What’s Wrong with the Frog?

You can just imagine this wretched rasha stroking his goatee, clearing his throat, and giving rational, reasonable life advice to the massed Jewish soldiers. “If you ask me,” he told them, “you should drop this whole thing.”

By Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin – AlephBeisGimmel.com

A medical researcher was hard at work in his lab, testing a theory. He had a live frog on the table. Pen poised to note down the results, he leaned over and yelled “Jump!” Startled by the sound, the frog jumped. “mmmHmm!” the researcher murmured, scribbling a checkmark on his clipboard. 

Next, the researcher took a scalpel and cut off one of the poor frog’s legs. 

“Jump!” he barked. The frog jumped again. Another “mmmHmm!,” another scribbled checkmark, another frog leg unnecessarily removed. 

“Jump!” the researcher yelled a third time. Wounded but still mobile, the frog jumped. A third murmur, a third checkmark, a third amputation, and… “Jump!” Left with only one leg, the frog scrambled across the tabletop – a close enough approximation to earn another checkmark.

One final amputation left the poor frog with no legs at all. “Jump!” cried the researcher. There was no movement from the frog. “Jump!” he tried again. Nothing. 

“MmmmHmmmmm!” said the researcher, with some degree of satisfaction, noting his findings on his clipboard. “It’s just as I thought. Without its legs, the frog is deaf!”


The long saga of our conflict with Midyan comes to a conclusion in this week’s Parsha. It began in Parsha Balak with Midyan hiring Bilaam to curse us. When Bilaam discovered that he couldn’t utter anything but Brachos, he suggested plan B: tempting the Yidden to sins of immorality. His plan met with success, sadly, and it resulted in a devastating plague that killed 24,000 Yidden.

After the timely actions of Pinchas stopped the plague, Hashem instructed the Yidden to avenge themselves against Midyan and this week, the Yidden marched to war with 12,000 righteous warriors.

At this point, Rashi describes an encounter that absolutely defies the imagination. Bilaam, the evil architect of the campaign to lead the Yidden to sin, had come to Midyan to collect his blood money. Leaving with his payment, who should he meet at the gates but a number of his intended victims – the attacking army of Yidden. It boggles the mind, but this man had the colossal, unmitigated chutzpah to offer them advice!

You can just imagine this wretched rasha stroking his goatee, clearing his throat, and giving rational, reasonable life advice to the massed Jewish soldiers. “If you ask me,” he told them, “you should drop this whole thing. You couldn’t take on the Midyonim with 600,000 men – what can you hope to accomplish with a mere 12,000? Go home and forget you ever came here!”

To their credit, they ignored his advice and marched on with pure faith and complete trust in Hashem. They went on fulfill Hashem’s commandment to destroy Midyan, killing their five kings and ultimately adding to the payment that Bilaam had earned from Midyan by giving him, in full, the payment he’d earned from the Yidden: a swift death by the sword.

Every year, when I learn this Rashi, I’m amazed that they even heard Bilaam out. Perhaps they didn’t know about his past involvement or the ways in which he was planning to help Midyan in the upcoming battle. If they did they would probably have killed him on the spot.

In a way, this makes their story even more useful in our lives. We already know to dismiss the arguments of our enemies, (though, in practice, we can often do a better of job of that). But if the Yidden didn’t recognize his full alliance with Midyan, why did they ignore his arguments?

Rashi doesn’t mention a specific counterargument or point to a part that Bilaam got wrong – because he didn’t get any specific part wrong. He was fundamentally wrong. He analyzed the situation like that medical researcher analyzed the frog: taking stock of superficial factors and drawing conclusions. 

Limited in his observation and awareness, he couldn’t factor in the deeper dimensions. His argument left out any consideration of Hashem, of the Divine instructions the Yidden were given, and the unstoppable power they brought to bear as Hashem’s soldiers carrying out His mission. 

The Yidden, however, knew those things, and they knew that because of them, success was inevitable. They recognized that Bilaam’s analysis – supported by superficial observation but blind to the inner truth – wasn’t even worth addressing.


The saga of Midyan contains two more such examples of oblivious observation:

Pinchas, the hero who stopped the plague and saved untold thousands of Yidden, was maligned. Based on their observation of his actions, his own fellow Jews accused him of viciousness and cruelty. His aggressive, lethal actions plainly demonstrated that he had these serious character flaws.

The frog must be deaf.

This is the kind of conclusion you reach when judging by superficial observation without insight into the underlying truth. The truth is only made clear through Torah, which addresses not only the actions and the human psychology of logic and emotion, but the true inner life of a Yid – his G-dly Neshama.

Pinchas, attests the Torah, was the grandson of Aharon HaKohein – the epitome of lovingkindness, the pursuer of peace. He was motivated in his actions by love for Hashem, the hatred of everything opposed to Him, and the love and kindness towards his fellow Jews who were dying as a result of this sin. 

“Torah” means Hora’a, guidance and clarity. Had they looked at his actions with Torah clarity and an awareness of his Neshama they would have reached the right conclusion.


One more example of superficial – and therefore mistaken – observation and analysis is found in the Midrash:

Seeing the success of Bilaam’s scheme and the descent of some Jews into immorality, the nations had a ready explanation for their promiscuous conduct. For two centuries, the Yidden had lived among and been subjugated by the famously immoral Egyptians. Evidently, many Yidden were descended from those slavemasters, and immorality was in their DNA. Their behavior attested to their parentage.

