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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Sara Leah’


Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

         For the past two years, any time we’ve met our neighbors on our front lawn, near the street’s curb, the discussion has invariably turned to the very pressing issue of… garbage.


         The city of Toronto is running out of space to dump its garbage. Apparently, and understandably, none of the residents want it in their backyard. So the city has embarked on an ambitious recycling program – with the result that cleaning up after a regular weekday meal in the Weisberg residence has become a very complicated project.


         “Where do these paper plates go?” my eight-year-old son wants to know.


         Which garbage?” my two-and-half-year-old daughter asks, holding a banana peel.


         I guide my toddler to the beige compost bin resting on the kitchen counter. Leftover food, peels or eggshells get deposited there. Sara Leah smiles as she tosses in her peel and I smile thinking about how as this waste eventually decays it will be turned into fertilizer, enabling other food to grow more productively.


         I direct my son to the large, blue recycle bin kept nearby in the laundry room. I explain that the cardboard packaging, paper and hard plastics that go here will be recycled and transformed into something useful. My son’s eyes shine as he contemplates all the new usages of our colorful cereal boxes, lasagna packages and egg cartons.


         And finally, there’s our much-less-used old garbage bin looking forlorn in the kitchen corner. The only thing it gets these days is real garbage – items that cannot be recycled into anything. The foam disposable plates (which we stopped using) used to go in there, along with the flimsy plastic wrapping that covers so many commercial packages. This garbage will cause the most damage and contamination to the environment through its elimination.


         I admit that it took me a while to get used to the new system, grumbling together with my neighbors at the front curb. But now I actually feel good every time I toss something into a bin, envisioning its future incarnations.


         As I tidy up after dinner one evening, it occurs to me that not only garbage has these three categories. Every word we utter has its respective destination.


         Some words foster growth and development. These are the affirmations we give to our spouses, children and friends for something positive they’ve done. The words generate feelings of acceptance and love, bringing us closer to each other and motivating us to continue in our productive path. These words should be used generously, as they fertilize growth.


         Then there are those words that, in and of themselves, may not be positive. Sometimes, we have no choice but to criticize, to correct an error or point out a failing. But with some thought and effort, these words can provide guidance and direction, and even transformation. If doled out carefully with warmth and love, and “processed” properly and in the right circumstances, these words can help an individual “recycle” the negative in himself into something positive, by defining his strengths and weaknesses and finding outlets for his talents, creativity and personality.


         Finally, there are irredeemable words that ooze with negativity. Words which, spoken in the heat of anger or in a moment of thoughtlessness, are devoid of any constructive value. They’ll poison our environment and bring hurt and pain into the hearts of those around us.


         Like our household waste, every word that leaves our mouths leaves an impact. Every word is recycled back into our environment, leaving an indelible impression on those around us. It may fertilize growth, it may be recycled into something useful – or it may contaminate our surroundings.


         As we streamline our garbage disposal, perhaps we should also consider how we dispense our gift of words.


         Chana Weisberg is the author of four books including the best-selling Divine Whispers and the newly released Tending the Garden. She is a associate editor for www.chabad.org    and lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. To have her speak for your community or to be a part of her upcoming book tour, please contact her at chanaw@gmail.com.

Chana Weisberg

Self Do It!

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

A little past her second birthday, my toddler has entered into a new phase of independence.

“Sara Leah do it!” and “Self do it!” These phrases are repeated countless times. Sara Leah will insist on eating her soup independently, even if more spills from her spoon than enters her wide-opened, expectant mouth. She will demand to climb the stairs by herself; or dress up her dolls, even while stopping midway to insist just as strenuously, “Mommy help you!”


It’s often very tempting to scoop Sara Leah into my arms as I observe her exerting herself as she climbs up a particularly steep set of steps. It’s also far less tedious (and messy) to guide her spoon and fork myself, just as it’s far less exasperating to dress her dolls for her than to watch her trying to clumsily contend with the buttons. But I restrain myself from providing this assistance because I realize that her growth is achieved through exertion, by stretching the parameters of her comfort zones. Struggles are the water and life force prodding our budding but latent talents to bloom and develop fully.


