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Tuesday
Aug152017

KOSHER MEDITATION

770  was packed and the Rebbe was screaming about a burning issue – cults that were attracting Jews through meditation, and how to operate against them. * One woman, who wasn’t even there, responded to the Rebbe’s demand and merited her own rescue.

By C. Magen

In public parks, malls, train stations, student hostels, airports, anywhere and everywhere, you could see young and old dressed in the robes of the Far East, sitting eastern-style on the ground in utter silence, with eyes closed. They looked like creatures from another, distant world; serene, disconnected from the worries of daily life, not part of the rat-race that ensnares most people.

Those people with the closed eyes were practicing meditation that came from the East to the Western world in the 19th century and evolved in many ways.

At its core, meditation is not a religious act. It is a general term for techniques to achieve self-actualization of the body and even more so the soul, as a result of which, a person’s consciousness changes and improves in relation to his various behaviors and activities.

But meditation, which became very popular in the West, was part of certain Eastern religions and caused Jews who sought peace and serenity to be caught in a net of idol worship.

CHAG HA’GEULA, 13 TAMMUZ 5739

The Rebbe farbrenged for the Chag Ha’Geula. One of the sichos of that year 5739/1979 will be remembered as completely out of the ordinary. The Rebbe brought up the topic of transcendental meditation (TM) and said that many Jews had been ensnared by this idol worship or, at the very least, the “ancillaries of idol worship.” The Rebbe asked that professionals who deal with psychological healing should filter out the problematic elements and enable Jews to achieve complete mental health by using meditation divorced of anything that opposes Judaism. The Rebbe spoke with great sadness about boys and girls who fell into the hands of the cults, and declared that providing a kosher form of emotional healing through meditation meant saving lives.

Picture the scene: A large crowd of Anash and T’mimim, some of them Chassidim who had learned in Tomchei T’mimim when it was still in Lubavitch. Who was the Rebbe talking to? Was there anyone in the crowd who knew meditation and who could sift through the details of the approaches to restructure them into a kosher format? It was a mystery.

About a decade before the sicha was delivered, back in the 60’s, the Rebbe spoke to a certain Jewish individual who was expert both in mental health as well as Torah, and requested that he eliminate the negative aspects of meditation for the sake of numerous Jews. It was scientifically proven that meditation was useful and brought serenity, and the need to save so many Jews was the call of the hour. The Rebbe even sent him an article on the topic of TM in which he circled certain sentences and made a line through others. However, the person did not join the Rebbe’s battle for reasons of his own, and the problem remained unresolved.

When there was no response to his direct and personal request, the Rebbe brought the topic up at a farbrengen, and even sent a memo to many professionals. The one who responded to the Rebbe’s call was Dr. Yehuda Landes, a psychiatrist from Palo Alto, who in return received close attention from the Rebbe, giving him advice and financial support in order to make the necessary corrections.

PROMISES OF SERENITY

The number of people who were helped by meditation as a means to serenity only continued to grow. One of them was a Jewish student by the name of Darcy. She was from a Reform family who practiced TM to good effect and results, which she had learned while in high school.

Darcy was diagnosed as suffering from problems with concentration. Back then, in an attempt to still her turbulent soul, her friend’s mother introduced her to meditation and even went with her to the TM center where she lived in Buffalo.

Right from the initiation ceremony, Darcy felt out of place, and this was despite having grown up Reform with minimal Jewish education. She knew about One G-d and the Shma, the heart of our faith. Although she did not observe Torah and mitzvos, the components of idol worship did not sit well with her. She spoke about this to someone in charge, who told her that the ceremony was done just once and she wouldn’t have to do it again.

A mantra was given to Darcy, and to all the participants her age who were there. That is a sound, word or sentence that is said repeatedly to aid in concentration in meditation. The mantra is whispered; you cannot say it out loud. For the next four years, Darcy repeated her mantra and followed instructions: to think it, not say it out loud, twice a day, for twenty minutes each time. She didn’t know what she was saying. She just repeated the sounds that the people in charge of the local cult had said were best for her.

The promises of peace and serenity were true, but upon meeting a rabbi at her college campus, Darcy expressed concern about whether she was allowed to repeat the mantra. The rabbi said that as long as the mantra had no names of gods, it was okay.

During summer break, Darcy decided to find a new mantra, but instead of buying one by signing up for another course for $150, she bought a book with a list of hundreds of easy mantras. While browsing, she came across her mantra. Apparently, anyone who had begun the course with her got this same mantra.

That is when she realized it was a lie. And she discovered that the mantra was based on idol worship with elements of Hinduism. She decided to stop using meditation. Or at least she tried. It wasn’t easy to stop because the mantra didn’t leave her head. After all, she had devoted forty minutes a day, every day, to it, for four years.

At the same time, she began taking an interest in Chabad and registered for the summer program at Bais Chana in Minnesota. There, she met Rabbi Manis Friedman, who suggested that she learn the 12 P’sukim that the Rebbe asked that every Jewish child know by heart.

“Every time the mantra comes to mind,” said R’ Friedman, “say the p’sukim and they will push the mantra out.”

TALENTS REVEALED

Today, Darcy uses her Jewish name, Rus Devorah Wallen, and she tells about her spiritual journey.

“With time, by using the distraction of saying the p’sukim, I managed to get the mantra out of my head and I took on keeping mitzvos.

