On this page, I will regularly post content that was cut out of the book as it organically developed over the course of four years. This will include isolated ideas, snipped paragraphs, and articles that were deemed extra or not yet ready to be published.

There are currently three Bonus Content posts

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The following section is very raw, with the old pre-edit stage format. It contains a well-known idea and a new, intriguing approach to the same text

Push With the Left, Pull With the Right

 

As we said before, Gevurah is also known as Din or ‘judgment’. What is judgment?

Judgment is a decision rendered upon someone about an isolated action that he or she has done. If this person actually did something wrong, then they are deemed guilty and a threat to society. Judgment/Din comes to zero-in and single out threats and protect society. Court systems and law enforcement (Din) are important for us not just because people who commit crimes are bad and people who are bad need to be locked up. Courts and laws are important because they help to preserve society, Gevurah style. They keep our streets safe and our cities secure from being destroyed by crime, and allow our society to run and develop.

A Flowery Analogy

It’s sort of like a rosebush. Earlier we saw how Chesed means ‘to let something grow and grow’. If Chesed is to let a rosebush grow, Gevurah is to trim the rosebush. If the dead and damaged branches of a bush aren’t cut off the plant will die. A rosebush needs to be trimmed otherwise it can’t grow properly, just like society needs to be trimmed from crime in order to develop properly.

Paradoxically, in order to live the bush needs to be killed. Crazy! In fact, you can’t even leave more than four or five of the healthy stems on the plant. If you leave more than that the plant won’t grow properly. You have to keep it from hurting itself. You must restrict it to help it live.

Chesed Needs Gevurah

Gevurah is the cutting away of the bad to lets the good grow. Gevurah isn’t just the next step after Chesed and it doesn’t just help Chesed, Gevurah is essential to Chesed’s survival. Paradoxically, when Gevurah trims, restricts, or does ‘Din’, it is really helping the Chesed to stay alive.

When you are faced with the tough job of doing Din, make sure that the Din is coming to preserve the Chesed. A great example of this is a famous Gemara:

The Rabbis taught the left [arm] should push away [your student] and your right [arm] should bring him close (Sanhedrin 107b)

For most people, their right arm is stronger than their left[i]. And because the right is associated with Chesed and the left with Din[ii], people usually understand this Gemara to mean that a person needs to both love and discipline a student or child, and that more love should be given than discipline.

However, with our new understanding of Chesed and Gevurah, the Gemara gives us a fresh insight. The Gemara means that a person should let their student develop and grow on their own (Chesed) more then they instruct and regulate them (Gevurah). They should support their decisions more than they nitpick and judge their actions. A teacher must let his student develop his own self and his own unique approach more than he pushes him to replicate and imitate his own thinking style and way of life.[iii]

The student’s (or child’s[iv]) Chesed, his personal individual growth, must be tempered but not squashed by the left hand of Din. As the right hand pulls the student close, simultaneously the left turns him, rotating the student in a clock-wise circle. The hands are working together to develop the student and get him to be turned away from the teacher and sent to independence.[v]

Not Easy

I know, it can be a tough balance to find. When should you let a student grow on his own and when should you discipline him? When should you force a child to learn what you have to teach and when should you let him explore what he feels like learning?

The solution seems to be that we should focus on our frame of reference more than the exact action. We must focus on finding a balance between the two extremes and try our best to implement it. Don’t just get lost and confused. Ask yourself, ‘What do I need now in the theoretical (Chesed)?’ Then, ‘What can I do now in the practical (Gevurah)?’ The answer will be found in the middle somewhere. The key is to be practical. Think about the realistic options and then decide that way you’ll be saved from the stress of the infinite number of possibilities.



[i] Iyun Yakov to Sotah 47b.

[ii] Maharsha to Sanhedrin 107b; Cf. Etz Yosef in Sotah ibid.

[iii] The Majority of Talmidim have their own style anyway, so don’t bother trying to do too much Gevurah to him.

[iv] See Sifrei V’Eschanan 9.

[v] Rav Elchanan Wasserman.

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“How Did I Discover The Seven Ways?”

or

“Beyond the Nature

vs. Nurture Debate: What

My Rabbi Taught Me about Personality”

 

One of the most popular questions that people ask me is: Does someone’s personality come from nature or nurture? Are we mostly a product of our environmental influences or does our personality come from our genetic code, predetermined from before we are even born. The answer, I think, revolutionizes the way we think about our lives.