Sara Leah’s vacillation between dependence and independence expresses itself throughout the day. Moments after succeeding at doing a task herself, or midway through it, Sara Leah will often want to be helped, cuddled or hugged. An expression of pride fills her determined features after accomplishing one of her self-appointed goals, just as a look of tender contentment crosses over her soft face as she nestles up against my shoulder enjoying a moment of protective snuggling.


I think of Sara Leah’s determined look every time I venture into a project or situation that requires me to extend myself beyond my comfort zone. When those queasy feelings rise in me as I undertake a new challenge, I silently repeat to myself her mantra of “self do it!” and picture Sara Leah’s satisfied pride after she has mastered her task.


Watching Sara Leah in her newfound quest for independence has made me think about the biggest challenges in all of our lives–not ones which we have voluntarily undertaken, but the one task which has been thrust upon us and has become an integral part of our existence.


“There are three things that G-d created that He regrets – one of these is exile,” quotes the Talmud. An omnipotent G-d obviously cannot “regret” something or that thing would cease to exist. The Chassidic masters explain that for G-d to “regret” means that on a conceptual level, He desires and enjoys some aspects of exile while regretting others.


Like any mother watching her children struggle to gain their independence, G-d too “regrets” some aspects of the difficulty He has imposed upon us. G-d suffers together with us as He watches us cope with the whole spectrum of human challenges. He “regrets” our tears of frustration, our sorrow, our loss of dignity and our hopelessness over each small and big challenge in exile.


But He also realizes that at the conclusion of our efforts, in the time of our redemption, the pain of these struggles will no longer be palpable or even remembered. What will remain is only the accomplishments, the growth, the strength and the well-deserved pride and feeling of a job well-done.


Because nothing looks more radiant than Sara Leah’s proud face after accomplishing one more of her “self do it!” goals.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including the best-selling Divine Whispers – Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and the soon-to-be released book, Tending the Garden: The Role of the Jewish Woman, Past, Present and Future. She is a columnist for www.chabad.org and she lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. She can be reached at weisberg@sympatico.ca.

Chana Weisberg

A Wedding, A Funeral And My Child’s Song

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The incongruity of the two events was too glaring to overlook.


Our participation in the Sunday morning Sheva Brachot brunch celebrating the marriage of a close friend of my husband’s was planned well in advance. We went to sleep the night before with the babysitting, transportation and other miscellaneous arrangements all set. We woke, however, to the news of an impending funeral for a friend’s mother, scheduled at just that hour.

On the one hand, there was a celebration marking the promise of a new beginning – of a joint life replete with potential, dreams and hopes. On the other, a ceremony marking a loss, an ending of life, as we know here in our world, an impenetrable separation between loved ones.

Just the day before, this friend had made a Shabbat learning gathering in her home commemorating the yahrzeit of her father, who had passed away a year ago to that date. She requested that the Torah studies also be a merit for her mother, for a speedy recovery from her illness. She spoke about how one year had passed since her father’s death, providing something of a closure to the searing wound of his passing.

Now, just as the pain of her loss was somewhat subsiding, the wound was being ripped open afresh, as she faced the finality of her mother’s death. Just yesterday, she was full of hope for her mother’s recovery from her illness, while today she would be feeling the dumbfounding shock of her irreversible loss.

On this Sunday, I would be juggling these two events. I would leave behind the smiles, buoyant spirits and jovial laughter of a bride and groom, to try to find empathy and compassion to share with the grief, tears and bereavement of mourners.

I stood in doorway of my home bidding goodbye to my baby.

“Mommy go bye-bye,” Sara Leah announced, surprising me, once again, with her newfound talent of combining more than one word to form simple, but complete sentences. A short while ago we were celebrating Sara Leah’s first word, “Mamma,” and now, she was progressing so rapidly to a greatly enlarged vocabulary and language skills.

