Mental Prison

I'm becoming more and more aware how so many people are trapped in their own mind-made prison and how few of them are aware of this very fact. Ironically but quite expectedly, the more "intellectual" one is generally considered, the more severe the "gravity" of this trap is.

One of the subtle ways in which our mind traps us is mental filtering. The more cognitive information we have about someone or something, whether we encounter them for the first time or have known them for a long time, the more liable we are to fall into this trap and then into the prison.

Even if someone you meet for the first time doesn't tell you anything about them "identities", which are illusions of the ego, you conceptualize them according to them external appearances and you preconceptions accociated with them. The more "identities" they disclose to you, including their nationality, education, occupation, status, etc., the more deeply you fall into your own mental trap and prison. Even names are illusions of the (collective) ego.

Many people, or to be more precise, their respective egos, seem to feel uneasy if they have no way to know their "identities". As a kind of experiment I've started answering the question where I'm from by telling them I'm from the world of souls. Since I'm more and more convinced that the soul is our essence, I'm very serious when I answer this way, but few people who hear this answer of mine seem to take me seriously and most people insist on continuing to ask me where I'm really from, to which I can only respond by giggling. ;-)


Resuming the Study of the Talmud and Starting New Pair Study of Hasidism

Last week I could finally resume my study of the Talmud. It took me about a year and a half to get over one unfortunate emotional barrier that had prevented me from continuing this important traditional Jewish study in the traditional method of khavruse ('pair study').

This time I study the Talmud alone with no study partner. I'm helped by the following resources, which may also help other non-advanced learners who study the Talmud alone (but only after studying how to study it and actually studying it in khavruse for enough period of time): Daf Hachaim; Koren Talmud Bavli.

It was the study of Hasidism that not only filled the void of the study of the Talmud but also convinced me to resume the study of the Talmud itself. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh writes in one of his books in English to the effect - so this is not a verbatim quote, which I can't locate now - that the study of Hasidism must be complemented by the study of the Talmud.

I feel pages of the Talmud "look" different, though I can't formulate this feeling clearly yet, after the study of Hasidism.


Of all the amazing "chance" encounters I have had so far this one must be one of the most amazing ones. One day before my trip to Japan last month I visited Pomeranz, one of my most favorite bookstores not only in Jerusalem but also in the whole world, and got acquainted with another customer. As we talked, we discovered that we seemed to have undergone parallel, if not identical, life experiences and come to the same faith and confidence as well as the same interest in Hasidism. So we said goodby to each other by agreeing to start khavruse ('pair study') of Hasidism after my return from Japan.

We met yesterday for the first time after my return to Jerusalem and spent four hours talking about various subjects, including Hasidism, feeling we speak the same language of the soul. This was an amazing feeling as I've come to find less and less people with whom I can share my thoughts and emotions about my growing enthusiasm about my study and experience of Hasidism.

We spent the fifth hour of our first meeting studying the book we had agreed to study together - צוואת הריב"ש (The Testimony of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov) - a collection of sayings by Baal Shem Tov compiled by his successor Dov Ber of Mezeritch (the "Maggid"), which may also interest and enthuse you.

I'm already curious to see how this new khavruse of Hasidism with a like-minded person will contribute to my - and our mutual - spiritual growth.


Humor in Communication

I returned from my three-week trip in Japan to Israel this Tuesday night. I was shocked to discover upon my return here that I couldn't smile or laugh naturally. My facial muscles seem to have become frozen for lack of use for the last two weeks of my stay in Japan. The last time I really laughed was when I gave two talks in Kobe and Tokyo on the first week of my trip; I laughed a lot when I made humorous comments spontaneously.

I was very careful to continue my daily physical workouts, including bodyweight strength training, running and yoga to maintain my muscle strength, stamina and flexibility respectively during this trip as in all the previous trips abroad. But I totally forgot that facial muscles could also lose their strength for lack of use, and even after such a short period of time at that.

Since my return to Jerusalem I've been making a conscious effort to meet as many friends and acquaintances of mine here with the same sense of humor and shmooze with them as much as possible so that I may laugh and thus rehabilitate my frozen facial muscles. I think I can smile and laugh naturally now.

My occupation with Yiddish and my continued use of it seem to have had a decisive effect upon the way I communicate - I've incorporated Yiddish sense of humor in whatever language I speak, including not only Yiddish, Hebrew and Jewish English, which are friendly to Yiddish humor, but also Esperanto and Japanese, whose average speakers often seem to have a rather hard time understanding it. I've come to find it more and more difficult to communicate with people with little or no sense of humor, be it Yiddish or not.

Though I couldn't laugh in the last two weeks of my stay in Japan as I'm used to here in Jerusalem, I had a pleasant surprise of seeing more poeple in Japan who seem to understand my Yiddish sense of humor than I had expected though few of them really laughed. On the other hand, I've rediscoved that there seem to be far more people here in Israel than I remembered by mistake who seem to have little or no sense of humor. These people even scare me.

These unexpected experiences have rekindled my interest in humor in general and Yiddish humor in particular. I've started reading both theoretical and practical books about using humor to maximize living and life coaching. What I've (re)discovered so far is that there is far more than just being funny in humor.