Nature or Nurture or…

The way I arrived at my conclusion to this famous debate was really a multi-year process. When I was younger I used to believe heavily in nurture. I looked at the people around me and clearly saw that the way they acted was based on the way their parents, siblings, and people at school treated them or how the outside world had influenced them. I did have some issues that I couldn’t explain, such as why certain people were less emotional or why certain people had special abilities in the creative realm. That didn’t seem to be a product of their upbringing, but I felt that these issues were in the minority.

I mainly liked the idea of ‘birth order’ psychology. Meaning that someone’s personality is developed in their youth based on what order they were born among their siblings. An oldest child will tend to be a leader and want perfection, the youngest, smooth- or cute-talking and possibly manipulative, middle child… etc. It was simple, basic, and I saw it in everyday life.

The Opposite

However, a few years ago, I began opening more books on ‘typology’ or personality classification, the categorization of people into different personality types. I read everything I could find on the subject. I looked into other personality systems, but none of them hit home with me – and I had a lot of questions on them. I did start to see that they had little nuggets of truth imbedded in them and that a few of them had done lots of case studies so they must be finding a great deal of  factual evidence in their respective theories, but I just didn’t feel that they were complete, holistic systems.

Then something funny happened. While I was reading these books on personalities, I began to believe more in nature without even realizing it. I started seeing more and more elaborate patterns in groups of people, unexplained by nurture alone. I saw rational thinkers and intuitive contemplators. I saw emotional people and extroverted ones, and they were just like that, not were like that because X, Y and Z. Nature was moving in, but my nurture ideas came back to bother me. I just couldn’t figure it all out.

Torah Helped Me

That’s when I turned to the Torah (Jewish Law & Traditions) and began to develop The Seven Ways. I am a big fan of regularly studying the Bible (Chumash, Tanach), for obvious reasons, and I specifically recalled that there were seven great personalities in Tanach that are singled out as people who brought special messages to the world. I had heard several classes on the topic, all rational and based on ideas that one can draw from a rational approach to kabbalistic sources and Midrashim (traditional texts of expoundations & metaphor) – not ‘neo-kabbalistic’ or ‘magical Kabbala center’-type teachings. After I had heard the classes, though, I just filed the ideas in a lower drawer in the back of my mind.

Coalescence

But in the summer of ’07, as my personality search began to coalesce, I took every drawer in my brain and dumped it on my mind’s floor. I saw a lot of similar ideas. Mental notes on Aggadaic stories, analytical Talmudic discussions, advice on child rearing, business management, economics, experiences I had counseling people, and psychological and sociological principles were all evenly strewn about on the floor.

I grabbed as many similar ideas as I could and I put them back in a more organized mental order and, quite suddenly, many of the ideas began to match up with the messages that our seven great Shepherds stood for. Soon I saw in a psychological and sociological way that the actions of the seven Shepherds represented seven special paradigms in human nature and seven different ways of thinking. All of the missing pieces of my personality puzzle started to come together. On a hot summer night in June, The Seven Ways was born.

Then, I started to do research with my theory and I initially interviewed several hundred people. The general findings are fascinating, as you can read about in the book. I hope to continue to interview more people and discover even deeper psychological patterns and insights. However, it is in the area of Nature vs. Nurture that we find groundbreaking insight.

A New Answer to the Debate

When you begin to research this debate, you’ll find proofs on both sides. You’ll find some people who seem to have their personality from nature and some from nurture. You’ll consistently find people who are like tiferet-types in that their parents had given them lots of room for creative thought. This makes sense; out of intellectual freedom comes creative thought. Then you’ll find people who are like people with the middah of gevurah, who view life as a power struggle because, like Eric and Tzvi in The Seven Ways, they had tough home lives and were held down by strong people when they were young. Makes sense.

However, the problem is that you’ll then meet tiferet people who have overbearing parents and gevurah people with perfectly stable childhoods! So is it nature or nurture? I myself thought about it for a while and spoke to the head of my Rabbinic training program, HaRav Yitzchak Berkovitz, and he gave a beautiful answer that I feel really hits home.

Based on a famous passage in the Talmud (that I bring in The Seven Ways), Rav Berkovitz explains that the lifelong path that G-d has laid before you will continually have themes that are based on your unique personality (not just your middot but your unique, individual self). You will walk down tiferet trails if you are a tiferet-type. The life you live if you have the middah of chesed will be one of a chesed person. If you are a yesod, the doors of opportunity that open for you throughout your life will be yesod opportunities in yesod-types fields. Genetically, experientially, emotionally, environmentally all of your life and the glasses you wear will be fully connected to your own personality.