Intuitively realizing how proud her mother was, and striving to keep my attention focused on her and not headed out the door, Sara Leah astutely continued her cute dramatics and in a sing-song voice pronounced, “Torah, Torah, Torah siva”

Sara Leah was singing to one of our favorite songs – a song we sing together each morning, as do many thousands of Jewish parents and children throughout the world. The words are from a fundamental verse of the Torah, Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Yaakov – “Moses taught us the Torah; these teachings are an inheritance for the children of Jacob.”

Hearing Sara Leah sing our special song reminded me of another friend, Rachel, who had angrily reprimanded me upon hearing me teaching my baby this verse.

“Chana, you are an open-minded woman,” Rachel began her tirade. “How can you brainwash your child with this propaganda. and at such a young age, no less? At least let her get a little older and think for herself first! Do her first words have to be these memorized slogans of faith?” my friend chided.

As I stood now in the entrance of my home, full of a mother’s pride in her child’s growing abilities, preparing to leave for a sheva brachot only to rush midway through it to a funeral, I thought about how fragile our lives are.

We are full of hope and expectation at one moment, only to experience feelings of despair and futility the next. Our joyous laughter and smiles transform far too quickly into tears of disappointment and cries of loss.

Every parent wants to protect her child from life’s woes. From that first moment in which we hug their tiny bodies close to ours, we vow to guard them from the blows and defeats of life, even as we realize how limited our power to make good on our promise actually is. Despite our best intentions, the winds of life will continue to blow fiercely, bringing with them the good as well as the bad, the fulfilled dreams as well as the losses.

Standing there in the doorway together with my child, about to experience the incongruity of those two contrasting events, it dawned on me just how important it was to impress this Torah verse upon my child. While I can’t safeguard my baby, or any of my children, from life’s inevitable losses, I can inculcate her with the power of faith a faith that will deepen her appreciation for the good times and will provide her with the power of endurance for the difficult ones.

I can instill within her the confidence, the surety, the absolute certainty, that there is a G-d who orchestrates the funerals and the celebrations. In her most tender years, as her mind forms its most basic axioms, I can help her define herself as an integral child of G-d, whose ways she may at times not understand or agree with, but whom she, nonetheless, knows is there watching and protecting her, at all times, in all circumstances.

As a mother, armed with a parent’s fierce protectiveness, I can’t fathom anything better to gift to my baby than this eternal inheritance of Jacob.

It is an inheritance that will be with her wherever life leads her an inheritance that endures in a world where a sheva brachot can be followed by a funeral.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, the latest, Divine Whispers – Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul. To book a tour for your community or for information on her books or speaking schedule, please contact: Weisberg@sympatico.ca  

Chana Weisberg

Life In Fragments

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

I’m relaxing on the sofa watching Shira, my 11-year-old, patiently teaching baby Sara Leah how to build a tower with her blocks, when the tranquil peace is suddenly shattered. Sara Leah has noticed an intriguing, sharp object on a high shelf. She climbs up to grab it, only to have it swiftly pulled away by her older, vigilant sister. Sara Leah wails loudly and inconsolably. Innovative Shira sprints to action and finds a colorful new book to read to her sister.

Within seconds, this minor tragedy has been averted as Sara Leah nestles comfortably on Shira’s lap, engrossed in the tale.

The scene reminded me of how just a few months back, I took Sara Leah to the doctor for her scheduled inoculation. One moment she was screaming over the pain of the shot; but the next she was contently sucking on her lollipop treat that I had brought precisely for this purpose, her head snuggled contentedly over my shoulder.

Toddlers, even more than older children, are notorious for their changing moods. One moment they are in absolute bliss over a new toy or activity, only to be followed by a state of utter distress because something is being denied them. And vice versa.

