Friday, May 3, 2013

"Pandemic of low self-esteem" in Yeshivos - Rav Reuven Feinstein

updated May 3 I am currently trying to understanding the recent transition from interpersonal relations governed by Torah concepts and the current replacement by secular psychological values and processes. Currently one of the most important psychological concepts is that of self-esteem. Despite the fact that there is no such concept in Torah we have here a call by Rav Reuven Feinstein to institute programs and methodology in yeshivos to fight against the "pandemic of low self-esteem" in our yeshivos. Furthermore he indicates that this secular attribute of self-esteem is critical for spirituality and serving G-d! This widespread and uncritical acceptance in our community of the importance of psychology - not only to be a healthy person but to develop sprituality - is in strong contrast with Rav Dessler (Vol 3 page 360). It is important to note that there is actually no scientific evidence to support the importance and centrality that self-esteem has in education, parenting and therapy. Why have rabbis accepted its importance? The following is a haskoma that Rav Feinstein wrote for a book - on building this psychological characteristic of self-esteem - written by a rabbi for the frum world.  I have previously posted this Yeshiva Education and low self-esteem where I note that the problem of low self-esteem is uniquely a problem in yeshivos that follow the Lithuanian approach - but not in the Chassidic or Sefardic yeshivos. This is apparrently related to the emphasis of elitism described by Rav Dessler. See Rav Dessler - producing gedolim at expense of others.   See Self-esteem is destructive     

see video-  Rabbi Twerski describe his struggles with low self-esteem
See "Bringing out the Best"
Rav Reuven Feinstein (Haskoma to Rabbi Roll’s Bringing out the Best on self-esteem 2008): In a generation bereft of spiritual guidance, following a path dictated by societal values and goals, it is clear that beyond the simple impairment of Torah Ethics and values, is the destruction of Jewish self-esteem. In yeshivos today there is literally a pandemic of low self-esteem. An outcome of this most horrible condition, is that once a person has achieved a state where self-worth and self-value are diminished, that person is literally open to all foreign pressures both within and without. Once those pressures are given free reign, the outcome is without exception, negative. Building, nurturing, and maintaining a healthy, positive and balanced self-esteem is critical to the development of any child. Instilling Torah Values side by side with a healthy self-esteem is not only fundamental to a solid foundation of Torah and mitzvos, it is critical for one wishing to grow and develop in their relationship with Hashem. Rabbi Roll has undertaken a most worthy project in addressing the deficit of self-esteem so prevalent within our communities, yeshivos and schools. The Alter of Slabodka’s work Ohr HaTzafun explains the Torah’s definition and obligation of self-esteem in this world. Rabbi Roll has expounded upon these concepts and presented them for consideration. There is no greater achievement in this world that to inspire, teach, or motivate another....

Rabbi Dr. Twerski's (Forward to Rabbi Roll’s Bringing out the Best on self-esteem 2008)to the same book: [...] We are fortunate that we have had great Torah scholars who were able to do so and extracted the gems of wisdom from it. Among them is the famous ethicist, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, better known as the Alter of Slobodka. A healthy self-esteem is essential for optimum function and for achieving one’s mission and goal in life. Unfortunately, there are many things that militate against the development of a healthy self-esteem, some of which I described in my book Angels Don’t Leave Footprints. In his sefer, Ohr HaTzafun, the Alter of Slobodka draws upon the Torah narrative to show us how the Torah emphasizes gadlus ha’adam, man’s potential for greatness. Just as the Alter derived these concepts from the Torah and made them available to us, Rabbi Yisroel Roll expands upon them and applies them to a person’s self-concept, with instructions on how to create a healthy self-image and implement these lesssons in our lives. Self-esteem is contagious. Children may get it from their parents, students from their teachers, and everyone from their friends. It is important that we become aware of the components of self-esteem and the factors that jeopardize our self-esteem. Rabbi Roll has utilized the teachings of the Alter and delivered them to us in a consumer-friendly fashion, with practical strategies to develop and enhance positive attitudes and encourage a family atmosphere of healthy self-esteem. The pursuit of happiness is universal, and if there is any one thing that is an obstacle to achieving happiness, it is the lack of self-esteem. By facilitating the development of self-esteem, Rabbi Roll has made an important contribution to enhancing family life and shalom bayis.
 In contrast we find acknowledgments that Mussar concepts are not those of Psychology
Dr. Meir Levin (Beyond Psychology in Jewish Action 2003): Psychology and Musar Are Not the Same - Because of the lack of appreciation of the uniqueness of musar, some have recently begun misrepresenting it as a kind of psychological teaching. The bastardization of musar takes various forms. A number of self-help volumes targeting the Orthodox community have recently been published. While some of the authors of these books explicitly aim at the legitimate synthesis of psychological and musar approaches or at restating musar principles in the language of psychology, others use musar to Judaize psychological teachings. One must not minimize the beneficial effects that the spread of psychological insights can have in our communities. And those who do this work are well intentioned. In fact, practitioners of musar would do well to pay at least some attention to advances in behavioral sciences. Yet, psychology is not musar and musar is not psychology. The conflating of the two detracts from each one.

See Rabbi Ephraim Becker - why equating gadlus haAdam and self-esteem is problematic

Update:We also find acknowledgment that self-esteem was not part of classic mussar. In fact self-esteem was discovered by Rabbi Twerski as the result of his own personal psychological-spiritual crisis  as he describes fully on a video.

Andrew Heinze (Americanization of Mussar: Abraham Twerski’s 12  Steps, Judaism Fall 1999): Even though the emphasis on proper self-esteem seems more congruent with American optimism than with Jewish irony, Twerski speculates on the traditional sources of his orientation.

 “My clinical emphasis on the importance of attaining a positive self-concept and avoiding self-flagellation may have had its origin in an anecdote about the Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen) which Father repeated many times. One time the Chafetz Chayim was riding home to Radin and had the driver stop to pick up a man walking along the road. Along the way, the man mentioned he was journeying to visit the Chafetz Chayim, to which the Chafetz Chayim replied that. he didn't see why the man was going to such effort because the Chafetz Chayim wasn't so special The man then slapped the Chafetz Chayim in the face. Later in Radin the man met the Chafetz Chaimand and immediately bowed down, asking for forgiveness. The Chafetz Chaim said there is no need for this, as the man was defending him. "But I did learn something new trom this experience I have always pointed out how wrong it is to belittle others. Now, I know it is also wrong to belittle oneself.” [Twerski Generation to Generation pp 90-91]

The lesson of the Chofetz Chaim notwithstanding, Twerski knows that his emphasis on self-acceptance departs from the mainstream of mussar. In trying to fathom why this should be so, he speculates that perhaps in earlier generations the problem of low self-esteem was less urgent. After Darwin and Freud, however, humanity faced a crisis in the form of psychological determinism and the denial of special creation. These theories, Twerski concludes, had an effect on the self-esteem "of even the Torah-true Jew." [Twerski I am I page 40].

So, in contrast to the darker and more stoic sensibility of mussar classics like Mesillat Yesharim, Abraham Twerski's postwar American therapeutic brand includes a softer touch and more empathetic disposition. Using the confessional format as a way of establishing emotional rapport with his readers, Twerski openly describes his own confrontation with unpleasant inner impulses and his all-too-human deduction that he must be an unworthy person to harbor such feelings. In grappling with this crisis of self-esteem, Twerski ultimately found an answer in the Talmud (B. Shabbat 89a) which explained that people have been given the mitzvot precisely because they have been endowed with animal impulses. "The discovery of animalistic traits within myself," he explains to his readers, "was no reason for me to consider myself to be a 'bad' person."


  1. it seems you have not read the Haskomo in detail, since it says that R Roll's book is expounding on the Alter of Slabodka's book, which discusses the Torah obligation of self esteem.
    Again, R Dessler, although Haredi, is an extremist view, he is the intellectual's neturei karta. If you rely on R Dessler, then why don't you surrender your PhD in psychology, do teshuva for it, perhaps take on fasts, and then get a job in the kashrus industry. Thsi would all be consistent with what r Dessler teaches. you cannot have it both ways.

    1. Eddie I admire your lightning quick understanding. Just from reading this haskoma you realized that psychology is really Torah as proven by the Alter's sefer. Consequently Rav Dessler must be an extremist and I must give up my PhD. Wow!

      But if you slow down a bit you might realize that in fact the Alter does not necessarily shows that modern self-esteem is in fact in Torah sources. You might realize that Rav Dessler was not an extremist but in fact was responding in an appropriate way to the intrustion of psychology and its alien elements. Furthermore that a PhD is psychology does not mean that I have to salute everything said in the name of psychology nor do I need to accept everything a talmid chachom says - whether it Rav Reuven Feinstein or Rav Dessler.

