Torah: The Original Self-Help Book

When embarking on a road of personal improvement or when implementing life changes, it is almost inevitable that one will face challenges and failures. Often people make much more of such failures than they actually are.

People tend to take an all-or-nothing approach. For example, an individual is presented with a personal challenge. He is successful in holding out and not succumbing to the temptation for ten minutes. However, after ten minutes of holding out, he messes up. If you were this individual, how would you view your situation? Most people see the totality of this episode as one failure. In their eyes they have a record of 0-1, zero wins and one loss.

In Kabbalah, it is taught that no two moments of existence are alike. Each moment has its own particular purpose, and each of us has our own particular purpose to fulfill in each particular moment. What comes out from this approach is that even if you mess up ten minutes into the journey, your record is not 0-1, rather it is: 10 minutes' worth of moments-1. Each moment stands alone, and the amount one gains before the mess-up is still his. It has not been lost and it was not for naught. The key is not to get down on ourselves for mistakes we make or weaknesses we may discover along the way. Don't lose sight of the big developing picture, and hopefully from year to year, we will be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and see a different person each year—one who has grown in freedom, inspiration, passion, consciousness, and spirituality.

There is a principle in Jewish spirituality called Torah lishmah—Torah for its own sake. Many explanations as to what exactly this means and what it excludes have been offered, but perhaps the simplest understanding can be found in the words themselves. A more literal definition of the words Torah lishmah is Torah for its name, meaning: look into the name "Torah," and there you'll find its principle purpose. The word "Torah" literally means "instructions." The Torah is an instruction book for life; it's the original Self-Help Book. Delve into it and you will achieve personal development, spirituality, and relationship with God—all of which are really one and the same. The idea of Torah lishmah is to use these instructions as a practical guide for decision making, spirituality seeking, and anything else of value during one's journey through this temporary physical stage of our eternal spiritual lives.

When discussing reasons for the mitzvot, the word for "reason" that is used is the same as the Hebrew word for "taste," ta'am, because when attempting to get a grip on the deeper reasons behind God's will and spiritual system, we can only get a taste. It is my hope and prayer that these articles, as well as my books, give the reader such a taste in a practical and helpful manner, and that an interest is been sparked within the reader to further explore the depths of Jewish spirituality and all that Torah has to offer.

Note: Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov's newly released book Jewish by Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism is available here on Amazon.