Voices

June 26, 2019 12:03 PM

Dear Readers,

There’s an old joke: When you talk to G‑d, it is prayer, but when G‑d talks to you, you need a psychiatrist.

But really, this is not necessarily so.

There are many ways that G‑d talks to us. Sometimes, it is sign, a turn of events or a set of “coincidences.” Sometimes, it is a mentor or an article that lands in our inbox and “speaks” directly to our situation. Sometimes, in moments of distraught prayers, we feel this voice of comfort. When we listen to these “Divine whispers,” we hear G‑d communicating with us.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “Every single day, a Heavenly voice emanates from Mount Horeb, proclaiming and saying, ‘Woe to them, to the people, because of their insult to the Torah!’ For whoever does not occupy himself with Torah is called, ‘Rebuked,’ as it says, [Like] a golden ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”

And it is further stated: “The Tablets are G‑d’s handiwork, and the script was G‑d’s script, charut (engraved) on the Tablets. Do not read charut but cherut (freedom), for there is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah ... (Avot 6:2).”

In the year 2448 from creation, heaven and earth kissed. G‑d descended on Mount Sinai and communicated with those who stood at the foot of the mountain, as well as every soul that would ever exist. He taught us His wisdom, and how to heal ourselves and our world. There was total clarity and direction.

Ever since then, we succeed and we fall; we take one step forward and too many steps backward. Throughout our journey, there is a heavenly voice that reminds us about our purpose. It “proclaims and says” … this double wording implies both forbearance and urgency because the call is individually tailored to each of us. Depending on our life’s situations, at times it talks vehemently; other times it pleads softly and sympathetically, trying to reach our inner core.

But what of those many times that we don’t hear its message? The Baal Shem Tov explains that while this voice is not physically audible, the highest parts of our soul, which is not enclothed within our bodies, senses its powerful call and is aroused by its Divine urging.

Because each of us are like the words of the Torah that were “engraved on the tablets.”

What is the difference between letters that are engraved and those written with ink? Engraved letters are an actual part of the substance onto which they are written. The Torah, too, is engraved within us—at one with the deepest dimension of our being.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch said: “Every Jew is a letter in G‑d’s Torah, a letter engraved in stone. At times, the dust and dirt may accumulate and distort—or even completely conceal—the letter’s true form, but underneath the letter remains whole. We need only sweep away the surface grime and the letter, in all its perfection and beauty, will come to light.”

While each of us is constrained by our inherent limitations, the Torah is G‑d’s wisdom and will. When we listen to these Divine whispers, we find personal freedom as well as redemptive healing for our world.

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.

Four Types of People: Which One Are You?

June 20, 2019 12:55 PM

Dear Readers,

Once, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev saw a man running breathlessly through the marketplace.

“Why are you running?” he asked.

“I am hurrying in pursuit of my livelihood!”

“But why do you believe that your livelihood is in front of you? Perhaps it is behind you, and you are running away from it!”

Though we need to exert real effort to earn our livelihood, ultimately our work is only a channel for Divine sustenance. We create the means, but we need to realize that the blessings come from Above.

In contrast, the Talmud teaches us that when it comes to our inner spiritual work, our progress directly correlates with our effort. “Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except fear of Heaven” (Brachot 33b).


Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of Our Fathers (5:10), speaks about people’s attitudes in their interactions with others.

There are four character types among people:

1) One who says, “My (property) is mine, and yours is yours” is an average type, but some say this is the character of Sodom.

2) “Mine is yours, and yours is mine”; this is an unlearned person.

3) “Mine is yours, and yours is yours” is pious.

4) “Yours is mine, and mine is mine” is wicked.

Some want only to take from others; this is wicked. Others want only to benefit others; this is pious. Some don’t see any boundaries; they share theirs but freely take yours. This is a boor. Others don’t want to be bothered by anyone— mine is mine, and yours is yours. Some consider this the trait of an average person, while others see this as the characteristic of Sodom, unethical and leading to stinginess and cruelty.

The Chassidic master Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshis’cha understood this Mishna as hinting about our attitude towards our spiritual or material pursuits.

“What’s mine is Yours,” we tell G‑d. Our spiritual growth, which really is in our hands, we wrongly see as being entirely up to G‑d; consequently, we don’t put forth effort into reaching higher.

On the other hand, “What’s Yours is mine.” When it comes to earning a livelihood, which is in G‑d’s hands, we believe is only up to my efforts, my business smarts, my connections and me.

On a similar train of thought, the Koznitzer Maggid describes the attitude of a righteous individual.

He tells G‑d, “What’s mine is Yours.” My things—like sleeping, eating and leisurely activities—are really Yours. I will try to use even these mundane things (my “off hours”) as a means of serving You to provide me with rest, energy and rejuvenation to strengthen my spiritual service.

