Achieving the (Seemingly) Impossible by Sara Yocheved Rigler

Achieving the (Seemingly) Impossible by Sara Yocheved Rigler

Over the past two and a half years, Rabbi Aryeh Nivin’s Personal Development Program has helped me IMMENSELY to become a more happy, calm, fulfilled and inspired human being and JewishMOM.

Next week, on August 20th, a new Personal Development Chabura will be starting up. And great news, JewishMOMs! The 1st three sessions are a no-commitment free trial! And on top of that, as a special offer for JewishMOM.com readers: all JewishMOM.com readers who participate in this free 3-week trial will automatically enter the raffle to win a free 12-week session (a prize worth $150. You can learn more about Rabbi Nivin and his Personal Development Program at his website or in the Binah article by Sara Yocheved Rigler below)

Achieving the (Seemingly) Impossible by Sara Yocheved Rigler

Heroic. Undaunted. Courageous. This is a description not of an IDF combat unit but rather of a group of women, on four continents, who are using a Torah-based method of personal growth to transform themselves, their families, their marriages, and their lives.

Take for example Nechama, whose 15-year old son Shimon is no longer observant. Every time Nechama would see her son walking around the house without his yarmulke or tzitzis, she would be overcome by paroxysms of sadness and guilt. Although her other sons were doing well, Nechama’s life was overshadowed by depression over Shimon.

Then she enrolled in Rabbi Aryeh Nivin’s “personal growth chaburah,”
where she discovered that, although she could not change Shimon, she could change herself.

“I learned how to turn gehinnom into Paradise,” testifies Nechama.

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin spent over two decades putting together a system of personal growth based on Torah sources. Born in New York, Rabbi Nivin lives in Ashdod, Israel, with his wife and 14 children. Although he himself is Chassidic, he draws from a wide range of sources, including the Gemara, the Ramchal, the Nefesh HaChaim, Harav Shlomo Wolbe, zt”l, and the Slonimer Rebbe (Nesivos Shalom), zt”l.

Started six years ago, over 2,000 women have taken part in Rabbi Nivin’s “Personal-Growth Chaburos.” Currently, five groups are running, with participants from all over the world. “The Torah does not only tell us how to keep Shabbos and kashrus,” explains Rabbi Nivin. “The Gemara says, for example, that anger is like idolatry. So a person who doesn’t know how to handle his anger is not conducting himself in a Torah way.

“King Solomon says in Proverbs ‘Chanoch lanaar al pi darko… — educate a child according to his way.’ If a child is leaving religion, and the parent hasn’t worked on patience, loving communication, and seeing God’s will in every situation, the parent can’t possibly obey that prescription.”

The goal of the chaburah is to teach its participants to live with “vitality and transcendence.” Malka Weinstein, 49, is a successful family therapist in addition to being a wife and mother. “Along with so many women,” she maintains, “I am dealing with the challenge of balancing work, family, financial obligations, and more. It’s difficult to navigate it all without feeling overwhelmed at times.

I often wish I could give myself an infusion of energy and
vitality. The chaburah gives me the tools to do just that.” The student’s first step is to define what the Slonimer Rebbe, zt”l, calls, “one’s yeud.”

The concept of yeud, of having a personal mission in life, is referred to in dozens of sources throughout traditional sources and all of Rabbinic literature. While the Gra is usually quoted as writing that the purpose of life is to fix one’s character traits (tikkun), the Slonimer Rebbe adds that each person also has a positive purpose to his or her life, something to accomplish or an aspect of Hashem’s light to shine into the world.

Rabbi Nivin explains that each individual has both a tikkun — a negative trait that needs fixing — and a yeud, a positive mission. In addition, every Jew has a global yeud, which is to do mitzvos and serve Hashem with joy. The personal yeud should never hold a person back from doing his global yeud.

Discovering her yeud allows a woman to pursue her own unique gifts and strengths. Rabbi Nivin relates how a woman in the program called him before Rosh Hashanah and said, “I want to thank you. I’ve been frum my whole life and I never before heard of the concept of yeud, of having a positive life’s purpose. Thank you.You gave me my life back.”

Discovering her unique yeud also liberates a woman from unfavorable comparisons with others.Yonina Schlussel, 37, is a Bais Yaakov-trained teacher who now lives in Milwaukee with her husband and four children.

“Before I joined the chaburah,” she says, “I used to judge myself based on my neighbors. I would think: She has a more organized house, so she must be a better mother. But then I learned that Hashem gave me my own strengths and talents because I have to shine my own light in this world, and they’re different from my
neighbor’s, so it doesn’t make sense to compare.”

Rabbi Nivin coined the term “to paradise,” teaching that any task or situation can be “paradised.” Yonina explains: “Yiddishkeit is not meant to be miserable. If I’m giving to my children and my husband, and it’s not pleasurable for me, I’m going to be miserable and run out of batteries. I used to hate laundry and dishes. Now I’ve learned, ‘How can I paradise these chores?’ This means that Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants me not to be the suffering servant. As Rabbi Nivin says, I shouldn’t settle for a life I don’t love.

“So how can I make doing the laundry more enjoyable, especially on a day that I don’t feel so good? I found that I love listening to classes or talking to friends. My husband got me a headset. Now I listen to a class or talk to a friend, and suddenly the laundry is done, and I didn’t even notice. Or I can decide, ‘I’ll take a nap first. Then I’ll do my laundry.’ Hashem doesn’t want me to be miserable. And when I’m happier, my kids are happier and my husband is happier.”

Indeed, Rabbi Nivin regularly hears from grateful husbands. The director of a prominent yeshivah wrote to him recently: “My wife is so much happier a person, and although she has always functioned at an extremely high level, it has sometimes taken a heavy toll. She is now much better able to cope with pressures and stresses in ways we could only have dreamed about before. … The children all appreciate the changes she has made, and all feel positively affected by them.

“This year has been a very difficult year for her work-wise for a lot of reasons, and I can’t imagine how things would have been without what she has learned and applied. I also have to say that as good as our shalom bayis was before, and it really was already quite good, it is now that much better. I think that is really saying something after 25-plus years of spending countless hours actively working on it.”

The power of Rabbi Nivin’s approach lies in the set of tools he teaches. Through the weekly hour-long teleconference call (which includes an interactive workshop), the homework of practicing the tools, and a chavrusa system where members speak to their partners for 15 minutes five times a week, the tools are integrated into the student’s behavioral repertoire.

An example of one potent tool is “Dissolving Negative Emotionally-Charged Complaints.” As one participant describes it: “Rabbi Nivin taught us that there is no place in Judaism for a negatively-charged complaint. The ‘negative charged complaints tool’ has helped me repair and transcend a 9-year fractured relationship with my stepdaughter. I spent literally years in therapy trying to deal with this situation with her… and it took Rabbi Nivin a few short months to give me the actual tools I needed to deal with this seemingly impossible
situation.”

Rachel Pollack, 47, is a social worker who joined the chaburah
three years ago. “It’s the difference between going through the
daily motions in a rote way,” she says, “and having an inner
dimension that pulls everything together. I was out of the
chaburah for one year when my last child was born. My husband
saw the change in me, in my mood, in my energy, and he
encouraged me to rejoin. What I learn in the chaburah puts my
mind in a place of expanded consciousness. It’s the difference
between swimming freely and swimming with a weight tied to
me. My mundane tasks are no longer pulling me down. I’m
moving.”

So, apparently, are the other women in the Personal- Growth
Chaburos.

To inquire about joining the 3-Class Trial of the Women’s or Men’s
Chaburos starting in Elul, go to www.newchabura.com or
email NewChabura@gmail.com

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One comment

  1. We’re new to your blog but we love it. You post blogs from some big names and great subjects. We’ll be sure to come back often. Sara Yocheved Rigler is always great. Her books are insightful and she has a great writing style.

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