The Inner Path

The first query in history was that of G-d to Adam after he had sinned: "Where are you?" Clearly this was not a question as to his geographic whereabouts, but rather a challenge, "Where are you in life, and where are you going?" The second question was addressed to Adam's son, Cain, whose service to G-d was lacking in sincerity: "Why are you depressed? Why don't you do something about it?" The clear implication is that man should not be depressed, and that by dedicating himself to the divine service he can redeem himself and achieve simcha (joy). Nineteen generations later, Abraham's relentless search led him to find G-d, and seven generations thereafter G-d gave the Torah to Moses so that man could find himself. The fallible human being now had the means to answer the two historical questions: Where are you in life, and what are you going to do about it? Throughout the ages, the Talmud and the commentaries guided people to find the answers, and in the last two centuries the ultimate in clarification was provided by the two great schools of thought: chassidus launched by Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem, and musar, formulated by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato and Rabbi Yisroel of Salant. Rabbi Shneur Zalman's epochal Tanya dissects the neshama (soul), and the works of musar analyze a variety of human drives. The emphasis of chassidus and musar on self-fulfillment and serving G-d with joy help elevate man to the spiritual being he was meant to be. With the abundance of these works now available in English as well as in Hebrew, a person can no longer claim helplessness in self discovery.

The opportunity is available.

Chassidus, in particular, teaches that although G-d is abstract and intangible, a person can achieve love of G-d through love of other people. Ahavas Yisroel (love of one's fellow Jew), said the Baal Shem Tov, is the path to Ahavas Hashem (love of G-d). Furthermore, in as much as the Talmud states that the Divine spirit is present only where there is simcha, a Jew must find ways in which to achieve joy. It must be remembered that the Baal Shem Tov brought his teachings of simcha to Jews who were oppressed, disenfranchised, and at the mercy of ruthless barons (poritzim).

My tiny contribution to the vast literature on self-examination is the result of forty years of treating people who have sought to escape the challenges of life. Their desperate recourse was largely due to a feeling of inadequacy which rendered the stresses of life overwhelming. A feeling of inadequacy is a misperception due to a lack of awareness of one's self, one's strengths and capabilities. Feeling incapable of coping results in looking for a way out. The escape is frequently to overeating, compulsive spending, or the chemical oblivion of alcohol or drugs. The triumph over these deadly addictions involves a process of self-discovery, becoming aware of one's inner strengths. The techniques in recovery from these conditions can be adapted to apply to many other problems.

Torah literature has kept pace with the marvelous instruments of medical diagnosis, in the sense that as we now have the sonogram and the MRI which can show us the most hidden recesses of the body, so can the advances of chassidus and musar show us the innermost functioning of the human spirit. The spiritual MRI, self-examination, does not require complicated apparatus, and offers cure as well as diagnosis.

Many people today are fascinated by meditation, hypnosis, and other depth analyses, which reflect a deep spiritual longing. The great advantage of the Torah approach is that it offers not only an awareness of one's soul, but also guidelines for actualizing that holiness in relationship to G-d and to others. The chassidic master of Pshische asked his young student, Rabbi Mendel, "Where is G-d?" and was not satisfied with the answer that G-d is omnipresent. He said to the future Rebbe of Kotzk, "G-d is present wherever He is allowed to enter." By teaching us self-examination and spiritual redemption, chassidus and musar eliminate the barriers that obstruct G-d's entry into ourselves. With removal of those traits that are inimical to G-d and by our enhancing our love for Him, the G-d-man dyad becomes a unit, as the Zohar says, "Israel, G-d, and the Torah are one."


Dr. Abraham Twerski

Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, an ordained rabbi, held a pulpit until 1959 when he graduated from medical school and went on to complete a psychiatric residency. Formerly Clinical Director of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital, Pittsburgh, he is currently Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Twerski is founder and medical director of the non-profit Gateway Rehabilitation Center for the treatment of drug and alcohol dependence in western Pennsylvania. Recently, in conjunction with Gateway and the Pittsburgh Jewish community, he has undertaken a similar project called Shaar Hatikvah (Gateway to Hope) in Jerusalem.

Recognized as an authority in the field of chemical dependency, Dr. Twerski is the recipient of three honorary degrees and the author of twenty books. He appears frequently in the popular media.