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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 She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

The Ability to Find Yourself

September 17, 2017

Dear Readers,

The other day, I misplaced my ring. I searched and searched where I thought it might have been lost, but couldn’t find it. Somehow, it just disappeared. Later on in the week, I found it. Inexplicably, without looking, as I went about my regular errands, it just reappeared. I have no idea how it got to that destination, but I was happy I had it back.

Think about the things that you have lost and found in your life. Most often, when we refer to a “find,” we refer to a lost object that we are now reunited with. But sometimes, we can also “find” ourselves.

It might be on a secluded mountain top, or we might just wake up one day to the realization that a part of us—a new talent, awareness or perspective—has surfaced. What was previously completely obscured now becomes clear. What changed? It’s hard to put our finger on it because it’s not something that we worked on in any orderly kind of manner. It’s not something that we scheduled; rather, it’s a realization and an understanding that has been bestowed on us. We found a missing part of ourselves.

In the terminology of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a), a “find” happens without planning: b’hesach hadaas, “in absence of awareness.” When we “find” something, we usually mean that an object of value comes to us unexpectedly.

That’s why it is interesting that this word is used in this week’s Torah portion to describe the Jewish people’s faith in G‑d.

“G‑d found them in a desert land and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye.” (Deuteronomy 32:10)

Rashi explains this verse as praise for the Jewish people: “G‑d found them faithful to Him in a desert land, for they accepted His Torah, His sovereignty and His yoke upon themselves.”

Rashi continues: An arid, desolate land, a place of howling jackals and ostriches. Yet even there, Israel followed their faith. They did not say to Moses, “How can we go out into the deserts, a place of drought and desolation?”

The Jewish people’s faith in G‑d transcended structure, order or limitations. They were committed to loyally follow G‑d to an unknown destination. Similarly, G‑d’s devotion to us mirrors ours, and His love extends beyond any system or rational.

Similar to a “find,” our faith is not something planned for, and is far deeper than any rational thinking. This week, the Jewish people will stand united in whatever location they may be to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. As we “crown” G‑d as our King, we pledge to continue to be committed to follow G‑d’s ways, and we ask G‑d to reciprocate His devotion to us.

Wishing you and all the Jewish people a shanah tovah—a year of peace, health, prosperity and loyalty to our mission of making our world a more G‑dly place.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

An Enduring Pact

September 10, 2017

Dear Readers,

Weddings are on my mind. For the last couple of months, I have been eagerly preparing for my daughter’s wedding.

It was an exciting time with many details to take care of. But once in a while, as I crossed off another task from my “To Do” list, I wondered about all the ritual and formality. Why was there a need for an official ceremony when the love and commitment of the bride and the groom was so apparent?

Perhaps an answer can be found in this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, which begins with the words:

You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers and all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water. You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d (29:9-10).

The entire Jewish nation assembled—from the simple water carrier to their greatest leader—to enter a covenant with G‑d.

What is a covenant, and what is its purpose? A covenant is a formal agreement to do or not do something specified. Even if circumstances change in the future, even if each party discovers something about the other that causes them to feel differently, they will remain loyal to this agreement.

When we stood before G‑d as we entered this covenant becoming His people, He was assuring us (and we Him) that we will remain loyal to each other forever, even if future events cause us to temporarily lose favor.

At a wedding, the bride stands starry-eyed before her groom and he before her, and they only see beauty, potential and positive qualities. Nevertheless, they make a pact to one another that they will not allow any faults or follies, circumstances or challenges, or the difficult bends and curves that life throws at us to get in the way of this relationship.

Nitzavim is always read the week before Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov explains that “You stand upright this day” is a reference to Rosh Hashanah, the day on which we all stand in judgment before G‑d.

After the month of Elul, when we have reached a greater level of love and connection with G‑d, on Rosh Hashanah we pledge our unconditional commitment to G‑d as His people. And we pray that G‑d, too, reaffirms His covenant with us, even if our actions during the year are inconsistent with our current feelings.

We do this “all of you” together. We ask G‑d to love us unconditionally, just as we show our unconditional love for all our fellow Jews—even those who are culturally, religiously, socially, intellectually or economically on different levels than we are.

In the last many days, amidst the terrible destruction and havoc caused by Hurricane Harvey and, now, Hurricane Irma, we have also seen the care, love and connection of humanity as so many astounding acts of kindness and goodness have been performed.

Wishing safety to those who are still in the path of the hurricane and wishing healing and blessings to those that have been affected. Wishing you a sweet new year! May all our prayers be answered for the good!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.

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 She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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 author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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