      In short - please look at the purported connecting links. As the Chofetz Chaim once noted - a frum yid does not have an obligation to be stupid.

    2. There is no concept in Torah of vitamins, of blood pressure, etc, that does not mean it is alien to Torah to make sure we have adequate vitamins, and take medicine for blood pressure if necessary.
      R Dessler was extremist in his views of secular studies.
      Ironically, in a previous post you wrote that R Dessler said No "self-esteem" for those OTDs who study for a trade or profession. So either this alien concept had already infected r Dessler, or the writer in choosing that term.
      R Avraham Twersky is the leader in self-esteem therapy, and perhaps he is responsible for this concept diffusing into the Yeshiva world.

      what is not clear from this post, is whether the pandemic itself is in dispute, or how to deal with it?

  2. Here is a thought, do you think it could be related to a cultural shift otherwise. Meaning we have gone from a High Context culture and a High honor-shame culture, to a low context and honor-shame culture.

    As far as high-context to low-context, that would seem to be evident, ore or less, in the increasing chumrot, and frankly need for signage in places like our Synagogues.

    As far as honor-shame as an example 2000yrs ago you had Rabbis who were composing prayers that dealt with not being shamed before your peers, by not sufficiently knowing the information. Today few people pray those prayers with any sort of kavvana, and fewer still feel any real sense of shame and diminished social stature by not being sufficiently fluent in a daf.

    Also there has been(thanks in large part to Western Democracy) a shift from a communal focus to an indvidual focus...

    All of those would seem to make the idea of "self-esteem" more important.

    1. important points. My big problem is there is no evidence - even according to secular psychology - that you need high self-esteem to function properly in modern society.

      If it were true - then a shift of focus to the invidual who has entitlements etc would require all to have it. But it apparently isn't true - either for traditional society or modern society.

      It is simply psychobabble - which apparently has been swallowed hook line and sinker by the rabbis and educational establishment.

    2. @DT "My big problem is there is no evidence - even according to secular psychology - that you need high self-esteem to function properly in modern society."

      Past research has treated self-esteem either as a social force or as a social product. However, this research has not given adequate attention to the reciprocal effects of the self-concept and various social and personal factors. A panel of 1886 adolescent boys is used to explore the reciprocal relationships between self-esteem and three problems of youth: juvenile delinquency; poor school performance; and psychological depression. We find that low self-esteem fosters delinquency and that delinquency may enhance self-esteem. These reciprocal effects differ among socioeconomic status groups. The relationship between self-esteem and school performance is primarily attributable to the effect of school performance on self-esteem. Finally, the causal relationship between self-esteem and depression is bidirectional. Substantive, methodological, and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

    3. It is simply psychobabble - which apparently has been swallowed hook line and sinker by the rabbis and educational establishment.

      By and large I would agree.

      My point was more that the reason that it is being swallowed hook line and sinker is that society, or at least Jewish society, has fundamentally changed.

      What used to be driving forces in Jewish socieity, especially when most of our core sefarim were written, have changed. Much of that change, even in Western Democracy has happened within the last 100yrs.

      100yrs ago, no one wanted to be the Dunce/Fool. Today, everyone in society wants to be the Dunce/Fool. Thus to a certain extent I think the notion of self-esteem is rather detrimental. As it teaches that it does not matter so much what socieity thinks of you, but rather what you think of your self.

      It is in my opinion both and indicator and driving force in this change.

  3. Torah and PsychologyMay 2, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Where in this letter is there reference to "psychology"? The concept of self-esteem is indeed a focal point for many in the mental health field. Well, so is anxiety, mood, etc. Are these also grouped in as secular concepts? I'm not sure of the intent of posting this haskomoh letter here, as I find nothing in it that is newsworthy or controversial.

    What would get interesting would be some discussion, from the Torah view, of how today's society diminishes self-esteem, in fact, challenging the Torah concept of בשבילי נברא העולם. Hillel directed each of us to feel a sense of purpose and value in order to be better Ovdei Hashem. Is that modern psychology or Torah?

    Rav Reuven shlit"a is perfectly accurate in noting the epidemic of low self-esteem today. It would exciting to examine the responsibility of Torah leadership in the development of the conditions that are behind this, and how to bring about useful change.

    1. I find it amazing that you are the only one who has totally missed my point.

  4. There is self-esteem and then there is self-esteem.
    Telling a person he is wonderful for no good reason other than to make him feel good about himself is dangerous.
    Telling a person he is wonderful because he's worked very hard at something, accomplished a great deal that has benefited many and wants to contribute more to those around him is an excellent thing because it perpetuates the positive behaviour.
    How many times in the Gemara does one sage praise another after learning something from him or hearing a good chidush? Yes the Mussar movement came to teach us that we're all dirt and scum but there are folks who took pride and esteem in how lousy they felt about themselves!
    And Rav Dessler, z"l, did have some extreme views when it came to education as detailed in Michtav M'Eliyahu. Yes, he was a giant Torah scholar but when did it happen that his opinion became the trump card in so many arguments?

    1. good points. Rav Dessler does not trump everyone else. He is responding honestly to the intrusion of psychology into Yiddishkeit and he is not sprinkling holy water over psychology and declaring the gedolim have alreadly discovered these terms and that they are critical for personal and spiritual growth.

      With Rav Dessler the argument would be whether times have changed and therefore to survive one needs to use the framework of psychology. He is correctly noting the conflict between the two system.

      But to simply say self-esteem as used by psychologists is that which the Alter called gadlus haAdam - is very problematic.

      One should read "Strictly Kosher Reading" for other examples of the transformation of goyish or scientific thought into Torah.

  5. I agree with Mighty Garnel. There is a healthy self esteem (not being afraid to take on challenges, even though you might fail) and unhealthy self esteem. I suggest you read Mindset by Carol Dweck. It is an excellent book (the book is kind of boring but the theory she puts forward is excellent in my opinion.

    The theory of praising every child etc for no reason is actually very harmful. It certainly doens't build character in my opinion, but is destructive.


  6. See the following study which shows that violence is the result of having high esteem - not low self-esteem

    "Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence,but the oppo-site view is theoretically viable.An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression,crime,and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem isan importan tcause.Instead,violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotismw that is,highly favorable views of self that are disputed by other person or circumstance.
    Inflated,unstable,or tentative beliefs in the self's superiority maybeostroneto encountering threats and hence to causing violence.
    The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as away of avoiding a downward revision of the self-concept. "

    1. The article I posted explains how this happens, ie low self esteem leads to delinquency, and then delinquency leads to self-esteem. Gang violence is all about the ego and exaggerated self esteem, which again leads to more violence.

      but the gang violence in this study is referring to impoverished blacks, which is a different culture to that of yeshivas. I am not aware of yeshiva gangs and violence, or if the kanoi violence is self esteem issue or just ideology.

      If some rabbis are addressing the issue, then there must be a problem on the ground. Rabbi Roll is a fine Rav, who is also a qualified psychologist.

      I also would add that the Torah speaks of behaviours and of actions, but not of psychological models. For example, Shaul is criticised for saving Agag and the finest sheep, but this is not analysed on the level of a behavioural model. Hezekiah is criticised for showing his treasures to a foreign King, an is punished, and loses his connection with G-d. But the explicit reason for his behaviour is not given. We can develop models to explain this and that. In the end, even psychologist do not always agree, and it s no coincidence that there are so many Jewish psychologists.

    2. I would suggest violence is a result of lack of personal conscience. A person with high self esteem but a strong conscience which gives him a sense of right and wrong is far less likely to be violent.

  7. Self esteem makes me feel happy and able to function better without needing to consider three times whether I'm doing thing's right. Does the Torah hold it's better to feel like a miserable piece of dirt?

  8. It's a mischaracterization of the psychological literature to say there's no evidence for the importance of self-esteem. Certainly, there are studies that cast doubt on its centrality, and others prefer similar but distinct concepts such as self-efficacy, but still there is quite a bit of literature supporting the emphasis placed on self-esteem.

    Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes extensively on, in so many words, the need for self-esteem; see his writings on depression, believing in onesself, being happy, finding one's good points, etc.

    Chazal teach that everyone should consider it as if the world were created only for that person's sake. In a place where there is no man, Chazal say, you be the man! We are supposed to rise like a lion to serve our creator! We need strength and courage and to believe in ourselves and our potential. If we think only negative thoughts about ourselves and doubt our self worth, we cannot do these things.

    Recent psychological research has shown that children are harmed by parent's fighting, in part because the children identify personally with each parent, and the insults against each parent hurt them personally. They also feel shame in watching fighting. When parents harshly criticize their children and seldom praise them, the children are filled with negative feelings about themselves and are often prone to anxiety and depression. They are even less resilient in the face of stressors later in life, and this effect can be detected at the epigenetic level -- parental maltreatment actually changes the expression of children's genes! Learning to feel good about one's self, while at the same time not becoming arrogant, is important for such children to avoid the negative consequences of parental maltreatment.

