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Inserting the ‘Aleph’

June 25, 2023 5:58 PM

Dear Readers,

The Hebrew language is rich with meaning; even the slightest variation in a word can carry profound significance. Such is the case with the Hebrew words for exile and redemption. The Hebrew word for exile is golah, while redemption is geulah. What is striking about these words is that their Hebrew letters are identical, with just one exception: the absence of the letter aleph in golah. The aleph has a numeric value of one and refers to Alufo shel olam, the “Master of the world” (G‑d). The disparity between living a life of spiritual and psychological exile, and a redeemed life lies in our ability to perceive and feel G‑d’s Oneness in our lives.

In exploring the significance of these words, we can turn to a pivotal event in Jewish history. When the spies returned from their reconnaissance mission in the Land of Israel, they shared a negative report, emphasizing the stature and power of the people dwelling there. This account instilled fear in the hearts of the Jewish people, leaving them feeling small and utterly powerless. The consequence of their despair was a torrent of bitter tears shed on the 9th of Av—a date that has since become the saddest day on our calendar, commemorating the destruction of both Holy Temples and the multitude of tragedies that have befallen our people throughout history.

The people cried because they believed that they would not be victorious in their mission of conquering the Land. They felt small and devoid of power. This sense of helplessness and powerlessness is precisely what defines exile.

Exile isn’t just a physical displacement, but a spiritual state of being distant from G‑d. Galut is a time when G‑d’s presence is concealed, when we don’t feel or see G‑d’s love, or His relationship with us. But by inserting the aleph into golah, we transform exile into geulah. By uncovering and embracing G‑d’s presence in our lives, we live a redeemed, empowered and G‑dly life.

This week, we enter the three-week mourning period when we collectively mourn the destruction of the Temples and our continued life in exile. This period begins on the 17th of Tammuz, a solemn fast day that marks the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans in 69 C.E., and ends on the 9th of Av, the day when both Holy Temples were consumed by fire.

Our sages taught that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will ultimately witness its rebuilding with the arrival of Moshiach. Through our mourning, we remind ourselves that exile is not how life should be. When the Jewish people cried on the 9th of Av, they epitomized the feeling of powerlessness and separation from G‑d that characterizes exile. By revealing G‑d’s presence and connection in our lives, through the mitzvot we do and our connection to G‑d, we transform exile into redemption.

May it be already!

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.

Put on Your Soul Glasses

June 15, 2023 7:02 AM

Dear Readers,

Without my high-prescription progressive glasses, the words on the sign down the road become a blur, while the letters on the magazine in my hand conspire to dance off the page, mocking my attempts to read them. Yes, the words and images exist, but they remain shrouded in an enigmatic haze, eluding my grasp.

When people discuss the Rebbe’s remarkable contribution to our world, the vast global network of shluchim is often mentioned. They embody the Rebbe’s teachings on Ahavat Yisrael, the profound love that propels individuals to dedicate their lives to others.

Yet this is just one facet of the Rebbe’s impact.

“Soul glasses.” Those are the words that came to mind when I was asked recently how the Rebbe impacted my life. The Rebbe taught us to don a set of soul glasses, granting us the ability to perceive the world from an inner and deeper perspective. Through this lens, we can behold the essence of people, situations and even our relationship with the Divine.

Without our soul glasses, we often see a person consumed by their struggles and flaws, marred by unattractive qualities. The Rebbe taught us to look beyond these superficialities and to delve into the core of each person, unearthing a pure, untarnished radiance—an actual fragment of the Divine.

This perspective extends to situations as well. How often do you find yourself entangled in circumstances where everything seems to be going awry? Our outlook at these times can seem bleak, even black.

Yet just as at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, there were no echoes because the voice of G‑d permeated all of reality, so, too, every corner of our world bears the imprint of the Divine presence. There is no place devoid of G‑d. There is no happenstance.

So even when every fiber of my being screams that this feels wretched and unbearable, since G‑d is all good, these are merely illusions—distortions of my perception, actually for my benefit.

Surprisingly, the Rebbe encouraged us to wear these soul glasses even in our relationship with G‑d. Outwardly, G‑d assumes the role of Creator, our master and “king,” issuing commands—a portrayal aptly reflected in the term mitzvah, commandment. Yet on a deeper level, G‑d reveals Himself as our Father and Groom, fostering an intimate connection that He, too, yearns for. He invites us to bond with Him (a deeper meaning of the word mitzvah) and to partner with Him in creating a home that needs each of us.

From a tender age, the Rebbe had a fervent dream of actualizing Moshiach. Redemption is when the soul of our world becomes revealed. There, beyond the veils of concealment, we will embrace the underlying truth.

Throughout our lives, there are moments of triumph where we succeed to perceive individuals and circumstances through the lens of our soul glasses. Of course, there are also instances where the veils of concealment are overpowering, and our vision falters. However, even in those moments, our knowledge of this perspective inspires us to aspire towards a future where this will become our reality.

And the Rebbe taught us about these glasses.

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.

If the Shoe Fits

June 11, 2023 11:06 PM

Dear Reader,

I remember years ago, watching my young daughter mischievously slip into my most expensive pair of high heels. First, she wobbled clumsily, attempting to find her balance. She looked as though she might topple over at any moment.

But when her younger brother entered the room, my daughter assumed my most authoritative tone of voice and began to instruct him as though she were me. With her back upright, shoulders steady and head held high, she looked as though the shoes were made for her, even though her small feet were inches short of reaching the heel end of the shoes.

The scene brought to mind the times in my life when I had been thrown into a position in which I felt like a little kid caught wearing her mother's high heeled shoes. I, too, first wobbled clumsily in search of some balance, teetering on a platform too high for my own comfort.

Take for example the first time that I was asked to deliver a formal talk to a gathering of women, each at least a decade older than my tender teen years. Almost shaking with fright as I prepared to leave home, I bumped into my father who perceived just how unnerved I was.

He looked at me penetratingly and said just a few words — words that would become my mantra whenever I was faced with a load that looked too large or burdensome for my slight shoulders to carry. "Remember who and what you are," he stated simply, before patting me on the shoulder, eyes smiling.

I took those words with me and repeated them over and over as I drove to that lecture and to many future situations where I felt like I was carrying too heavy a burden.

Standing before the crowd that night, feeling like I was wearing my mother's shoes, I did exactly what my youngster had done.

I acted the part. And with the act came the poise, posture and confidence — and even, surprisingly, the steady voice.

Because "remembering who and what you are" isn't about you, at all. It isn't about wearing shoes that don't fit. It is, rather, about wearing shoes that represent all that you have, can and will be.

Because what and who each of us is, is something far greater than we are aware.

Realizing "who and what you are" is realizing the potential within yourself and remembering the long chain of history that each of us carries. It is remembering the privilege and responsibility of a rich past leading into our present and future.

When we recognize who and what we represent, and act upon it, we become it.

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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