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The Gamliel Institute is a center for study, training, and advocacy concerning Jewish end-of-life practices. The Institute is a project of Kavod v’Nichum (Honor and Comfort), a North American organization that provides assistance, training, and resources about Jewish death and bereavement practice for Chevrah Kadisha groups and bereavement committees in synagogues and communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
One 90-minute Zoom Session
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST
Course fee flexible; see registration
In this presentation, we will look closely at the Kabbalistic principle of ‘Yeridah L‘Tzorech Aliyah’ which roughly translates as ‘Descent for the sake of ascent’, or ‘What goes down must come back up’, and examine its relevance to the process of responding to trauma and grieving loss. According to the Kabbalah, every hardship, loss, and trauma that induces the soul’s descent into darkness is only for the purpose of energizing the spiritual ascent of the soul. In order to reach the heights of insight and appreciation, and explore available opportunities for spiritual growth, one must often ‘hit bottom’ in order to appreciate opportunities to reach up to a higher spiritual level. We see this principle demonstrated in Torah, for example, in Yetzi’ut Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, and in Tanakh, for example with the turning point for Yonah in the darkness inside the belly of the great fish that had been sent by G-d to swallow him, and in the torturous descent into grief and loss borne by Yoav. And we see it in the general mythological narratives, for example, in the ‘Hero’s Journey’. It is also a part of what CG Jung called the ‘Shadow’ side of the personality—that part of ourselves with which we are not in direct contact in our ‘meta-conscious’ egoistic mind where thought and self-awareness operate, but which is part of the whole Self and has a powerful influence on our emotional state. And yet, it is in our darkest and most trying moments when the creative power of possibility also associated with this Shadow can be most readily accessed and brought into awareness and actualized. One must often face one’s deepest darkness on the path to greatness. In modern psychological terms, trauma is most often linked to stress and diminishment and a tendency to pull back and to self-isolate, but it can also lead to growth and expansion. What factors make the difference between persisting ‘stress’ that closes down and recognizing opportunities for ‘growth’ that open up? From the experience of leaving the depths of darkness of Egypt and studying Torah in relationship to this narrative, we can identify ways that ‘enable us to transform darkness in such drastic ways’ into abundant light. We will look at the directions that Torah gives us and also examine recent research on the determinants of post-traumatic growth. From the perspective of Torah, it is faith that makes the difference. In psychological terms, what makes the difference is ‘cognitive set’ and one’s personal orientation to experience. Both give us ways to seek light when darkness abounds and to recognize that there is indeed a ‘crack in everything’ that lets the light in.
Gary Goldberg obtained a B.A.Sc. (bachelor of applied science) in electrical engineering science at the University of Toronto and his M.D. at McMaster University. He completed specialty training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and subsequently sub-specialized in Brain Injury Medicine. He has worked and taught at academic medical centers in Philadelphia, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Richmond, Virginia during the course of a nearly 40-year career in brain injury rehabilitation. He retired from active clinical participation in September, 2020 to turn to other personal activities. He has sustained an abiding interest in how neuroscience, physical science, as well as interpersonal experience and systems of faith and belief examined through a semiotic relational lens have informed his work as well as his understanding of and approach to the human condition. He currently serves as a Scientific Advisor to the Pari Center for New Learning (http://paricenter.com).