    1. Here are some teachings from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov that relate to self-esteem:

      "You must search for the good in yourself.

      When you start looking deep within yourself, you may think there is no good in you at all. You may feel you are full of evil: a negative voice inside you may try to drive you into depression. But you must not allow yourself to fall into depression. Search until you find some little good in you. For how could it be that you never did anything good in your whole life?

      When you start to examine the good you have done, you may see many flaws. Maybe you did what you did for the wrong reasons and with the wrong attitude. Even so, how could it be that your mitzvah or good deed contains no good at all? It must contain some element of good.

      You must search and search until you find some good point within you to give you new life and happiness. When you discover the good that is still inside you, you literally swing the scales from guilt to merit. This will enable you to return to God. The good you find inside you will give you new life and bring joy to your soul.

      Having found one good point, you must continue searching until you find another. Even if you think this good point is also full of flaws, you must still search for some good in it. In the same way, you must continue finding more and more good points.

      This is how songs are made! In essence, music is made by sifting the good from the bad. The musician has to find the "good spirit" - the good air - and reject the bad. A musical instrument is a vessel containing air. The musician produces the sounds by causing the air to vibrate. His task is to move his hands on the instrument in such a way as to produce good spirit, "good vibrations", while avoiding the "bad vibrations" - the dissonant winds of gloom and depression.

      When a person refuses to allow himself to fall into despair but instead vitalizes himself by seeking out and gathering together his positive points, this produces melodies, and he can then pray, sing and give thanks to God.

      When a person recognizes the wrong he has done and how grossly materialistic and impure he is, he can become so depressed that he is completely incapable of praying. He simply cannot open his mouth to God. This is because of the deep sorrow and heaviness that overcome him when he sees his overwhelming distance from God.

      But finding your good points can give you new life. Even if you know you have done wrong and caused damage and that you are far from God, you must search until you find the good that is still inside you. This will give you new life and make you truly happy. You are certainly entitled to feel the greatest joy over every good point you find in yourself, because each good point comes from the holy soul within you. The new life and joy you will gain from this path will enable you to pray, sing and give thanks to God."

      Likutey Moharan I, 282

    2. Here are a couple additional quotes:

      "A person should never let his own smallness insignificance and humility cover up his true greatness. For sometimes a person downgrades himself to excess and forgets that he still has many amazing attributes."

      Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-34

      * * *

      "The main reason why people are far from God is because their minds are not settled and they do not pause to consider the purpose of their existence. But when a person is happy, his mind becomes settled and he is able to understand things clearly.

      Someone who is anxious and depressed finds it impossible to direct his thoughts where he wants. It is hard for him to calm and settle his mind. Only when a person is happy can he direct his thoughts wherever he wants and settle his mind.

      Joy is the world of freedom - "for you shall go out with joy " (Isaiah 55:12) . Through joy we become free and leave our exile. When a person maintains a happy, joyous attitude, his mind and thoughts become free and he is no longer in exile. He can then direct his thoughts as he wants and settle his mind so as to focus on his goal and draw close to God."

      Likutey Moharan II, 10

    3. what does this have to do with focusing on self-esteem as the foundation of well being and spirituality?

      It is similar to saying that the goal of education is to score high on the SAT exams. Learning, motivation etc are ignored - if you score high then you are educated and if you score low you are a failure.

      Rav Nachman is obviously dealing with a much more complex and realistic interplay of factors. He isn't saying - avoid difficult tasks because you might fail and that will lower your self-esteem. He is not saying don't ask questions that someone will find stupid and laugh at you - it will just lower your self-esteem. He is not saying a person should view himself as wonderful and special and therefore he will not be bothered by criticism of any type. Can't believe that Rav Nachman would approve of the focus on self-esteem as the measure of man.

      In short self-esteem is one of many factors that make up a person. There are times when it is good to be embarrassed of your behavior and their are time to be proud. Focusing on one measure is not helpful and often causes harm. There are times when high self-esteem destroys motivation for improvement and low self-esteem encourages growth and creativety. Many of the widely admired people in any field of accomplishment have low self esteem and in fact that is what has driven them to success. A contented cow has high self-esteem as do many members of the mafia and criminal gangs.

    4. I agree that self-esteem should not be the main goal of education or the measure of man. It is possible that an exclusive or undue focus on self-esteem can be harmful, though I suspect that the empirical literature is not well developed enough to be able to ascertain exactly how much is harmful.

      However, self-esteem is one factor that is worthy of attention. Rebbe Nachman's teachings support the importance of self-esteem.

      I'm not saying Rebbe Nachman would support an exclusive focus on the topic. Indeed, his other writings encourage (among other things) an hour of daily hitbodedut focused largely on self-analysis and teshuvah, and a passionate striving for personal excellence.

    5. It is true that gang members, or leaders have high self esteem, but that is because they made a bad career choice, or a good one, depending on one's point of view.
      there is a difference between saying that self esteem is not a valid concept, and saying that has validity but the interplay is complex.
      let me put it another way - perhaps the fact that within yeshiva world, self esteem is perhaps one few the few psychological concepts that is in vogue, means it is reasonably kosher or pareve. Perhaps the ideas of psychoanalysis are too radical to make their way into mainstream Rabbinical discourse, although there are a few books on this subject too.

    6. Eddie: Yes, but there are other equally pareve concepts that are less fashionable, such as self-efficacy, that could also be employed (but which probably aren't being used.) There's no need to resort to Freudianism to achieve a more balanced approach in attending to students' psychology.

    7. Yeshaya: i think that your sources proving the importance of a strong feeling of self-worth are beyond reproach, but turning those sources into a springboard to condemn parents that employ harsh criticism and characterize the same as "maltreatment" is simply inaccurate.

      One can imbue a strong belief in self worth and still criticize willful neglect harshly - and his children will grow up better off, as long as they "get the message" that the stinging criticism was well-deserved. We tend to avoid sticking our fingers into fire, precisely because it hurts!

  9. Self-esteem means different things to different people, as this discussion has brought out. A Jew needs a proper appreciation of his own potential to make best use of it. Downgrading oneself based on a lack of self-knowledge could interfere with learning and application. Inflating one's current state or potential in a given subject area obviously causes problems, too.

  10. Here's the Chovos Halvovos take on גאוה, כניעה - possibly understood as self-esteem. In short, he seems to say that it's good if the PURPOSE is to serve Hashem, otherwise self-esteem makes a person TOO CONTENT AND LAZY:

    אך הגאווה שבמעלות הרוחניות מתחלקת לשני חלקים.
    אחד מהם מגונה והשני משובח.
    המגונה, שיתגאה האדם בחכמתו והצדיק במעשהו, וגורם זה שירבה בעיניו ויספיק אצלו מה שקדם לו מהם, ולחשוב שדי לו במה שיצא לו מן השם הטוב והשבח אצל בני אדם, ולבזות בני אדם ולגעול אותם ולספר בגנותם, ולהיות חכמי דורו וגדוליהם פחותים בעיניו, ולהתפאר בקיצור חבריו וסכלותם.
    וזה הוא הנקרא אצל רבותינו זיכרונם לברכה מתכבד בקלון חברו, ובזה לא יהיה נכנע ולא עניו.

    והמשובח, כשמתגאה החכם בחכמתו והצדיק במעשהו הודאה לגודל טובת הבורא עליו בהם, ושמחה בעבורם. ויגרום לו להוסיף ולהשתדל בהם ולהיכנע לקרוביו ולשמוח בחבריו ולחוס על כבודם ולכסות סכלותם, ולדבר בשבחם ולאהוב אותם ולהליץ בעדם ולהיזהר בכבודם. וימעטו בעיניו כל מעשיו הטובים, תמיד טורח להרבות מהם, נכנע בעבור חלישותו מהשיג מאוייו בהם, משפיל עצמו למי שמקוה תוספת על ידיו, מודה לאלוהים על מה שחננו מן המעלות, ומשבח אותו על אשר הפיקו לקנות החמודות.
    וזאת הגאווה אינה מתנגדת לכניעה, ולא מרחקת אותה.
    ובכמוה אמר הכתוב על יהושפט (דה"ב יז) ויגבה לבו בדרכי ה'.
    אך היא מסייעת אותה ומוסיפה בה.
    כמו שכתוב (משלי כב) עקב ענווה יראת ה'.

