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[The following is an excerpt from an edited transcript]

…Now we said that consolation, this site ???????  also means to change one’s mind. In one verse it says that God doesn’t change His mind, this “the Eternity of Israel does not deceive and does not change His mind for He is not a man to change His mind” (????? ????? ?????????? ??? ????????? ????? ????????, prescription ???? ??? ????? ???? ??????????).

But, like we quoted before from the sages that the Almighty intended to create the world one way with a measure of judgment, but then changed His mind and created it with a measure of compassion. So which is it?

Apparently it’s both. If there are an infinite number of ascents and each ascent involves a reversal of understanding, my whole conceptual scheme reverses from moment to moment. But for the Almighty, both dynamics exist in the present moment, without any dependency on time. Therefore we can say that God is both non-changing and changing all the time. What is non-changing is that in every split second, there is new light, new understanding. At first He created the world with the measure of judgment, then He added the measure of compassion (which He made then precede judgment, as it says, “On the day that Havayah (the Name of Compassion) Elokim (the Name of Judgment) created earth and heavens” (??????? ??????? ???’ ????????? ????? ??????????).

Now after all this, let’s connect this all with a popular topic in psychology. In English it’s called a mindset, or ??????? ????????? in Hebrew. Modern idioms in Hebrew are usually translations from English. The most well-known figure in this area today is a professor from Stanford by the name of Carol Dweck. Because consolation is about changing one’s mind, one’s mindset, one’s conceptual scheme, we’ll explain what is said about this in the world, and how to understand this based on the Torah.

Game Theory and Politics

One example, related to the concept of mindsets, and presented before Dweck’s theory, comes from Robert Auhmann, an Israeli professor, who won a Nobel Prize in economics for game theory. We earlier mentioned the idea of the Cold War (between the US and the USSR). Just as every individual possesses his personal mindset, so is there a collective mindset, like the mindset that ruled during the Cold War. The collective mindset is usually very difficult to change. Sometimes, a mindset has some benefit. At the time, there was a mindset that since each of the superpowers had the power to destroy the world a few times over, they would not attack one another. This was of course beneficial, because it kept the world peaceful without nuclear war. This is a good example of how to introduce the concept of a mindset. One important area in game theory is mindsets vis-à-vis politics.

Normally, every person is beset by a particular mindset, or a fixation that they find hard to change. With regard to a collective mindset, the mind of each individual is meant to agree with this mindset, which is like putting the individual into a straightjacket. Our problem is how to change, how do we move our mindset so that we can bring the Mashiach? It seems that it is almost impossible to move the current mindset of the Jewish people. So again, the first area where mindsets are useful is in understanding politics.

And it is also useful in looking at a ruling party. And here there is something new. If a ruling party is not flexible at all, unable to change its own platform even a little, at least from time to time, it cannot sustain its power. Meaning that every successful party is sustained by its inner criticism, it is always changing its mind. As much as this seems contradictory, there comes a time when one tires of a certain mindset. So this is an important point that a party has to have flexibility within its platform. The country that demonstrates this best is the US, where neither of the two parties can hold power for a long time, because the two parties are inflexible in what they believe. And that is why the public changes the ruling party from one to the other every so many terms.

Fighting Terrorism

A second area in which mindset is applicable and useful, is in relation to the fight against terrorism. This is something very relevant to us here in the land of Israel. Warfare in general has to use a flexible mindset. You have to change the way you fight all the time, especially when fighting terrorism. Even your policies and standards of morals have to be flexible. Among other things, here at the Torat Hanefesh School of Psychology, we want to develop a picture of what a state run according to the Torah would be like, and what kind of war morals it would hold by.

As said, it’s important that these morals be flexible. This is difficult for someone who is connected to Jewish law to fathom, because Jewish law is seemingly unchanging. But, to be successful, you have to understand God’s sense of consolation, of changing His mind, from time to time. You have to see how He Himself ‘plays’ with the rules of the game all the time.

Mindsets in Psychology

Now all this was just an introduction to how this all is reflected in relation to the psyche. In psychology there are two types of individuals considered. One type is called a “fixed mindset” person, and the second is called a “growth mindset” person. The fixed mindset type is static, and the growth mindset is changing and dynamic. The main point (which is very popular in the world today) is that children should be educated to have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. There are many sayings from the sages that were said to foster a growth mindset, but one in particular is ????????? ????? ????????? ??? ?????????, etc…

If someone says, “I have worked hard, and I have not been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says, “I have not worked hard and I have been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says, “I have worked hard and I have been successful,” believe him![1]

This is the essence of all growth mindsets. Now the idea is that there is a type of person who thinks that all his success in life has some kind of mystical reason behind it. An example of this in pop culture used to be “The Secret.” Dweck’s growth-mindset system is already better.

Now the fixed-mindset type thinks that all success depends on whatever talents, whatever genes I was born with. It is all predetermined in this sense. The growth mindset type feels that all success depends on hard work (????????). If you work hard, you’ll be successful. If you don’t work hard, you won’t be successful. If you toil, you will find, if you don’t toil you won’t find; if you find and you didn’t toil, also don’t believe it. Only if you’ve toiled, can you believe that you’ve found (success). Especially in Chassidut Chabad, this is called working with one’s own strength. Not to trust in what is given to you from the outside (given to you as a present).

A related saying in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) is, ??? ???? ????? ???, ??? ???. ???????????? ?????????, ??? ?????, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me. But, If I trust only in myself (meaning: I trust in what I have been given from birth, my innate qualities), then what am I?” You have to work hard, regardless of what you have been given. Again, what is the example with regard to educating a child? A child was successful with something. The mother says, “Oh Wonderful. You are so wise and smart.” This is a cue (it is a subconscious trigger) that the mother is giving the child. In the subconscious, what this creates is a fixed mindset that success depends on how he is, not on how hard he worked. The wise parent says, “Wonderful, you must have worked very hard to achieve this success.” This is a subconscious cue for growth mindset that everything depends on your toil.

Implementing Both Fixed and Growth Mindsets

When the Alter Rebbe appointed his son, the Mittler Rebbe to teach the young chassidim, the Mittler Rebbe had very stringent demands. And the moment they didn’t achieve, there was disappointment all around. One time, one of the young chassidim said to the Mittler Rebbe: “Do you think that we are all the children of you father (that we can achieve your level)?” This statement really moved the Mittler Rebbe.

Later, the Alter Rebbe then told this young chassid, thank you for educating my son, for teaching him how to be a chassid.

Growth mindset is free will, while fixed mindset is determinism, but there are indeed things that are determined. There are certain innate traits that we have. So the balance is needed, even though (as the theory states) the main point of education should be to teach about growth, also the other side is needed as well.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov too nurtured growth mindset consciousness in his chassidim. He said to them, “You should all try to be like me.” Don’t say that I’m a tzadik, what kind of a soul I must have. You have to try as hard as you can to reach the same level. The nature of a Jew is to be, “a mover among those who are standing.” One who has a fixed mindset, is afraid of failure. But, someone who has a growth mindset is not. He knows that a tzadik falls seven times and gets up. He knows that failure is part of the toil in this world. This is a very important point. As Jews we are meant to move, walk, among those who stand.

Primordial Kings from the World of Chaos

All the Primordial kings died because they had no flexibility and no growth. Growth is a mindset, and one also has to have the flexibility needed to move between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Now there were seven kings that perished and one that did not: Hadar.[2] The seven died because they were with a political mindset that could not change. As we explained before such a mindset cannot persist. So what was special about Hadar? Hadar means “to return,” which means he changed his mind (????? ?????, in Aramaic). But, if he didn’t die it also means that he saw judgments differently (he saw death differently). His wife’s name is mentioned (the others are not): Meheitavel, ????????????, which means that without a wife you are always in a fixed mindset. For a growth mindset, all the more so to be flexible between the two mindsets, you need a wife who tells you: “You can be better.” That is the meaning of Meheitavel. You might be ok now, but you definitely can be better. She is called the “daughter of Matred” (???? ???????). She was always spinning his head around (the meaning of Matred is “giving you a hard time”). And she’s also called ???? ??? ?????, the daughter of golden waters. Water is always moving. You have to be able to change your mind, you have to be alive; and the sign of being alive is always being on the move. This is the golden property of life.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class for the Torat Hanefesh school of Jewish Psychology,

11th Av 5773, Har Hatzofim, Jerusalem

[1] Megillah 6b.

[2] Genesis 36:39.


Ophidiophobia (Fear of Snakes)

Rosh Hashanah is the day God created Adam and Eve, viagra and on that very same day they sinned; they were seduced by the serpent to believe that by eating the forbidden fruit they would become like God.

The serpent’s venom affects its victim’s mind, by contaminating it with delusions of grandeur[1]. While ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is a fear that has been well-documented, our apprehension of the serpent that sojourns deep within our psyche need to be further developed.

The sages state, “No-one commits a sin unless a spirit of folly [i.e. temporary insanity] enters him.”[2] Losing one’s mind, or a loss of attention to the outcome of our deeds, opens up the possibility of sin. As long as we are truly aware of the implications and consequences of our actions, we would never allow ourselves to transgress.