These wise analysts would surely recommend tried-and-true therapies, counseling, and meetings for people struggling with this difficult innate issue. However, such remedies would not be effective for the Yidden, since they were simply misdiagnosed.

Hashem testified that every Yid that left Mitzrayim – aside from one solitary individual – was the child of a Jewish father, worthy of association with His holy name. They had no innate problem with their nature.

The real reason the Yidden fell into immorality was nothing as dramatic or fundamental. It was something much more ordinary and familiar.

Every Yid has a cunning Yetzer Hara, and much like in our day, it lured the Yidden in with innocent-looking business transactions (Bargains! Cheap flights!) before springing immorality on them, like some sort of ancient pop-up. This, eased by the strong wine (complimentary with your purchase!), clouded their powers of discernment, overcame their true DNA, which is holy and pure, and brought them to sin.

Understanding the lineage and nature of these Yidden – and therefore the true cause of their fall – led to a totally different diagnosis and treatment plan: fighting the Yetzer Hara, doing teshuva, and connecting to Hashem. This would pave the way for them to conquer Eretz Canaan and transform into Eretz Yisrael.

The lesson for us today could not be more clear or more pressing: If we want to understand ourselves and our children, we cannot adopt the fundamentally flawed approach of even “expert observation” that is blind to Hashem, the Neshama, and the Torah.

The blind advisers, like Bilaam, can reach ridiculous conclusions, suggesting that to be safe and healthy we need to abandon our Divine mission.

No matter how wise, experienced, or even successful the various experts may be in their line of work, their suggestions cannot be worthy of discussion if they’re blind to our truth, our Neshama, the truth about the world and our purpose within it, as explained in Torah.

We cannot be reduced to noting shallow external observations on our clipboards and drawing deficient conclusions. We have Torah, the blueprint of creation, which gives us insight into how everything really works and what is going on, from the inside out. It is only on the foundations of Torah and neshama, Emunah and Bitachon, that we can mature, develop, and stay healthy and strong – facing and overcoming the many challenges and obligations of life. 

Without understanding the true nature of ourselves, our world, and our purpose, we’ll end up fixing our problems by buying hearing aids for the frog.

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  1. The problem is so widespread that people don’t even realize anymore that this kind of thinking it’s coming from the “outside.”

    We need these ideas brought down more for practical everyday life.

  2. Whenever I bring up this topic, sticking to only Torah sources for healing, people respond with 2 arguments:

    1) everything is in Torah, yet most people (even Rabbanim etc) cannot effectively heal people emotionally etc because they don’t know where to get that within Torah and/ or they don’t have the time. I know people who don’t have a mashpia because they asked several people, were turned down, and don’t know who to ask anymore…

    2) The Rebbe in many letters and encounters referred people to therapy/ professional help. So who are you to say to do more than The Rebbe said?

    1. The maskilim have been making the first argument for years, saying that “rabbonim are knowledgeable but they are not in touch with everyday life.”

      The reason they say that is because they want a specific kind of advice which fits with their nature and habit, rather than having to submit to Torah. Once we accept that the answer is the Torah way and we need to bend to Torah (not bend the Torah to us ch”v), we will find how to practice it.

    2. This myth, which is propagated by certain people with personal interests, is simply untrue. The Rebbe advised TENS OF THOUSANDS of people (or more) and his CONSISTENT ADVICE TIME AFTER TIME was to grow in Torah and mitzvos and that will bring a person fulfillment and success.

      In SELECT SITUATIONS (!) the Rebbe advised some individuals (who knows what their particular ailment was) to visit a doctor. How does someone in their right mind come to think that these few directives (of which we know very little about!) are “the Rebbe’s approach” to emotional health?!

      A little intelectual honesty please!

      1. R’ Sternberg asked R’ groner how often the response was to seek therapy, and was told it was very very common, we just don’t see many letters or mannos about it because of the sensitivity/stigma of the topic.

        1. What does stigma have to do with private letters in Igros Kodesh which discuss all kinds of private matters?!

          We have many thousands of letters printed *without names*, and all speak of growing in connection to Hashem, with only a miniscule few mentioning going to doctors as well. Besides, we know what the Rebbe emphasized at hundreds of farbrengens – growing in connection to Hashem! No mention of therapy!

          It’s incredible how people can take a few shmuos and make a torah shleima out of them, when everything we have from the Rebbe indicates otherwise.

          Since people like to build theories based on shmuos, the Rebbe wrote clearly:
          אינני אחראי לשמועות

          As Reb Yoel a”h once said regarding a different kind of shmuah, “Yiddishkeit was revealed in public; other religions are based on hearsay…”

  3. Every time I read something written by Rabbi Rubashkin I am always impressed by the excellent writing style. (E.g. his book, his articles…)

  4. Please guide me as to which of the following situation should be taken to a Rav, a therapist, both, or neither? 1. I can’t stop drinking alcohol, no matter how hard I try. 2. My spouse and I keep getting into intense fights and we can’t figure out why. 3. Every person I go out with says that I’m very nice, but I’m too reserved, and I can’t figure out how to be less reserve. 4. Since my earliest memories, My parents always told me, “you’re not that important so stop asking for our attention“. They refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing, and I still feel the pain and I cry when no one is it around. 5. Whenever it comes to making any kind of decision, I get a fear in my chest which paralyzes me and I avoid making the decision until it’s too late.

