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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Studies’

Gone Amiss – Thoughts For Pesach Cleaning

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

The deeper message behind our vigilant search and removal of chometz for Pesach is the need to remove any vestige of spiritual chometz from our beings and personalities.

The differing ingredients between bread and matza are not very significant – each is made from flour and water. The only central ingredient missing from the matza is the yeast, and the air which causes it to rise.

Chassidic masters explain that spiritually, this air represents an unhealthy self-awareness and a bloated sense of self, which throughout our Pesach preparations, we are vigilantly removing from ourselves and our surroundings.

Each day of Sefirat Haomer between Pesach and Shavuot, on the other hand, reflects a different midah (character trait) that we are working to refine in our personalities. Finally, on Shavuot, we bring an offering of “Shtei Halechem”? real Chometz bread.

Only after an initial scourging of ourselves from our unhealthy sense of self prior to Pesach, and our intense work on personality refinement during Sefirat Haomer, are we able to use our talents and capabilities and our healthy, rectified sense of self for a G-dly offering.

Below are some thoughts on this process, as well as some thoughts to reflect on during your pre-Pesach cleaning.

Last year, on the first day of Pesach as I reached into the top right corner of my jewelry box to fetch my special pair of earrings, my hand returned empty. I rummaged around the back of the jewelry box in case my earrings had dropped into a concealed crevice. I ran my fingers over every small compartment in the box. I scrutinized the top surface of my dresser as well as every small container near my jewelry box, and I groped inside all the drawers throughout my bedroom – all to no avail. My earrings had vanished.

Of course I was upset. After all, this was my favorite pair of earrings, worn solely on special occasions. Moreover, these earrings had personal sentimental value. They were presented to me by my husband commemorating our anniversary. I noticed the tender care in how he chose this pair – delicate white gold shapes, with tiny clasps of yellow gold, surrounded by linear, perfectly aligned square diamonds. Understated and refined elegance.

Almost equally disturbing was the unrest it caused within. My belongings are usually well organized, especially now, after an intense Pre-Pesach clean-up. This threw my calm order out of balance. I couldn’t help but question what else was out of order? Why hadn’t I noticed my misplaced earrings in the immense clean up? Had I neglected some other area of my home?

My initial response to my predicament was, of course, to blame myself. I had been careless and not vigilant enough. Mentally, I went over the times that I had worn these earrings and I hunted inside the pockets of possible outfits where I might have accidentally misplaced them. I checked my desktop if perhaps I had haphazardly taken them off while on the phone.

My next reaction was to blame those around me. Maybe one of my children had thought it would be fun to play with Mommy’s precious present. Or maybe I had instructed one of my youngsters to put the earrings away and the child had gotten sidetracked in the process. I searched through my children’s rooms. I looked through their dressers, their boxes and their toy containers - with no success.

Disconcerting, too, was that over the last several days, I had many workers coming through my home. One polished the wooden floors, another installed a new countertop, and then there was the carpet cleaner. I admit to secretly suspecting that my earrings may have been pocketed by some lucky worker, even though, rationally, I knew that none had even come close to my bedroom.

Finally, after retracing all possible places and a conducting a thorough search of any possible location, lots of mental blaming, an acceptance finally set in. It really wasn’t a tragedy, and it was simply meant to be.

This insignificant incident was small enough for me to apply to the many bigger situations in life, when we have a dream or goal that is “lost”, or goes “missing”. It upsets our plan of organization, of how we feel our life and world “ought” to be. It upsets our careful clean up, our careful plotting and arranging of what goes where and how neatly organized our life should be. Suddenly, this uncalled for change of direction makes us realize that we are not in charge.

Our reaction to these sudden losses of dreams, goals or plans is manifold. First, we usually search our ways, to determine if all is in order. This is healthy self-evaluation and productive reorganization.

But then, we sometimes progress to the next unconstructive step, becoming obsessed with the loss, blaming ourselves irrationally, and incriminating others accusatorially.


There comes a time when we have to reach an acceptance, that for reasons beyond our control, the situation was simply meant to be.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, with that acceptance, may come the solution to our missing goal or dream.

For example, a few days later, when I opened up my jewelry box, I found my special earrings in their proper spot. “Hey, I am so happy! Who found my lost earrings?” I jubilantly exclaimed to my children.