  11. DT - You're welcome...

    Additionally, the theme of self-esteem based on the benevolence and grace of Hashem - IS an overriding theme in the Reshonim.THIS TYPE of self-esteem motivates service of Hashem, and therefore fits the main purpose of creation: כל פעל ה' למענהו. Here's the Chovos Halvovos in שער חשבון הנפש חשבון י"ח:

    והשמונה עשר חשבון האדם עם נפשו בעת גבהותה והתגדלה ורוחק משאליה בעולם הזה. והוא שיתבונן ערכו בבריאה בין העליונים והתחתונים, ויתבאר לו קטנותו וזעירותו בין יצירות הבורא יתברך, כמו שביארתי בעניין הזה בשער השישי מן הספר הזה.
    ויסתכל אחר כך במה שחלק הבורא מן הגדולה לאדם, שהשליטו במיני החיים והצמחים והמוצאים.
    כמו שכתוב (תהלים ח) תמשילהו במעשי ידיך וגו'.
    ושהודיעו חוקי תורתו, והעמידו על כל מה שיש בו תקנתו מסודות עליון העולם הזה ותחתונו. והרים מעלתו בשבחו ובהודאתו לבוראו, ובקראו אליו בצרות, ובענותו בעת המצוקות, ובחרו בו ושילוחו אל ברואיו, ומוסרו אליו סודות גבורתו, והראות המופתים על ידו.
    עם מה שיארך סיפורו מן הטובות הנסתרות והנראות, הגופיות והרוחניות, הכוללות והמיוחדות, חסד וטובה עלינו.
    והסתכל אחי כמה ערכך נקלה, ועניינך נבזה, וכמה גידלך בוראך עם מה שאינו צריך לך, וגודל צרכיך אל השגחתו והנהגתו, וחוס על העטרה המעולה הזאת אשר עיטרך בה, והמעלה הרמה שהרימך אליה בעולם הזה, והגמול הגדול שצפנו לך בעולם הבא, והידבקך בעבודתו ובהודאתו.
    ואל יביאך מה שנשאך הבורא בו במה שזכרתי לך מחסדיו וטובותיו להתגאות בעניינך, ולהתגדל בנפשך, ולהתרומם בחסד הבורא עליך, ותחשוב כי מן הדין הוא לך, ושאתה ראוי לו ויאות לך כמוהו.

    אבל הידבק בכניעה ובענווה ובשפלות שאתה ראוי לה, כשתודה באמת על ערכך בבריאת הבורא יתעלה, כמה שחייב בו העבד החלש הנבזה הנקלה, כשינשא אדוניו מעלתו וישימהו עם אנשי סגולתו, חסד ממנו עליו, מבזות נפשו והיותה בעיניו כערכה הראשון קודם שיגביר אדוניו חסדו עליו. ואל יתגדל לפניו, ואל יגבה לבו במה שהגיע אליו מן הגדולה והיקר, ואל יבקש ממנו משאליו דרך רגילות, אך יעזוב עניינו אליו, ויבטח עליו ועל טובו.

    ואמרו על אחד מן הצדיקים שהיה אומר אחר תפלתו:
    אלוהי, לא נשאני לעמוד לפניך סכלי בפחיתות ערכי ומעוט ידיעתי בגדולתך ורוממותך, כי אתה רם ונישא, ואני נקלה ונבזה וקטן משאול ממך ומקרוא אליך שבח והלל, וקדש שמך המקודש בקולות המלאכים העליונים הקדושים.
    אבל נשאני על זה מה שרוממתני בצוותך אותי לקרוא אליך, והרשיתני לשבח את שמך העליון כפי הכרתי אותך וידיעתי בכבודך, עם הראותי עבודתי לך ושפלותי לפניך.
    ואתה יודע תקנתי ואופני הנהגתי, ולא הודעתיך בצרכי להעיר אותך עליהם, אלא שארגיש בגודל חסרוני אליך ובטחוני בך.
    ואם אשאל ממך בסכלותי מה שאינו טוב לי, ואבקש ממך שאין בו תקנתי, בחירתך העליונה טובה מבחירתי.
    וכבר הנחתי כל ענייני אל גזרתך הקיימת והנהגתך העליונה.
    כמו שאמר דוד עליו השלום (תהלים קלא) ה' לא גבה לבי ולא רמו עיני, ולא הלכתי בגדולות ובנפלאות ממני, אם לא שויתי ודוממתי נפשי כגמול עלי אמו כגמול עלי נפשי.

  12. What about all the commentaries on the mitzva of "Loving your neighbor as yourself"... that this command is premised on the "loving of oneself." Loving self, esteeming self are synonymous terms.

    1. sorry - I didn't see any commentaries saying this. could you please cite some sources?

      In fact that is why there is a dispute as to whether man's being in the image of G-d or loving your fellow as your self is the greater principle.

  13. A few points on the updates.

    Dr Levin claims that Mussar is not psychology. Well that depends on what psychology is. If the Koreans who brainwashed American soldiers were using a form of psychology, even though it is not practiced by psychologists today, then the term psychology has a very wide definition. Mussar is not identical to behavioursim, but does have some common elements. it also makes use of the unconscious, see:

    Next, the idea that Mussar is authentic and kosher but self esteem is not. Well musar itself was a modern invention at the time of the Haskalah, and it , like many other innovations, had its opponents.

    This reminds me of the approach to the Shulchan Aruch. For many years, the Shulchan Aruch was essentially the "Bible", and any deviation from it was heretical. but the sefer itself was highly controversial when it came out and was opposed by some gedolim.

    The same has been said about the Brisker method of learning, that it drew from non Jewish philosophy.

    Thus whether or not self esteem is explicitly mentioned int he Torah, the important issue is if works or not. Ironically, many years ago I met Rav Dr Twersky, and asked him if he follows a particular school of psychology. He said he follow a method if it works.

    1. Eddie the issue is 1) self-esteem is a problematic construct that means a variety of things. it is not used consistently. 2) there is a mistaken belief that if a person increases his self-esteem or is prevented from losing his self-esteem it would positively impact a wide ranger of measures and thus it is worthy of singling out - at the exclusion of other factors. 3) there is a phoney equation of self-esteem to that which is called gadlus haAdam.

      The proponents of self-esteem are muddying the waters. I have no problem using a technique that works as long as the collateral damage is understood. I have no problem of innovation in therapy or education. Self-esteem is over sold and falsely packaged and has serious negative side-effects which are being ignored. In addition the issue of self-esteem is largely the result of the elitism of the yeshiva world. There is only one way to achieve success - in the litvishe system. This is not true in chassidic or sefardic schools.

  14. I am entering the fray with some very personal experience. From a very young age, I had extremely low self-esteem. This had nothing to do with Litvish society, because I was raised MO. In many ways I was high-functioning, but inside I was worthless, and no matter what I accomplished, it had no bearing on my self-worth.
    I got married, had children, moved to Israel, became a Chossid, and I still had no self-esteem. Outwardly, I exhibited the exaggerated self-esteem mentioned above.
    B"H I got the help I needed almost 15 years ago, and no longer suffer from low self-esteem. But this does put me in a pretty good position to add something to this discussion.
    In my case, my sense of self-worth was totally bound to how others valued me. This made me overly dependent and self-destructive in my relationships with other people.
    I feel that the issue IS mentioned in the Torah, Chiba Yiseiro shenoda lo. A person must be aware that he is a tselem Elokim, that his life has intrinsic value. These are the foundations of being a human being. When the Baalei Mussar and Chassidus refer to depression as the yetzer hora's strongest tool, this is what they mean.
    Psychology as a science classifies mental illness, and provides methods for diagnosis and treatment. In the same way that the Torah does not use the biological classifications of genus and species in current vogue among scientists, it does not use the same classification of mental illness used by psychology. But does that mean that the methods offered by psychology must be rejected?
    (Disclosure - I was successfully helped by a psychiatrist who was not religious.)
    Rabbi Twerski's discovery was not that there is a problem of low self-esteem - but that he was suffering from it.
    In general, both in the DT blog entry and in many of the letters, I find a lot of confusion. If Rav Reuven says that there is a pandemic of low self-esteem in Yeshivos, it does NOT mean that he is advocating 'widespread and uncritical acceptance in our community of the importance of psychology'.
    Gadlus Ho'Odom must include the person's knowledge of his own Gadlus. Anovo is the understanding that that Gadlus is kiayin vi'efes compared to the greatness of Hashem.
    A person who thinks that he is worthless cannot be modest. Perhaps this is what the Gemara refers to as excessive modesty - the kind that Rabbi Yochanan said resulted in the destruction of our home (the Beis HaMikdash) and our exile.
    We are all great. We are all Hashem's children. And we need to know this within ourselves in order to use this greatness to serve Him properly.

    1. I am glad to hear that you have benefited from increased self-esteem. But you are not describing that which is being proposed by advocates such as Rabbi Twerski. Concern for self-esteem issues in school or in therapy generally does not focus on tzelem elokim. It is a narcisstic view that I am good. it is a bovine contentment. It is a concern that leads to reduced challenge and reduced failure - in order to avoid reducing self-esteem.

      I am also concerned with the glib identity of what the Alter of Slobodka was talking about it and what the secular therapist or educator is talking about. This is described well by Dr. Levin in the article cited.

      I also have a problem with a rosh yeshiva such as Rav Reuven Feinstein making psychlogical diagnosis and recommending a book of therapy as the a measure to correct the problem. There is clearly no nuanced analysis here. It is "there is a pandemic of low self-esteem" and we have to collectively raise student self-esteem with the techniques in this book.

      That is doing brain surgery with a shotgun.

    2. Dear DT, it is not clear what your position is on this entire maaseh.

      1) You argue that self esteem (SE) is not a proven or central theme in psychology, an is being unduly fixated on to cure all ills. that there are better and more specific psychology methods around.

      2) SE is NOT a Torah concept and thus has no place in the yeshiva welt. (But do the better psychology theories in (1) come from the Torah?

      3) Psychology itself is not kosher, since R Dessler said so. In which case your comments above are superfluous.

      4) SE is only a problem in Litvish yeshivas, not Hassidic and Sefardic. This is a very good point and it deserves special mention.

      a) R Feinstein and R Roll are addressing the Litvish yeshivas.

      b) it proves that r Dessler's theory is at best defunct and at worst was wrong all along. the Darwinian theory of r Dessler was that we destroy 1000 students to produce a single Gadol. Unfortunately these yeshivas are not producing any gedolim. It is often complained on here, that even the roshei yeshiva in America are no longer great Gedolim. So this entire fallacy is just being exposed for what it is. The costs of 1000 being destroyed are evident. But the benefits of producing gadol are not being reaped. Thus, all the Litvish yeshivas are succeeding in is their own destruction - which, if we see the decline in R Dessler's own Ponovezh yeshiva, where 1000 of the idiots it produced attempted to assassinate the 1 quasi Gadol who they did not accept as r Shach's successor.

      A further question is that you, perhaps correctly, state that you have a problem with R Reuven Feinstein in making a psychological diagnosis, but that you do not express any reservations about previous generations gedolim making unscientific claims.

    3. Eddie I really don't understand why you don't understand what I have written.

      I don't say that psychology has no place in the yeshiva world- where did you get that idea from? It has no place being portrayed as part of our mesora from Sinai - or at least from the Alter of Slabodka.

      I don't recall Rav Dessler saying Psychology is not kosher. Please provide citation. He was specifically discussing the view that corporal punishment is wrong and serves no purpose other than harming the child. You seem to be conflating two discussion of Rav Dessler - corporal punishment and focusing on producing gedolim.

      Aside from Rav Reuven Feinstein - do you have any similar statements from other talmidei chachomim. I would be glad to object to them also.

    4. Rav Dessler is cited as saying that yeshivas would cut off any relations with people who learn professions - which is akin to them marrying out. This strongly implies that secular university studies , psychology being one of them are treif. This view was explcitly made by Rav Shach, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, who declared that all secular studies are forbidden. I believe he specifically attacked psychology as being heresy.

      Since you made your kind offer, how would you react to R Shach's attack on those who study a profession for parnassah? Most of the people I knew who became doctors, lawyers, accountants all made good parnassah, B'H, and were able to buy houses and get married. One complaint I heard against R Shach from "inside" the litvish world, was that many people followed his advice or daas not to study a profession, and were left unemployed and unable to fund a family.

    5. your deductions are interesting but they really don't prove anything. You would have to give me the quote from Rav Shach attacking those who studied secular studies. The rest of your comment is simply conjecture. Let us see an actual statement that he made.

    6. regarding secular studies. Rav Schach told Rav Leff to be in charge of Maarava - a high school in which there are high level of secular studies and Torah. At some point Rav Schach publicly attacked Maarava for teaching secular studies. Rav Leff went to Rav Schach and said he was resigning because he was not going to support and activity that he opposed. Rav Schach said, "My job is to attack Maarva and your job is to run it."

    7. here is a letter quoting R Shach, although I haven't verified it "inside" the original source.

      a sample :

      "Moreover, Rav Shach states that secular studies come under the category of Seforim Chitzonim that the Talmud and the Poskim ban. He writes that History and Psychology are particularly heretical disciplines (vol. 3, page 39). High schools that expose their students to the Darwinian theory of evolution “transform their charges into heretics” at least for the duration of these studies. Human Biology lessons that include details of the function of the pro-creative organs are proscribed for high school boys. Such subjects come under the category of zenus and its attendant severity."

      If someone does not study biology at school, and only seek a trade when their rabbinical career fails, they will not be able to get a university education.

  15. Taking DT's argument a step (or several steps) further:

    1) In my humble opinion, we have already passed the "tipping point" where the obligation to subscribe to the "narcissistic view that I am good" has reached mythic proportions - parents lose custody to their children based on the premise, students enter the workforce woefully unprepared because of it and ultimately the biggest "losers" are those brought up to think that all pain is bad and that life's challenges are to be met with self-victimization and blaming others.

    Those that really care are often vilified for speaking out candidly....

    to be continued...

  16. There are some unbelievably well-connected critics of the Psychology Industry out there - but even their voices are being drowned out:

    ALLEN FRANCES was the chair of the task force that WROTE the industry bible: DSM-IV. THOMAS WIDIGER was the research coordinator for the DSM-IV, in charge of gathering empirical evidence for it's findings....

    Read what they say about pathologizing normalcy, diagnostic inflation, misuse of psychiatric labels, weakness of the evidence base....... here:

    or here:

    or see the wikipedia articles about them...

    These are the people that WROTE the book - bemoaning its misuse, and alerting the masses to the train wreck of the DSM5 which is to be published shortly....

    And theyre not alone...

    The British Psychological Society (BPS), with 50,000 members the UK's major mental health organization, harshly criticizes .... the concept of mental illness as "brain-based" pathology and decrying the medicalization of normal emotional responses.

    DT... interested in going there?

    I think it's really explosive stuff, that SHOULD be a game changer!

  17. The discussion is going round in circles due to lack of definitions. If mussar, psychology and self esteem are understood differently by different commenters then we're just talking past each other.
    DT do you have any evidence that R Twerski encourages 'narcissism and bovine contentment'? I think it's clear from his books that he absolutely does not. Quite the opposite, he sees self esteem as an awareness of one's inherent worth which is the basic starting point for a life of spiritual growth, not an end in itself. I'll find a quote from him if you like, but it's such a consistent theme of his that finding a one liner seems unnecessary.

    To be honest I'm a bit perplexed by your whole post, DT. I would suggest that the reason the frum world, talmidei chachamim included, have accepted self-esteem as valid part of growth in Torah is because it's quite obvious from the sources mentioned by commenters above, amongst others, not because it's borrowed from a foreign system.
    That said, you do seem to have shifted your goalposts from your statement in your orginal post that 'there is no such concept in Torah' as self esteem, to 'Self-esteem is over sold and falsely packaged and has serious negative side-effects which are being ignored' which you wrote subsequently. So I take it you now hold there is such a concept in Torah but it's been skewed?
    Ben B

    1. the secular concept of self-esteem is not a Torah concept. In fact I think it would be helpful if the term was simply abolished. If Rabbi Roller and Rabbi Twerski are talking about self-esteem based on psychological studies - then they have to accept that sometimes it leads to bovine contentment and narcissim. The schools and therapists who use the term use it as a central principle that determines others and thus you just have to focus on whether an activity is raising or lowering self-esteem.

      Not sure how you can make the your comments after reading Andrew Heinze's article on Rabbi Dr. Twerski or that of Rabbi Dr. Becker. Dr. Levine also is clearly trying to keep the psychlogy separate from the mussar.

      In sum, there is a great deal of sloppy thinking and deliberate and incorrect conflation of mussar and psychology going on. I am simply asking for the accurate use of terms, evidence based justification for techniques and a respectful separation of psychology from hashkofa. why do you have problems with that?

    2. I don't believe R Twerski bases his concept of self esteem on psychological studies. As far as I'm familiar with his works he brings Torah sources and everything flows from them. Can't comment on R Roll's sources. As for narcissism or self centeredness, I've never seen anything in a Torah-based psychology/self help etc book which inidicates that that might be positive. So whatever might be out there of that ilk in secular psychotherapy doesn't seem to have been transferred over. Unless you have specific examples.

      I don't see a contradiction between what I wrote and the gentlemen you quote in your post. Dr Levine thinks that restating mussar principles in psychological language is fine, that's what R Twerski does so well. I haven't noticed him cross the line to 'Judaizing pschological teachings'. If you disagree, let's see examples. Andrew Heinze notes that R Twerski departs from older mussar approaches, which R Twerski acknowledges. He thinks that the current situation of widespread psychological fragility warrants this change in approach in the same way that the chiddush-dik approach of R Salanter and then his talmidim was warranted in its time. Don't see the problem with that.