    1. This is phrased as a question but it seems just to be rhetorical argument. The premise of the article is that analysis that doesn’t account for Neshama, Torah, and the true purpose of life and creation is fundamentally flawed. Difficult as the cited situations sound and as obviously critical as they are to address, they’re not exceptions to that.

      Torah guidance will be rooted in
      – the power of the Neshama
      – an understanding of the yetzer hara/nefesh habahamis and its tactics,
      – the true motivation and awareness of feasibility inherent in Divinely mandated Avoda,
      – true self-worth rooted in the Etzem HaNeshama and our connection to Hashem,
      – etc

      What clarity does Bila’am ben Beor PhD bring to the situation?

      1. What is the person who has these problems is a genuine Ben Noach who also wants to leave his life according to Torah as a Ben Noach is supposed to? Is the answer for him any different? And if it is any different, can the Nefesh Hasichlis of Jew with the same problems, benefit from a similar approach from the same doctor, just like both of the Jew and the non-Jew can benefit from the same doctor, treating a heart problem or a dementia problem?

        1. You can’t draw a parallel between a physical/somatic issue, like a heart issue and dementia, and issues of the nefesh. Even though a body doctor can treat both Jews and non-Jews alike, the same does not hold true for a rofeh nefesh.

          The Nefesh HaSichlis of a Yid is not a self-contained, isolated module of his consciousness that maps to the nefesh of a Ben Noach in a way that allows you to make the same diagnosis for one that you would for the other and offer the same solutions. It’s one part, and a relatively superficial part, of a complex Neshama.

          To correctly understand the things you observe and identify the proper response you have to consider the person holistically, with a clear conception of their Etzem, how it expresses itself, what internal conflicts or self-defeating impulses might exist, etc.

          Not to mention that the understanding of the Nefesh/Neshama is only one part of the equation. No experience or expertise in human psychology can diminish the inherent flaw in their analysis: blindness to the true nature of the environment, the purpose of life, and other insights totally unavailable to the secular rofeh nefesh

          1. Every “issue of the Nefesh” involves the physical brain and its chemistry. A Goy is designed externally to resemble the structure of a Yid. The similarities between the two neurological structures is close enough that the proven interventions for one can be used to benefit the other. As with everything in the physical realm, a Jew must ensure that it’s compatible with Torah, and that he uses the additional G-dly soul as a integral part of the process.

        2. It must be said that – although a Yid is different and there are things going on with them and their lives that the secular frameworks can know nothing about – even for a Ben Noach, a case can be made that they are often way off base.

          Even when it comes to understanding this world, they’re limited to working from the outside in, making observations, developing theories, etc. and even a cursory glance at modern society will show you that there are problems with their theories and assumptions, to put it lightly.

          Today’s scientific consensus is built on a pile of discarded beliefs and conclusions – and, figuratively speaking, on the bodies of countless people that believed in them, followed them, and were failed by them. Tomorrow’s consensus will be different from today’s, and it will be one very thick layer taller.

          Torah is truth shared by the Creator. It has a lot to say even about the natural order of the world and it is clearly a far better address even for a Ben Noach, although he obviously doesn’t have the reasons that we have to outright dismiss the worldly perspective and it can theoretically fully address his needs.

      2. 3. Try to find people, such as children, who are very non-intimidating, and gradually move over to older people to systematically desensitize yourself from the fear of scrutiny. Also, visualize yourself, talking loudly and confidently and you’ll be able to do it more easily later in actual practice. 4. Find a picture of yourself as a child and stare at it for five minutes. Then set up two chairs opposite each other. Sit in one chair and imagine your parent in the opposite chair. Tell your parent how hurt you are by their mistreatment. Then switch chairs and play the role of your parents speaking to yourself. Then switch chairs again and respond. Continue this conversation until you feel significant relief. Continue the process daily as long as you feel it’s helpful and healing.

      3. 5. You’re probably telling yourself, “I would prefer to make the right decision. Therefore, I absolutely must make the right decision, and if I don’t, it’s horrible terrible awful, catastrophic, unbearably uncomfortable, and makes me a worthless loser”. Remind yourself that this is unhelpful, illogical, and has no evidence. Instead, tell yourself, “I would prefer to make the right decision. That does not mean that I must make the right decision, although I would like to. If I do make the right decision, that’s wonderful. If I make the wrong decision that’s highly unfortunate but it’s not terrible or catastrophic, just unfortunate. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s not unbearable. Most importantly, my human value does not increase if I make the right decision, and does not decrease if I make the wrong decision”. This will help you have a strong, healthy concern about making the right decision instead of an unhealthy anxiety. (Note: all of the above is to increase the healthiness of the Nefesh Hasichlis. One can further enhance this process by internalizing the message of the Nefesh Elokis by remembering concepts, such as Hashgocho Protis etc.)

      4. 1. Stay hydrated and practice diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation when you have a craving for alcohol. This will reduce the irritability that moves you drink alcohol. Also, remind yourself that the discomfort of not drinking alcohol is a bearable discomfort. Don’t tell yourself, “I can’t stand it”. Tell yourself, “I CAN stand it, and it is worth it to tolerate this discomfort, even it’s annoying.” Also, when you want to drink alcohol, tell yourself, “I can drink the alcohol in 20 minutes. The alcohol doesn’t have legs and it will still be there”. The advantage of this is that since, unlike Food, alcohol is not a genuine need, sometimes waiting makes the craving dissipate. Eventually, When you feel ready, you can begin to explore whatever pain the alcohol is numbing, and how to heal that.

