Jewish Psycho-Spiritual Education

I have had a life-long personal and professional interest in the integration of psychotherapeutic perspectives and methods with  traditional Jewish understanding of ritual practices, sabbath and holy-day celebrations, text study, and the I-Thou relationship with Spirit as a process of psycho-spiritual development. I have written extensively on these topics as well as given presentations, taught classes, and facilitated workshops – nationally and inter-nationally on topics including:

Faces of Light: the Evolution of our I-Thou Relationship with God – Many of us have difficulty with the concept of God. Even more problematic is the notion of an I-Thou relationship with Spirit. Often, we reject an understanding of God that is based upon childhood conceptions. In Jewish tradition, the essence of God is unknowable; we experience God in a variety of ways. In this program, participants gain understanding of the many possibilities and have the opportunity, using visualization and theater improvisation techniques to redefine their concepts that is the basis for an I-Thou relationship with this deepened understanding of Spirit.

Mirrors in Time: The Psycho-Spiritual Journey through the Jewish Year – Each Holy-Day, according to Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch, is a mirror, enabling us us to see ourselves in a new way as we immerse ourselves in the story, the ritual practices, and the liturgy. That insight is transformative. Seeing ourselves in the light of the holiday allows us to clarify and commit to the next steps in our psycho-spiritual development. A new aspect of our spirituality develops through the course of the year, with each Holy-Day serving as a stage of that development. In this program, participants gain understanding of the cycle of the year, and apply that understanding to reflect on their own spiritual development through meditation and prayer, guided imagery, music and drawing.

The Neurobiology of Teshuva – Humans are imperfect. We all inevitably experience an inner struggle between the Nefesh Behemit – the animal soul – and the Nefesh Elohit – the Divine soul. We do not always make the best choices or do what is right. However, we have the capacity to observe ourselves, to reflect upon our actions, thoughts, and feelings, and to improve ourselves, a process known as Teshuva. In this program, participants gain understanding of  traditional Jewish perspectives of the nature of imperfections and the process of self-improvement as well as understanding recent advances in brain science that are consistent with the traditional views of Teshuva. This understanding provides the basis for applying that knowledge to focus and strengthen our own work to improve ourselves, utilizint meditation, guided visualization, expressive arts, and discussion.

The Neuroscience of Musar -  Musar is a traditional program for self-improvement that has, in recent years, experience a refinement and revival. In this program, participants will develop understanding of some of the key concepts of Musar. We will also explore the parallels between the teachings and practices of Musar with contemporary understanding of processes in the brain that enable us to observe ourselves as well as to interrupt and inhibit habitual, dysfunctional, unconscious or sub-conscious reactions and responses. As we learn to become aware and inhibit, we then have the opportunity to explore new possibilities. Integrating our understanding of Musar with brain science, we will apply what we have learned to strengthen our efforts to improve ourselves, utilizing some traditional practices of Musar.

For more information, contact me
via email to joel@ziffgroup.com or via phone to 617-965-3932.

 My publications on topics related to Jewish Psycho-Spirituality include the following:
Mirrors in Time: The Psycho-Spiritual Journey through the Jewish Year,
Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996.
Lev Tuviah: On the Life and Work of Rabbi Tobias Geffen,
Rabbi Tobias Geffen Memorial Fund, Newton, Massachusetts, 1988. (Editor)
Partzufim - Faces of Light: On the Evolving Relationship with God” in The Fifty-Eighth Century. Jason Aronson, 1996.
“Shabbat as Therapy; Psychosynthesis and Shabbat Ritual”, Journal of Psychology and Judaism, Vol 7:2, Spring/Summer, 1983.
“The Neuroscience of Musar, “Self-published article, 2011.
“The Neuro-Biology of Teshuva”, Self-published article, 2011.