by Reb Gutman Locks
Josh wrote: There has recently been a lot of publicity regarding a Jewish men’s workshop called “Call of the Shofar” where teaching and experiential exercises take place over a weekend that transform the way a person thinks about himself, others and G-d. The workshop advertises that it is geared to helping people bring personal development, rational health and spiritual growth to their lives. In the past few weeks it has been brought up that perhaps the program is based on pagan and Buddhist practices. I highly respect your views in this area and would be very happy to hear your opinion on this.
Gutman’s response: Unless I see exactly what their techniques are, or what their “self discovery” ends up with, I cannot tell you if it is based on Eastern philosophy. If you can get me that information I will tell you what I see.
Is it good? Is a cult? That will depend on if it helps people to improve their lives. If it is good for Chabad people to enter a discipline that has no connection to Chabad Chassidus is another question.
Instead of condemning the “self help program,” the real question the Chabad rabbis should be asking is, “Why should Chabad Chassidim have to go to a “self-help” program to find spiritual growth?”
Perhaps the most important benefit of learning Chassidus used to be, becoming aware of the spiritual perspective, living a life of knowing G-d, and seeking ways to serve Him. That these Chabadniks had to go to “outsiders” to try to find these things shows the tremendous lack in the way Torah is being taught today.
What happened to the classes on devekus (cleaving)? Today, no one even knows what we are supposed to be trying to cleave to! A mashpia (yeshiva spiritual mentor) and his wife used to be like parents to their community. If you have sensitive, knowledgeable, loving parents, you do not need to go somewhere else to look for yourself.
Although I am not there to see, so I may be way off base, but I blame the rabbis for this entire mess. And the reason they can no longer teach Chassidus properly, (forgive me if I am wrong) is because they have lost it themselves. Instead of attaining a spiritual height, Chassidus has become an entirely intellectual pursuit with spiritual awareness completely left out.
So, what do I recommend?