Rosh Hashanah?Our Spiritual Anti-Venom

There are three unique blessings in the long Musaf prayer we say on Rosh Hashanah. These three blessings include ten verses that express our coronation of God as King (???????????); ten verses in which we ask God to remember our merits (???????????); and finally, ten verses that mention the blast of the shofar (??????????), the ram’s horn that will ultimately usher in the final redemption.

Coronating God: The Talmud teaches us that the entire body follows the lead of the head; the seat of the mental faculties that are most prone to the serpent’s venom. Since Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year, it also leads the entire year that will follow. By leaving all our grandiose thoughts of omnipotence behind, we can then coronate the truly omnipotent King of Kings on Rosh Hashanah. By keeping this in mind, we can then ensure that the entire year ahead will be free of sin.

Day of Remembrance: Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Remembrance (???? ???????????) when we ask God to remember us only for our merits. Since everything that we ask of God also depends on our own efforts from below, Rosh Hashanah must also be associated with our own memories. The first thing to remember is our Creator, who conceived the world on Rosh Hashanah, as we say in our prayers, “Today the world was conceived.”[3] Furthermore, on Rosh Hashanah we are not allowed to mention sin at all,[4] so this is a good time to remember our own good points.[5] From a psychological point of view, Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Remembrance, is the most auspicious day to counteract the serpent’s venomous attack against our sanity; an attack which often involves a loss of memory.

Shofar: “Blast the shofar on the [new] month.”[6] The sages interpret the word “new month” (?????????) to mean “renew your actions,” and shofar (???????) is from the same root as to “improve” (???).[7] Renewing and improving ourselves at the start of the year, counteracts the effects of getting stuck in a spiritual, snake-ridden rut.

To add a final thought: when we consider that the Hebrew word for year (??????) shares the same root with “change” (????????), the name of this awe-inspiring Head of the Year (???? ????????) takes on the new meaning of “mind change.”

Indeed, Rosh Hashanah is the spiritually auspicious time to change, renew and improve our mindset, and the perfect antidote to prevent the psychological decline that leads to sin.

Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class on Torah and Psychology, Chile, 5769

[1]        See Body, Mind, and Soul, “Fear of the Snake” pages 113-118, where it notes that the fear of the snake is the fear of insanity. By overcoming the evil of the snake on Rosh Hashanah, we merit the revelation of Mashiach (?????????), the holy snake (??????), which both have the same numerical value of 358.

[2]        Sotah 3a.

[3]        From the Rosh Hashanah prayers after sounding the shofar.

[4]        See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chayim 548:2.

[5]        See the Rebbe’s open letter to Jewish people in the press, Elul 5718.

[6]        Psalms 81:4.

[7]        Vayikra Rabah 29:6.


Final days of Elul 5773

During the month of Elul, ambulance the days when God’s compassion is revealed and His forgiveness immanent, each and every Jew, male and female, is called upon to return to God—to do teshuvah. The two days of Rosh Hashanah are a time for what is known as general teshuvah, through our accepting upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven. The remaining days of teshuvah (from Rosh Hashanah up to and including Yom Kippur) should be dedicated to particular teshuvah by rectifying our path in life and our behavior.

Our generation, already a generation replete with ba’alei teshuvah, has been given the great task of uniting personal and individual teshuvah with communal and public teshuvah. It is not enough that we return to the Torah and its commandments in our private space, as individuals. We are called upon to rectify our public space, to create a society and Jewish state that are guided by the Torah of Israel. This task—our communal acceptance of the yoke of Heaven—must occur peacefully and pleasantly, illustrating the phrase from our liturgy, “His sovereignty they accepted willfully.”

The three communal commandments

Our teshuvah as a society follows the three commandments that guide communal life in the land of Israel. The three verses that describe the three communal commandments are: “Place, you shall place, upon you a king,” “You shall annihilate the memory of Amalek,” and “They shall make Me a Temple.”

  • ?Our first task is to appoint a rectified leadership that will guide the Jewish people with Torah, with the ultimate purpose of appointing a king whose status transcends the other governmental branches and whose life is dedicated to elevate the entire nation, imbuing it with a consciousness of nullification before the Almighty.
  • Our second task is the war against Amalek—subduing, and vanquishing all enemies of the Jewish people, and eradicating evil around the globe. Rectified leadership follows the Torah principle of, “Justice, you shall pursue justice,” culminating with the annihilation of Amalek and the upholding of global justice.
  • Our third task is the construction of the third HolyTemple in Jerusalem, from where the Divine Presence will dwell amidst the Jewish people and, through them, upon all peoples of the earth. The Temple and the Divine service conducted therein are based on the principle that, “You shall be earnest with Havayah your God” directing us to perform all Divine service with consummately simple earnestness.