“When I finished my academic studies at the end of 5741, I traveled to Tzfas to study at Machon Alte. For an American girl, it was the best place to study. As Rabbi Eliyahu Friedman pointed out in his first shiur with us, the four holy cities represent the four elements. Yerushalayim is the fire of the korbanos; Chevron is dust – the M’aras HaMachpeila; Teveria is water – the Kinneret; and Tzfas is air – the spirituality there.

“After a great year of learning, I returned to the United States and worked for Chabad in Buffalo for two years. In 5745, I was invited to be a madricha at Machon Chana under the unforgettable Eim Bayis, Mrs. Gitta Gansbourg a”h. After a while, I began working with Rabbi J. J. Hecht at the NCFJE, and also in an outreach program for students in universities.

“His son, Shea Hecht, was busy saving Jews who were in cults and deprogramming them from the brainwashing they went through. I helped him occasionally, and the work was fascinating. In one case, there was a girl who was completely closed off and we couldn’t get a sound out of her. Shea did not give up; he sent her handwriting to a master graphologist, Roxanne Rachel Perri, who studied with Felix Klein, one of the greatest graphologists in the world.

“Roxanne analyzed the girl’s handwriting, and thanks to that we were able to connect with her. We had adventures in the course of her rescue. For me, it was a kind of is’hafcha, a sort of shtus d’k’dusha that rectifies the other kind of shtus. We freed the girl from the brainwashing she underwent in a cult and she eventually became involved in Torah and mitzvos.

“I was fascinated by the analysis of her handwriting and I sent Roxanne a fax with a sample of my handwriting. She accurately listed the different roles I filled, one by one, and my talents, and then it hit me, that I am actually a therapist, as the graphologist noted. With the Rebbe’s bracha for social work, I let Rabbi Hecht know I was leaving.”

THE SICHA

Rus Devorah graduated in 5751. She worked as a social worker with adults and children. A decade ago, she returned to Buffalo and was able to provide support for her parents till their final days.

Today, from her home in Buffalo, Rus Devorah is in constant touch with the shliach, and weekly Beis Moshiach columnist, Rabbi Heschel Greenberg. She works with shluchim and shluchos in places all over the world where there aren’t religious therapists. Through online video conferencing and the phone “even when I can’t see the person I’m talking to, I can sense their heart.” From the beginning of a conversation, she can sense the progress or lack thereof on the part of the patient, through her keen ability to listen.

But Rus Devorah’s main work is carrying out the Rebbe’s unique shlichus – responding to the Rebbe’s sicha of 13 Tammuz 5739, that was said precisely when she began to be weaned off of the idolatrous mantra. Who was the Rebbe talking to in the sicha when he asked that meditation be made accessible for the religious public? Rus Devorah knows the answer. In the 60’s, the religious doctor turned down the Rebbe’s request. In the 70’s, a baal t’shuva doctor was asked to take on the project with the emphasis that it be kosher but neutral, with no Jewish elements, a method that any Jew could use. But this too did not pan out.

After years in which the Rebbe’s call remained unanswered, Rus Devorah offers a meditation method that is clean of anything religiously objectionable. Nowadays, experts in brain science recommend meditation exercises. Back then, the Rebbe, with his open prophecy, spoke about the benefits and necessity of appropriate meditation. The sad part is that nobody rose to the challenge with any success.

Rus Devorah elaborates. “Rabbi Greenberg and I came into the picture. I learned the sicha with R’ Greenberg at least ten times. When we analyzed it, we deconstructed it and I gave lectures based on it. I use this approach with most of my clients. The method is suitable for all ages and all situations: stress, bi-polar, depression, problems with listening and concentration, stuttering, postpartum depression, adaptability issues and more. Everyone is helped by what I personally call the Rebbe’s meditation. The dosage is according to the Rebbe’s instruction in the sicha. One part of the treatment is an exercise to quiet the mind and the other works to quiet the body.”

That which science revealed in recent years, the Rebbe knew then. Brain scans now show that meditation raises the density level of the gray matter, the primary component of the central nervous system, and develops the top layer of the frontal lobe – the ChaBaD of the mind.

THE SOUL SAVES THE BODY

Remember those chilling words the Rebbe said about saving lives? For Rus Devorah, these words took on personal meaning recently.

On the first day of Shavuos, a few months ago, she went to shul to hear the Aseres HaDibros. Then she returned home to prepare to host friends and family for a dairy Kiddush. While cutting vegetables, she felt that one of her hands was not functioning. Her condition gradually worsened. An ambulance was called for and she was taken to the hospital. It was obvious she was having a stroke but amazingly, her blood pressure was fine.

Throughout the unpleasant tests that were done, Rus Devorah remained in full control and relaxed, which helped get her released from the hospital after only a brief hospitalization, thanks to the meditation that she practiced, the slow breathing and the guided imagery to a beloved place from her early childhood. The kosher tool that she had developed based on the Rebbe’s instructions, for Jews the world over, protected her and proved itself under the most trying of circumstances.

The Rebbe snatched Rus Devorah from the claws of the dark forces when he said the sicha, and he accompanied her through all the pathways of her life, in order for her to bring the kosher cure to Jews in distress. The merit of being the one to actualize the Rebbe’s request from all those years ago, for the purpose of saving many Jews in body and soul, stood her in good stead when that very meditation saved her life.

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