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The Summer Black-Out That Lasted Four Days

September 25, 2020 1:36 PM

Dear Readers,

Several weeks ago, during the sweltering summer heat, a short but severe thunderstorm created havoc in our neighborhood. Branches snapped due to the strong winds, collapsing on the electrical wires. From morning till evening, the electrical company was busy with repairs, but too many fallen trees needed to be cleared. As a result, our entire area had no electricity for four days!

Being without electricity meant that we had no light, no air-conditioning, no fridge, no hot showers, no washing machine and no oven. Flashlights provided the only light at night, and a long drive in our car was how we charged our phones.

Luckily, not too far away, our relatives’ electricity was working perfectly. We schlepped boxes of frozen food to their freezer, and bought blocks of ice as “refrigeration.” Some lucky neighbors were running mobile generators that provided limited electricity, and they generously offered us to recharge our laptops.

As the week wore on, so did our patience. I had never realized how reliant we are on electricity. I wondered how many other things in my life I fail to appreciate. Do I ever stop to think about my health, my ability to walk or talk? Perhaps even worse, how many people in my life do I take for granted? How many of their kind actions do I assume will just automatically continue?

The temperature soared, and as Shabbat was approaching, we considered leaving. Late Thursday night, as we were trying to weigh our options, my bedside lamp suddenly turned on!

At first, I didn’t believe it. Holding my breath, I ran to open another light to see if indeed the electricity was working. As quickly as it had turned off, it was now on full-speed. The house was bathed in light, cold air was coming out of the registers, and the refrigerator was once again humming. A hot shower had never felt so exhilarating.

In an instant, life had changed. Though the walls and floors of my house were the same, the context was entirely different. From one moment to the next, this new charge of energy altered our environment. It actualized the saying of our sages, “G‑d’s salvation is like the blink of an eye.” Redemption can come instantly, without notice, completely transforming our hardships, shining light on the darkest circumstances.

This week, we begin the book of Genesis, which describes that on the very first day of creation, G‑d created light. Our sages teach us that G‑d also set aside a special light for the future for the time of the redemption.

By creating light as the first act of creation, G‑d set it as our mandate. “Let there be light” needs to be our guiding mission—to find and appreciate the light, the goodness and the purpose within all of creation. We can only fathom what we have if we take the time to stop, appreciate and be thankful for it.

As fast as a switch of a light, the hidden light that G‑d created in the beginning of creation will finally be revealed, and the dark exile will forever be transformed into a bright redemption.

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.

King David’s Yearning

September 16, 2020 11:31 PM

Dear Readers,

“I love spending time with you. I wish we could always just spend time together.”

Which wife doesn’t enjoy hearing those loving words? Who doesn’t want their spouse to want to be together with them, enjoying their company?

And yet, in reality, it would be unrealistic to spend all of our time together. In the real world, each of us has jobs and responsibilities; we need to earn a living and to take care of our many commitments.

Nevertheless, these are sentiments we want to feel. We want our spouse to wish that they would be with us, even when we send them off to work.

From the beginning of the month of Elul until midway through Sukkot, we recite an additional daily prayer from Chapter 27 in Psalms. In it, King David says:

I have asked the L‑rd for only one thing; it I seek: to sit in the house of the L‑rd and serve Him all the days of my life; to see the pleasantness of the L‑rd and to learn in His Sanctuary.

King David describes his desire to be close to G‑d, spending all his days in G‑d’s presence, praying and learning Torah. These words reflect the theme of this time of year when we connect to G‑d at our deepest level. King David’s yearning echoes our own as we embrace G‑d and feel so close to Him.

After experiencing many years of wars and revolt, King David had reached the pinnacle of his career and had finally become established as the beloved king of Israel. He had succeeded in subduing his enemies, both from within and without. At last, he could enjoy peace and security. The Talmud teaches that King David took care of the many facets of his country, while still making himself available for the people, involved in the needs of each Jew.

And yet, King David asks G‑d to “spend all his days in the house of the L‑rd.” Seemingly, King David is saying that he’d give up all the grandeur just to be a simple person who sits and prays in the Temple all day.

But G‑d wanted King David to continue serving Him exactly as he did, as a righteous king devoted to his people and kingship, even if this was taking away from his own times of prayers and learning. King David’s mission was not to seclude himself in the house of prayer, but rather to infuse his nation with G‑dliness in their day-to-day concerns.

For the last two months, we’re experiencing intense closeness with G‑d. We’ve praying in our synagogues (or in our homes) more than any other time of the year. We’re embraced G‑d within the walls of our sukkah. We savoring our time together and the close bond it developed.