      5. A human baby is designed to feel safe in the closeness of its primary caregiver and uncomfortable, and afraid when the caregiver is far. This makes the baby increase its likelihood to stay protected. That’s why relationship with parents can be more intense than with other people. It’s a matter of survival. Even when the child becomes old enough to begin to take care of itself, that part of the brain still functions the same. The same part of the brain repeats the process with our primary partner in life when we get married, so sometimes simple arguments trigger our survival anxiety. This awareness can help each spouse calm the other. (V’yesh L’harich V’ein Kan Hamokem).

    2. I am healing from the same issue- made to feel unimportant- insignificant as a child/teen.
      This is what has helped me so far-
      1. The knowledge that it is planned down to the last detail by Hashem for my benefit.
      2. When I am triggered in the present and feel overlooked, unheard, etc, I immediately turn to Hashem and tell Him how painful it is. I then acknowledge yet again how much pain I am in from my past. Then I try to write down the feelings I have, feel the emotions, and afterwards tear up the paper. Each time I let more of the trapped emotions release, I feel more and more empowered.
      3. Shaar HaBitachon. Learning it every day reinforces the fact, and helps internalize it a little deeper each time, that Hashem is causing everything to happen.
      4. I saved the following message that came my way, which I refer to often:

      If you were made to feel unimportant as a child, there’s a good chance this is a feeling that gets triggered often for you as an adult- even in situations that have nothing to do with your importance, and with people who truly do value you.

      This deeply resonates with me, but we have to be the ones to change. And it’s possible because גולה and גאולה have almost the same letters ..

      Hoping something here could be helpful…

      1. Very helpful! Everyone always asks how to practically apply Torah to our daily struggles. Thank you for sharing…

    3. Where did he write that people shouldn’t see therapists? He wrote how a yid with Bitochon should strive to think and believe which is an avodah which R’ Sholom Mordechai was able to achieve even with all the odds against him. If someone isn’t at that holy level, and need to see a therapist, then they should see a therapist. If you learn shaar habitochon properly you will see that for someone with true bitochon, most of your questions aren’t real questions. For the rest of us however, we should see a therapist if we need to.

      1. אגרות קודש חלק ט״ו עמוד רכב, רלז, אג״ק חלק ט׳ ע׳ שג, ליקוטי שיחות חלק ל״ו עמוד שכד, שכה, שכו, לקו״ש חלק כ״א, עמוד 436, חלק ל״ט ע׳ שכד. she also “healthy and body mind & spirit from Sichos In English 2007, pages 23, 82, 117, 162, 181, 200, 201, 210, 215, 224, 227, 228 and 236

        1. This is the second time you pulled up this list of “references.”

          After checking and double checking the vast majority of places you quote, they have absolutely *nothing* to do with the topic at hand.

          It seems that you are just compiling a list of random places in the Rebbe’s Torah, hoping that the readers won’t check them up, and will believe you that they say what you claim them to say.

          For shame

          1. Let’s start with example 1:

            Igros, vol 15, page 222:
            Contains two letters. One about tzedaka and adding in Torah. Second about how to fix a relationship between two friends.

            Not a word about a therapist or anything of the sort.

            Same with the next so-called references.

            Again: For shame!!

          2. ב”ה, כ”ה סיון, תשי”ז
            שלום וברכה!
            במענה על מכתבו עם הפ”נ שיקרא בעת רצון על הציון הק’ של כ”ק מו”ח אדמו”ר זצוקללה”ה נבג”מ זי”ע.
            בו כותב אודות … שי’ שאובד עצות בהנוגע להנהגתו אתו.
            וכבר ידועה עצת רז”ל שלשה תהא וכו’ ימין מקרבת, תינוק. ובנדון דידי’ יש להתייעץ עם ר-ו-פ-א פ-ס-י-כ-ו-ל-ו-ג כיון שכמה פעמים ואפשר גם ברובם, הנהגה כאותה שהוא מתאר במכתבו תלוי’ במתיחת עצבים וכיו”ב, ולפעמים תכופות ביד הרופא להועיל בזה במדה חשובה. בכל אופן כפי הנראה מתיאורו, הגירוש מן הבית יכול להביא ח”ו גרעון עוד יותר בהמצב ולא תיקון, וק”ל. ויהי רצון שבקרוב יוכל לבשר טוב בהאמור, ומובן ופשוט שככל שיוסיף הוא הכותב אודות הנ”ל ובני המשפחה בכלל בעניני תורה ומצות, יתוסף בברכת השי”ת בכלל ובמילוי בקשתם בהנ”ל בפרט.
            בשם כ”ק אדמו”ר שליט”א 

          3. ה’תקנז

            ב”ה, כ”ח סיון, תשי”ז

            שלום וברכה!

            במענה למכתבו מכ”א סיון, בו כותב אודות מצב בריאותו מתאר המיחוש שלו, ואשר איזה פעמים כבר נתרפא ואחרי זמן חוזר.