Moreover, “What’s Yours is Yours,” even when I do mitzvot, which are spiritual quests, I will try to do them with the intention that I am doing it for You. Even though mitzvot give me greater meaning in life and great rewards in the Afterlife, I will work on doing them just because I value my relationship with You, and I know that this is Your will.


From our attitudes towards helping others to our attitudes towards our own spiritual service, the Mishna teaches us how to grow into greater people.

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.

Learning From the Rebbe’s Love

June 20, 2019 12:41 PM

Dear Readers,

I like to use the term “intrinsic love” for the love that the Rebbe showed to all people.

The Rebbe’s love for every Jew—no matter where he or she was at—was real and palpable. It was not a means to a goal; it was unconditional.

Yet at the same time, almost paradoxically, the Rebbe pushed people to change themselves and reach higher—to strive to be more.

Here, I think, is the crux of this love. Because the love was so real, because he saw the infinite greatness of every individual, that’s why he wanted the person to be even more.

The message wasn’t “You aren’t good the way you are,” but rather “Because of your infinite value and capability, because of how great you are, you need to strive to be even more.”

The Rebbe often asked people to report to him on what they were doing; he wanted to hear about even the seemingly small efforts. Why? Because he considered it of infinite importance and value, as if the tiny good deed you just did or the program that you just organized was the most amazing thing in the world.

Because it was!

At the same time, he didn’t let us rest on our laurels, but demanded, “So, what’s next? What’s your next program? What’s the next good thing that you are working on? It should be even more than what you already did!”

Not because we aren’t good enough, but because if we have the power to do this infinitely amazing and important thing, then how can we not do more?

I believe this is the healthiest and most empowering approach that we can foster towards others, as well as towards ourselves.

Many of us have internalized voices that constantly criticize us with their messages about how we just don’t measure up. These critiquing voices can be self-defeating, almost convincing us that we aren’t really worthy of love, paralyzing us from even trying to reach higher.

On the other hand, if we don’t see our faults and cannot acknowledge the areas in which we really don’t measure up, how will we strive to become more?

This is where the Rebbe’s love is key.

Intrinsic love is not a blind love. We are all well-aware of how we can and should improve.

But it is also not a negative message of “you’re not good enough as you are.” It’s not even “be more” or “try harder.” It’s not a love for the improved version of ourselves.

“Intrinsic love” is an unconditional love for who we are. But precisely because each of us has this infinite, G‑d-given power and ability, we can demand of ourselves to be even better.

Not because we are lacking, but because of the infinite goodness we already are.

So when we wake up in the morning, we need to see a new view of ourselves. Yesterday was good—great even—but today can be better.

Precisely because of how good—and beloved—we are.

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.

Whose Wealth Is It?

June 4, 2019 5:18 PM

Dear Readers,

Have you heard of the Giving Pledge?

Created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, some of the wealthiest philanthropists around the world committed to give away the majority of their wealth to “help the world become a much better place.”

Warren Buffett committed to give 99 percent of his wealth but humbly stated, “Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day (and) relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. … In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99 percent pledge.”

Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa says, “Give Him from His Own, for you and your possessions are His” (Avot 3:8).

The word tzedakah is commonly translated as “charity.” Really, it means “uprightness” or “justice.” We may think that we are being charitable with our money when we gift it to the poor, but G‑d has given us our material possessions specifically so that we can share it. We are merely doing justice. G‑d gives us directly by enabling us to be His agent in giving to the poor.

This also applies to our time, talents and resources, as the Mishna makes clear: “for you and your possessions are His.” G‑d grants us special talents and capabilities, but wants us to use these to make His world a better place. Humility doesn’t mean being oblivious to the gifts we were given, but rather realizing that these all come from G‑d and are therefore not a source of personal pride, but something that needs to be used for G‑d’s purpose.

The Talmud (Taanit 24a) tells a story about Rabbi Elazar, who lived his life with this ideal.

“Whenever the charity collectors would see Elazar of the village of Birta, they would hide from him since any money Elazar had with him he would give away, and they didn’t want to take it all.

One day, Elazar went to the market to purchase what he needed for his daughter’s dowry. The charity collectors saw him and hid.

He ran after them, ‘Tell me in what mitzvah you are engaged?’

They answered, ‘We are collecting for the wedding of orphans.’

He said, ‘They take precedence over my daughter.’

He took everything he had and gave them. He was left with one single dinar, with which he bought wheat. He returned to his house and threw it into the granary.

Elazar’s wife asked her daughter, ‘What has your father bought?’

She answered, ‘Whatever he brought, he threw into the granary.’

She went to the granary and saw that it was miraculously so full of wheat that the door couldn’t even open.

Elazar’s daughter went to the study hall and said to her father, ‘Come and see what the Almighty who loves you has performed for you … .”


G‑d doesn’t ask us to give away all our possessions or anywhere near 99 percent (unless one is very wealthy, we give 10 percent, or if we are generous, 20 percent). But when we take care of others, G‑d makes sure to take care of us.

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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