      I think your whole approach here is knocking down straw men. R Twerski and those who've followed his lead have not done what you've claimed, ie to let in non-Torah concepts. He's big enough to know what's what and filter appropriately. So it shouldn't be a suprise that R Reuven and others are happy with it.
      Ben B

  18. Both Amanda/Ben AND DT may be right - Rabbi Dr Twerski might have a more balnced and reasonable vew of self-esteem, while the typical clinician very well misuses the term...

    Here's a quote from Frances et. el. (who chaired the dsm-iv task force):

    "Diagnostic criteria (and consequent treatment recommendations) that work well in the expert’s own hands may create havoc in everyday clinical settings because clinicians have much less expertise and time to apply them and a less-selected (and therefore much more difficult to diagnose) patient population.

  19. Regarding Rav Twerski's question of why self-esteem is more important in our time, it's worth considering that some kabbalistic and chassidic teachings explain that, in the Messianic era, and the times preceding it, all humankind will move toward a more "feminine," or more compassionate, empathetic and nurturing mentality. (Sorry -- I've read this in various places but don't have a citation.) Since women are more sensitive and cry more easily (as mentioned by the Gemara), and since one must be more sensitive to be more empathetic, perhaps a subtle change in our nature to become more sensitive has increased the problem of low self-esteem and the importance of having a reasonable level of self-esteem.

    1. It is possible - but I think it is also circular reasoning. It has not in fact been established that self-esteem is more important in our time. but if you assume it is then it is obviously important to address it.

      Rabbi Twerski's assertion about self-esteem and psychlogical problems is astounding. I would like to see the studies that support his contentions.

  20. Why isn;t it possible that people/psychologies have changed recently? we are a more fragile generation than those which preceeded us. our changing psychologies require changing approaches and also changing terminologies to describe those approaches. there is a kabbalistic idea that new ideas - concepts - opportunities - come down from heaven periodically (and far more frequently in the last 100or so years than before that, because of ikvesa d'moshicha), and if they are not seized by the 'right' then they fall and their klipot are used by the 'other side'. (just as is argued about feminism, and zionism) You could argue that this valid and important idea of self-esteem and related psychologies was not taken advantage of swiftly enough by the torah world, and so the klipah was used by the sitra achra, in ways which you are deploring.

    Amanda (earlier my husband was posting under my profile)

    1. it is possible that psychology has changed - as I have noted in my previous discussion of trauma and abuse.

      However it could also be that this is simple an example of poor scholarship, therapy, and Jewish understanding.

      it is also possible that this approach is in fact harmful and that a better balance is needed with the older approach.

  21. Rabbi Twerski writes/ speaks very nicely. His words are wonderfully encouraging. However I can't see anyplace where he actually proves that self-esteem is the best explanation for what he is doing.

    an example regarding what he says about Rav Yisroel Salanter.

    The father of the Mussar movement, Rabbi Yisrael of Salant said, "I know that my mind is equivalent to one thousand others. My obligations are, therefore, a thousandfold." This statement disposes once and for all the contention that self-esteem is Gaavah. To the contrary, the greater one's self-esteem, the more one is humbled by the enormity of one's obligations, and the gravity of being derelict in fulfilling them and exercising one's full potential. This is why our sages say, "If you have learned much Torah, do not boast of it, for that is why you were created" (Ethics of the Fathers 2:9). Taken together with another statement (ibid. 3:12), namely that a person's deeds must exceed his knowledge, we arrive at the conclusion that we are merely fulfilling our function when we acquire and implement Torah knowledge. The awareness that we are functional should give us a healthy self-esteem. It cannot possibly justify Gaavah.

    What is his proof that Rav Salanter had high self-esteem? The fact that he knew he was smart. but as I have reported else where he thought he was a sinner and he was depressed most of his life. Were the latter two facts also the result of his high self-esteem. What is the proof that he didn't have gaavah?

    Over and over again - he assumes that which he should be proving or at least testing.

  22. In addition the issue of self-esteem is largely the result of the elitism of the yeshiva world. There is only one way to achieve success - in the litvishe system.

    here is my semi serious solution:

    to all you guys in the litvaks yeshivot who come to understand, probably early on, that you aren't going to be the next gadol hador, poseik, talmid chacham, or magid shiyur. don't fight it. instead, get out, learn a profession that earns a good salary (and there are plenty of those even in israel) and go make lots of money. when you buy a nice car, great apartment, can afford a real vacation, a beautiful wig for your wife, you'll get back your self esteem and then some.

    1. Actually Chazal said the same thing.

      "Three things increase a man's self-esteem: a beautiful dwelling, a beautiful wife, and beautiful clothes."

      ברכות נז:

      שלשה מרחיבין דעתו של אדם, אלו הן: דירה נאה, ואשה נאה, וכלים נאים.

    2. but is " מרחיבין דעתו של אדם" referring to the self esteem, or something else?

      Maxwell Maltz, the early 20th century American psychologist, tells a story of a woman who wanted a nose job. he told her there is nothing wrong with her nose, but she insisted. (I think Maltz learned about self image/esteem from his work as a cosmetic surgeon). When she looked at the finsihed job, and the nose was perfect, she said it was ugly. The Dr told her she is beautiful and her nose is perfect. She said it may be perfect, but I feel ugly inside.

      So even with good gashmius, people with low self esteem could still suffer and not appreciate their blessings.

      It is very complex!

    3. Chazal also said that Torah study with no work would lead to sin (Avos 2:2). Perhaps this is one mechanism for how this occurs -- Torah study with no work (and yet without achieving Torah greatness) leads to poverty and low-esteem, which leads to depression, which causes people to lack motivation in their fulfillment of mitzvot and lack the proper kavanah in thanking and praising Hashem. (Chazal probably meant, however, that Torah study alone leads to more idleness, which itself leads to sin.)

    4. Eddie - I see we are coming to some closure. Yes Self-esteem is complex - especially when there is no simple translation in Hebrew.

      Nonetheless - Rabbi Twerski - by his own count has written 50 books on the subject - has he conducted a single study that attempts to validate his views? Has Rabbi Roller or Rabbi Pliskin? In the absence of attempts at objective evaluation the approach is simply a feel good approach - which might be appropriate for inspiring self-help lectures and books - but it has no place in therapy.

    5. Yes, I think there are 2 opposing directions in the original post - whether or not it is a good psychological theory in academic terms, and whether it is a Torah recognised concept.
      I think its acceptance in yeshiva world is largely due to its proponent R Twersky, who is also Chassidic Rebbe.
      There is much value to having self esteem, but to the key to understanding self image issues isn't necessarily through affirmations etc.

  23. Psychological researchers have not abandoned self-esteem as an important variable. For example, here are a couple studies from last year supporting its importance in influencing depression. (I think we can agree that depression can be very painful and debilitating and is something we should work to prevent.)

    Life-span development of self-esteem and its effects on important life outcomes.
    Orth, Ulrich; Robins, Richard W.; Widaman, Keith F.
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 102(6), Jun 2012, 1271-1288. doi: 10.1037/a0025558
    We examined the life-span development of self-esteem and tested whether self-esteem influences the development of important life outcomes, including relationship satisfaction, job satisfaction, occupational status, salary, positive and negative affect, depression, and physical health. Data came from the Longitudinal Study of Generations. Analyses were based on 5 assessments across a 12-year period of a sample of 1,824 individuals ages 16 to 97 years. First, growth curve analyses indicated that self-esteem increases from adolescence to middle adulthood, reaches a peak at about age 50 years, and then decreases in old age. Second, cross-lagged regression analyses indicated that self-esteem is best modeled as a cause rather than a consequence of life outcomes. Third, growth curve analyses, with self-esteem as a time-varying covariate, suggested that self-esteem has medium-sized effects on life-span trajectories of affect and depression, small to medium-sized effects on trajectories of relationship and job satisfaction, a very small effect on the trajectory of health, and no effect on the trajectory of occupational status. These findings replicated across 4 generations of participants—children, parents, grandparents, and their great-grandparents. Together, the results suggest that self-esteem has a significant prospective impact on real-world life experiences and that high and low self-esteem are not mere epiphenomena of success and failure in important life domains. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

    Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies.
    By Sowislo, Julia Friederike; Orth, Ulrich
    Psychological Bulletin, Vol 139(1), Jan 2013, 213-240.
    Low self-esteem and depression are strongly related, but there is not yet consistent evidence on the nature of the relation. Whereas the vulnerability model states that low self-esteem contributes to depression, the scar model states that depression erodes self-esteem. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the models are specific for depression or whether they are also valid for anxiety. We evaluated the vulnerability and scar models of low self-esteem and depression, and low self-esteem and anxiety, by meta-analyzing the available longitudinal data (covering 77 studies on depression and 18 studies on anxiety). The mean age of the samples ranged from childhood to old age. In the analyses, we used a random-effects model and examined prospective effects between the variables, controlling for prior levels of the predicted variables. For depression, the findings supported the vulnerability model: The effect of self-esteem on depression (β = −.16) was significantly stronger than the effect of depression on self-esteem (β = −.08). In contrast, the effects between low self-esteem and anxiety were relatively balanced: Self-esteem predicted anxiety with β = −.10, and anxiety predicted self-esteem with β = −.08. Moderator analyses were conducted for the effect of low self-esteem on depression; these suggested that the effect is not significantly influenced by gender, age, measures of self-esteem and depression, or time lag between assessments. If future research supports the hypothesized causality of the vulnerability effect of low self-esteem on depression, interventions aimed at increasing self-esteem might be useful in reducing the risk of depression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

    1. problem is that Rabbi Twerski seems to be defining self-esteem in more spiritual dimensions and thus there is no necessary connection to what these secular researchers are doing.

      in short - it is rather embarrassing to talk so much about the centrality of a concept without any evidence to support his therapy.

      Having personally spent time with validation studies as well as reading the psychological journals - this is simply unacceptable. Furthermore if Rabbi Dr. Twerki used his approach in Mental hospitals and addictions programs - where is his validation data? I could not find any evidence of a scientific paper published by him with google. If anybody has such I would be interested in seeing it.

  24. Truth be told, authentic Jewish life as the Reshonim saw it revolves ONLY around one thing: Serving Hashem. One's sense of value and purpose and is commensurate to his yearning to fulfill his purpose on this world and thereby add to Hashem's glory.

    based on the aforementioned, what Rav Yisroel Salanter said was simply restating what the C"H says in Shaar Chesbon Hanefesh, 12 and 13, that each person has an obligation to use his G-d given talents, to the fullest extent.

    חשבון י"ב: והשתדל במה שאתה צריך לאחריתך, ואל תאמר ימצאני מה שימצא הכסיל. כי אתה נתבע כפי יתרון הכרתך, ועונשך יותר חזק, והחשבון על התעלמותך יותר מדוקדק.

    חשבון י"ג: וראוי לך להשתדל בכל כחך, ותטרח בכל יכולתך לפורעו, ולהשוות מעשיך לחכמתך, והכרתך עם השתדלותך. והותר כל טורחך לעשות כפי חכמתך. ואל תתנהג במותר עולמך, פן תלאה לשלם חובות תורתך, שהאל יתעלה נתן לאדם מן הכוח כפי צרכו לתורתו ולעולמו. ומי שהוציא ממנו מאומה במותרות, אשר יתכן לעמוד זולתם, יפקדנו בעת הצורך אליו בדברים הצריכים.

    The Chofetz Chaim understood the Ramban on the Pasuk ארור אשר לא יקום את דברי התורה הזאת, to mean the same.

    EVERYONE has a unique place

  25. I'll quote what Frances and Widiger say about a possible reason why we have the explosion in mental health issues. I think that the fact that these are the people who actually WROTE the DSM should be reason enough for us to take their opinion seriously.

    "The sharply increasing rate of mental disorder classification might have a reasonable explanation. .... that the epidemics in psychiatry are caused by changing diagnostic fashions (Batstra & Frances 2011). There are no objective tests in psychiatry; no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder (Steffens & Krishnan 2003). What is diagnosed as mental disorder is very sensitive to professional and social contextual forces. Rates of disorder rise easily because mental disorder has such fluid boundaries with normality (Horwitz & Wakefield 2007)".

    They then go on to detail eight " contextual forces". Anybody interested can read their full article (I included a link in an earlier post).

  26. I would agree with some of the other comments here: if you want this discussion to be fruitful, start off with a definition of self esteem. Once you have the definition, you can discuss whether that concept is based on Torah sources or not. Furthermore, you will be able to discuss intellgently whether you think that concept is healthy or not. In any event, I think the book Mindset is worth for everyone to read, especially parents and teachers.

  27. I would agree that a clear definition of self-esteem along with a clear objective measure is important. However in schools, therapy and parenting - the term is just tossed around as if it were obvious. Rabbi Twerski defines it as an accurate measure of you truly are. Any way of measuring that? Does Rabbi Twerski actually use an objective test measure of self-esteem to determine whether his therapy is working according to his paradigm?

    Rav Reuven clearly does not define self-esteem but seem to assume it is derived from the constant of gadlus haAdam from the Alter of Slabodka. That is a theoretical spiritual definition - tzelem elokim. Not sure if there is any measure for that.

    Then there are self-report measures such as I feel good about myself or I think I am smarter, luckier etc than other people.

  28. Could not find any objective evidence to support Rabbi Twerski's use of self-esteem. He simply assumes that it is central - but doesn't measure or validate anything. If you have any actuall evidence - I would like to see it.

    The following is from Wikipeida. See the whole article

    Criticism and controversy

    The American psychologist Albert Ellis criticized on numerous occasions the concept of self-esteem as essentially self-defeating and ultimately destructive.[54] Although acknowledging the human propensity and tendency to ego rating as innate, he has critiqued the philosophy of self-esteem as unrealistic, illogical and self- and socially destructive – often doing more harm than good. Questioning the foundations and usefulness of generalized ego strength, he has claimed that self-esteem is based on arbitrary definitional premises, and over-generalized, perfectionistic and grandiose thinking.[54] Acknowledging that rating and valuing behaviours and characteristics is functional and even necessary, he sees rating and valuing human beings' totality and total selves as irrational and unethical. The healthier alternative to self-esteem according to him is unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional other-acceptance.[55] Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is a psychotherapy based on this approach.[56]

    Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and journalist John Tierney argue that the benefits of self-esteem can be significantly counter-productive, and that parental guidance towards self-esteem may thwart actual practices of self-control.

    "There seem to be only two clearly demonstrated benefits of high self-esteem....First, it increases initiative, probably because it lends confidence. People with high self-esteem are more willing to act on their beliefs, to stand up for what they believe in, to approach others, to risk new undertakings. (This unfortunately includes being extra willing to do stupid or destructive things, even when everyone else advises against them.)...It can also lead people to ignore sensible advice as they stubbornly keep wasting time and money on hopeless causes"[57]

    False stereotypes

    For a person with low self-esteem – or "wrong" self-esteem, according to Branden's terminology – any positive stimulus or incentive will make him feel comfortable, or, at most, better with respect to himself/herself for just some time. Therefore, possessions, sex, success, or physical appearance, by themselves, will produce comfort, or a false and ephemeral development of self-esteem, but they will not really strengthen confidence and respect to oneself.[7]

  29. If we're up to defining Jewish self esteem then how about this: A positive feeling about one's self in that one has inherent value and ability to do good for the people around one and the world at large, and an real ability to grow into a greater person.
    There can be no measure of this other than by standardised questionnaires of the sort used for psychology studies. Perhaps someone should develop one for use with Jewish clients looking for psychological assistance. Then we could know whether R Twerski is indeed correct in his assessment.
    However I don't believe that psychotherapists of any stripe use such instruments in their routine work They only tend to be used in a research setting. So R Twerski is simply giving his professional opinion as a psychiatrist and Torah scholar. That seems likely to be as objective as we'll get.
    Incidentally, for those still doubtful that self esteem is a Torah concept, R Zelig Pliskin has a chapter on it his book Gateway to Happiness (incidentally published in 1983, about the same time that R Twerski started writing). He barely uses his own words at all, just translates small sections of the following list of sources, all of which refer to the importance of realizing one's self worth:
    Sanhedrin 37a with Rashi, Rambam to Avos 2:13, Sefer Hamidos lehaMeiri p90, R. Aharon of Karlin in Dor Deiah vol1 p167, Toras HaNefesh p99 quoting the Chazon Ish, Emuna uVitachon of the Chazon Ish 4:14, Ahavas Meisharim p109, Michtav MeEliyahu vol 1 p99.
    There are more but these are the most apposite. He quotes the above Michtav MeEliayu as saying 'The greater the lack of self esteem, the greater the need for the validation of one's self worth through the approval of others'. Which seems quite explicit, but I don't have the sefer to hand to check the original. Anyone care to do so?

    1. Sorry. This is embarrassing. Absolutely no imperative for having self-esteem from this material. Rabbi Pliskin is a wonderful tzadik - but this is not called scholarship or research validating self-esteem as a Jewish concept! At most it is called an asmachta or bastardization according to Dr. Levin.