            ומהנכון אשר יחקור ל-ר-ו-פ-א מ-ו-מ-ח-ה ב-מ-ק-צ-ו-ע ז-ה וימלא הוראתו, והתורה נתנה רשות לרופא לרפאות, אבל מובן ופשוט אשר מה שבדבורו לפעמים מבטא ענינים היפך ברכה, זה אחת הסיבות לקלקול בריאות הנשמה ובמילא גם לקלקול בריאות הגוף, ומקרא מלא דבר הכתוב בהנוגע לכאו”א מישראל, ואברכה מברכיך וגו’ ועוד יותר מושלל הדבר לפי כתבו אשר עוסק הוא בעבודת הקדש סופר סת”ם, והרי ידוע בכתבי האריז”ל בגנות המבהילה של מדת הכעס, אשר האדם בכעסו מחליף נשמתו ר”ל ואין להאריך בדבר המובן וגם פשוט, וע”פ מה שכתוב כמים הפנים לפנים וגו’ הרי כשמעבירים על מדותיו ואך ברכות טוב וחסד ישמע מפיו – יהפך גם כן לב זוגתו תחי’ וישרה השלום והשמחה במעונם.

            וילמוד בעיון המתאים באגרת הקדש לרבנו הזקן בעל התניא והשו”ע סי’ כ”ה, בו מבואר באר היטב מאמר רז”ל כל הכועס כאילו עובד ע”ז וכו’.

            מהנכון לבדוק את התפילין שלו ובפרט התפילין של ראש ושבכל יום אחר תפלת הבקר יאמר השיעור תהלים חדשי – כפי שנחלק התהלים לימי החדש, בל”נ.


            בשם כ”ק אדמו”ר שליט”א


          4. כיון* שככתוב במסמכים (שמוחזרים בפ”ע) מתענין הילד בנגינה ושפּר לעתים קרובות וכו’ — הרי יש לחפש ולהשתדל עי”ז אויף “צו קומען” צו עֶם, לקשרו יותר עם הוריו שי’ וכו’ [באמצעות — שהם ישירו בנוכחותו ויאמרו שיַמשיכו כשיעשה ענין פ’, או תקליטים שהם לפי רוחו יותר וכו’ — ובודאי פ-ס-י-כ-א-ל—א-ג מחנך יורה כמה אפשריות בזה]. . .

            (ממענה כ”ק אדמו”ר שליט”א)

          5. מוסג”פ העתק מכ’ מענה למר. . וכיון אשר להנ”ל אין ידוע עד”ז ששלחתי לו העתקה, הנה הוא מצדו צריך להודַע (באופן דיפּלומַטי) אם היו אצל רופא למקצוע זה, היינו ניערוונע וכו’, מה אמר להם ואם שומעה וממלאה אחרי הוראת הרופא, כי טרם אדע את זה איני רוצה להזכיר במכתבי אליהם ע”ד ענינה. בודאי ישנם במחנו מומחים גדולים בהמקצוע, וכדאי להשתדל שישאלו בעצת אחד מהם, כי, ל”ע, הענין שכותב הוא דבר הרגיל, לפ”ע, במי שבריאותו אינו כדבעי במקצוע זה, ועושים לזה כו”כ תרופות. ובפרט אחרי, שכפי שכותב במכתבו, שהתחיל הענין בקשר למאורעות מסויימים, אשר זה מקיל בדרכי הרפואה. ולבשו”ט בכל הנ”ל אחכה. . .

            (ממכתב א’ אלול, תשי”ב)

          6. 1) ומזמן* לזמן להשתדל להיטיב המצב עוה”פ ועוה”פ — בעזרת פ-ס-י-כ-א-ל-א-ג וכו’ וסממני רפואה, והעיקר — שבעלה שי’ ג”כ רוצה בזה שה”ז טובתו (גם לדעתו הוא) וטובת הילדים שי’. — וככל שמתבגר הבעל — נחלש התוקף “דימי הבחרות והקאך שלהם” אצלו, ומתגבר כח שכלו (מהי טובה שלו בכ”ז). — ולאחרי כו”כ שנים במצב העכשוי — בודאי הסבל דהמצב אינו כ”כ כבתחילה.

            (2) היינו להרוס ח”ו את כל הקיים עתה ולהתחיל לחפש אופן חיים חדש בשבילה ובשביל ילדי’ שי’ (מתוך בלבול המחשבה תמידית — הטוב עשתה בהירוס, או שאבדה ה­chance וכו’).

            (3) אמרו חכמינו ז”ל אשר גדול השלום ושכינה שרוי’ ביניהם וכו’ ומובן שצריך ולהשתדל.

            (4) אזכיר על הציון.

            (ממענה אסרו חג הפסח תשמ”ז)

          7. There is surely no need to point out to you at length that one of the basics of our Torah, Toras Chayim [the Torah of life], is that Hashem is the Creator and Master of the Universe, whose benevolent Providence extends to each and everyone individually, and that He is the Essence of Goodness, and it is in the nature of the Good to do good, particularly in regard to our Jewish people, to whom he has given His Torah, Toras Chayim, of which it is stated that it is “our life and the length of our days,” together with its Mitzvos whereby Jews live.

            As you know, and indicate also in your letter, there are Mitzvos which apply to Jewish males, and those that apply to Jewish females, and the distinction in regard to the fulfillment of the Mitzvos, is a far-reaching one.

            In light of the above, it is not clear why you should want to interfere with Hashem’s blessings and contemplate a change of sex; especially as it would immediately bring in complications regarding Torah and Mitzvos, even assuming that there would be no problems in other areas. And since it would be quite plain and understandable, there is no need to elaborate on it.

            As for your writing that you have sometimes had the desire to have been born a female, etc. — it is not surprising that a human being cannot understand the ways of Hashem, Who surely knows what is best for every individual. However, if this desire is somewhat troublesome to you, it would be advisable that you should talk things over with a Torah-observant p-s-y-c-h-o-l-o-g-I-s-t.