On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat simanim, foods whose name suggests a particular blessing or idea with which we would like to usher in the new year. To the edible simanim, it is appropriate to add linguistic ones—words or phrases, whose numerical value alludes to the number of the approaching year (discounting the thousands)—in our case: 774.

In reference to the three communal commandments, their one-word names, “king” (??????), “Amalek” (???????), and “Temple” (?????????) together equal 774.

In addition, the key words in the three verses directing the communal commandments—“Place, you shall place a king over you,” “Justice, you shall pursue justice,” and “You shall be earnest with Havayah your God”—are  “king” (??????), “justice” (?????), and “earnest” (???????), whose combined value is also 774!

The threefold blessing

The greatest of all blessings in the Torah is the threefold Priestly Blessing whose three blessings correspond in order to the three communal commandments.

  • The first blessing, “May God bless you and safeguard you” (?????????? ????? ?????????????) corresponds to appointing a king. The king is entrusted with the financial and physical security of the people. When the Jewish people choose leaders that follows the Torah way, God blesses them from above with affluence and security.
  • The second blessing, “May God shine His countenance upon you and give you grace” (????? ????? ??????? ??????? ???????????) corresponds to the commandment to eradicate Amalek. Amalek casts doubt upon faith (Amalek [???????] equals doubt [?????] in Hebrew). It is the Torah that frees us from doubts and the Torah’s source is described as “God’s countenance.” By engaging in Torah, we find grace and favor in the eyes of God and our fellow men.
  • ?The third blessing, “May God bring His countenance to you and give you peace” (??????? ????? ??????? ??????? ???????? ???? ???????) corresponds to the commandment to build the Temple. It is in the Temple that we can see God’s countenance, face to face, and the HolyTemple in Jerusalem is the central House of Peace, for the entire world and all its inhabitants.

The first words from each blessing are: “Bless” (??????????), “Shine” (?????), “Bring” (???????) and their combined numerical value is 774! This siman is particularly relevant for us to have in mind whenever we hear or recite the Priestly Blessing during the coming year.

Charity is a constantly flowing river

Another siman of the new year guides us in creating a conduit for blessings in the coming year. 774 is the value of the verse, “And charity is a constantly flowing river” (????????? ???????? ??????).

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the Tanya, explains that this verse describes how charity is like a flowing river, carrying on it the revelation of the soul’s very essence (called the “constant” part of the soul) in the heart’s inner chambers. Revealing the soul’s very essence brings with it personal redemption, while performing the three public commandments reveals the very essence of our communal soul, bringing about universal redemption.

Love of God and love of Israel

A final and most endeared siman for the new year is that 774 is the value of “eternal (or, worldly) love” (??????? ??????) together with “great love” (??????? ??????).

God’s love for us is both eternal and great. To explain its nature, the giants of Chassidut said that if we could combine all the love felt by all parents towards their children, it would still be nowhere near the love that God has for a single Jew, even if that individual is a sinner.

God’s love for us is complemented by our love of God, as promised by the verse, “You shall love Havayah your God.” Our love of God divides into a number of different levels the first of which is called “worldly love” (??????? ??????)—simple and earnest love that dwells in every Jew’s heart and be awakened by contemplating how God gives life to all. One level higher is “great love” (??????? ??????)—a tremendous yearning for God that allows the soul to transcend the body, granting it a taste of the reality of the World to Come in the form of “pleasurable love” (??????? ???????????????). Still higher is a second form of “eternal love” (??????? ??????), whereby love of God becomes our eternal, native state.

The perfection of our love for God manifests in our love of Israel—loving those [the Jewish people] whom our Beloved [God] loves; loving each and every Jew, even if he or she is distant or detached.

Our love of Israel empowers us to give charity, like a constantly flowing river of goodness, fostering our unity as a people and enabling us to perform our communal duties, our three public commandments.

The main thing is that we act and in the coming year, we must increase our love of Israel, and do our utmost to bring about the performance of the three public commandments.

Let it be known that increasing amounts of charity and spending all our treasures on the three public commandments are the vessels that can hold all the blessings we wish for in the coming year.

Siman tov vemazal tov yehei lanu ulechol Yisrael with the true and complete redemption, with the Mashiach who will come and redeem us immediately.

With blessings for a ketivah vachatimah tovah (a good inscription and seal) and for a good and sweet year for the entire house of Israel

Yitzchak Ginsburgh

One Response to “Letter of blessing for Rosh Hashanah 5774”

  1. […] stated in our Letter of Blessing for Rosh Hashanah, we should dedicate this year to augmenting love. Since love will be such a central theme over the […]