I was one of the participants in the conference-call shiur you gave our group who are working on trying to break free from sex addictions. I can't thank you enough. For a long time, I was really down on myself and the more depressed I'd get, the worse I'd mess up. You were so positive, encouraging and non-judgmental. I feel like you threw me a rope to help pull me out of the muck. You should know that you helped a lot of us, because the head of our group said that this was a record-breaking shiur with hundreds of people listening in. Thanks so much and may you blessed with continued strength to keep doing what you do. From the heart, Srool the Tool
I deeply appreciate your email, but the credit goes to my teacher Rav Shalom Arush, Breslev Israel an Emunah Outreach, for everything I do is under their auspices. You guys are heroes - keep up your good work, and you'll bring Moshiach, for sure. With blessings always, LB
The Talmud offers practical homiletic advice on how to survive under extreme stress:
Rabbi Akiva sailed from Israel to Cyprus. Before he left port, he saw his prize understudy, Rabbi Meir, board an older vessel, also sailing to Cyprus. In the midst of their journey, a terrible gale struck the Mediterranean. Rabbi Akiva's heart broke as he gazed into the distance, wincing while the storm lashed into the decrepit craft that carried Rabbi Meir. In a matter of minutes, the latter's ship was utterly destroyed...
A tear slid down Rabbi Akiva's cheek. "What a waste of a brilliant mind!" he lamented.
Several days later, upon reaching the shores of Cyprus, Rabbi Akiva entered a local synagogue and house of study. Flabbergasted, he froze in the doorway. Rabbi Meir was in the middle of a lecture to a group of Cypriot Talmud students. Seeing his esteemed teacher and spiritual guide in the doorway, Rabbi Meir ceased lecturing. "Rabbi Akiva, my honored master, please come inside!"
Rabbi Akiva could barely speak. "M-Meir! Y-You're still alive! H-How did you get ashore?"
"Simple, my master. Instead of focusing on the stormy sea, I rode one wave at a time. I caught wave after wave until I reached the shore!"
* * * * *
Had Rabbi Meir attempted to battle the entire tempestuous sea, he would have expended his strength in a short time. Instead, he used the centuries old formula of "divide and conquer" - Rabbi Meir knew that he couldn't overcome the sea, but he could surely cope with one wave at a time. Even more amazing, he arrived ashore before Rabbi Akiva!
The 2nd-Century CE sage Rabbi Meir teaches us the secret of staying on top when we seem to be buried under an insurmountable load of stress. Don't fight a whole raging sea, or don't try to move a one-ton boulder that's in your way. Take a 5-lb. hammer, and break chips of the boulder. Before you know it, the boulder - that ton of stress on your shoulders - is no longer there!
The secret of handling an overload of stress is dismantling - don't try to deal with all your pressures simultaneously. Ride one wave at a time, and you'll make it safely to shore, too.
Don't forget also that the best way of dismantling is to take all the problems off your own shoulders and throw them onto Hashem's lap. You do that with an hour a day of personal prayer; that will really make you feel light on your feet!
Emuna, the Land of Israel and a lively melody are all cogent anti-depressants. My very special friend and brother Guy Tzvi Mintz was feeling a bit down during his personal prayer session near his home up in the Judean Hills. Hashem gave hime the following niggun (melody), which totally destroys sadness and depression. The words are, Yismach lev mevakshei Hashem (Psalm 105:3), and they mean, "happy is the heart of those who seek Hashem." So there you go - if we want to be happy, we must seek Hashem! Have a wonderful Shabbat and we look forward to seeing all of our friends in South Africa.
"Normal" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy". A cave dweller thinks that darkness is normal, and can't fathom the beauty and the benefits of sunlight. In the same way, tranquility is so elusive today that many people don't even consider it a realistic emotional goal. Yet, if we want to escape a lifelong fate of emotional darkness, we desperately need to find a way back into the "emotional sunlight" that is the birthright of each and every one of us.
A good example of this confusion between "normal" and "healthy" comes from the American Psychological Association. In their position paper on anger, they conclude:"Remember, you can't eliminate anger - and it wouldn't be a good idea if you could. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival."
These words strike me as most peculiar. They seem to assume that we all live in a dangerous jungle, where only the biggest, angriest inhabitants manage to survive. In fact, I can testify from my own personal combat experience in one of the world's most elite military units that anger clouds decisions and lowers effectiveness. If we're talking about survival, an angry soldier is far less likely to survive that a calm one. A good soldier has to be cool-headed in order to function at an optimal level. An angry soldier, by contrast, is a menace to both himself and his brothers in arms. And if that's true in the high-stress battlefield arena, it's certainly true on the city streets.
Most of conventional psychology's anger-management programs are based on the faulty assumption that "containable" anger is a good and even necessary thing. For example, the APA suggests that with anger management therapy "a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks". Translated, that means that you won't break windows anymore, but you'll still be gritting your teeth, clenching your fists, and maintaining your candidacy for heart disease and strokes.
The basic flaw with this approach is easy to understand once you realize an important truth about anger: Fundamentally, anger is an addiction. And you can't "manage" an addiction - as any drug, tobacco, or alcohol rehabilitation specialist will tell you. An alcoholic can't limit himself to two Bloody Marys a day, just as a heavy smoker can't cut back to five cigarettes a day. The results are not permanent! Addiction management requires a huge amount of sustained willpower. Why invest so much physical and emotional energy when better options are available?
Oh, you'd like an example of a better option than substances or anger management? Try combining walking with personal prayer. The Trail to Tranquility will also make a dramatic change in your life for the better.
Five months ago, I was interviewed in New York City about the painful subject of child molesters and what to do about them. In the aftermath of the Leiby Kletzky ob"m tragedy, this interview is more timely than ever. You'll see and hear me declaring in a loud voice that anyone - rabbi or otherwise - who helps cover up a case of child molesting is an accomplice to the crime. From now on, may we only hear good tidings, amen!