web analytics
January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Magazine’

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/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: