When the Going Gets Tough-Coping with Life’s Challenges


WHEN the going gets tough… the preferred response is retail therapy.

When you are faced with a crisis it is not there to “break” you, but to bring out some hidden strength or ability from within you. By abandoning the attitude that the world is out to “get me,” you transform debilitating negative energy into positive practical energy, which you can then use to help me solve the problem. My challenge is to harness as much of the mental and emotional energy at your disposal and make it work for you, instead of letting pent-up anger and negativity drain you.

But, why me? Always me! Why does everyone else have it so easy?

First of all, it’s not true. Even though it may appear that everything goes smoothly for your neighbor, friend, or boss, it is simply not true. That person may not be going through what you are, but each person faces challenges tailor-made for him or her to bring out their unique hidden strengths and abilities. No one else has your set of abilities and weaknesses, therefore no one else has your set of personal challenges.

When a difficulty or problem comes your way, you must realize that it has never been presented to a person with your genetic or behavioral makeup ever before in world history. This is your special project or mission, for better or worse. It has your name on it. Only you can solve it or deal with it, in accordance with your unique set of abilities and weaknesses. Your neighbor’s marriage, job, house, and all of his or her issues are his to deal with. Looking over your shoulder or envying the situation of your neighbor is merely a waste of personal energy that you could be conserving to deal with your own challenges.

Let’s go to the source of the challenge itself. It is God who has personally sent you the challenge you are currently facing. God has put you into the universe at this particular time, in this place, and with a certain set of strengths and weaknesses, in order to invite you to make your unique contribution to the world—to, in fact, change and uplift the world. God personally engineers events and customizes challenges just for you, so that you can develop your personality and actualize your potential by facing, dealing with, and growing through the ordeal. The going does get tough, because God is sending you challenges, in order to have you focus on the issue at hand, in order to help you develop your personality through dealing with the issue, and become a better person in the process.

Let’s go deeper. “God” is really only one of the names of God. God’s “real” name is Ein Sof, which means Never Ending, or Infinite One, or Perfect One. He sometimes chooses to relate to us with His Attribute of Mercy. When He reveals His merciful side to us, we know Him—at that moment—as Harachaman, the Merciful One. But sometimes the Ein Sof relates to us with ordeals and challenges. Then He is known to us by His Attribute of Justice—as the True Judge. And sometimes the Ein Sof treats us as a guiding parent, and is known to us as “Avinu-“Father.”

All of these “names” are merely terms of reference for us to be able to better understand the nature of our relationship with the Ein Sof at a particular point in time. The common denominator of all of these names is that the Ein Sof is NeverEnding, unfolding and expansive. This does not mean that God is growing; it means that there is no limit to His growth.

The purpose of life—is to become as close to the Infinite One as is humanly possible. In order for us to come close, in fact, to actually become like the Ein Sof we have to expand, unfold, and grow in our personalities, values, knowledge, and character. For us to achieve this, the Ein Sof, of necessity must challenge us with issues, ordeals, crises, and problems, so that we can work through these issues, and grow and develop our character and horizons. Therefore, issues, ordeals, and crises are an essential part of the process of becoming the person you are supposed to become.

When God created man, He said, “Let us make man.” Who was the “us” in that statement? The traditional answer is that God used characteristics of the animal world with which to create man. He used the majesty of the lion, the tenacity of the tiger and the resourcefulness of the fox. He “borrowed” these traits from “us”—the created animal kingdom—and incorporated them in the makeup and composition of the human persona. Hence, God consulted with “us,” His “underlings,” His creations, in order to fashion the human psyche.

There is a second, and more instructive answer to the question: Does God have a partner in the creation of man? Actually, yes. The partner is man, himself. God is saying to man, “Let us, you and I, together, create you. Let you and I together contribute to the creation, the “becoming” of man.” Everything that God sends your way is designed to help you create and recreate yourself on a daily, ongoing, basis.

When the Ein Sof sends you a challenge, the basic question you must answer is the question implied within the challenge itself: What do You Want from me, Ein Sof? What are You trying to teach me with this challenge? How can I become a better person through dealing with the issues that You, Ein Sof, are presenting to me? A challenge is the Ein Sof’s way of tapping you on the shoulder and saying: expand, grow and achieve your potential. Become more like Me.

What if I find it difficult to maintain my faith in the face of excruciating difficulty? What if I sometimes feel God has abandoned me-since I don’t feel Him helping or guiding me at this particular point in time?

Let’s analyze this for a moment. There are many things in life that we can experience, even though we don’t see them. Electricity, radio waves and gravity, for example. These are all invisible forces that exert power in the world. They cannot be seen, but they can be felt, or experienced.

The Ein Sof is in everything and, at the same time, transcends everything. It is that which sustains the molecular structure of the universe—it is intimately connected with the world and everything in it. At the same time, it is the source of all that is found within the natural world—it is transcendent. The Ein Sof is imminent and transcendent at the same time. That is why we can feel close to God and simultaneously feel He is unknowable.

Not only is the Ein Sof the Creator of this amazing universe, He is also the Parent, Guide, and Supervisor of the world and everything in it. The Creator aspect of Ein Sof did not create the world, give it a spin and then go off for a holiday on one of His sandy white beaches in the Mediterranean. The Ein Sof is involved in guiding each and every individual in His world toward our own destiny, toward fulfilling our potential. He is a personal God. He is your personal God. It is through the challenges and issues that God presents to you, that He engages in a personal relationship with you. It is to the Ein Sof, the Source of your life energy, that you are asked to direct your dialogue, yearnings, and prayers.

You can also experience the Ein Sof, by becoming aware of the Ein Sof quality within you, that which is “Godly” in you—your soul. The Ein Sof plants a unique spark of His Essence in you, called the Soul, in order for you to be able to relate to Him.

Your soul is personal and unique, unlike any other. Whenever you experience a surge of meaning within your being, whenever you feel that there is something more to life than what you see—that is the movement of the Ein Sof within you. When, for example, you feel the sunset speaking to you that is the soul within you being activated. If you feel the mountain air revive you with renewed energy as you view a waterfall from a mountain ridge, you are experiencing the Infiniteness outside of you and within you.

The awareness and appreciation of your soul “self,” leads to an holistic sense of wholeness and inner tranquility. This is known as your soul state-which is your state of homeostasis–a state of equilibrium and inner contentment. I call it the soul state because it is the state of being which is aligned with God. When in this state you are put in the state of “being” that Hashem intended for you as your Godly state because, while in this state, you are feeling connected to God. This is a state of “daat”-knowledge of God-rather than merely, belief in God. In this state, you are experiencing Godliness—your own Divine Spark. This is your closest connection to God– and you feel relaxed, calm, at peace. You feel a sense of-wholeness-in this state everything is clear-you can achieve anything.

You can put yourself into your Soul State by experiencing your finest Godly Attribute. You can access this state by first imagining a beautiful landscape or place that you find relaxing and rejuvenating. It may be the Grand Canyon, the beach or a sunset. Go to that place in your mind and describe the landscape to yourself with all its colors, sounds, and scents. Feel the place. Experience the sense of calm and relaxation that you feel in this place. Now, realize that the reason you have this feeling of calm which arises when you go to this place of external beauty is because it merely reflects the Grand Canyon, the beach or the sunset, that resides in your inner self. Search your mind, psyche and, soul and find the warmest, most sensitive and relaxed part of yourself. That is the Grand Canyon, beach or sunset within you.

This feeling of wholeness and wholesomeness inside your psyche is there because the Grand Canyon inside you represents and actually is your awareness of your highest and best attribute. That is the reason that you feel calm and expansive when you see a beautiful place…because it mirrors and reflects your own beautiful place, inside you. When you focus on and contemplate this place-the place where your best attributes reside –the core of your real self-then you experience wholeness.  This is a taste of experiencing the real self-the real you.

These attributes can be consistency, never giving up, perseverance, leadership, compassion, graciousness, empathy, sincerity, patience, mellowness, chilled,  loving-kindness, integrity, creativity with ideas, music, art, forgiveness, and resilience.

When you contemplate, recognize and activate that attribute- the real part of your “self”, then you are truly alive-and that is why you feel whole.  When you are in this state of being nothing can throw you off track–because you are connected with truth-you know the truth. This the meaning of  daat—inner wisdom. You don’t believe it to be true-you know it is true.

