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Closing Out the Critics

September 24, 2017

Dear Readers,

Sometimes, I feel surrounded by critics. They voice their uninvited opinions confidently, and often, condescendingly.

If you are doing anything significant, you have been exposed to them—probably too often. They criticize your work, your appearance, the image you project, the image you are not projecting. They may tell you that they criticize for your own good, to help you become better. Their judgment may come from a place of disdain, but they will assure you that they mean it for the right reason. Indeed, the road to the worst place is paved with good intentions.

Critics can shatter and destroy your self-esteem; they can make you question everything about yourself, your talents, your actions and your personality. They can make you stop wanting to accomplish anything at all.

And yet, constructive criticism can be important. It helps you view yourself and your actions from a new perspective. It shines a light on areas you may have neglected that could use refining, adjusting or improving.

The key is balance. Knowing what to accept, knowing when to withstand. We need to learn how to be true to ourselves—and how not to lose ourselves—while still learning to humbly accept and grow.

This week is the awesome holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. As we stand before G‑d, we make resolutions for the coming year. We take an honest look at ourselves, stripped of external trappings, as our soul approaches its Maker.

The last prayer, Neilah, is the climax of Yom Kippur. Neilah means “closed” because as the day progresses, the gates of heaven that were so widely thrown open are about to be sealed. But on a deeper level, Neilah means that our souls are closed in, alone in an intimate bond with their Creator. The world is closed out; it is just me facing my G‑d.

In these intimate moments, I will pray for many things. I will ask G‑d for the assistance to use my potential and talents in positive ways, and I will ask for the means, material and spiritual, that will enable me to do so. I will pray for all those who are close to me, especially my beloved family, for all their individual needs and wants to help them reach their greatest potential as well. I will pray for my People and for our world; for forgiveness and for healing—emotional, spiritual and material.

But as I stand in this closed embrace of just me and my Creator, I will also pray that I have the strength to know when to listen to outside opinions and when to ignore them. I will pray that I do not become shattered by conflicting voices, but that I have the strength to remain true to who I am and who I know I can be.

Wishing you a meaningful and easy fast, and a year overflowing with blessings!

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.

Two Basic Ingredients for Growth

September 3, 2017

Dear Readers,

A friend of mine was going on a special vacation trip to Europe with her husband. Justifying her extravagance, she jokingly explained: “I work hard all year. At my shiva, I want my children to say that their mother also knew how to enjoy herself!”

We laughed. But then the conversation became a little more serious as she turned to my other friend and asked her: “What do you want your children to say at your shiva?”

Caught off-guard, my friend answered honestly: “I want my children to say that I loved them. And that I believed in them.”

I thought it was a good, off-the-cuff response. What parent doesn’t want that for her children? These are two ingredients at the foundation of our children’s growth and development. When a child knows that his parents love him unconditionally and believe in him, the child gains the confidence to reach higher and work harder to become his or her greatest self.

We are now in the month of Elul, quickly approaching the High Holidays. It’s time for introspection, for a long, hard look at the past year. An honest evaluation might reveal all the things that we had hoped to accomplish, but didn’t. As another year passes us by, we remember all those times we fell short, and we are reminded of our mortality.

It is a somber time that is rife with opportunity, but also possibly guilt and hopelessness, as we come to terms with how far we have to go and how little we have achieved.

This week marks the 18th of Elul, the birthday of revolutionary pioneers who made Jewish mysticism accessible to all: the Baal Shem Tov, and the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. These two spiritual giants taught us that we are all children of G‑d, who loves us more than the love of a parent to an only child. No matter where we are on the spiritual rung, each of us possesses a Divine spark that has infinite capabilities and cannot be snuffed out.

We are here in this world to grow, improve and connect to G‑d. But our imperfections should not depress us. Our shortcomings do not define us; rather, they give us reason to celebrate our effort in coming closer to G‑d, revealing that spark inside.

Now, during the last few days of the month of Elul, is our time to reach higher and work harder on improving ourselves for the coming year.

Let’s do so with joy in our hearts and confidence in our capabilities—knowing that our heavenly Parent loves us and believes in us.

Wishing you a ketiva v’chatima tova! May you be written and inscribed for blessings in the coming year!

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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