Traditional Jewish Healing in Theory and Practice

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Guiding questions for self-awareness and change

Where am I in the world?

Where am I? What is troubling me? What is frustrating me? Which thoughts and feelings constantly recur? What do I find myself dwelling on? How do I see the problems and issues in my life? How do others see them - my spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters, friends, colleagues, teachers, employer, doctor, therapist, wider family, people in the community...?

Physical problems

Can I define specific problems and symptoms? What are my general health problems (e.g. fatigue, overweight, out of condition, discomfort...)? How do I feel about my body? My appearance? Do I think of my body as basically healthy or unhealthy? Do I have particular thoughts and feelings about the condition of particular organs: my heart, lungs, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, kidneys, bowels, brain, nervous system, sex organs...? What about my skin, blood, bones, joints, muscles, arms, hands, legs, feet? Which parts of my body do I feel to be unhealthy? Which parts are sound? What are the effects on my body of my way of life and behavior - diet, exercise or lack of it, work, family activities, social life, vices, addictions... ? What long-term changes do I need to institute? What three things could I do immediately to improve my health?

General problems and issues

Relationships: with spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters, relatives, friends, teachers, colleagues, boss, employees, others. Are my relationships easy/difficult, simple/complicated, fulfilling/frustrating?

Livelihood: work, career, obligations, commitments, debts... ma'aser (tithes) and charity.

Spiritual and emotional issues: self-image; personality traits, positive and negative; security vs. insecurity; calm vs. anxiety and tension; joy and enthusiasm vs. negativity, depression and despair. Creativity. Intellect. Level of knowledge in Torah, other areas. Devotion in prayer. Fulfilment of mitzvot. What are my fears? What beliefs do I have about life, death, God, the world, myself...? Which of my beliefs (e.g. about myself, what I am capable of, what people think about me, etc., etc.) limit my ability to achieve? What bad or self-destructive habits do I have? What mistakes do I make over and over? What have I done wrong in my life? My failures? Major sins? How are past mistakes affecting my current situation? How can I make amends?

Life-fulfilment: goals, projects: Torah study, mitzvot, career, family, community, organizations, the nation, the world.... What do I want in life? What do I yearn for? What is my purpose in this world? What are my unique capabilities (e.g. spiritual, intellectual, creative, artistic, domestic, scientific, mechanical, business, social, interpersonal)? What can I contribute to my family, friends, organization, community, the nation...? Am I coming closer to achieving my goals or drifting further away? Where am I in the world? How do the issues in my life relate to the Jewish People? Eretz Israel? The world as a whole?

Thinking positively

What do I have to be thankful about? What do I have to rejoice about? What is good about me? What are my good points? What are my growth points? How can I change my view of the things I see negatively and look at them in a more positive light - myself, my past, family matters, my economic and social situation, work, the community, situation of the Jewish People, that of the world? To what extent are my definitions of certain problems or ways of looking at them actually creating those problems? What is positive about the problems? How can I see them as part of God's plan for my ultimate good? What can I learn from my problems? How can I use them positively? How can I turn shortcomings, faults and flaws into advantages, assets and merits?

Changing things

What can I do practically to change what I want to change? What is up to me? What is up to others? What do I need to do in cooperation with others? What can I change in myself? What can I change in my home, at work, in my family, organization, community, country, the world in general?

What information do I require? What questions do I need to ask? What sources of information do I have (e.g. libraries, bookstores)? Who can I turn to for guidance and advice (e.g. rabbis, teachers, counsellors, specialist advisers, health experts)? What are the things that most inspire me (which books, music, etc.)? What can I do to inspire myself? What decisions do I have to make? How can I harness my motivational system to stop doing the things that are destroying my self and my life and to do the things that will bring me to the ultimate good?

Practical steps

What practical steps do I have to take to change myself and my life? What changes do I need to make in my lifestyle and daily routine: hisbodedus, prayer, Torah study, work, family life, general healthcare, diet, exercise...? Developing a game plan: goals, strategy and tactics. In order to accomplish my long-term goals, what will I need to do first? Long-term projects, short-term tasks. What things will I have to wait for to come about in due course, and what practical steps can I myself take now? What is important? What is urgent? What should take priority? What is of secondary importance? What do I want to accomplish this year? This month? This week? Today? Now? Writing a tasklist, workplan, timetable. Hisbodedus: What do I have to pray to God for? What do I have to emphasize and "nag" about persistently every day and in every prayer?

Some suggestions

Schedule hisbodedus today. Plan a stroll in a quiet park or the woods for an hour or so, or possibly longer. Arrange a weekend spiritual retreat. Schedule regular Torah study, including chassidut. Enroll in a class. Seek a study partner. Take a few minutes of quiet relaxation every day. Dietary changes: reduce or eliminate intake of coffee, refined sugar, excessive fat, etc.... Give more emphasis to grains and vegetables. Stop smoking and substance abuse. Do I need support to overcome an addiction? Start a regular exercise routine. Check out exercise plans.

Do I need to take a new step in my career, change my job, investigate a new synagogue or community, etc. etc.? Do I need help to develop a game plan to get out of debt? Do I have "unfinished business" with a parent, spouse, sibling, child, friend, colleague, acquaintance...? What practical steps can I take to heal relationships in the family, with friends, at work, in the community?

Choose one mitzvah to emphasize: e.g. Shabbat, tzitzit, tefilin, mezuzah, one of the festivals, visiting the sick, charity, acts of love and kindness.... Choose one trait to work on: e.g. selfishness, anger, insensitivity to others.... Try to put a little more time and effort into prayers and blessings. Rejoice over them! Sing an inspiring melody. Have faith and trust in God!



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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