The Professor Became Paralyzed from Overthinking

Letters for Life, a book of the Rebbe’s guidance for emotional wellness, is not an anthology of abstract hypotheses. It is a collection of practical tools, culled from the Rebbe’s counsel to regular individuals in real-time, on how to walk through life with confidence and serenity.

Ahead of Gimmel Tammuz, Chabad.org has released an excerpt of their new book, Letters for Life, exploring the Rebbe’s guidance for emotional wellness, by Rabbi Levi Shmotkin.

The excerpt includes the introduction, table of contents and first chapter, giving readers a glimpse into this groundbreaking book.

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From the introduction:

It was an ordinary evening in 1960, and several students and educators from Hillel (a Jewish campus organization) sat in the Rebbe’s study. A new world was dawning, and their minds were plagued by pressing existential and practical questions.

Do I have free choice or is everything predestined? What are the strengths and limits of reason? Where can I find G-d in this cold and physical world?

The questions went on. For our purpose, I want to highlight one snippet from the wide-ranging conversation.

“I observe from your library that you are well-read,” a Hillel director said. “So I want to ask you: Must we address how Judaism aligns with philosophy and science when teaching today’s erudite college students?”

“I’ll give you an example from a professor I knew,” the Rebbe responded. “He was a professor of medicine, and, at one point, he was immersed in studying the anatomy of the leg. He delved into the research to understand the function of all the muscles and how they perfectly coordinate when a person walks. However, he later told me, while he was engrossed in the details of walking, he found that actually walking became more difficult. With every step he took, his mind would analyze the workings of each muscle and joint, complicating his natural gait.

“Similarly, when introducing students to Judaism, talk of the essentials without trying to convey all the complex philosophical intricacies… It will save time, and it will be clearer in the student’s mind.”

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This book is not an anthology of abstract hypotheses. To borrow from the above metaphor, this book does not explore the Rebbe’s extensive theoretical insight on the “anatomy” of the human psyche—the complex workings of the mind, the harmonic interplay of divergent emotions, the delicate relationship between faith and reason, and so on. Instead, it is a collection of practical tools, culled from the Rebbe’s counsel to regular individuals in real time, on how to actually walk through life with confidence and serenity.

Thus, the letters in this book speak in a clear and direct tone. A sense of immediate relevance, almost urgency, is felt throughout their lines. Unlike other areas in the Rebbe’s corpus, they are not characterized by intellectual journeys into the transcendent world of Chasidic ideas. They seem focused on extracting and applying the core of those ideas to help people live their daily lives with health and purpose.

An exploration of the Rebbe’s thought on the psyche’s “anatomy” merits a book of its own. This is a book on walking.

To download the full excerpt, click here.

To learn more and order a copy, click here.

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