And then, when these holidays come to a close, G‑d wants us to take that inspiration to our many obligations within the material world. We continue yearning for the spiritual connection, while bringing it into the mundanity of our lives. We take that close connection and guide it to penetrate into our sphere of influence in this 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.

The ‘Neilah’ Prayer: A Divine Hug

September 16, 2020 10:46 PM

Dear Readers,

It’s the hug you give your 2-year-old after she defiantly ignored your warnings, fell and scraped her knees, and then came running, sobbing, into your open arms. You hold her soothingly, assuring her that the hurt will heal and your love for her will be ever-present, even when she disregards your instructions.


It’s the hug you give your teenager after returning from a summer away at sleep-away camp. You missed her, even while you know that the drama of teenage life will continue to unfold as she tries to discover who she is and how she can express her independence—an independence from you. You hug her lovingly, assuring her that you will always be there as her support and foundation, no matter where she lands along her journey.


It’s the hug you give your spouse after a long drawn-out disagreement. Even more than coming to a compromise that respects each other’s perspectives, you are both tired of the coldness and distance that arguing brings. That hug means that you see beyond the specifics of what you disagree about to the love beneath the surface that is the enduring basis of your relationship.


It’s the embrace after a long day of Yom Kippur prayers as your stomach grumbles from lack of nourishment, just as the concluding prayers of Yom Kippur draw to a close. Throughout the day, you have prayed, and you’ve gotten in touch with a deeper part of yourself. You’ve admitted where you strayed and you resolved to make this a better, more purposeful year, even as you acknowledge that while you may succeed at some of your resolutions, you’re bound to fall and fail (yet again) with so many others.

The concluding prayer of this long day is called “Neilah,” which means “closing,” since on a simple level the gates of heaven that have been thrust wide open are now about to close. Chassidic philosophy, however, teaches us that on a deeper level, this isn’t about the heavens closing on us, but rather, that in this most auspicious time, we are “closed in” together with G‑d. G‑d is enveloping us in His presence, reassuring us of His love for us.

We’re about to embark on a brand-new year with fresh new intentions and objectives to grow. At this special moment, the climax of the holiest day of the year, G‑d assures us that teshuvah means that we have reached beyond the mistakes in our relationship to the essence of who we are. We are “closed in” with Him—completely surrounded by His loving embrace, a hug that sees beyond our falls and mess-ups, and that penetrates to the core of our connection, as G‑d’s child, always beloved. It is a hug that acknowledges that our connection is defined by more than our actions.

“Even though he has sinned, he is still Israel” (Sanhedrin 44a).

Wishing you an easy fast, and a holy 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.

What Will Be?

September 10, 2020 1:17 PM

Dear Readers,

Is it just me, or is it also hard for you to believe that Rosh Hashanah is around the corner? Thinking back to this time last year, so much has changed.

The coronavirus hit hard, and many of us lost so much. Some have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs or financial stability. Some of us continue to yearn for intimate social gatherings. Many of us missed out on monumental events like a birth or marriage, or at the other end of the spectrum, a funeral or shiva call.

And yet, despite all the things that we lost, I also reflect on the many blessings that I have gained over the past year.

Just a little more than a month ago, I was doubly blessed with the birth of twin grandsons. I have had the opportunity to meet many people from across the world on Zoom classes. I have been blessed with seeing (or hearing) my children and grandchildren growing in beautiful ways. I have been blessed to see so many of my bleak worries of “what will be” not materialize. I have lived through many sunsets and sunrises, while gaining a new appreciation for what I had taken for granted.

As I prepare to face the holy days of Rosh Hashanah, I wonder what this coming year will bring.

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16b) states: “Rabbi Kruspidai in the name of Rabbi Yochanan says, ‘Three books are opened before G‑d on Rosh Hashanah. One is for the completely wicked, one is for the completely righteous and one is for those in the middle. The completely righteous are inscribed and sealed to life, the irredeemably wicked are inscribed and sealed for death, and for those in the middle, the judgement is hanging from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur … ”

In the stirring Unetaneh Tokef prayer, we specify:

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning, who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued, who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low, who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi teaches (Maamar, Atem Nitzavim) that who will merit a higher revelation of spiritual welfare is also determined: “The judgment on Rosh Hashanah includes the determination of whether a person is considered worthy of having a live connection with his inner G‑dly essence or whether it will remain concealed in the hidden reaches of his heart.”

So much has happened in the past year and so much more can happen in the coming year. These days are awesomely powerful, full of opportunity and replete with promise for every one of us.

Wishing you a happy and sweet 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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