Moses and his Ignorance of the Self
There is invaluable wisdom in the Torah. However, as I explore the life of its protagonists, I find a poverty of character development. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob move from story to story without pause or reflection. Moses spends his life putting out fires. He jumps from crisis to crisis with no respite. After 40 exhausting years, Moses dies unfulfilled and deprived of his dream of entering the Promised Land. His view of Canaan from afar represents one of human history’s most heartbreaking scenes. As a leader, Moses accomplished the goal of bringing the Israelites to their ancestral land. But as an individual, he dies alone, lonely, in unbearable pain, and defeated.
The Imperfect Bible
The Bible is a source of profound sanctity, precious morality, and a legal system pursuing a just society. However, it seems insufficient in the art of self-reflection. And I know that as a rabbi, I should not refer to the Torah in such a disrespectful manner. But for me, there is one thing infinitely more valuable than a sacred text; your life. And is thus, that I open my eyes and heart, moving from apologetics to what the Bible itself commands: “choose life.”
This Biblical self-refection anemia moves me to write blogs on how to develop an inner life. This insufficiency compels me to leave my religious comfort to explore different traditions and scientific approaches. That’s why I became the “bipolar rabbi.” While maintaining my Jewishness, I strive to connect to all who struggle with mental illness regardless of their identity.
The Gift of a Pure Soul
Positive Psychology has become my main methodology for supplementing my Jewish wisdom. This approach emphasizes the strengths we all possess. I help individuals to express and actualize their potential. And yes, I infuse the process with my Judaism. Thus, for instance, I believe we are given the daily gift of a pure soul. As The sages of the Talmud teach, in the morning, a person should say, Elohai neshamah shenatata bi tehorah hi. (“My God, the soul you have placed within me, is pure.”).
Based on my understanding of Judaism, I also believe suffering is not redemptive. Faced with the inevitability of pain, we must make meaning out of it. Still, suffering is not a welcome or ideal vehicle toward fulfillment.
My view of Judaism, as you can see, matches Positive psychology. Despite persecution, rejection, and genocide, Judaism maintains a hopeful message. We invented and still long for the messianic times despite the most horrendous history.
My Travel to Foreign Spiritual Lands
The key to my approach is for each tradition to acknowledge its insufficiencies. For instance, as much as Jews had tried to rediscover their meditative tradition, the Buddhists are light years ahead. Similarly, I don’t encounter the praying devotion of Protestants or Muslims in most synagogues. That is why I explore the spiritual treasures of the world. That is why I have decided to travel to foreign spiritual lands. I long to learn, translate, and adapt the best humans can offer to fulfill their potential. Growth must dispel fear.
Yes, I have my limits. I prefer to adopt techniques from other traditions rather than their doctrines, theologies, or philosophies. But I believe that Christianity’s focus on love and faith can actualize the dormant love in the recoils of Judaism without diminishing it. Buddhist serenity can enhance Jewish contemplation, thus easing its anxiety. And I believe that scientific advances such as Positive Psychology can strengthen Jewish ethics.
I hate the rhetoric of superiority. Recently I witnessed a member of my Shabbat community using biblical language and proudly declaring, “we, the Jews are a light to the nations.” Really? Are the other religions living in obscurity? Instead, I believe that all people hold their candle. All people are owners of wisdom and failure.
Abraham and the Missing Positive Psychology Coach
My five top strengths, according to Positive Psychology, are: creativity, curiosity, love of learning, courage, and perseverance. This blog is a patent expression of who I am. I know I’m taking a risk in pursuing my curiosity, creativity, and love of learning. And I rely upon my perseverance not to fear the consequences.
Like most Biblical characters, Abraham, Moses, and David show us the dangers of a journey without self-reflection. I wonder what their life would have been with some Positive Psychology coaching. How much pain could have been averted! The good news is that their struggle is our warning. That may be part of their teaching.
I invite you to explore your strength and be the best version of yourself.
I hope that my blogs encourage you to take your self-discovery journey. Your search is a significant part of my journey.