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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Divine Whispers’

The Little Flame

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Once upon a time, there was a little flame that glowed brightly.

Wherever this little flame went, it brought light and luminosity.

Even in the absolute black darkness, the flame twinkled and illuminated.

But wherever it went, there were also those who didn’t like its radiance. And wanted to snuff it out.

There was the wind that wanted to blow it out…

The sand that wanted to stomp it out…

The water that wanted to drown it…

And the darkness that wanted to blacken it.

But the stubborn flame refused to be extinguished.

Sometimes, the flame itself wished for its end. It yearned to be as dim as the surrounding blackness.

The little flame would doubt its beautiful glow and question its unique sparkle.

During those moments, the flame would flicker and its sparkle seemed like it would fade into obscurity.

But no matter what, something inside the flame kept it shining.

Some called it stubbornness.

Others saw it as luck. Or − perhaps, fate.

While others, predicted its demise, a few recognized it as the greatest miracle ever.

Chanukah is the Festival of Light. We light our Menorahs to commemorate the miracle of the flames that refused to be extinguished. There was barely enough oil for one day, but the flames burned proudly for eight.

But Chanukah also commemorates the miracle of the Jewish people; a nation that refused − and continues to refuse − to be smothered into oblivion, because the little flame continues to shine light into the dark world around it.

Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouchfor your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

The Little Flame

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Once upon a time, there was a little flame that glowed brightly.


Wherever this little flame went, it brought light and luminosity.


Even in the absolute black darkness, the flame twinkled and illuminated.


But wherever it went, there were also those who didn’t like its radiance. And wanted to snuff it out.


There was the wind that wanted to blow it out…


The sand that wanted to stomp it out…


The water that wanted to drown it…


And the darkness that wanted to blacken it.


But the stubborn flame refused to be extinguished.


Sometimes, the flame itself wished for its end. It yearned to be as dim as the surrounding blackness.


The little flame would doubt its beautiful glow and question its unique sparkle.


During those moments, the flame would flicker and its sparkle seemed like it would fade into obscurity.


But no matter what, something inside the flame kept it shining.


Some called it stubbornness.


Others saw it as luck. Or − perhaps, fate.


While others, predicted its demise, a few recognized it as the greatest miracle ever.


Chanukah is the Festival of Light. We light our Menorahs to commemorate the miracle of the flames that refused to be extinguished. There was barely enough oil for one day, but the flames burned proudly for eight.


But Chanukah also commemorates the miracle of the Jewish people; a nation that refused − and continues to refuse − to be smothered into oblivion, because the little flame continues to shine light into the dark world around it.


Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouchfor your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

Get Me Out of Here!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The black fly was steadily crawling up and down my kitchen window screen. It was desperately − but methodically − seeking an escape, to get beyond the imprisoning panel of the screen, into the wide, open world.


It could smell the refreshing air. It could sense the gust of cool wind blowing across its long transparent wings and short stubby legs. This taste of freedom motivated the industrious fly to continue its painstaking pursuit to reach into that thrilling liberty.


Watching the fly, I realized that unless I provide some assistance, I’d be hearing it buzzing in my ears and disturbing my sleep at night. So I pushed the screen wide open; its escape now made easily attainable.


“Go on, just fly a little to the left and you’ll be free,” I said aloud, as my four-year-old and I sat at our kitchen table, closely observing it.


Inexplicably, though, the fly continued its regimented climb, on the same thread of the screen. Unaware of the open gap, it persisted fruitlessly in its stubborn search for a small hole to make its exit.


I’m told that wild animals that have been confined for a long time react similarly when the lock on their cage is finally released. They continue their nervous, circular pace around the parameters of their prison home, before finally venturing through the open door into their sought after freedom.


And, if you think about it, human beings do the same thing.


How often have you tried to break out of an old and irritating habit or an unhealthy outlook, only to be held back, caged in by the parameters of your imprisoning addiction?


How often have you wished for the freedom of change? How often have you wished for a change in a negative pattern of thinking; a change in an automatic, emotionally triggered response; a change in your habits or routines; a change from the confining, “in your box” way of thinking or acting?


But, like the fly on my window screen, imprisoned by our routines, fenced in by our comfort zones, captured by the familiarity of what we know −  rather than what we’d like to be − most of us, too, are unable to take the plunge and experience the much dreamed-of exhilaration of reaching our uninhibited, full potential.


“An imprisoned individual cannot set himself free,” say our Sages.


In such situations, perhaps only the listening ear of a close friend or mentor can lend us the much needed courage, assistance and direction to forge into a better, emancipated reality.


Eventually, that fly did make its way out. But, it flew away only after my daughter and I repeatedly “pushed” it towards the open screen − and towards its freedom.


Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Souland Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman.She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

Get Me Out of Here!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The black fly was steadily crawling up and down my kitchen window screen. It was desperately − but methodically − seeking an escape, to get beyond the imprisoning panel of the screen, into the wide, open world.

It could smell the refreshing air. It could sense the gust of cool wind blowing across its long transparent wings and short stubby legs. This taste of freedom motivated the industrious fly to continue its painstaking pursuit to reach into that thrilling liberty.

Watching the fly, I realized that unless I provide some assistance, I’d be hearing it buzzing in my ears and disturbing my sleep at night. So I pushed the screen wide open; its escape now made easily attainable.

“Go on, just fly a little to the left and you’ll be free,” I said aloud, as my four-year-old and I sat at our kitchen table, closely observing it.

Inexplicably, though, the fly continued its regimented climb, on the same thread of the screen. Unaware of the open gap, it persisted fruitlessly in its stubborn search for a small hole to make its exit.

I’m told that wild animals that have been confined for a long time react similarly when the lock on their cage is finally released. They continue their nervous, circular pace around the parameters of their prison home, before finally venturing through the open door into their sought after freedom.

And, if you think about it, human beings do the same thing.

How often have you tried to break out of an old and irritating habit or an unhealthy outlook, only to be held back, caged in by the parameters of your imprisoning addiction?

How often have you wished for the freedom of change? How often have you wished for a change in a negative pattern of thinking; a change in an automatic, emotionally triggered response; a change in your habits or routines; a change from the confining, “in your box” way of thinking or acting?

But, like the fly on my window screen, imprisoned by our routines, fenced in by our comfort zones, captured by the familiarity of what we know −  rather than what we’d like to be − most of us, too, are unable to take the plunge and experience the much dreamed-of exhilaration of reaching our uninhibited, full potential.

“An imprisoned individual cannot set himself free,” say our Sages.

In such situations, perhaps only the listening ear of a close friend or mentor can lend us the much needed courage, assistance and direction to forge into a better, emancipated reality.

Eventually, that fly did make its way out. But, it flew away only after my daughter and I repeatedly “pushed” it towards the open screen − and towards its freedom.

Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Souland Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman.She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

When It’s Time to Stop Being Nice!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

     Is there ever a time to say, “Enough! No more Mr. Nice guy for me!”


    Think about this one before responding with a knee-jerk reaction − it’s not an easy question: Which quality would you like to impart to your child − how to be a nice person, or how to be a successful one?


   In response, you’ll probably wonder if the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Are they ever?


    We define a nice person as someone who cares about others and is sensitive to their feelings. We’ve all met these sorts of individuals. These are the people who are selfless, seeing beyond their own wishes and putting the needs of others before their own. These are the people we love to be around.


     On the other hand, we identify successful people as those who assert themselves to ensure that their personal goals are being met, irrespective of the needs, wishes or opinions of others. We’ve all met these types of individuals who guiltlessly step on anyone who gets in the way of their climb up their proverbial career or social ladders. These are the types whom we try to avoid − at all costs, but who, nevertheless, seem to be getting what they want out of life.


   So, can the two co-exist?


   Ideally, we’d all like to teach our children how to be accommodating to the perspectives of others. We’d like to teach them how to share their toys, their time on the swing and their snacks. We like to view ourselves, too, as considerate people who willingly give up our seat to the elderly or handicapped, who generously toss a few coins to the outstretched arms of a homeless indigent and who support the neighbourhood PTA. We value talking politely and criticizing sparingly. Until that is, we have a run-in with someone who so blithely takes advantage of our good heartedness.


   Ever had a situation where you are being neglectful to yourself (or your family) by tending to the whims of fussy Uncle Ben, critical cousin Sally and selfish neighbor Rhonda? Are you being considerate − or a wimp − by being a ‘”yes man” to your boss’s opinions or by kowtowing to your tyrannical co-worker’s quirks?


   There are times when decidedly un-nice behaviour is the best response. Our traditions give the wise advice: “With a sly person, be sly.” To achieve the greater goal, the correct response may be to deal deceitfully − or arrogantly, or selfishly, or sternly − with a person who only understands that negative language. With people who can’t see beyond the little circle of their ego, ask yourself, is being nice the correct approach or will a more stern method ultimately achieve the greater good?


    How do you draw the line?


    Maybe the answer lies in evaluating our motives.


    Ask yourself, “Why be nice?” Do you believe this is the right way to approach life? Or do you just want to be thought of as a nice person? Do you genuinely believe that your child should share the coveted park’s swing with others, or is it your fear that he will be labelled as the ill-mannered bully? Why are you giving a rubber stamp approval to your friend or co-worker? Is it because you agree with what s/he is doing, or are you reluctant to appear disagreeable? Why are you generously offering your time and energy to others − do you want to be considered kind, or do you genuinely believe in the cause?


    Perhaps the key is developing an inner strength.


    Let’s impart to our children − and demonstrate to ourselves − the backbone to stand strong, whether that means having the courage to act with kindness and sensitivity (which should always be our default) or to act with deceitful slyness or gruff sternness to those that only understand that language − to achieve the best outcome.


    Some of the most self-centered people look strong on the outside, but are weak within, completely incapable of overcoming their personal biases and whims. And some of the nicest, kindest people may seem weak on the outside but have the steely determination within − to do the right thing. Whether that means saying an accommodating, sweet “Yes” (in most cases) or an unkind, stiff “No.” Not because they are affected by how others will view them, but by how their Creator does.


   What do YOU think? When is it time to stop being nice?


    Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouchfor your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

When It’s Time to Stop Being Nice!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

     Is there ever a time to say, “Enough! No more Mr. Nice guy for me!”

    Think about this one before responding with a knee-jerk reaction − it’s not an easy question: Which quality would you like to impart to your child − how to be a nice person, or how to be a successful one?

   In response, you’ll probably wonder if the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Are they ever?

    We define a nice person as someone who cares about others and is sensitive to their feelings. We’ve all met these sorts of individuals. These are the people who are selfless, seeing beyond their own wishes and putting the needs of others before their own. These are the people we love to be around.

     On the other hand, we identify successful people as those who assert themselves to ensure that their personal goals are being met, irrespective of the needs, wishes or opinions of others. We’ve all met these types of individuals who guiltlessly step on anyone who gets in the way of their climb up their proverbial career or social ladders. These are the types whom we try to avoid − at all costs, but who, nevertheless, seem to be getting what they want out of life.

   So, can the two co-exist?

   Ideally, we’d all like to teach our children how to be accommodating to the perspectives of others. We’d like to teach them how to share their toys, their time on the swing and their snacks. We like to view ourselves, too, as considerate people who willingly give up our seat to the elderly or handicapped, who generously toss a few coins to the outstretched arms of a homeless indigent and who support the neighbourhood PTA. We value talking politely and criticizing sparingly. Until that is, we have a run-in with someone who so blithely takes advantage of our good heartedness.

   Ever had a situation where you are being neglectful to yourself (or your family) by tending to the whims of fussy Uncle Ben, critical cousin Sally and selfish neighbor Rhonda? Are you being considerate − or a wimp − by being a ‘”yes man” to your boss’s opinions or by kowtowing to your tyrannical co-worker’s quirks?

   There are times when decidedly un-nice behaviour is the best response. Our traditions give the wise advice: “With a sly person, be sly.” To achieve the greater goal, the correct response may be to deal deceitfully − or arrogantly, or selfishly, or sternly − with a person who only understands that negative language. With people who can’t see beyond the little circle of their ego, ask yourself, is being nice the correct approach or will a more stern method ultimately achieve the greater good?

    How do you draw the line?

    Maybe the answer lies in evaluating our motives.

    Ask yourself, “Why be nice?” Do you believe this is the right way to approach life? Or do you just want to be thought of as a nice person? Do you genuinely believe that your child should share the coveted park’s swing with others, or is it your fear that he will be labelled as the ill-mannered bully? Why are you giving a rubber stamp approval to your friend or co-worker? Is it because you agree with what s/he is doing, or are you reluctant to appear disagreeable? Why are you generously offering your time and energy to others − do you want to be considered kind, or do you genuinely believe in the cause?

    Perhaps the key is developing an inner strength.

    Let’s impart to our children − and demonstrate to ourselves − the backbone to stand strong, whether that means having the courage to act with kindness and sensitivity (which should always be our default) or to act with deceitful slyness or gruff sternness to those that only understand that language − to achieve the best outcome.

    Some of the most self-centered people look strong on the outside, but are weak within, completely incapable of overcoming their personal biases and whims. And some of the nicest, kindest people may seem weak on the outside but have the steely determination within − to do the right thing. Whether that means saying an accommodating, sweet “Yes” (in most cases) or an unkind, stiff “No.” Not because they are affected by how others will view them, but by how their Creator does.

   What do YOU think? When is it time to stop being nice?

    Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouchfor your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

The Essence Of Evil

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

If you were to stare evil in the eye, what would you see? What would be its character traits? What would form its origins?

 

Of the many malevolent characters recorded in the Bible, Amalek, the grandson of Esau, stands out as the greatest villain. He is the archetypal enemy of our people. He is the father of the nation that first waged war against the Jewish people upon their miraculous emergence from their Egyptian bondage.

 

Throughout our long history, Amalek’s murderous intentions have had many anti-Semitic heirs. One of these was Haman, from the Purim miracle, who sought to annihilate every Jew from the face of civilized society.

 

Traditionally, any mortal threat to the Jewish people is referred to as an Amalekite design.