In this state of being, “thoughts” of self-doubt are irrelevant. Thoughts are merely electrical impulses form the brain-they are not “real.” Sometimes you have positive thoughts which lead to good feeling, good mood and positive sensations in your body. Sometimes you have anxious thoughts, which lead to tense feelings, a depressed mood and stress in your body. Thoughts fluctuate and cause our moods to fluctuate. These thoughts are part of the world of fantasy-they are not real. The way to avoid the mood swings brought on by fluctuating anxious thoughts is to leave your head space-leave your thoughts-and go to your soul state. Here, no thoughts are relevant-because you are connected to daat–truth itself-to your Godly self.

Rabbi Yisroel Roll is a dynamic motivational speaker, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and depression, and the author of nine books on self-esteem. He has lectured in Canada, the USA, England, South Africa,When the Going Gets Tough Podcast 1 and Israel. Rabbi Roll is the Director of Believe in Yourself Psychotherapy, the UK Encounter Conference and served as the rabbi of the New West End Synagogue in London, England.

Believe in Yourself Leadership Training Seminar

Register and attend the 2 hour training seminar on March 3rd, 2019 from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM at Nefesh Academy  at 2005 East 17th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11229.

Registration includes The Believe in Yourself Student Roadmap Workbook.

Registration Fee: $18.00. This registration will entitle you to ongoing free consultations with Rabbi Yisroel Roll to discuss the program. Please send a check payable to:
Encounter USA
6204 Cross Country Blvd
Baltimore, MD 21215

For questions and more information about the seminar, please contact Rabbi Yisroel Roll at (410)585-0497 or YisroelRoll@gmail.com .

Registration form is below the video:

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Psychotherapist, Yisroel Roll, Rocks the World of Psychology with the Discovery of Conscious Therapy–the Unified Master Theory of Everything in Mental Wellness

A new therapeutic approach which merges the four existing main approaches to psychotherapy, namely, psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioral and existential, into one holistic approach called Conscious Therapy.

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BALTIMORE (PRWEB) July 30, 2018

In a ground-breaking new book, Conscious-the Art of Being, psychotherapist and motivational speaker, Yisroel Roll, unveils Conscious Therapy, the Unified Master Theory of Everything in Psychotherapy. Innovative, life-enhancing, and scientifically tested, Roll’s new therapeutic approach merges the four existing main approaches to psychotherapy, namely, psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioral and existential, into one holistic approach called Conscious Therapy. This new approach to therapy and self-knowledge reveals the driving force of personality, called “consciousness,” which is achieved through self-understanding, selfhood and identity formation.

This book is for the general public, psychotherapists, social workers, and educators, and will help readers discover:

  • Who you are
  • Your core self
  • Your core values
  • How to access your subconscious-mind, at will
  • How to heal the unfinished business and unresolved issues of your childhood
  • How to heal from emotional pain and move on with your life
  • Serenity
  • How to ground and center yourself when you are faced with a life challenge
  • How to self-actualize and achieve your potential

Conscious Therapy comprises a seven-step experiential therapeutic system which establishes the “Conscious Self” through awareness of the cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions of “self,” as follows:

1. Wheel of Strengths—Cognitive awareness of the clients’ intellect, social skills, character traits, spirituality, family contribution and personal growth.
2. Soul State—an emotional guided imagery experience which places the client in a holistic, positive frame of experiencing the “self.”
3. Circle of Control—a behavioral awareness of what the client can do to respond to stimuli and events which are outside her locus of control, by accessing those thoughts, actions, words and reactions, which are inside the client’s locus of control.

Defending the Conscious Self from Cognitive and Emotional Attacks:

4. Thought Highway—Client practices a mindfulness technique to recognize and allow negative thoughts to pass like trucks on a highway.
5. Becoming aware of Cognitive Distortions and replacing the distorted thinking with a positive mantra or affirmation
6. Inner Child—Becoming aware of and healing the emotional pain, and unfinished business of childhood emotional pain so that the Inner Child no longer controls the Adult Self.

Choosing Love over Fear; Achieving Consciousness by Choosing to Operate with Free Will
7. Client chooses the approach of self-love and validation over the paralyzing fear of anxiety.

The interactive strategies and techniques presented to the client require him to perform daily homework journaling exercises.

The book includes a study which examines the impact of Conscious Therapy on clients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A sample of 30 patients who are suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder were selected to receive bi-weekly sessions of Conscious Therapy over a period of five months, for a total of ten sessions. For data collection The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale were used. The results indicated that those patients who performed the weekly homework of Conscious Therapy during and between therapy sessions, reduced their self-reported anxiety symptoms by 3-81%. Those patients who did not perform the weekly Conscious Therapy homework did not reduce their anxiety symptoms.

The study’s major findings revealed that adherence to a program designed to increase consciousness was a predictor of reduced anxiety and better interpersonal functioning. Consciousness of a client’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions leads to “selfhood.” When a client discovers a sense of “self,” she can more readily cope with and handle a presenting challenge by marshalling her cognitive, emotional and behavioral strengths to solve or to cope with the challenge; this reduces the anxiety attendant upon the stressful process of dealing with a psychosocial stressor.

Physicists have been seeking the Theory of Everything (ToE) in Physics (also known as the Grand United Theory, Final Theory, Ultimate Theory, or Master Theory) which is a hypothetical single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe. One of the major unsolved problems in physics, scientists are now trying to find the underlying Theory of Everything to combine General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory into one unifying theory.

The author suggests that Conscious Therapy is the Theory of Everything in psychotherapy because it is an all-encompassing Experiential/Gestalt therapeutic approach which teaches a client about “selfhood” and the components of self, namely his mind, feelings and actions. The feelings are the central, driving force of personality, and Conscious Therapy guides a client to make a “conscious choice” between reacting with an instinctive, impulsive body response, or, reacting with a mind-based, thoughtful, cognitive response. Conscious Therapy helps a client access the “self” or “I,” in order to direct the “me,” and to react to the crisis or challenge in a conscious, healthy manner, thus reducing anxiety that is usually associated with dealing with stressful situations.

The book is an outgrowth of Yisroel Roll’s twenty years of individual and group counseling experience.

Twelve Boys and a Coach

Twelve Boys and a Coach

Rabbi Yisroel Roll

The Talmud teaches: Difficulty comes into the world only on Israel’s account. Yevamot 63a

What does this mean? Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, war, Chilean miners lost underground, and 12 boys and their coach lost in a cave in Thailand, all happen in order to teach the Jewish People about our destiny and how to grow in our collective and individual consciousness.

Over the past three weeks, the world has been gripped by the poignant and miraculous story of Twelve Thai boys, aged 11-16, from the Wild Boars soccer team, who were lost in a perilous underground cave for 10 days, until they were discovered and rescued by a international team of Navy Seal divers. As part of a soccer morale-building exercise, the Twelve boys were led by their 25 year old coach into the Tham Luang cave in Northern Thailand when it was relatively dry, as had been done by many teens before them. It was a rite of passage. They planned to write their names on a wall deep in the cave and then make their way out and back home.

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While the group was in the cave, monsoon rains filled the cave with flood waters, blocking their escape. They moved further into the cave until they were lodged 1.8 miles into the long cave, where they found an air pocket and a land ledge. There they waited in darkness with scarce food, depleting oxygen, and drinking rain water dripping from the cave walls, until they were miraculously found alive by British Navy seals on Day 10 of their ordeal. It would take a further 7 day complicated, sophisticated international team effort to extract them from the cave, and return them to their parents.

The Gemara in Yevamot is teaching us that God is “saying something” to the Jewish People though this ‘story.’ What is that message?

The Twelve Boys and their Coach, sound coincidentally similar to the Twelve Tribes, led by their father Yaakov, embarked on a journey into the darkness of Egypt, in search of food during a famine in Canaan. Soon they became enslaved in darkness, eating scarce rations, and prayed for redemption.   It is in this fiery furnace of slavery that they were forged into a nation through the horrifying crucible of Egyptian depravity, which matured their national character into greater sensitivity to the plight of others, humbled, compassionate and givers of kindness. As the Talmud teaches, This nation is distinguished by three characteristics: They are merciful, humble and benevolent. ‘Merciful’, for it is written, And show you mercy, and have compassion upon you and multiply you. ‘Humble’, for it is written, That His fear may be before you. ‘Benevolent’, for it is written, That he may command his children and his household, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice. Yevamot 79a

It is the appreciation for life itself, the air we breathe and the water we drink, that God is “speaking to us” and reminding us to prioritize an appreciation of our very lives. It is through a personal ordeal that we are reminded of our own vulnerability and how, when others show us kindness, and we are redeemed, that we need to become even more sensitized to the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves.

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While escaping the rising flood waters in the cave, the Twelve Boys and their Coach were saved by venturing deeper and deeper into the 1.8 mile cave by finding a dry ledge amidst the rising flood waters. On their way out of Egypt the Twelve Tribes, now forged into a nation, and their leader Moshe, walked through the sea, as the Torah states,   But the Children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Exodus 14:29. In life we have to seek an island of faith when faced with turbulent waters that threaten to engulf us physically and emotionally.  It is the seeking of the solid ground of faithfulness to God, the Reliable Ledge upon which we take refuge, that can redeem us from the turbulent waters of crisis.

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The operation to save the Twelve Boys and their Coach was perilous and impossible. On their way out of the cave there were places that the boys had to squeeze through passageways which were only 40 centimeters wide. King David, expresses what they must have felt, when he said, From the narrow straits I did call upon God; God answered me with expansiveness. (Tehillim 118:5) When in darkness, there is only one address to Whom to turn. This is the address of bitachon-the certainty of God’s Attention, as the Torah teaches us, But you have the LORD taken and brought forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be unto Him a People of inheritance, as you are this day. Devarim 4:20.

During the extraction of the boys from the cave, two Navy Seal divers accompanied each boy as they swam, dived, hiked and climbed toward their destination. The Talmud (Shabbat 119a) states that every Friday night there are two angels who accompany a person, on the way home from shul. One who encourages his growth, and the other who attempts to persuade him to remain as he is. Through the message of the Thailand boys, God is asking us to choose which direction we want to follow: growth or status quo.

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Judaism is not a religion; rather it is a system for personal growth. Prayer is really self-reflection and self knowledge; Shabbat is a time to reconnect with values and to restore relationships with family and the Creator; Torah study is focused on character development and personal growth by learning to walk in God’s ways, by emulating God’s  leadership, compassion, empathy, giving, truth, consistency, creativity, patience, forgiveness and reliance.



Perhaps the darkness of the Thailand cave ordeal itself and the meaningful lessons learned because of it, make us realize that the darkness really is light. And when we seek “redemption” we become conscious that the pain of the ordeal is itself the redemption, when we learn to grow in character from the experience, as the Vilna Gaon teaches that the purpose of life is to grow in character and to become the best person I can become.


Rabbi Yisroel Roll is a motivational speaker and a psychotherapist in private practice in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the author of Conscious-the Art of Being; and Like Yourself and your Spouse Will Too. He can be reached at yisroelroll@gmail.com

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You Chose This Life, So You Can Handle it: Rosh Hashana 11a

Yehoshua ben Levi said: All creatures of the creation were brought into being with their full stature, their full capacities, and their full beauty, as it says (Bereishis 2:1), “And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their hosts (tzevaam).” Read not tzevaam but tzivyonam (their desires).

Rashi comments on “לדעתן”: Hashem told them that they would be created and they agreed, and on “צביונם”: In the form that they chose for themselves.

Rabbeinu Bachya states that when every person is about to be created Hashem informs each of them of all the events that would happen to them, including the quality of their lives and the manner of their eventual death … including the quality of their livelihood, whether it would be plentiful or meager, whether they would be self-employed or employed by others. Every person wanted what they were shown and accepted their destiny.

Rashi states that Hashem asks each man if he wants to be created. This means, He asks them if they want to be created male or female, rich or poor, strong or weak, tall or short. And He also informs them of all the circumstances, incidents, and events that will occur to them in their lifetimes, and the quality of their life and their death — if by natural causes or an unusual death. And their livelihood, if with ease of with difficulty; if they want to be self-employed or to work for others. And in the precise way that one wants to be created, G-d creates him.

The Shaar bas Rabim further notes: Each man chooses his own form and circumstances and chooses exactly the way in which he is created; before he is born he sees, while still in Shamayim, that which is truly beneficial for him in order to be worthy, through the circumstances of his life in this world, to enter the World to Come, in accordance with his previous incarnations and based on what he needs to correct. In Shamayim, it is known what a man must achieve in this world.

The sefer Sheva Yipol Tzaddik (Rav Yitzchak Tufik) adds: Therefore, no man can complain that his fellow man was created differently from him, because he chose his own life circumstances.

When we are in the midst of a crisis or challenge, our emotional self can become overwhelmed with confusion and distress. We tend to respond to a crisis in one of three ways:

  1. Denial — “I cannot handle this. This situation is too difficult for me.”
  2. Jealousy — “Why do others have it so easy? Why can’t I have my neighbor’s life?”
  3. Anger — “Life is not fair. Why do I have to go through this?”

These are all normal, understandable reactions to crises. The truth is, however, that we can handle the crisis and either solve it, learn to deal with it, or learn to cope with our inability to solve it. As an analogy: Imagine a surgeon preparing to perform an experimental medical procedure for the first time. He completes his research, consults with colleagues, tests the medical equipment, and ensures that the computer’s software is operational. He feels ready and enters the operating theater. As the procedure is underway he may feel overwhelmed or lose focus, but he utilizes the calming techniques he learned during his surgical training and reminds himself that he does in fact have the training, knowledge, equipment, and ability to perform the procedure. Once he grounds himself emotionally, he is able to complete the procedure.

Let us apply this analogy to the above Gemara. When each of us was about to be created we were given the intellect, emotional abilities, stamina, and talents to handle the challenges we knew we were going to face. G-d showed us the matter that we needed to rectify and accomplish in our lives, and that we asked for, and G-d provided us with the self-worth, competence, tools, and strengths to achieve our particular mission. As we are in the thick of our challenging lives, however, we may become overwhelmed by a particular challenge and temporarily forget what we learned and feel that we cannot go on. This is the meaning of the statement in Chazal that we learned the entire Torah while in the womb and at birth an angel struck our lip and we forgot the Torah we learned. (Niddah 30b)

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah, above, is teaching us an essential lesson, perhaps one of the most important life messages: you can succeed. You know the mission that you were sent here to accomplish, and you agreed to it before you were born. You were shown what you needed to achieve and you accepted the task. You were given the tools to complete the job. Now, you must exercise bitachon — in G-d and in yourself — and know with confidence that you can surely accomplish the task, simply because it’s been given to you. The very fact that you are facing this challenge means you can succeed in it.

The Ramban tells us that a person is not given a challenge that he cannot achieve. The Ramban comments (Shaar HaG’mul): “Hashem only tests a person whom He knows can handle the test.

The Torah states (Bereishis 1:11) “ And G-d said: “Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree bearing fruit after its kind whose seed is within it upon the earth,” and it was so. Rashi comments on the words “פרי עץ — fruit tree” that the flavor of the bark should have been like the flavor of the fruit. But the earth did not do so. Rather, the verse states: “And the earth brought forth trees yielding fruit,” but the tree itself was not fruit. Does a tree have free will that it can decide whether to fulfill Hashem’s will? A tree represents process of production and fruit represents goal, or purpose. The tree, with its systems of photosynthesis, xylem, and phloem is the production machinery that eventually produces the result: the fruit. Hashem commanded that the process and the product “taste the same.” Hashem intended that the taste, the essence, should be experienced just as much during the process of production as in the result. In other words, Hashem intended that we understand the process of becoming who we are supposed to become is as meaningful as the result or eventual outcome — being a fully developed person. However, the tree did not grasp this.

In this world we see the process of becoming who we are supposed to become as a painful process. It tastes to us as bitter as the bark of the tree. We see the process of ordeals and crises as separate and distinct from the eventual result. Therefore, in this world, we see the process as bitter and the result as sweet. We fail to see the connection between process and result. We fail to see that in order to taste the sweet fruit we have to go through the process of producing the fruit and becoming the person we are supposed to become. In this world, we experience the pain of challenge and ordeals as bitterness and darkness. We are unable to appreciate that these pains are actually birth pains — of the self we are destined to become. We fail to realize that the pain and the result are one and the same.

Gan Eden — the goal of our lives — is comprised of trees to teach us that destiny is achieved through a combination of production and result: bark and fruit. When we get to Gan Eden — the World of Truth — we will then see the truth, that each of us had to go through crises and ordeals in order to become the person we have become. In Gan Eden we will realize that the bitter process of growth is as tasty as the fruit. We will say, “Now I realize why I had to go through that ordeal. That was what shaped me into the person I have become.”

According to the Gemara cited above (Rosh Hashanah 11a) each person knew this when he was in the World of Souls and agreed to undertake the mission of becoming himself. Our task is to realize and integrate this while in this world — and to seek the taste of fruit in the bitterness of the process.

The greatest gift that Hashem has given us is to be able to grow closer to Him, as David HaMelech says (Tehillim 73:28) “But as for me, the nearness of G-d is my good.” We have the opportunity to come closer to Hashem by acting like Him. This is how we must approach each challenge, as difficult as it may seem when we are going through it. It is up to us to live with the awareness that the challenge being sent to us is meant to bring out a character trait within us that will help us better emulate Hashem and achieve our destiny.

1861 Kugels

I have been married for 30 years. Every Shabbos and Yom Tov my wife makes the best kugel in the free world—potato, lokshen, sweet and Yerushalmi –she surprises us.  Since there are approximately 50 Shabbosos and 12 days of Yom Tov per year, she makes 62 kugels every year. Multiply that by 30 years of marriage and my wife has delighted me and our family with 1860 kugels.

And what is my response? Every single Shabbos and Yom Tov I have thanked her warmly for each kugel—and I have paid attention to detail; Yerushalmi, Sweet, Potato, Raisin… And yet, after all these expressions of love on my part, she still says, “You are just not “there” for me.”  I just don’t get it.

I try to be an expressive and appreciative husband and I have kindly thanked her for all the kugels– and all the meals— and all the carpools, and even her teaching salary that brings income into the family—and still—I am not “there” for her? What more could she possibly want and what more can I possibly do? I am ready to give up.

The key to unlocking this problem, which I have encountered hundreds of times in my counseling office, is learning the art of emotional support. My definition of being a good husband is working hard, being polite and thankful for all that my wife does, provide for the family as best I can, learn Torah, lead the Shabbos table, and thank her for every kugel. My wife’s definition of a good husband is all those things, but with one addition–being emotionally supportive of her and the children. I never learned the art of emotional support in chosson classes and I must have been absent when “they” gave out emotional support.

So you know how I learned it? My wife taught me. She explained to me what she needs from me—feedback of not only what she does—but input and my noticing who she is. There is a huge difference between what a person does, and what a person is.

In order to discover who you “are” let us use the following Wheel of Strengths  and fill in two strengths you have in each category. Here are some questions to help you input the answers:

Intellect: Are you a good conversationalist, street smart, havecommon sense, strive to learn more each day. Are you a problem solver?

Social: Are you a loyal friend, outgoing, helpful, a good listener, kind, reliable, a confidante, able to keep a secret, involved in visiting the sick, involved with social-action projects?

Spiritual: Do you see Hashem’s hand in nature? Are you inspired by music, sunsets, long walks in the country? Are you ethical; honest? Do you pray?  Do you feel close to G-d? What aspect of Judaism inspires you? Shabbos, learning, chesed, tefillah?

Accomplishments: Are you helpful? Do you work out, do chores, help neighbors, make dinner, and organize the house? How have  you  grown as  a  person  in the past  two years? What  attribute  are  y ou  working on?

Family: Are you a contributing member of your family, emotionally supportive of spouse and children, playful, committed to spending time with family, loyal, dedicated?

Personality/Middos: According to the Tomer Devorah, when you contemplate Hashem’s Thirteeen Midos of Rachamim, you are obligated to identify the parallel middah that Hashem has instilled in you. In other words, Hashem’s middos, when expressed in our lives are:

  • Hashem, Hashem-Consistency, never giving up, perseverance
  • Kel-Power and Leadership, Strong Will, Assertive
  • Rachum-Compassion for the physical needs of others
  • Chanun-Graciousness, Empathy for the emotional needs of others,  Sincerity
  • Erech Apayim-Patient, Mellow, Laid Back
  • Rav Chessed-Loving-kindness
  • Emes-Truth, Integrity
  • Notzer Chessed-Creativity with ideas, music, art
  • Noseh Avon Vapheshah V’Chataah-Forgiving nature
  • Nakei-Resilience.  The ability to bounce back and start again.

When you contemplate, recognize and activate the one or two attributes which are your strongest attributes—that is the real you—the part of you which is an expression of Godliness. When you use those attributes you become truly “alive”-and that is why you feel shleimus when you live these midos. This is who you are—because with these midos you are emulating Hashem—and are fulfilling the mitzvah of V’halachta B’drachav—to walk in His Ways.

If you use this Wheel of Strengths—one for your yourself and one for your spouse–and comment and give each other feedback every day of something constructive your spouse did that day—you will be noticing much more than simply what he or she does—you will be recognizing who they “are.” This is how you can “be there” for your spouse– by validating her midos and values—not just her kugels and carpools.

This Shabbos my wife will be making Kugel Number 1861. But when I point out to my wife which midos she used this week—from her  Wheel of Strengths–I will graduate to “being there” for her.  I will say, “I appreciate the effort and love you put into making that kugel to enhance our Shabbos.” This is called emotional support. And the kugel will be amazing too.

Workshop Testimonial from Dallas

I received this letter, written by Jackie Moskowitz Shafron, after facilitating a workshop in Dallas, Texas. What a powerful testimonial!

Thank you Andi for helping us arrange the Conference Room for Rabbi Roll!  It was a true success…not only did teachers, Rabbis, and therapists show up, but we had professionals from Mesorah, TDSD, Levine, Akiba and JFS which made it even MORE amazing.  It was truly a unifying experience as we all brainstormed ideas of how we can best serve all of our Jewish students, regardless of what school they attend!  Rabbi Roll suggested a follow up, perhaps once a month, with a staffing group whereby we all discuss/brainstorm creative strategies to help our students succeed.  We talked about having have mental health professionals  attend these groups and use Rabbi Roll’s framework of “Wheel of Strengths,” which we were all exposed to vis a vis his Sunday presentation, to generate creative ideas and solutions for difficult cases.  (Obviously, no names or identifying information is needed; this is confidential and the way in which we speak about students will be general and anonymous).

The goal is to come up with various strategies and ways to help children connect with their own internal gifts/strengths, which may likely NOT be academic in nature.  Obviously, only a small percentage of children are in the top 10 to 20% of academic excellence.  These students are typically nurtured by an academic environment since they excel in such.  They are able to develop positive internal constructs of themselves and internal models of competency and self esteem based on academic performance and school functioning.  However, many children do not fall into that category.  The question is how can we be certain that we, as educators, parents, Rabbis, etc. maximize  every single student’s unique potential for success and internal constructs of competence, especially if it does not fall within the traditional academic realm.  The workshop encouraged and challenged us to create in-school programming, in-class activities, and specific, consistent cognitive strategies that support students’ positive self-reflection, especially those within the non-academic purviews, and to begin such in the early grades.

It was so wonderful to have everyone sharing and supporting one another.  We really thank you for enabling this to happen at Akiba.  It was truly a Kiddush Hashem!!  And Rabbi Roll was an amazing workshop facilitator, as he brought to the forefront an important topic that teachers and educators, as well as mental health professionals, struggle with daily.  How do we ensure that each beautiful child can experience their own internal gifts/strengths/character traits, given to them by Hashem, and use these internal constructs as protection or ‘armor,’ if you will, against negative events.  (We know that the numbers of children being diagnosed with anxiety/depression or some combination of the two has been rising at alarming rates!).

This aspect of resilience is a psychological construct that has gained center stage over the last decade and is, along with IQ and academic achievement, a most powerful predictor of future success.  We must arm our children with their ‘Wheel of Strengths,” given to them by the Almighty Creator, nurtured and expanded by parents, family, school, teachers, Rebbeim and educators, and ultimately internalized by students to create a grounded sense of their own unique selves that can sustain life’s battleground.  We all want our children to be adequately prepared for the world, and to be resilient enough to get back up when the world knocks them down.  Sheva Yipol Tzadik V’kam (A tzadik falls seven times and gets up) — we need to focus on helping our children know how to get back up!

Ivan is arranging for Rabbi Roll to return some time after Pesach.  I will keep you posted!

Thanks again!


Jackie Moskowitz Shafron