Manifesto for a culture of growth

We have problems and finally the editorial board at The Klal Perspectives is letting us see the insights of many well know leaders and trailblazers within the frum community. The problem is that many (myself included) are not always inspired to grow in our Avodah.  I offered a solution a few years ago that worked for me here, but there’s not just a “one size fits all” cure (well, there might be, but you’ll have to read all of this post).

I’ve been privileged to communicate with both the editor of Klal Perspectives and two of those that answered the questions posed for this issue.  A commonly recommended suggestion in four of the articles is the establishment of learning groups (some call them vaadim or chaburos) geared towards growth-oriented learning.  This is, in fact, something that the AishDas Society has been doing successful for a number of years.  For me, the vaad/chabura model works, in edition to the Bilvavi seforim. I know of classes based on this model in several shuls and it seems to work for some.  It’s not a THE solution, but it’s a viable option and an established one.  Giving people an option to grow can open up multiple doors in a shul.

Getting people to learn seforim that are growth-oriented is a major challenge.  It’s sort of like exercise. People wo do it regularly love it (so I’ve heard).  I know that I don’t exercise enough, but when I do I feel better.  The “Zumba” craze has become very popular with women who want to exercise because it’s fun (this is based on speaking with people who do Zumba and also based on a very improptu Facebook survey I took).  Zumba’s motto is, “Ditch the workout; Join the party!”

They know that exercise is hard work and often difficult. By putting music and dance moves together they have made it fun. I think growth oriented Judaism needs a similar motto. Maybe it should be, “From pause to Go with the turn of a page” or “If you’re not growing, your not living“.
There are mornings when it’s a struggle for me to get out of bed and daven with a minyan. There are plenty of times I say Shema and don’t feel that I’m fully accepting Hashem as King. There are times that I will choose not to go learn in the evenings so that I can go to sleep or just veg out. I admit it only because I know that I’m not alone. This is just something that people don’t talk about with their friends.  Those that do know me, know that being inspired is something I attempt to work on.  There are days when I successed and days when I can’t wait to try again.

I did write that there might a “one size fits all” cure and I think it’s finding a community (ie- shul, beis medrash, kollel, Rav) that is focused on Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim, which are the foundations of our world. These three items are also the driving force behind Cong. Ahavas Yisrael and often mentioned in the writings and comments of Mark Frankel from BeyondBT.  Each of us can connect and grow by our invovlment in one of these three. We can learn, commit to meaningful davening, or involve ourselves and families in chessed. The main point, as Micha Berger mentioned to me in an email, is that our Torah life has to be a growth process.

I think back to the lyrics of the old TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” as proof for this:
Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum,
what might be right for may not be right for some.
There’s also a great discussion going on at BeyondBT regarding the current issue of Klal Perspectives, here.

6 thoughts on “Manifesto for a culture of growth

  1. Anonymous

    its a lifelong task. sometimes you think you are winning and other times you think you are going backword. it is important to read books on the subject (there are more out there than we realize) and to talk to other people who are want to improve.
    mike fisher

  2. Micha Berger

    Anonymous: Your comment reminds me of a quote from the Alter of Kelm, R’ Simcha Zisl Ziv:

    It is the work of a lifetime.
    And that’s why you have been given a lifetime in which to do it.

  3. Yishai

    Don’t be too hard on yourself for wanting to go to sleep early sometimes! In the days of the Gemara, before electric lighting, it may have been a problem that some people sleep too much. But today I think most people sleep too little, leaving them grumpy, making it hard to concentrate on anything, let alone spiritual connection and personal growth.

    One thing I think is very important is to work on our own will or desire to achieve growth (whether that’s growth in Torah, mitzvot, middos, or spiritual feelings like yirah or devekut or love of G-d). If we don’t have a strong will to achieve these things, we need to spend time and energy and prayer on trying to cultivate this desire. After all, yearning is mentioned countless times in Tehillim, but how many people really take the time to yearn with all their hearts to closer to Hashem? Here are some brief paragraphs on the topic from a chapter Likutei Eitzot (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov):

    1. Neil Harris


      Thanks! I have found, over the past 26 years that Reb Nachman’s teachings seem so “to the point”. I really appreciate the link to his “Advice”

  4. Alan Morinis

    It’s the biggest problem we face because it is the “heart” of the matter. My shul has 500 family members and the daily minyan numbers less than 20. Sound familiar? Where I see the root of the problem is the unconscious acceptance of the definition of a human being as a mind and an identity but not a soul. That’s the core of the issue. If a person has a strongly internalized sense of self and others as neshamas having a human experience, then what flows out of that like davenning, spiritual practice, etc., makes sense and has inspiration behind it. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine what would move a person to want to grow except “self”-interest, whether in a va’ad or chaburah or nowhere in the Jewish world.


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