What are the origins of such a character who has proven to be the nemesis of the Jewish people and their G-dly quest throughout all time?

 

In Genesis 36:12, we are introduced to Amalek’s parents. “Timna was a concubine of Elifaz, son of Esau, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz.”

 

Some verses later, we are told more about Timna’s background. “And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam, and Lotan’s sister was Timna” (Genesis 36:22).

 

We are also given information about the status of Lotan, Timna’s brother. “These are the chiefs who came of the Horites; the chief Lotan, the chief Shobal, the child Ziboen, etc.” (Genesis 36:29).

 

Elifaz’s concubine, Timna, was no common woman. She was the product of a royal family, her brother claiming the position of one of the Canaanite chiefs.

 

The Midrash (Genesis Rabba 82:14) fills in some missing details by explaining that Timna sought to convert to Judaism. She came to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for acceptance, but they refused. She became a concubine to Elifaz instead, insisting, “It is better to be a maidservant to this nation than to be a princess in any other nation.”

 

Being from the seed of Abraham and Sara was so prestigious that such an action was not extreme.

 

Timna perceived the great respect and honor given to this clan, and she was willing to sacrifice her personal dignity in order to be attached to such a prominent and prestigious people – even if her connection would be a servile one.

 

I’ve always been puzzled by this story.

 

Timna’s actions seem so righteous, altruistic and pure. Why then would they result in a child who represents the antithesis of goodness, and who is the very paradigm of evil?


But perhaps events in modern society can shed greater light on the inner anatomy of evil.


The greatest evil in our time is undoubtedly manifested by suicide bombers (practically all of whom are part of the Islamic faith). According to data reported recently by Robin Wright in the Washington Post, these bombings are on the rise.

 

“Suicide bombers conducted 658 attacks around the world last year more than double the number in any of the past 25 years The bombings have spread to dozens of countries in five continents, killed more than 21,350 people and injured about 50,000 since 1983 The highest annual numbers have occurred in the past four years.”

 

According to William Saletan of slate.com, the logic of these bombings is that “The more people you kill, the more you demoralize the infidel because the infidel is too weak to tolerate the shedding of blood.

 

“But not you. You’re strong. You’re willing to guarantee, not just risk, the deaths of your followers to deliver the bombs. And they’re willing to die. You don’t have to tether your mechanism to a dog or mongoose and hope the dumb beast does its job. You’ve got much smarter animals at your disposal: human beings.”

 

On the surface level, the psyche of a suicide bomber seems to be a spiritual one − to get closer to the G-d that they’ve constructed. But on closer analysis, it becomes obvious that theirs is the lowest form of greed, selfishness and evil. They willingly shatter innocent lives and bring immeasurable pain and suffering, in order to reach the pinnacle of their personal, gross physical pleasures.

 

The motive behind these men and women “of faith” is their realization that our world is a temporal place where it is impossible to have ongoing infinite pleasures. These ongoing physical delights can only be attained in their world to come.

 

The manifestation of Amalek in our generation can be said to be in these suicide bombers. And the seed of their motivation is mirrored in the actions of their ancestor, Timna.


Our patriarchs and matriarchs selflessly gave of themselves to reach out to humanity and teach the beauty of monotheism and G-d’s path of truth. They eagerly taught and accepted converts into their midst. If they rejected Timna, it was out of their perception that her motives were insincere.

 

Timna was not searching for G-d, but rather for her personal aggrandization. Her motives were not selfless, but rather all about herself.

 

Had Timna truly wanted to join a nation serving G-d and following His ways, she would not have “settled” for joining the family of Esau, whose path was the antithesis of the Abrahamitic teachings. Timna desired, rather, to be part of a powerful but not necessarily G-dly or spiritual people.

 

She was willing to temporarily sacrifice her personal status, but only for what she perceived as a greater, more fulfilling eminence. Her actions were not about G-d, but entirely about herself. Our perceptive Patriarchs realized this and therefore rejected her from joining the nation of G-d.

 

In the era of Redemption, evil will be eradicated and all mankind will be rectified. Only one nation − that of Amalek − will not be a part of this vision.

 

“Their hand is on G-d’s throne, [this denotes a Divine oath], G-d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations” (Exodus 17:16).

 

Amalek is beyond repair. The evil of Amalekites punctuates their entire selves because they represent the opposite of G-dliness. Their devotion is entirely egocentric, even while dressed up as an act of devotion to G-d – and as such represents the greatest evil fathomable.

 

The greatest distortion of goodness is an act of selfish malevolence adorned in the religious garb of purity, an act of evil acted out in the noble name of G-d.

 

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics, and an editor at chabad.org. Visit Chana’s blog, Let’s Go for Coffee, at www.chabad.org/618216. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/the-essence-of-evil/2008/06/25/

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