Apparently, my oldest daughter spotted my missing earrings in my youngest child’s room, where they were nestling on his bookshelf and, knowing how distraught I was, she was pleased to return them to their rightful location.

The exact path that my earrings journeyed en route to my son’s room still remains a mystery – one which I don’t care to unravel. Mystifying, as well, is the fact that I checked my son’s room, as well as this bookshelf several times. How this obvious spot missed my vigilant search still eludes me.

But the case of my missing earrings did teach me that, despite careful plotting of goals, aspirations and dreams, there are times when we need to let go, and let things be. Furthermore, once we reach the acceptance that it is just meant to be – often the solution is at hand.

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Mrs. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca. 

How The Creation Story Teaches Us About The Essence Of Man And Woman

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

Against the backdrop of rolling valleys and mountains, and a sun bathing creation with its warmth, creation awaits it finale. Adding infinite texture and destiny to the flow of life force of the fish of the sea, the livestock of the land and the birds of the sky, creation climaxes with the birth of humanity.

The dramatic course of the past six days culminates with the conception of Adam. Against the perpetual rhythm of creation itself, mankind represents its critical zenith.

As G-d breathes into Adam his first breath of life, born are the challenge and responsibility as well as privilege and destiny of all creation. On his shoulders rest the burden and the merit of making his world a home compatible for his Creator. As such, we would have expected Adam’s creation to be recorded in Bereishit as the peak event within a flowing story line. Interestingly, though, the birth of mankind is recorded as two almost separate and independent events, in two separate chapters.

Gen. 1: 26-28,31: And G-d said, “Let us make man in Our Image and Our Likeness. They shall rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and over the cattle, the whole earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So G-d created man in His Image, in the Image of G-d, He created him, male and female, He created them.

G-d blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and conquer it; and rule over the fish of the sea, the bird of the sky and every living thing that moves on the earth…”

The first Adam - created as male and female ? is created in G-d’s image. He is commanded to “conquer”, “fill” and “rule over creation.”

Gen. 2: 4-7,15,18,20-22: These are the products of the heaven and earth… And G-d formed the man of dust from the earth and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life and man became a living being… G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to keep and to guard it…G-d said, “It is not good that man be alone, I will make him a helper corresponding to him…

And man assigned names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to every beast of the field, but as for man, he did not find a helper corresponding to him. So G-d cast a deep sleep upon the man and he slept, and He took one of his sides and He filled in its place. Then G-d fashioned the side that He had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man…

In the second account of humanity’s creation, we learn of a human being formed “from the dust of the earth” who is charged to “keep and guard” creation. In this version, we find the necessity of an independent “helper corresponding to him” since at this stage, “it was not good that man be alone.”

Much commentary has been written on the unusual and two-fold structure of mankind’s coming into being. Clearly, there are two versions to mankind’s creation, each accompanied
by an independent destiny.

The first Adam is a figure of will and contest. He is dignified in his mastery over creation, existing in the realm of victorious act. He is the ultimate conqueror. He rules with his strength
and through his conquest. Formed in the “Image of G-d”, he is commanded to “subdue,” “rule” and “conquer” the world. His role in creation is to banish the earthly darkness, impose rule and order. He acts through a hierarchy of domination and control in an active and aggressive effort to overcome the nature of reality.

He works the earth, beating it until its fruit emerges. He reshapes physical matter, winnowing, plowing and harvesting until he extracts its bounty. Never satisfied to just be, he breaks through new frontiers, searching for more. He develops, challenges and pushes creation to its limits – and beyond.

First Adam, the conqueror, draws down new potential and abilities-and G-dliness - from
the outside. In the second version, on the other hand, we are introduced to a receptive, loyal
and submissive being. He is separated from nature not by his dominion over it, but rather by
his covenant to “keep” and “guard” it. He is entrusted to redeem the world, to protect it. He
does not rule by authority or dominance, but rather by nurture and dialogue.

Formed “from the dust of the earth,” he relates to what is, rather than what is to become. He lives with a vision to make the world a home for his Creator, by uncovering the light already implicit within. He finds G-dliness within the world, rather than importing it from without and imposing it onto creation.

