Dear reader,

I was teaching a group of young women, and I asked them to raise their hand if they loved themselves. All the hands eventually rose, but reluctantly.

I then asked them to raise their hand if they felt that they had any ugly faults or flaws that they would like to change. Surprisingly, the hands now all rose swiftly and unhesitatingly.

We could translate this as a lack of self-esteem in our youth, and particularly in our girls. But in the larger scheme, our world emerges as a place of conflict. In every waking moment, we are in a struggle.

We struggle with ourselves—to change those parts of our psyche that need improvement and betterment.

We also struggle with the world around us—to preserve a healthy view of ourselves and to protect our essential values and treasured beliefs. We struggle—and we fail and succeed—to carve out niches of time and space, to quell the challenges that rob us from living more serene lives, in tune with our true ourselves.

The first step in confronting our struggles—both within and without—is finding and releasing our inner core power. The potent spark of G‑dliness within us is our greatest weapon for finding the strength to wake up each morning and tackling whatever is holding us back.

This week is Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer, connecting Passover to Shavuot. This day marks the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the most basic Kabbalistic work, and is considered the birthday of Jewish mysticism.

We celebrate Lag BaOmer in fields with children playing with bows and arrows, symbolizing that no rainbows appeared in the sky during Rabbi Shimon’s life. The rainbow represented G‑d’s covenant not to destroy the world again; Rabbi Shimon’s merit protected his entire generation.

On a deeper level, the bow and arrow symbolizes the power of inwardness—the power unleashed by the inner, mystical dimension of Torah.

An arrow must be pulled back toward one’s own heart in order to strike the heart of the opponent. The more it is drawn inward, the more distant an adversary it can reach.

The most powerful weapon we have to confront and conquer our fears, demons, foes and inadequacies is drawing our bow to ourselves: discovering and strengthening our inner essence, knowing who we are, and knowing why we are here.

Conquering even the most pervasive darkness begins by first lighting up the candle of our soul.

The mystical, inner dimension of Torah guides us to find, know and illuminate that infinitely powerful spark of G‑dliness within. From there we can unbridle the power to deal with any adversary.

And perhaps even transform our foes into friends.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW