NEFESH: The International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals
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Psyched for Torah
Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
Click here to view my clinical profile
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 - 16 (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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 …
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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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Bystander Effect
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
January 4th, 2021

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed and killed in Kew Gardens, Queens. The New York Times reported that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, and nobody did anything to help. This article (which was later shown to be exaggerated) motivated social psychologists John M. Darley and Bibb Latané to attempt to better understand why people did not help. In a series of experiments, Darley and Latané demonstrated what they termed the bystand …
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Elements of Resilience
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
December 27th, 2020

There is no one “right” way to respond to a traumatic event and most people deal with trauma in slightly different ways. Yet, there is research that indicates that certain environments, perspectives and behaviors lead to more adaptive responses that create the opportunity for healing. Yosef, a survivor of several traumatic events, serves as a paradigm of resilience. By analyzing Yosef’s mindset and behavior as presented in the p …
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PerspectivesOfThePast
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
December 20th, 2020

How do we evaluate the past? How do we spend our time in the present? How often do we think about the future? In his book, “The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life,” Dr. Philip Zimbardo outlines six subjective time perspectives that people experience as they relate to the past, present, and future.   Dr. Zimbardo argues that when looking at the past, it is best to be high in a past-positive ti …
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Need for Approval
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
December 14th, 2020

How much do you care about what other people think of you?  On one level, it is natural and healthy to want the approval of others.  If someone doesn’t care at all what others think of him, he may do things that are harmful or immoral to others and end up being isolated from social groups, which itself is not healthy. Yet, the desire to be liked by others can easily become unhealthy.  People who have a high need to gain appro …
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Influence Techniques
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
December 6th, 2020

When Yosef’s brothers decide they are going to kill him and throw him into a pit, Reuven realizes that he needs to intervene to save Yosef’s life. While Reuven’s explicit intention is to return Yosef to Yaakov, he is caught in a predicament. What can he say or do that will convince the brothers not to kill Yosef? Their decision seems unanimous and definitive. The Midrash states that if Reuven would have known that his deci …
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Who's In Control?
Author: Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman
November 28th, 2020

Do you believe that the happenings of your life are determined by external factors or by your own efforts?  In the 1950’s psychologist Julian Rotter began exploring how people related to such questions and developed a construct called locus of control.  People who endorse an internal locus of control believe the events of their lives are generally determined by their own abilities and actions, while those with an external locus of …
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Tags: psychology, Torah, Control, Yaakov, Bereishit, Parsha
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