            I suggest that you should have your Tefillin checked to make sure they are Kosher.

            With blessing,

            (From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 22nd of Av, 5745)

          8. …You write that doctors are suggesting that you receive insulin treatments again. It is generally common to have this treatment repeated.

            However, of late, many different methods have been discovered to treat such a type of illness, some of which say to continue with insulin and electroshock, etc. Lately, the method of treatment via medication and PSYCHOTHERAPY has become more prevalent.

            May the “Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders” speed your recovery through the method of treatment that is best for you.

            …Understandably, regarding the course of action, you should follow the instructions of your doctor. However, you can make him aware (in a diplomatic manner) of the above.

            (Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXI, p. 436)

          9. received your letter, in which you ask my advice with regard to certain educational problems, especially how to influence the children to get rid of undesirable habits, etc.

            Needless to say, these problems cannot be adequately discussed in a letter. However, experienced teachers and educators are usually their own best guides, for, as the saying goes, “None is wiser than the man of experience.”

            Besides, it is difficult to give advice from the distance, especially as the psychology of children may vary in certain aspects from one country to another.

            Nevertheless, I would like to make one general point which can be universally applied in educational problems, a point which is emphasized in the teachings of Chassidus. I refer to the effort to make the children aware that they possess a soul which is a part of G‑d, and that they are always in the presence of G‑d (as explained in Chapters 2 and 41 of the Tanya).

            When this is done persistently, and on a level which is suitable to the age group and background of the children, the children come to realize that they possess a great and holy quality which is directly linked with G‑d, the Creator and Master of the world, and that it would therefore be quite unbecoming and unworthy of them to do anything which is not good.

            At the same time they come to realize that they have the potential to overcome temptation or difficulty, and if they would only make a little effort on their part they would receive considerable assistance from On high to live up to the Torah and Mitzvos, which constitute the will and wisdom of G‑d.

            As for the problem of some children having a habit to take things not belonging to them, this may fall into one of two categories:

            a. The attitude mentioned in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos “Mine is thine and thine is mine.” In this case the effort should be made to educate the child that just as it is necessary to be careful not to offend or shame another person, so it is necessary to be careful not to touch anything belonging to somebody else.

            b. An unhealthy condition which should be treated medically by specialists who know how to handle such an aberration.

            I would like to add one more point, which is also emphasized in the teachings of Chassidus, namely, to be careful that in admonishing children the teacher or parent should not evoke a sense of helplessness and despondency on the part of the child; in other words, the child should not get the impression that he is good-for-nothing and that all is lost, etc., and therefore he can continue to do as he wishes.

            On the contrary, the child should always be encouraged in the feeling that he is capable of overcoming his difficulties and that it is only a matter of will and determination.

            (From a letter of the Rebbe, dated In the Days of Chanukah, 5721)

        2. ב”ה, א’ מנ”א, תשט”ו
          הוו”ח אי”א נו”נ כו’ מו”ה [אהרן] שי’

          שלום וברכה!

          מאשרים קבלת מכתבו מט”ז תמוז, ות”ח על שולחו תמונת תלמידים-ות של בתי ספר אהלי יוסף יצחק ליובאוויטש במחנם הט’.

          ת”ח על הבשו”ט אשר התועדו בחג הגאולה י”ב וי”ג תמוז, גאולת נשיא ישראל וגאולתינו ופדות נפשינו, ובודאי משתדלים שההתעוררות תמשך בכל ימות השנה ובענינים של פועל, וכמאמר המשנה לא המדרש עיקר אלא המעשה.

          במ”ש אודות מר… שי’ מעיר בשאר, שסיפר לו מהנעשה עם בנו… שליט”א, וצריך הי’ להסבירו אשר אין זה חס ושלום ענין של שדים ר”ל, אלא ענין של בריאות הגוף בלבד, וכיון שבריאות הגוף תלוי’ בענינים רוחניים ואח”כ צריך לעשות גם בדרך הטבע, הנה יבדוק את המזוזות בביתו וכן את התפילין שלו, וכוונתי לא הבתים של התפילין מבחוץ אלא בעיקר הפרשיות שתהיינה כשרות כדין, והאם של הבן תהי’ זהירה בענינים של צניעות, ובעיקר בדיני וחוקי טהרת המשפחה, ולפני הדלקת הנרות בכל עש”ק וערב יום טוב וכן בכל יום חול של שני וחמישי בשבוע בבקר תפריש לצדקה איזה פרוטות-פראנק ובנם יהי’ לבוש טלית קטן וזהיר בכסוי הראש, ונוסף על זה ישאלו דעת ר-ו-פ-א מ-ו-מ-ח-ה ל-מ-ק-צ-ו-ע ז-ה ובעיר גדולה וכהוראתו כן יעשו, והשי”ת יזכם ויצליחם לגדלו לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים ושלם.

          במ”ש אודות מר.. שי’ שיש לו מיחוש בשער של עיניו וכו’ – הנה ישאל עצת רופא מומחה ויעשה כהוראתו, וכן יבדקו את התפילין שלו, ומכאן ולהבא יהי’ זהיר בקידוש ובהבדלה.