It’s not that Sara Leah’s pain was not real. At that point, when the object was taken away, her whole world had collapsed. The denied toy might be trivial, but for that moment, it became her passion, need and obsession.

She didn’t consider how trivial the forbidden object was compared to her parents’ love for her. She didn’t think about the warm home that surrounds her, her many toys and prizes, or all the other far more wonderful things in her life. To her, her world had just caved in because she was unable to get that little something that she so craved.

On the other hand, even when she was suffering real pain over the needle’s prick, the coveted piece of candy immediately distracted her, enabling her to forget her suffering. Her worldview suddenly turned positively jubilant, merely as a result of a newly acquired lollipop.

A child is imprisoned within the moment. She cannot see beyond it.

The context of past and future is lost on her because her mind has not yet sufficiently matured to assimilate a continuity of past to present, or the concept of future. Nor is there an appreciation of context – of this denied pleasure vis-a-vis for all other toys or belongings that she owns. Sara Leah, like all children, sees only what is before her – this moment, this toy, this lollipop.

Sara Leah has a vision and perception that is fragmented.

Sitting on the couch watching Sara Leah’s fickle moods reminded me of my own limited perception. Just last week, I was having a bad day, everything was going wrong and my dour mood reflected it. Then, at the end of the day, a small gift and kind word suddenly changed it all, as my mood – just like my baby’s – suddenly turned positively optimistic.

Why my vacillation between a sour mood and the sudden jubilant change? Because adults, too, have a fragmented vision – similar to a child’s -due to our state of living in galut.

Galut is usually translated as “exile.” But galut is not simply a state of banishment from our land or our inability to live as practicing Jews.

Galut means being imprisoned within a fragmented perception of reality on all levels – fragmentation in time, space, self and community. It affects how we view ourselves and others, and all the events in our lives. It is our inability to see the underlying unity in all of reality.

We don’t see the connection between events in our lives, the people in our lives, or even aspects of ourselves. We view people as separate from us, rather than as part of a unified, symbiotic whole. We view time and events as separate and disjointed with no theme of a purpose. The past is a “memory” that is not lived with in the moment, and there is no concept or vision of a future. The here and now is all that is real and palpable.

That is why those small issues in my life become so overpowering on those days that I am in such a lousy mood, and cause me (and others) so much suffering. And that is why Sara Leah, on her own baby level, too, can’t overcome being denied one object until she is granted the diversion of another.

When I am imprisoned within the moment, I am unable to see beyond this particular problem that I am confronting, or the streak of bad luck that I am currently experiencing. These negative aspects of my life are senseless to me, and thus painful.

Geulah (redemption), on the other hand, is seeing the wholeness, unity and underlying G-dliness within creation. It is the perception of the connecting thread and the unifying force in everything – people, places and events. It is viewing each event as leading up to a purpose and having a mission and reason; while understanding that there will be a grand finale when all these loose ends will be wholesomely tied together.

That is why the Hebrew word for exile, golah differs only in one letter from its counterpart, geulah – redemption. Golah is missing the aleph (one) contained in geulah. It is lacking the perception of Oneness – the unity, the wholeness, the Divine underlying purpose of its creation.

Without the aleph, we behold the very same world, but it is a world of fragmentation, purposelessness, restlessness and frustrations.

Happiness and fulfillment are lacking because there is no appreciation for the role of the people and things around us. Insert the aleph, though, and context, mission, reason and unity emerges.

Every mitzvah that we do within galut empowers us to draw down this “aleph of geulah” awareness into every facet of our world.

Mitzvah means connection. Every mitzvah uncovers the concealed purpose of this moment, or of this created matter, and thereby connects us all to our Creator.

Because drawing down this aleph consciousness is something that is in the power of each and every one of us.

One day at a time. One mitzvah at a time.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, the latest, Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s  Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul. To book a talk for your community or for information on her books or speaking schedule, please contact: weisberg@sympatico.ca 

Chana Weisberg

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/life-in-fragments/2006/03/29/

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