Your personality sets your basic raw skills and abilities, chemical balances in your brain, the types of difficulties you experience in life, and tailor made events that relate to your specific personality, among dozens of other things.

Take it or Leave it

This is how I developed The Seven Ways system, as well as a new, holistic answer to the great Nature/Nurture debate; it’s much more cosmic than philosophers and scientists realize.

Rabbi B


How You Should View Negative Traits in the Seven Ways

“A criticism of them, which destroys all of this [greatness], is a great sin.”

We must remember that even though we can easily scrutinize and criticize our own personalities, we cannot necessarily scrutinize and criticize the personality archetypes from which we are learning. A Chesed-Gevurah may have a particular fault, but can we say with certainty that Avraham has that exact fault as well? Is Avraham cynical?

The great rationalist Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRambam sets the tone for this journey. Rabbenu Avraham reminds us that the upright people in the Bible are operating on a very high spiritual level – they aren’t just half-decent protagonists. He teaches that we should not be so quick to criticize these great people, and brings as a case in point the story of Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu who are put to death by G-d for a misdeed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) during Israel’s travels in the desert. We must remember that even these men who make a mistake:

were among the first to be anointed with the anointing oil and with the great high level of the prophets.

It should be enough for you to know that it is said that they, of blessed memory, were fitting for that which Elazar and Itamar their younger brothers [and ultimate replacements] we not fit for, as the Exalted one says [in his Bible] “Ascend to G-d you and Aharon, Nadav, and Avihu and the seventy elders of Israel” (Exodus 24:1).

Therefore a criticism of them which destroys all of this [greatness] is a great sin. (Hamaspik L’Ovdei Hashem Chapter 7: Humility. Emphasis added.)

Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRambam teaches us that we must be careful not to criticize great people in a way that ignores the true magnitude of their greatness. Though we read that these figures do something that is incorrect or making a mistake, they are far more righteous and self-perfected than anyone we’ll ever meet. They speak with G-d and are very closely connected with Him. To quickly think we can surmise their mistake and diagnose it with our own understanding of human nature is presumptuous – we must be cautious not to destroy their greatness in this process, avoiding belittling remarks or oversimplified explanations.

This is a clear and direct message. If Rabbenu Avraham was reticent to criticize biblical figures, how much more so should we be reticent to criticize them.

The Seven Ways

The Seven Ways method is based on this careful approach, as we must remind ourselves. My goal in the book is to carefully analyze the Shepherds’ (=Ushpizin’s) actions, not their actual personalities. Don’t forget, we are not criticizing the actions of the great Shepherds in the Torah by calling them cynical or uptight. The approach we are taking is to see in the overall actions of a particular Shepherd one unified idea that matches up to a personality we find in G-d’s creation. The process is Shepherd’s actions →unifying concept →personality discovery.  The Shepherd we are learning from does not necessarily have that personality.

In order to get a complete picture of a given personality, we have to take into account a particular Shephard’s many good actions as well as the handful of mistakes they make, in order to uncover their unifying concept. That unifying concept is then discovered in real people in our world, who we can then observe and interview to reveal the rest of the personality.

An Example
Let’s take a famous example of a mistake by a Shepherd. Moshe (Moses) hits a rock rather than speaking to it. Since in this case G-d says explicitly that Moshe has done something wrong, we can learn a lot from this action. On a simple level, we are able to figure out what Moshe’s indiscretion was as a historical event (hitting the rock). We can then read in the Bible that he is punished by G-d since he “didn’t cause people to trust in Me to sanctify Me in front of the eyes of the Jewish people” (Deut. 20:12). Here we are given a fact in the story as well as a lesson we can take in many directions. Perhaps the main one is the importance of sanctifying G-d’s name by being an upright representative of what it means to carry out his Will at all times, especially in a leadership role.

Another nested layer of meaning in this story that many people learn is Moshe’s mistake was that he became angry (Orchot Tzaddikim Chapter on Anger). This incident could then be used to teach us that we must always be calm and not get angry, or that we all must watch our anger in situations like the hitting of the rock. It’s clear that the Jewish people are surrounding Moshe and pressuring the great leader. This teaches us that we are highly susceptible to becoming angry when we are being mobbed.

Then, as a personality lesson, Netzach people who have a personality based on Moshe’s actions can derive from him that they must watch their anger in situations like Moshe’s hitting of the rock, as we’ll see in the Netzach chapter. There are many layers of meaning that we can readily take readily from the Shepherds’ narratives, but we need to proceed with caution to be able to glean insights in a way that that does not ignore their greatness.
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