          כבקשתו יזכירו את כל אלה על ציון הק’ של כ”ק מו”ח אדמו”ר זצוקללה”ה נבג”מ זי”ע נשיא ישראל להמצטרך להם, ובודאי כשיהיו אצלו בשורות טובות בזה יודיע…


          בשם כ”ק אדמו”ר שליט”א



          1. So besides the wrong page numbers, which are probably just an oversight, you are misinterpreting what the Rebbe said.

            You are taking any time the Rebbe said רופא מומחה and translating it as psychologist, even when the context is clearly different.

            For example: Vol 25 is *clearly* talking about a physical ailment, and the Rebbe is stressing how it comes from a spiritual source.

            Vol 11 is also clearly talking about a physical ailment, and the one who had it decided it was from shedim, and the Rebbe explained how its not so, and suggested a spiritual remedy alongside going to a doctor for the *physical* ailment.

            Now, the fact that the Rebbe sent to phycologists at times is no chiddush. Of course some people need it! The question here is if that’s the default, and one should be trigger-happy to right away sent to a therapist of psychologist. If that would have been the case, the Rebbe would have sent thousands more, who asked about anxiety, phobias, laziness, and a host of other issues straight to therapists.

            But the Rebbe didn’t

            Again I ask: please stop misquoting the Rebbe for your agenda

  5. Thank You Reb Sholom Mordechai for your amazing and thought provoking article. i am staying focused on the 3 takeaways which are truly empowering. Clearly the Yidden rejected what the “wise” man was presenting in a logical argument, because they recognized that they were fulfilling the will of Hashem which destroys any logical counter argument, and they knew they would succeed as long as they were connected to the true power of the universe, Hakodosh Barich Hu.
    The Second Take away is, recognizing my motivation comes from a true place, my neshomoh, which gives me the self esteem knowing who i really am and what its really my motivation when i am doing Torah and Mitzvos.
    The Third Takeaway is simple also. There will be times in my life which may seem like a failure, but that does not take away my self esteem as a neshomoh, because i also know that Hashem gives me a Yetzer Horoh which is my life mission to overcome!
    Thank You for laying it out so neat and clear !

  6. I don’t know your basis for that statement, but no, not “every” issue of the Nefesh involves the physical brain and chemistry.

    Secular materialist assertions notwithstanding, the nefesh is not the sum of your brain chemistry, any more than a quadruple-amputated frog is deaf.

    Torah tells us that it’s a separate entity. It exists without the body before and after life in this world, and has intellect and emotions separate from brain chemistry.

    Yes – in life, the nefesh works through the guf so issues of with the body and brain can disrupt or distort the nefesh but that doesn’t mean the real problems of the nefesh are rooted in the body, which brings us to the key distinction you’re missing.

    Your point about identical brain chemistry, to the degree that it actually does have an effect is a defense of using the same pills as non-Jews do, where correctly prescribed. No one is disagreeing on that point. The address for that is a doctor, not a Rav or mashpia.

    The question is about ideas, attitudes, perspectives. They want to hide behind a white lab coat and be conflated with medical doctors, but if they’re giving you a speech, not a pill, they’re not treating your brain chemistry, they’re treating your nefesh. And for that, you definitely and exclusively should go to a Torah source.

    1. Brian chemistry can be altered with pills/chemicals, electricity, movement and behavior, environment shift, or thought-habits changes. Don’t pretend the Keli isn’t relevant for targeted interventions just because we can increase in Ohr.

      1. Of course issues can arise in the Keli and they should be addressed directly, but only the first two of your listed methods are even directly related to brain chemistry.

        Claiming that the rest of those methods work by modifying the brain chemistry and resulting in a healthier nefesh – as opposed to the other way around – is tenuous at best.

        A materialist, who doesn’t believe in the soul at all, has no choice but to make that claim. We _know_ there is a soul. Without dismissing the idea that the health of the mind and body exerts some influence on our nefesh, what justification is there for making this claim – that all issues of the nefesh involve the physical brain and chemistry?

        Particularly when the issue cannot be measured by a chemist and the proposed solution is not a medicine formulated by a chemist!

        The symptoms are in your mind and heart, the solutions are by adjusting your ideas and emotions, but the problem is chemical? Why??

        Sometimes chemicals are needed, granted. Sometimes the Keli is the problem, granted and acknowledged in Chassidus. The person is still primarily a nefesh, a nefesh given a mission and a burden – which often involves distress and dysfunction – to overcome through awareness of Hashem and through Torah and Mitzvos.

        The icing on the cake is the recent scandal on exactly this kind of theory of chemical imbalance. For four decades the world just asserted there was a link between depression and the brain chemical serotonin. Since then, society swallowed – and paid for – literally billions of pills. Recently an exhaustive study was undertaken and concluded that there is no robust empirical substantiation, there is no evidence for the claim that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.

        No one is saying to ignore the Keli and your health, but going back to the examples cited by “Question for the author” above, it’s only blindness or an ideological imperative to dismiss the nefesh/neshama dimensions and fixate on brain chemistry, and someone who takes that approach is not the one to help a Yid, as the article argues.

        1. Every issue in life involves all 3 Nefashos, whether it’s lack of feeling in Davening , losing a large amount of money, or phobia of bugs. Every therapist knows to help the client incorporate religion into their healing process. The point here is that the benefit of someone who specializes in the Keli and makes the Keli healthier and more able to absorb the Ohr is of great benefit.

          1. No problem. Just to clarify, based on the examples provided: We’re faced with problems in impulse control (alcoholism), relationships/Sholom Bayis, stunted character development (too reserved), self-esteem stemming from parental disapproval, paralyzing anxiety.

