Inquiring of God: A God-Centered Psychology
And then, his suggestion for the improvement process: “… obsessive thought is a gateway. Don’t fight it. Enter through it. Let yourself fall in love. Demand more. Demand everything. Whatever you are lacking. Take a thought about forbidden love. About beauty, strength, freedom and tempestuousness. Take it. Let it release your impulses. And when the desire is known, bring it to an encounter with hesed [goodness] and the mitzvah. With whatever you can, and are allowed. With your role …. ”
Rabbi Yair Ben Shetrit, from the settlement of Kochav Hashahar, head of the Aviv Institute in Tel Aviv and a graduate of the workshop, says: “I was enriched. The language he used was fascinating. As a religious person I study and teach, and I often sense the gap between the Jewish language in which I live and reality, the modern lifestyle. And here the man has made a very interesting connection between the two worlds.” He expresses my feelilngs as well. Tehr abbi was then asked:
A secular person is teaching the religious what love of God means?
These definitions are already passe. Of course I object to the fact that he decided to prepare a new list of mitzvot for himself. I once said to Yair, `You’re like the Reform movement.’ He replied `Just the opposite. They reduce. I expand. With what is Judaism involved today? With kashrut [dietary laws], nida [family purity] and Shabbat. Whereas I suggest that there be work on thousands of additional things. On every last aspect of a person’s life. On every issue.’ And it’s true. He’s right. He really suggests an endless expansion. To translate that into psychological language that will help people and to bring this – that is, God – into man’s everyday life. That’s an amazing thing in my opinion; it’s great.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who is today considered a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement, didn’t study in the workshop, but read Caspi’s book. “During the first stage of reading, I considered it another American-style slapstick book, like `How to Seek Heaven in Eight Easy Steps,'” he says. “On second reading I found what I really liked – the freshness and the renewal in the search for God, the real isolation of avoda zara [idol worship], the vision of revelation and vitality in the connection between man and God, the attempt to find the truth and the avoidance of internal falseness. I learned a lot from it and I will take a lot from it, and I thank the writer for a world he strengthened within me.
The small things
How does it work? In therapy groups or workshops with Yair Caspi, such as the one I participated in last summer, people speak in the language of the Jewish sources. They choose an issue that’s bothering them and conduct an “exercise” about it. The exercise includes “steps” or questions one must ask him –or herself about the issue (which will be outlined again later). After selecting the issue, the student clarifies to himself what he wants to do about it. Then he must expose the evil instinct that is linked to it, and ask: What is the lie I tell myself on this issue, and what is the truth of the matter? Then comes hesed: What am I allowed to do and what am I excused from doing? Or: What do I receive for which I want to say thank you to God?