By COLlive reporter
A new book, “The Sefiros and the Self: A Divine Blueprint for Self-Discovery and Personal Growth”, delves into the Sefiros, or ten attributes as described in Chassidus.
Authored by Rabbi Yaakov (Yankie) Feder, a business owner and author, the book is a culmination of years of research. The book, published by the prestigious Feldheim Publishers, is perfect for study during the weeks of Sefirah.
“G-d creates the world and reveals Himself by enclothing His Infinite Light in ten attributes (Sefiros) that parallel human characteristics” writes Rabbi Feder, “Just as the Sefiros are the tools through which G-d creates and relates to the world, so too, our internal Sefiros are the means through which we interact with our world”
He writes that by grasping the meaning of the Sefiros, “We begin to understand ourselves better. Ironically, in our quest to know G-d we end up knowing much more about ourselves.”
This grasp of the Sefiros is successfully imparted in the 271 pages of Rabbi Feder’s foundational book. He breaks down each attribute in down to earth terms and explains how to ensure that one’s attributes are fully utilized.
“In a perfect world, all elements function in perfect synchronicity,” he writes, however, “our worlds are often fraught with dysfunction and a lack of cohesion. By applying the lessons of the Sefiros on a human level, one can master one’s own functionality and overcome chronic failings.”
Each chapter of the book is divided into several sections; it begins with the “Case Study” and “Diagnosis,” bringing real examples from daily life to highlight the complexity of a particular attribute. “Obstacles” to the attribute explain the struggles one has in developing the particular faculty. The chapter then identifies and sources the attribute in the Torah, bringing further clarity to the reader’s comprehension of the attribute. Finally, the bulk of the chapter consists of “The Stages of Treatment”; here the book delves into how to deal with the attribute. Rabbi Feder explains in simple, down to earth terms, how this is possible.
Rabbi Feder gives credit to his father, Rabbi Moshe Feder OBM of Montreal, to whom he dedicates the book, for his search in making Chassidus accessible.
“My father had a unique approach to learning Torah,” he says in an interview, “which had a strong effect upon me. He would always attempt to create a logical context to the topic: whether it was Gemara, Halacha or Chasidus, there would be a unifying theme or concept that would enable a logical structure and clarity of understanding. When he gave a shiur, it was characterized by a great clarity of expression.”
Cleverly designed, dividing the “treatment” into many sub-sections, using charts and bullet points, Rabbi Feder is successful in bringing Chassidus into the daily life of the reader.
When Rabbi Feder and his wife Raizel (Sharfstein) moved to the Five Towns, he took an active part in teaching Chassidus at the local Chabad. He began to teach a weekly Parsha class at the Chabad of the Five Towns, which fuses the teachings of Chassidus with the lessons of the Parsha as applied to daily life.
“My approach has always been to synergize and fuse,” he says, “my own personal experiences of the week, including the daily business challenges, into the context of the Chassidic themes of the Parsha.”
That style of teaching also influenced his writing of the book. Rabbi Feder first began to notate and map out the various levels described in the Maamarim of the Rebbe Rashab. “As these maps and definitions began to evolve, I initially thought of incorporating them into a booklet as a tool to assist students of Chassidus in their comprehension of these abstract concepts.”
Upon further reflection, it occurred to him that these “maps” had an application that could impact on a far broader audience. They could be used to assist in personal growth. “By gaining a clear understanding of these models that are so thoroughly explicated in Chassidus,” he says, “we can learn how a human being should ideally function, and overcome our own blockages and dysfunctionality.”
He thus began to write a book that would be readable and accessible to an audience that was not necessarily familiar with Chassidus, who would appreciate the down to earth application of these concepts. At the same time, he remains true to the original concept of the book: providing a tool to assist comprehension of abstract Chassidic ideas even for those already familiar with these concepts.
“Our tradition teaches that all human knowledge,” Rabbi Feder tells COLlive, “can be discovered within Torah, including science and math. However, it is not always easy to discover the connection between a ‘secular’ field of knowledge and its source in Torah. Yet, when it comes to human psychology and self-improvement, the connection with Chassidus is abundantly clear.
“Tanya is replete with powerful illumination of human behavior, as are so many works of Chassidus. Here we have a golden opportunity to utilize the light of Torah to illuminate and inform our own lives; why not use it?”
The Sefiros and the Self can be found in your local Judaica Store or on Amazon.com