            We can go to
            A) someone who takes as his foundations theories of brain chemistry imbalances, evolutionary psychology, and the proven interventions that have shaped the shining examples of mental/emotional health we see in the world around us.

            Oh, and they also know to help their client incorporate religion into the healing process.


            B) someone who takes as his foundations the truth as revealed in Torah. Someone who is versed in the nature and interplay of the etzem haneshama, kochos hagluyim, and nefesh habahamis. Someone who invokes the truth of creation – the infinite power of Hashem and the fundamental powerlessness of everything and everyone else – and true purpose of life. Someone who knows the true measure of worth, tracing to our inherent connection with Hashem and the mission he gives each one of us.

            Oh, and they also know to help their client distinguish health and medical issues and seek targeted care.

            We’ve both made our cases as much as we can in a comment section under a web article. I know which one I choose, and I hope I’ve persuaded some of the readers, or at least given them food for thought.

            Good Shabbos.

        2. What background and education do you have in neurology and the nervous system of the body that you feel entitled to discuss the impact and overlap They have on each other, and how one can heal the other?

          1. That was a flippant answer to an irrelevant question. The real answer is I’m obviously not a neuroscientist, and just as obviously you don’t need to be a neuroscientist to know that the bedrock of the human being is not brain chemistry but the Divine soul.

            Yes, I know. Illness, imbalance, and immaturity of the brain/Keli has an impact, raised and acknowledged ad nauseam. The response to emotional issues will still by and large be the Torah, not the chemist or doctor, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. The Rebbe sent people to doctors for treatment. A doctor treats a person who is ill. Healthy people don’t go to doctors.

    The wave of therapy is of healthy people who have some emotional challenges (i.e. most people). That doesn’t require a doctor. That’s exactly where Torah living comes in.

    1. Many of the Rebbe’s recommendations were for medication from a psychiatrist.

      That shows even more that it was a medical condition that required medical intervention, sometimes medication sometimes psychotherapy. But it was not for healthy people with everyday hardships.

  8. Everyone agrees that when someone has a problem, whether it’s internal or external, it’s a good idea to talk it over with someone else. It’s even better if that person is somebody with experience with this issue. But if that person has spent much time reading the notes other people have written and the experiments they have done to figure out the best way to solve the problem, and has tried them with many people and has seen the success firsthand, then that person is less appropriate to consult. Very strange.

  9. You don’t want to discuss your issues with someone who has a worldview that has been tainted by secular thinking.

    You wouldn’t discuss your struggles in kedusha with a liberal therapist who doesn’t see anything wrong with it. In a somewhat more subtle way, when a person has spent hundreds of hours reading secular views on life (all drawn from observation of course, but we all know that observations are made and interpreted according to a certain worldview) – his way of thinking will become tainted.

    As chassidim, we want our approach to emotional wellbeing to be based purely on Torah thinking. Is there anything wrong with that?

      1. A worldview is not something specific that can be picked out. It’s like treif food cooked in a soup. You can’t just pick it out. It permeates everything.

        The Rebbe compared secular thinking to tumah which can’t be seen, but contaminates everything.

        1. Perhaps you can enlighten me as to which of the five interventions mentioned above for the five problems, which are things which any therapist, Jew, or non-Jew, would tell any client/patient, Jew, or non-Jew, but are incompatible with Torah and Chasidus? Obviously they don’t have the deeper greater perspective of Chasidus, but how would they not help a Chasid be a healthy person, and be more easily able to serve Hashem? Do you see somehow how is a compromise a Jew’s Avoda?

  10. When hearing of someone who had trouble sleeping at night, the Rebbe advised: 

    “Check the _mezuzos_ in your home. Before you go to sleep, read at least a few lines from the [Frierdiker] Rebbe’s _sichos_, and envision, to the best of your memory, his holy face. With Hashem’s help you will notify me that your sleep has improved…”

    (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 4, p. 206)

    _A Chassidisher Derher_

    Question: Is it inappropriate for a Yid do use other methods, such as making sure to go to sleep and getting up the same time every day of the week, exercising in the early afternoon, having a “winddown routine”, making sure the bedroom is 69°F, not looking at the clock, avoiding bluelight from electronic devices, sugar, or heavy exercise, three hours before bedtime, since the Rebbe didn’t mention any of these proven methods?

    The obvious answer would seem to be that it’s not the Rebbe’s job to cure your insomnia. It’s the Rebbes job to connect you to Hashem. If there is a situation where solving a persons difficulty presents an opportunity to increase their connection to Hashim, then it’s the Rebbes job to tune the person into that method. That does not mean the Rebbe disagrees with the researched and tested method. The same thing applies to other disorders besides insomnia.

    1. It’s disingenuous to compare avoiding sugar and blue light to modalities that teach you how to think. Those pose a threat of messing with your Yiddishkeit.

      Of course, there can be calming thought processes which are consistent with Torah, but that is often not the case.

      If goyishe tunes carries subtle goyishe messages, how much more so do goyishe ways of thinking. We need to be super vigilant, and not everyone can adapt/elevate goyishe ideas.

        1. It is naïve to think that you can easily separate the two. They are tightly intertwined and shaped by each other. As the adage goes, “The medium is the message.”

          1. It’s not naïve. It’s what I been doing for several years now with success BH without compromising Chasidishe values. It’s naïve to think they’re the same thing without having properly studied the topic.

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