When you grow up in the secular world you learn many things that you assume come from this place or that. They are not necessarily Jewish things or Jewish teachings. In other words, and for example, I always thought that meditation was from the Buddhists… and “self help” was from the psychologists and therapists… and those self-help gurus and authors who studied theory and human behavior… some Jewish, some not. Yes, of course their ideas came from somewhere… Freud… Jung, etc. but they were not “Jewish” ideas… or so I thought.As I study the Talmud in my daily Daf Yomi, which I will admit is a struggle for me, I see how so much of modern law is derived from Judaism. As I study the Tanya daily, which is much more practical and engaging, at least for me, especially thanks to the incredible video teachings of Rabbi Gordon (OBM), I realize how much “self-help” advice is Torah based. It is a true revelation.
That is not to say that every amazing thing in the world is Jewish and only Jewish. We must learn from everyone and everything. And we believe, or at least I do now… and truly understand that everything… EVERYTHING is from Hashem.
Wisdom is all around us, if we just open our ears, and souls, and minds. But the lessons taught in the Zohar, from the Kabbalah, from the Torah and funneled into lessons from Pirkei Avos, and Rabbis like Noah Weinberg (OBM), Rabbi Gordon and my own current Rabbis and teachers have shown me just how important Judaism is to daily living. The Torah and its teachings are truly the best self help guides out there, because they not only understand the human condition and the human mind, but give you tools to improve yourself. Now, if you are like me, you may have not seen those lessons so clearly. And I will say that there are still some remarkable “secular” books out there that do not speak at all of religion, but just simply provide ways to live and ways to transform. They are significant and important and must be a part of our process. Again, do not ignore wisdom, wherever you find it. Seek out help, wherever you need it. And we all need help.
In fact, Judaism teaches us to get help when we need it. It encourages it. To go to rehab or therapy. To avoid depression and sadness. And as I am now finding, it gives us the tools to do it.
Judaism teaches us about the three garments of thought, speech and deed (or action). It shows us that we live almost our entire lives in thought. Think about it. Yes, ha…
But does your brain ever stop? Perhaps in prayer and meditation, which is where we seek a kind of stillness and silence. But for most of us, that chatter is non-stop. What the Tanya and Torah teach us, is what to DO with those thoughts. To have thoughts is normal, human… and many are pure. But the animal soul… the Yetzer Hara pulls at us, pokes at us, and talks to us endlessly. It puts horrible notions in our brains. Such is the life as an intermediate. Like Rabbi Gordon says: “It is not a sin to want to rob the Bank Of England, it is only a sin to rob the Bank Of England.”
We live most of our lives in thoughts… Even as we sleep, thoughts run through our brains and send messages in dreams and visions. And of course here is the kicker… it is a blessing to have these thoughts… because it gives us each an opportunity to fight against them… to not act on them… to choose Hashem. G-d gave us Free Will… G-d made each of us exactly as we are… and G-d gives each of us the chance to learn and grow and evolve… to reach for something better and higher.
This also means that EVERYTHING we need is already inside of us… Deepak Chopra said this the other day in his 21-Day Meditation… and that is what I mean… this lesson comes from Torah, and Tanya, and Kabbalah… and many others outside of Judaism share it. But the well is deep and filled with beautiful spring waters… and the well is Hashem. Everything we need is in the book… we just need to fulfill the mitzvah of reading it… studying it… and living it. And here are two more great things to check out: