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There are surprising points of agreement and conflict between rabbis and psychologists. ∞ For instance, Jewish law prescribed the correct deadline for treating trauma 500 years ago, while the psychology guidebooks have just caught up with it. ∞ Sigmund Freud concentrated on analyzing childhood traumata and turned a blind eye to the effect of violent anti-Semitic oppression on his Jewish patients.

B’OR HA’TORAH JOURNAL OF SCIENCE, LIFE AND ART IN THE LIGHT OF THE TORAH

A peer-reviewed journal on the interrelationship of Judaism, science and technology, psychology, the arts, and social issues, B’Or Ha’Torah illuminates a range of topics from the cosmology and ecology of Genesis; the creation ex nihilo vs. evolution and faith vs. reason debates; the views of halakhah (Jewish law) on stem cell research and genetic engineering; and the soul-mind-brain-memory-body connection. Rabbis and religious Jews with no science background as well as professionals in all fields with no Torah background can enjoy this inspiring publication in hardcopy and digital formats.

To receive a free PDF file of an individual article, send the author, title, and volume number to:
bht@jct.ac.il
This offer is limited to three articles.

Rabbi Arthur Seltzer, PhD

In analytical psychology, the shadow is understood to be that part of ourselves containing material suppressed and hidden from consciousness. This unconscious material is difficult for the conscious mind to access or comprehend, yet its influence is profound. C.G. Jung writes that to attempt to ignore or suppress shadow material is to perpetuate its neurotic hold over us. Only through recognizing and incorporating the shadow as an integral part of the conscious self do we become truly whole and transformed.

The above may be compared with hasidic psychology which speaks of each person possessing an animal soul and a divine soul. It is only through the supremacy of the divine soul over the animal soul, accompanied by the subsequent transformation of the animal soul itself by the divine soul to Godliness, that an integrated and transformed personality can rise in its spirituality. This transformation, elevation, and incorporation of the unconscious/animal soul to consciousness/Godliness is the essence of the spiritual quest.

Seymour Hoffman, PhD

In this paper several examples of ‘therapist-friendly’ and ‘therapist-unfriendly’ responses and views of prominent contemporary rabbis to questions dealing with halakhic-psychotherapy issues are presented. Therapist-friendly responsa are defined as rabbinic rulings that do not encumber the Torah-observant psychotherapist in practicing his profession; in some cases, the therapist-friendly responsa even facilitate the Torah-observant psychotherapist. I shall first present several examples of therapist-unfriendly halakhic rulings and comment on them. Then I shall present examples of therapist-friendly responsa, followed by my comments and those of another Torah-observant therapist.

Rabbi Mois Navon

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Hanina said that one who is commanded to perform mitsvot (commandments) receives a greater reward for doing a mitsvah than one who is not commanded to keep the Torah receives for doing the same good deed, even if it is out of the goodness of his heart. Tosafot and the Ritva interpret Rabbi Hanina’s principle to mean that human nature resists obeying external demands. Therefore the person who exerts greater effort to overcome his or her evil inclination deserves greater merit. Moreover, although it might sound paradoxical, choosing to obey the command of G-d is the only arena in which we truly can express free will.

Aaron Rabinowitz, PhD

Advocates of a rapprochement between religion and psychiatry-psychology promote a dialogue between the two. Recently, numerous books and scholarly papers have appeared which reflect a more sympathetic attitude towards religion and spirituality, replacing the antagonistic attitude which had previously prevailed. This is so both on a theoretical level and in the practice of psychotherapy. This paper addresses the use of Torah spirituality as an integral part of the process of psychotherapy.

Judaic spiritual psychotherapy, as I practice it, makes use of three principles: 1. the concept of the unconscious as promulgated by Rabbi Yisroel Salanter (Lipkin); 2. the importance of interpersonal relationships rooted in the Torah ideal of a covenantal community; 3. enhancement of one’s self-image stemming from the realization that humans are created in the Divine image.

Therapy can help the client cement his/her relationship with the Almighty formed at Sinai, leading to greater psychological health. This is accomplished by integrating Torah concepts as articulated by our sages and later talmudic luminaries, including the teachings of the hasidic masters and musar teachers. Case studies are presented which illustrate this form of psychotherapy.

Nathaniel S. Lehrman, MD

Two fundamental errors underlie Freud’s psychoanalytic work:

  1. His denial of the fundamental Jewish view that the conflicts between the needs of society and an individual’s sexual drives can be resolved by a satisfying marriage;
  2. His belief that an investigation of supposed childhood roots is necessary in order to correct the psychiatric symptoms that a patient has today.

In this paper I shall argue these two points in an anecdotal manner, based on my over-fifty years of experience working in psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

Judith S. Bendheim Guedalia, PhD

The aim of this paper is to propose the introduction of a communal ritual as a posttrauma early intervention technique. There are specific community-oriented methods for dealing with trauma survivors; we believe that, in particular, the Jewish ritual of Birkhat Ha’Gomel (the blessing recited when saved from danger) is helpful for reducing chronic effects of trauma. Similar posttrauma traditions are seen in other ethnic groups, such as the Navajo; those will be briefly discussed as well. It is important to note that therapies that are currently employed as the result of years of research have many similarities to those rituals that have existed for thousands of years. When providing early intervention for a trauma survivor, it is important to be aware of culturally appropriate treatments as well as the most commonly used professional methods. A combination of these techniques may be effective to alleviate acute stress disorder and prevent chronic posttraumatic stress in the general public.

Yaacov Lefcoe, MA (Psych)

This paper outlines an approach to integrating the Habad Hasidic practice and philosophy of meditation with some contemporary psychological thought on ‘object relations’ and personality development within the God relationship. A bridging concept, the shiura or internal ‘God representation,’ assists in drawing a comparison of complementary models of personality changes that can occur in a person’s relationship with God, particularly as cultivated through Jewish contemplative meditation (hitbonenut). We focus on the insights of contemporary psychological theorist Moshe Halevi Spero. Some implications and ways of using this complementarity are explored.

Professor Samuel W. Spero

Is the potential to receive extrasensory communication in dreams a natural phenomenon? What is the Jewish view? Is it measurable and amenable to experimentation?

A series of experiments relating to this last question were conducted in the Sleep Laboratory of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. These experiments verified to a high degree of scientific validity that extrasensory communication is indeed possible. After describing these experiments and their results, I shall give the explanation of psychic dreams offered by Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzatto (the Ramhal).

Is the potential to receive extrasensory communication in dreams a natural phenomenon? What is the Jewish view? Is it measurable and amenable to experimentation?

Rabbi Aaron Eli Glatt, MD

Brit milah (ritual circumcision) is a fundamental commandment of Judaism. First performed by our forefather Abraham nearly four thousand years ago, most of the laws and rituals regarding this precept are based upon the Oral Law and tradition.

Three recent scientific articles and case reports postulate that there may be an increased risk of certain infectious diseases (particularly herpes simplex genital infection) in Jewish babies who undergo metsitsah be’peh (oral suction) as part of brit milah. This paper will provide an historical and halakhic overview to metsitsah be’peh and discuss the different halakhic opinions regarding how it should be done. I shall review the infectious diseases potentially involved and the risk and evidence for mohel (circumciser) transmission of contagion during metsitsah be’peh, and conclude with practical rulings from great sages and adjudicators. In the final analysis, each family must consult its own rabbi for advice.

The author has reviewed the transcript of this paper, but much detail has been sacrificed for the cause of brevity.

Rabbi Barry M. Kinzbrunner, MD

The Terri Schiavo case sparked tremendous controversy in the United States and abroad regarding how to best care for patients near the end of life. For Jewish patients in similar situations, halakhah (Jewish law) provides the guidance necessary to make appropriate decisions. The issues raised by Terri Schiavo’s case will be explored in this context: 1. Whether and under what circumstances medical interventions may be refused by, withheld from, or withdrawn from terminally ill Jewish patients—including artificial nutritional support; 2. The conditions under which Jewish patients may execute advance directives consistent with halakhah; 3. The halakhic definitions of terminal illness vis à vis the medical definition of a persistent vegetative state (PVS). It is concluded that:

Withholding life-prolonging interventions in terminally ill patients is permitted under certain circumstances, while withdrawing is generally not. Artificial nutritional support is considered basic care by most rabbis and must be provided to the terminally ill patient in a way that is beneficial and not harmful. Advance directives are permissible as long as they are compatible with Jewish law. PVS is not a terminal condition under Jewish law. Therefore, according to halakhah, Terri Schiavo was not terminally ill. Halakhah would not have allowed her feeding tube to have been removed because withdrawal of treatment is generally forbidden and a feeding tube would not be considered an impediment to death. The removal of the feeding tube would be considered a direct cause of her death.

Sarah Yehudit Schneider

Based on a midrashic tale about the sun and the moon (Talmud Hulin 60b), Jewish mystical writings identify seven stages of waning and waxing that mark the feminine life cycle. They apply on all scales from the span of an individual woman’s life to the history of creation (for the entire period of existence from the beginning of time to its end is but a single circuit of the moon). In the seventh and final stage, woman stands equal and opposite to man and they meet for the first time as spiritual, intellectual, and emotional mates. This perfect marriage has been our (perhaps unconscious) yearning for six thousand years, and from its consummation flow all the promised blessings of the world to come.

This article is taken from the author’s book, Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of Masculine and Feminine, which builds its thesis upon the following texts: Rabbi Isaac Luria’s Diminishment of the Moon, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag’s commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Shlomo Elyashiv’s Diminishment of the Moon, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s Orot Ha’Kodesh, Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Ha’Levi Epstein’s Meor V’Shemesh, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s commentary on the prayer book.

Alexander Poltorak, PhD

There is an apparent discrepancy between the cosmological age of the universe, estimated at twelve to fourteen billion years, and the ‘biblical’ age, believed in the Jewish tradition to be less than six thousand years. This paper is a sequel to “On the Age of the Universe,” presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah and Science (1999) and published in B’Or Ha’Torah 13 (2002), which aimed to resolve the contradiction from the point of view of the collapse of the wave function in the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.1 I shall now approach the problem from the slightly different point of view of the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

Professor Nathan Aviezer

Most people believe that the first chapter of Genesis—the Torah account of Creation—has great moral value, but that these verses cannot be taken literally. We shall show that, in complete contrast to this widespread misconception, current scientific evidence is in remarkable agreement with the literal words of the Torah account of the origin and development of the universe. Recent discoveries show that the first chapter of Genesis records the events that actually occurred in the past. To establish our thesis, we shall draw on the latest scientific findings from diverse fields. It will be seen that faith in G-d and accepting the truth of the Torah do not require the abandonment of rational thinking. On the contrary, scientific findings supporting the Big Bang Theory have become important tools for understanding many biblical passages and for deepening one’s faith. Modern science imparts new insights and deeper meaning into the eternal words of the Torah.

Professor Cyril Domb, FRS

In 1961, the London Chronicle invited physicist Cyril Domb to write on whether the Big Bang or Steady State theory was "better" for Torah-observant Jews. To Professor Domb’s surprise, after the article was published he received a lengthy letter of comment from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson. The Rebbe both gave pointed criticism and encouraged Professor Domb to become more engaged in educating Jews to resolve apparent contradictions between Torah and science. This led to a correspondence which has never before been published. In Professor Domb's reply to the Rebbe and in the Rebbe's additional two letters, a number of fundamental issues are clarified. The Rebbe’s letters reveal a leader immersed in Talmud, Hasidism, and physics and in the dynamics of activating his fellow Jews.

Long before in 1950 he became the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe (the spiritual leader of the Habad Lubavitch hasidic movement), as a young man Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson studied natural sciences and philosophy in Berlin and Paris and received a degree in engineering from the  Polytechnic Institute of Paris. These studies were in addition and secondary to his life-long immersion in Torah study and Jewish activism. After his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitshak Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, moved the center of Habad Hasidism from the Soviet Union to the United States, he joined him and started work as a naval architect at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in highly classified projects that helped defeat Nazi Germany. Part of the Rebbe’s dynamic world-wide struggle against assimilation was to convince modern Jews that science does not negate the truth of the Torah. The correspondence that he initiated with Professor Cyril Domb is just one example of how the Rebbe reached out to millions of fellow Jews, giving guidance and encouragement to live according to the Torah and teach others to do so also.