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Hiking in the Woods: The Big Picture

September 20, 2018

Dear Readers,

When we moved recently to Upstate New York, we hadn’t realized to what extent we would be surrounded by stunning scenery and luscious landscapes. Driving to an errand now often includes passing through miles of streams on scenic routes overlooking stately mountains. Just a stone’s throw from our home, Harriman State Park, the second-largest in the park system, has 31 lakes and reservoirs and 200 miles of hiking trails.

Deciding to take advantage of the many hiking trails one afternoon, my husband and I set out to Diamond Mountain. We knew we wouldn’t have time to complete the entire five-mile trail, but we figured we’d at least get a taste of the woods. We came prepared with water bottles and hiking shoes, equipped with walking gear.

After following the path for just a short while, we heard the sound of rushing water. Moving a little further, we were rewarded with a sinuous stream next to our path, which often turned into a fast-flowing waterfall. It was gorgeous, and it felt great to be out in nature, enjoying G‑d’s masterpiece.

If you looked closely at our surroundings, you would see many fallen or partially broken trees, dead leaves or broken twigs. Huge roots were protruding along the path, some actually helping us to climb up the higher parts of the mountain. Rocks and stones were scattered haphazardly, and we stepped on them since the stream was turning parts of the ground into mud as it gently cascaded down the hill.

In a detached analysis of our environs, you would see absolute chaos. Everything was strewn about: leaves, trees, rocks, water, earth, seemingly indiscriminately and out of place. In our own home, we never tolerate spilled water on our floors or broken pieces lying about, yet this was precisely what made the natural scene so beautiful—and so calming.

Despite the apparent disarray, it was obvious that there was a Creator who created it. Every pebble had its place in the grand scheme, enhancing its environment, contributing to the grandeur of its majesty. Our surroundings seemed to be singing in unison, “How wondrous are Your creations, oh G‑d!”

In our own settings, in our homes or offices, we sometimes seek “perfection” and often don’t recognize how each of us is uniquely contributing to our surroundings and the big picture. And yet, within nature, the beauty of each broken tree branch, insect or protruding piece of earth was clearly vital for the beauty of this picturesque setting. The imperfections created the perfection.

On Sukkot, we leave the tidy structures of our homes and dwell outdoors with the open sky and bright stars twinkling above our heads. During this season of joy, we leave our orderly habitat to gain an appreciation of our Creator and His creations, and all that He has given us—and to remember, how each and every one of us has a vital part in creating this glorious grand picture.

Wishing you a Chag Sameach!

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 Modern-Day Rachels

September 18, 2018 10:28 AM

Dear Readers,

Sometimes, it takes time until the depth of an experience permeates.

I was sitting in shul this past Rosh Hashanah, as were so many others, praying to our Creator for a sweet year for myself, my family and all the Jewish people.

At one point, right before the blowing of the shofar, two women entered the room. One was wheeling her child in a specially equipped wheelchair, and it was noticeable that he was extremely limited in his physical movements and needed support to even hold up his head. The other held her daughter’s hand, and it was obvious that she was severely cognitively disabled, unaware of her surroundings.

To say I was impressed by these mothers would be a huge understatement. They lovingly tended to their children, patiently humming the words of prayer to them, holding their hands or just distracting them so that they would be quiet while the shofar was blown.

Theirs was a job that was nonstop and all-encompassing—requiring infinite patience, compassion and love. But more than that, what touched me was the way that they viewed their children as souls. What little or no awareness that their child had for the prayers, the synagogue or the import of the holy day was immaterial. These mothers recognized a profound truth—that their children’s souls understood something beyond their bodies—and that’s why they made the monumental effort to make sure that their child was present in synagogue.

I remember looking at these special mothers, and their powerful love and dedication to their children, and thinking they were the best advocate for the Jewish people. Look, dear G‑d, how these mothers see beyond the inabilities of their children and view them for the perfect, beautiful and untarnished special soul that they are. Avenu Malkeinu, our Father and King, must surely be able to look at us, His children, similarly and see beyond our faults and inabilities, beyond our sins and failings, and love us for the beautiful potential of our souls.

I am reminded of these mothers as we celebrate the yahrtzeit of Rachel our Mother this week on the 11th of Cheshvan. Rachel, too, epitomized unconditional and unwavering love for her children: the Jewish nation. Looking beyond their imperfections, Rachel waged war against the heavenly accusers, demanding from G‑d that He have mercy on them. And due to her overwhelming, powerful love, only she was capable of eliciting G‑d’s compassion.

Rachel is the quintessential Jewish mother, sacrificing for the sake of her children. Rachel did not see children who strayed and who had fallen, but only children who were worthy of compassion. She saw beyond their inabilities to the innocence of their essence, to the inherent goodness of their souls.

And praying in shul this past Rosh Hashanah, I too, got a glimpse of present-day angelic mothers who, like Rachel, spend their days and nights advocating, caring for and helping their children live their lives to their fullest and best.

It was an awesome and humbling sight to witness.

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.

Driving Through a Terrible Storm on a Treacherous Route

September 14, 2018 1:18 PM

Dear Readers,

It was a moonless night. My husband and I were driving on a very windy, dimly lit highway alongside the cliff of a mountain. There was only one narrow lane in each direction, and the oncoming cars were speeding by—far too close for comfort. Many shone bright headlights that blinded our vision. Without warning, the route kept twisting and curving at steep angles. We had to keep our eyes glued to the road so that the car wouldn’t veer off, getting too close to the cliffs on one side or the oncoming traffic on the other.

And then it started raining … but not just any rain. It was a downpour, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even at the quickest speed, our windshield wipers could barely keep pace to clear the front window. The drive became spine-chilling when it became impossible to see more than a few feet in front of us. I counted down the minutes until we would be in the safety of our home.

Just the other day, we had traveled along this very route. At that time, we weren’t bothered by the narrowness of the road or its curving path. We thought the scenic view was breathtaking and were overcome by the beauty of the stately, picturesque mountains and towering trees. Now in the thick blackness, though, those very same trees looked creepy; those gorgeous mountains, ominous and threatening.

Isn’t that so true with so many areas of our lives as well?

In the daytime of our lives, when we feel successful and positive, we’ll often look at the issues that cross our paths as exciting challenges and new opportunities for us to grow and expand our horizons. But in the dark periods of our lives, as we struggle to make our way through the treacherous storm of strong emotions and life’s harsh difficulties, those very challenges can feel too intimidating, even foreboding.

It’s the same path that we we’re on, but due to the circumstances, our vision has changed.

Sometimes, we can avoid driving in a stormy night. But often, we aren’t able to escape life’s challenges and need to confront them head on.

So, of course, the first practical step is to slow down and proceed with more caution. At the same time, we have to stop fear and worry from paralyzing us. We need to remember that for whatever reason, our Creator put us on this very route. We can take comfort, too, in finding perspective and realizing that the risky drive eventually ends, and our situation will improve.

Tomorrow or the day after, we’ll be on the very same route. But then. it will look a lot more cheery—maybe even absolutely breathtaking.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

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.

Don’t Worry About Nudging G-d

September 12, 2018

Dear Readers,

Years ago, a young couple spent a few days as guests in my home.

Almost from the time they crossed my threshold, the husband was politely approaching me to ask for things that his wife needed. Could I possibly give him a warmer blanket? A softer pillow? A cold drink. A hot drink. From one moment to the next, his wife needed something to make her more comfortable.

Did I become irritated with this couple’s seemingly endless list of needs? Actually, no. Every time the young man asked me for something for his wife, I smiled inwardly and was pleased.

Let me explain.

You see, the young man making all those requests was my son-in-law, asking on behalf of my oldest daughter, who at the time was in her early stages of pregnancy and not feeling well. So, every time that my son-in-law came to ask for something, I was happy. Every request showed me how much he cared about my daughter. I could rest assured that once they left my home and went back to their own, my daughter was in good hands.

I think about that visit every so often when I’m about to pray.

As I stand before my Creator, I wonder if I should have the chutzpah to ask for this or for that (yet again). Sometimes, after G‑d has granted me something really “big” for which I am truly grateful and had prayed for a long time, I wonder if I should have the audacity to ask for the next thing that I, or my family or a member of my community needs.

And then I remember my reaction to my son-in-law.

We are all G‑d’s children. G‑d cares for each of us—for our physical and our spiritual well-being. And when we approach Him time and time again to ask for this and that, He undoubtedly smiles as well, relishing the connection, happy that we are taking care of His children.

In fact, this is really the essence of prayer. Biblically, we are commanded to pray and call out to our Creator, specifically when we have a want or a need.

Because every want or need that we are asking for is undoubtedly making our circumstances easier and will help us focus better on fulfilling our purpose of creating a G‑dly world, without the distractions of missing something important in our lives.

On Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the year—we ask G‑d to give us life, happiness, health and sustenance. We ask for our mistakes to be forgiven and to be given a fresh start. We ask for all this because as we say in our prayers, “We are Your people; You are our G‑d. We are Your flock; and You are our Shepherd.”

Wishing you an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur!

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.

A 10-Minute Car Ride That Got a Little Bumpy

September 2, 2018

Dear Readers,

I had a little bit of a wake-up call the other day.

It was evening and I was with my husband, headed on an errand to a store. My husband drove as I sat in the passenger side, chatting. It was a pleasant summer night, and so we rode with our windows open until we arrived at our destination. But in those 10 minutes, something happened.

The roads were not well-lit, and inside the car it was quite dark. I felt a little quiver of movement on my hand. Soon after, it was on my arm. But by the time I looked down, nothing was there—or at least I couldn’t see anything. A few minutes later, my hand was becoming itchy. Soon after, my right leg also began to itch.

By the time I got out of the car, I realized that there was an unwanted guest in our car. A very hungry mosquito had a very good meal, biting me in several places. My hand and leg were covered with bites and with every passing moment, the itchiness was becoming harder and harder to bear as ugly red splotches began covering parts of my body.

I know, getting a few mosquito bites is not monumental. Medically, it’s usually a non-event with no long-term repercussions. Within a week or two, the bites would be healed and there would be hardly a trace that they were ever there to bother me.

And yet, mosquito bites can be very irritating. For the next several hours, despite the ointments and sprays that I put on for relief, the itchiness was relentless. My skin became red, inflamed and hot, and I was in discomfort. I woke up several times that night just to scratch the itch, which made it even more itchy!

So what was my wake-up call?

Had I been hiking in the woods, rather than driving on the city streets for a short distance, perhaps I would have been better prepared and protected from the mosquito. Yet in just 10 minutes, in the comfort of my car and not its native environment, the mosquito was able to attack me and cause great discomfort.

And so, if something that small can quickly and without warning cause something negative, then just imagine the converse. We are far bigger and have far more capabilities than mosquitoes, so imagine what we can create and accomplish, even in a short period of time, for the good.

Moreover, while the effect of the bites was negligible, every act of goodness is something real and true, and therefore in some measure, everlasting.

Rosh Hashanah, the New Year with all its new potential is almost upon us. Ten minutes was all it took to create discomfort. Ten minutes is all it can take to create something positively magical for the coming year.

Wishing you a happy and sweet new 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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