While the first man lives with the assertion of the will, the second lives with its extinction. The first masters the world, imposing a G-dly rule on creation. The second offers creation in humble dedication to G-d. If first man is a conqueror, then second man is a protector and
redeemer.

Interestingly, while woman is present at both accounts – “male and female He created them” – in the second version she comes into being as her own independent person, with her own destiny.

Up until this point, creation, including Adam, was “very good”. For in the realm of victorious act, woman did not play an independent or a primary role. However, in the redemptive, protective role, it becomes very evident that “it is not good that man be alone.” The keen necessity of an independent “helper corresponding to him” is born. Man, as ruler and master has need of an equally powerful and influential creation, “corresponding to him” to be charged with the sometimes contradicting, opposing or parallel redemptive role. She emerges in the form of Chava, Eve, or Isha, woman.

While both male and female are urged to “conquer” and subdue the negative aspects of
creation by imposing a G-dly order, the male takes the primary role in this act of conquest.
Similarly, while both women and men are entrusted with redeeming creation, nurturing and
uncovering the G-dliness, the female exemplifies this ability.

So, in resolving the apparent contradiction of emphasis between man as “dust of the earth” – humble dedication to G-d, and man as the “Image of G-d” – assertion of the will, woman and man undertake their respective advantages.

Though each role is integral to the Creator’s plan, and both man and woman are necessarily partners to both accomplishments, each role respectively assumes a stronger degree of emphasis. The internal rift between man “serving and guarding” and “subduing” becomes less of an inner tension as the male and female each assumes their arena of spiritual expertise.

The male affects the creation, by changing it, acting upon it and vanquishing its negativity. And the woman prepares the world to be a home for G-d by redeeming, protecting and discovering the light implicit within it.

And man and woman’s roles, missions or inner dynamics cannot be reduced to the other, and thus neutralized. Protection and nurturance requires the extraction of evil. Similarly, conquest requires a redemptive vision, and is ultimately validated by it.

But as the pages of our own lives turn, we too become active participants in this march of
life. We need to discover a model for synthesizing these two modalities in peaceful harmony.
In future articles, we hope to offer a practical approach to understand how to resolve this
duality between male and female.

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca.

Why Husbands Should Buy Their Wives Flowers

Wednesday, June 25th, 2003

Shavuot is considered the time when we “married” G-d or cemented our relationship with Him after our “courtship” on Pesach, during the Exodus from Egypt. The Luchot (Tablets with the Ten Commandments) is compared to our Ketubah (marriage contract) and explains the responsibilities of each of us in this relationship. Below is an essay explaining some aspects of that relationship and comparing the psychological differences between men and women to the varying Torah obligations of each.

Have you ever gone into a gift shop and noticed the many rows and rows of cards devoted specifically to women - especially mothers, wives and sisters? We don’t generally hear of wives buying flowers or chocolates for their husbands.

Ever wonder why these affectionate gifts are so gender-specific? Does a man not appreciate the flowers or chocolates? Is it perhaps a woman’s stronger connection with nature that allows her to admire the vibrant colors of the flowers more than her male counterpart? Or is it her poetic, more emotional nature that is so tenderly touched by the few graceful lines of poetry on the attractive card?

No, of course not. While these tendencies may be true, her love for these gifts has really nothing to do with her appreciation of poetry or nature, or whatever other small gifts women traditionally receive.

The secret behind these gender- specific gifts is that women thrive on feedback. The cards, the flowers, or the small tender presents show that he cares. They represent the time he took out of his day to think about her. It means that he values their relationship.

He took the moments to drive to the store and he deliberated on what she would most appreciate. He remembered to choose her best color, or her favorite chocolates. It means the world to a women that he showed that he cares.

Women need that feedback.

Every self-help book on improving married life invariably provides practical suggestions to husbands on communicating his care better, listening better, and understanding more what she is going through. Of course, buying flowers or cards is just one way of expressing that. She may not need the flowers, cards or chocolates, but these tender gestures demonstrate to her that he cares.

A husband neglecting to give his wife the attention that she needs or expects, notices her becoming withdrawn, irritable, upset, or in husband parlance, “nagging.” Venture to ask her what’s wrong, and she’s sure to rejoin, “nothing.”

Never buy that.

What is a woman implying by her response? She is saying that if you care enough, if I am sufficiently important in your life, you’ll keep asking. You’ll find a means to try to understand me. You’ll keep working on figuring out what’s really wrong. If our relationship is as important to you as it is to me, you won’t accept my retort at face value, but you’ll probe. As most husbands figure out soon enough, woe is to the man who assumes that “nothing” means “nothing”!

A man, on the other hand, doesn’t need as much feedback. He is comfortable in knowing that his wife is there for him. She doesn’t need to prove it or demonstrate it nearly as much, or nearly as often. He may be comfortable sitting silently on the couch beside her, just knowing that she is his. He might be doing his thing and she might be doing her thing, but he considers that spending time together. He doesn’t need the constant reminders that she is there for him.

But a woman, through her need for feedback, reminds her man that over time their relationship can grow static. Gestures are important to reignite that flame of romance, longing and tenderness. Demonstrating outright consideration and thoughtfulness through these gestures reawakens the original dynamism and passion in the marriage. She brings a message to the relationship that says that reaching a comfort level with one another is great, but let’s not take one another for granted. Show me regularly that you care, not only in your heart, but also through your deeds.

I know of a wife who complained to her husband that he never bought her anything – not jewelry, not flowers, not cards. His staggered response was, “Honey, do I ever tell you not to spend the money? By all means, if you want jewelry or flowers, go out and buy them!” He thought he was being generous, but of course, he missed the point entirely of what she was lacking. It’s not the time or money that he spent on her; it was the fact that he cared to spend the time and money.

A woman intuitively feels this need in any relationship she is in. She demonstrates through deeds, small and big, regularly, over and over, that she cares and that she loves.

Perhaps this natural dynamic is a reason why women are not obligated in the time-bound mitzvot of the Torah. Some of the traditional reasons given for this are the fact that women may be occupied with other more important things, namely her family life and children. Far from binding a woman to the chains of domesticity, this underlines the supremacy that Judaism places on the value of home life, and its precious regard for family and children - a goal that more and more of us are realizing in today’s hectic and turbulent times.

Another reason given for women’s exemption from these time-bound mitzvot is that she doesn’t require the spiritual powers of these mitzvot for her unique spiritual make up. She intrinsically is in tune with the point of the mitzva without the need to perform it.

What I think this means is that in our relationship with G-d, mitzvot serve as connections, ways of becoming closer. Torah is full of do’s and don’ts. G-d informs us of the things He wants us to do and those He prohibits. He tells us, “Whether you understand this or not, this is what I
need for our relationship. This is how you can demonstrate your love to Me.” Mitzvot teach us not to take our relationship with Him for granted, but to maintain the connection, keep the fire and dynamism alive.

While a woman is equally obligated to abstain from the negative precepts of the Torah, she doesn’t require the constant reminders of the time-bound, positive ones. She intrinsically understands the need for the positive gestures, and the feedback, because that is her own need. She intuitively knows how to demonstrate her love and care in her relationships, because that is so much of what she is all about.

Men on the other hand, need to be told specific directions. They need to be instructed: this is how you can show you care. This is how often you must demonstrate your love. This is the prescribed formula for expressing tenderness.

So, a woman doesn’t need to send her husband flowers, because she will find ways to express how much she cares through the many things she does in her day-to-day schedule. She doesn’t need to buy him chocolates or cards on a regular basis, because the message of these tender gifts is a message that she already is sending him on a daily basis.

And so she doesn’t need to wear a yarmulke or bind Tefillin daily on her arm or pray at three specific times a day to remind her of G-d’s presence in her life, because He is a reality. He is always with her. Not because she is more spiritual. Not because she is a better person. Not
because she is greater than her fellow male counterpart. But simply because feedback to a woman is as necessary as the air she breathes. She understands its importance and will find a million ways in her day to live it.

So, men, the next time you pass by your local mall, take a few moments to stop by and visit the small gift shop. Don’t forget to remember her favorite color, too – she’ll appreciate that you did.

Chana Weisberg is the author of “The Crown of Creation” and “The Feminine Soul”. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures regularly and welcomes your comments or inquiries at:
weisberg@sympatico.ca 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/why-husbands-should-buy-their-wives-flowers/2003/06/25/

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