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Psyched for Torah
Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
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As a practicing rabbi and a licensed psychologist, I believe that the wisdom and lessons from the Torah and the modern discoveries from the field of Psychology can be combined to create an ideal space for personal, communal and spiritual flourishing.
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Showing Results 1 - 10 (16 total)
Mistaken Anger
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
April 8th, 2021
On the Eight Day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, a celebration is in order as God’s Glory appears and a fire descends, symbolizing the successful acceptance of the sacrifices. Yet the elation turns quickly to tragedy, when another fire descends, but this time, to consume Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, after they offer a foreign fire on the altar. Aharon is silent. The ceremony must proceed as planned. The usual regulations of mou …
Mistakes Were Made
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
March 16th, 2021
In their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), Drs. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain the psychology behind why many of us have difficulty admitting mistakes. They describe the various tricks our brains use to defend our egos from noticing our shortcomings, including cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, naïve-realism, and memory distortions. The basic gist behind all of these tricks is that our mind “yearns for consonance …
Moments Ripe for Anger
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
March 9th, 2021
Before Moshe provides his long delineation of the details of the Mishkan, he begins with a brief message related to Shabbat, highlighting one specific prohibition: “you shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the day of Shabbat” (Shemot 35:3). Commentators are bothered as to the connection between Shabbat and the Mishkan and why the location of “your dwellings” is singled out for the prohibition; surely the prohi …
Appreciating Beauty
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
February 25th, 2021
How often do you feel awe, admiration, and elevation while witnessing beauty and excellence? Appreciation is one of the twenty-four character strengths and virtues outlined by psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman that enhance well-being. They define appreciation as the “ability to find, recognize, and take pleasure in the existence of goodness in the physical and social worlds.” Peterson and Seligman make an importan …
Knowing Nothing
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
February 18th, 2021
“The only thing I know, is that I know nothing.” This idea, known as the Socratic Paradox, lays the groundwork for the perspective that knowledge is not something to be attained. In the modern psychology and educational literature this is expressed in the distinction between achievement and mastery orientations. People who have an achievement orientation want to demonstrate that they have accomplished and learned, while those with a m …
The Dangers of Groupthink
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
February 9th, 2021
Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, NASA’s Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Psychologists have linked all of these tragic events to the concept of groupthink. As Dr. Irving Janis originally described in 1972 in in his pioneering book, Victims of Groupthink, groupthink occurs when likeminded people gather to make a decision, and due to social confor …
Emotional Responsibility
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
February 2nd, 2021
How can the Torah command us to feel or not feel certain emotions? Many of us are under the impression that our emotions just happen to us without our input and against our will. Something or someone pushes our emotional buttons, which triggers a neural circuit in our brain and causes a physiological reaction, and there is nothing we could do to stop it from happening. My coworker makes me angry, my spouse makes me happy, traffic makes me anxious …
Feed Your Brain
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
January 26th, 2021
We are generally aware that what we eat impacts our overall health and eating unhealthily can put us at risk for the development of numerous physical diseases. Yet, there is also mounting research that what we eat also greatly affects our intellectual abilities and our emotional health. Our diets affect the neurotransmitters in our brains which can impact our cognitive functioning and our moods. Diets high in refined sugar impair our thinking abi …
Fake It Till You Become It
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
January 19th, 2021
Sometimes a task seems too difficult, daunting, or incongruent with our personality that we elect to be passive.  We may garner some motivation for action from phrases such as “fake it till you make it,” but still feel resistant because we feel inauthentic or disingenuous to make it by faking it.   In one of the most popular Ted Talks and in her bestselling book “Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your …
Deep Breaths
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
January 13th, 2021
One of the first and most central interventions to help manage difficult emotions is deep breathing. When we feel intense emotions, such as anxiety, depression, or anger, our bodies tend to react physiologically by taking shorter and shallower breaths. By counteracting those quick and narrow breaths with a deeper breath, we increase the supply of oxygen to our brains, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, and signaling to our bodies tha …
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