      Rav Dessler is closest - but then you must remember that Rav Dessler is focused on subjugation to learn one's place - hardly a support for Rabbi Twerski.
      Sanhedrin 37a

      רש"י מסכת סנהדרין דף לז עמוד א

      וכל אחד מכיר את מקומו - לפי שבתחלה כסדר הושיבום, שורה ראשונה גדולה משל שניה, והיא גדולה מן השלישית, וגם בכל שורה ושורה הושיבום כסדר, הגדול בראש, שני למטה הימנו, וכן כולן זה למטה מזה, לפיכך צריך כל אחד להכיר מקומו

      Resh Lakish deduced [the same answer] from the following verse, Thy temples [rakkathek] are like a pomegranate split open!17 Even the emptiest [rekanin]18 among you are as full of meritorious deeds as a pomegranate [of seeds].... Said Abaye: Better a tail to lions than a head to foxes.29

      פירוש המשנה לרמב"ם מסכת אבות פרק ב

      [יג] אמר: למד דברים שתשיב בהם על האפיקורוסים מן האומות, ותתווכח עמהם ותענה להם אם יקשו לך. ואמרו: "לא שנו אלא אפיקורוס גוי, אבל ישראל כל שכן דפקר", רצונו לומר: שהוא יוסיף זלזול ולגלוג, ולפיכך אין ראוי לדון עמו כלל, לפי שהוא לא יתוקן, ואין לו רפואה כלל, "כל באיה לא ישובון ולא י(ס)[ש]יגו אורחות חיים" +משלי ב יט+. ואמר, ועם היותך לומד דעות האומות כדי שתדע איך תשיב עליהם, היזהר שלא ידבק בדעתך דבר מזה, ודע כי אשר תעבוד לפניו ידע צפונותיך, והוא אומרו: ודע לפני מי אתה עמל.
      Rav Dessler Vol 1 page 99
      אך באמת מה יוסיף לו זה, שהוא חשוב בעיני אחרים ? הלא הכבוד
      האמיתי היא החשיבות .והמעלה ,מצד עצמה, אם זו יש לו, מאי איכפת ליה אם
      חבריו יודעים ממנה או לא ? - ואם אין, מה הוא מרויח אם הם טועים שישנה

      וכל מי שבקרב לבו יש לו פחות אמון בערכו יותר הוא זקוק לתנחמין של כבוד בעיני זולתו.

  30. Again, the pshat of the obligation "To love your neighbor as yourself" requires self-love which is synonymous with self-esteem. As the Maharal notes, that mitzvah cannot be fulfilled without love (esteem) of self.

    (1525-1609) ספר נתיבות עולם ב - נתיב אהבת ריע - פרק א
    דברי בן עזאי הם שאמר כי זה ספר תולדות אדם כלל גדול יותר, ועל זה קאמר כי לכך הוא כלל גדול יותר שלא תאמר כי מן ואהבת לרעך כמוך משמע שאם נתבזה יתבזה חבירו עמו לכך זה ספר תולדות אדם הוא כלל גדול יותר,

    1. Serious mistranslation.

      What it actually says is "the reason for the superiority of ben Azzai view that man was created in G-d image to Rabbi Akiva's loving another as oneself is because if you only had the verse of loving as yourself it would imply that if you are a lowly being then it is permitted to debase others as you would yourself. Therefore Ben Azzai says we need an absolute standard of how to treat others which is based on being in the image of G-d and which doesn't vary amongst people."

      Thus even though you personally don't experience this high self-esteem you must treat others according to this higher standard.

  31. Actually if you want to define self-esteem as accurate self-awareness as Rabbi Twerski says he is - the Maharal actually says it is a very rare trait. The following is from my Daas Torah. Note that the Maharal doesn't describe it as a subjective feeling of self-esteem however - but rather an objective one of accurate self-knowledge or self-evaluation.
    Maharal (Introduction to Be’er HaGolah): The precondition for achieving perfection, through knowledge and comprehension of reality, is accurate self evaluation. However self knowledge is not easily achieved and in fact it is rare to find someone who has an objective understanding of whom he is. Paradoxically this should be the easiest thing to know - he needs to simply open his eyes. He is not far away and is not in Heaven - in fact, there is nothing closer! However, the majority of people perceive themselves inaccurately. In particular, they mistakenly think that they are the equal of the early sages and say, “I also have a brain and that the early days were not better than now.” They insist the intellect of man is identical in all ages. True sages, however, know their own value. They do not distort justice concerning their money and surely concerning themselves. An example of this accurate self-evaluation is found in Eiruvin (53a): “The hearts of the early generations were as open as the 20 amos wide door of the Ulam of the Temple, while that of recent generations is like that of the 10 amos wide door of the Heichal of the Temple while our heart is like that of the eye of a needle….” We see that they are not embarrassed to admit their inferiority relative to earlier generations and describe how they differ….

  32. And how does the contemporary definition of self-esteem mesh with the the obligation of ......


  33. DT, I am intrigued by your comments and relieved that I'm not the only one questioning this 14th of the ikarei emunah. However, although I haven't thought for long about this, I would like to suggest that the awareness Rabbi Twerski has brought to the Torah world regarding the importance of self-esteem has certainly removed some of the misplaced self-effacement which has discouraged many and has been used by others as a substitute for actual humility. Although it may be true that Rabbis Twerski, Roll, and Pliskin haven't worked out the details of self-esteem, and are probably not even aware that such a broad concept is made up of many facets, I would say it's unfair to claim that Rabbi Twerksi's life work was completely misdirected. Although I am aware that you are focused on critical thinking, I believe it is important to acknowledge that these writers have brought encouragement to the Frum world. A friend of mine told me that Twerski's book, "Ten Steps to Being Your Best" changed his life.

    1. How many people has the concept of self-esteem destroyed their life? Having talked to educators - it seems that often the concept of self-esteem is used to justify inflated grades, unrealistic praise and in general a disconnect from reality which can take way motivation to try harder - since the student/child is so wonderful and smart already. How many boys are told that they are the next gadol hador - when in fact it is clear that they don't have the capabilities.

      I remember many years ago in a stop over in the Paris airport - a Chabad congregational rabbi came over to me. In the course of our discussion he noted, "I can forgive many things that the Litvaks do - but the destruction of their children by giving them unrealistic expectations about how smart and great they are - can not be forgiven.

      I am not focused on critical thinking - I am focused on truth. What a terrible thing it is to have to apologize for asking for evidence that something is true. Isn't it enough that you believe it hard enough - for it to become true?

      I know people who say that Jesus changed their lives, that drugs changed their lives, that dropping Yiddishkeit changed their life. Life changing is a validation of truth?!

      Shabtzai Tzvi was also justified because he made people frummer and brought encouragment to many.

      Again - doesn't it matter if something is true? Or is sufficient that it brings about change?

    2. Sorry DT, on this one I think you are not talking about self esteem, but something quite different. Self esteem is not about fantasy. Perhaps fantasy is taught in Litvish yeshivas, but that is not self esteem. If you tell a boy he is as handsome as the latest movie star, or that a girl is as beuatiful as miss world, I mean young adults, not 4 year olds, that is fantasy (in most cases). If they are told to be comfortable with their selves, regardelss of whether they look like hollywood stars or not, that is self esteem.
      Same goes for intellectual abilities. Do not tell everyone he will be the next Vilna Gaon. But that he is currently at stage x and has potential to be at y or z.

      But lets us look into why self esteem is battered,

      Because talmidim are treated badly, and arrogantly by egocentric teachers.
      Because they are taught to blindly accept anything the rabbis say, even it if it rubbish, or that left is right and vice versa.
      And many other issues that are beyond this discussion.
      The fantasy world is one created in yeshivot, who suggest that not pursuing secular matters will bring them parnassah. And that 1000 human lives are to be sacrificed for the sake of creating 1 gadol. That is the cruel fantasy, which perhaps the Habad guy was alluding to.

    3. Sorry Eddie - the issue of self-esteem - which typically refers to self-reports or feeling about esteem - even in public school - does in fact involve fanstasy in many cases.

  34. I think one big problem of the discussion is that the term is very fuzzy and it is clear that many people are talking past each other because they are talking about different ideas that they think are what others are calling "self esteem". My feeling has been that self esteem is a garbage term that should be discarded in favor of something that has a clear meaning. We see people advocating abandoning games with winning and losing because of self esteem problems and others saying that low self esteem seems identical to depression or low self esteem is identical to hashkafa problems of not realising the greatness of a yid.
    I think all of us would be better off if the term would be retired and we could go back to discussing issues instead of trying to nail jello to the wall with this amorphous term.

  35. I humbly posit that regardless of the "clinical" definition of "self esteem" it's what it's made out to be "out in the field" that counts. As DT mentioned - and I concur - the real-life application is what's so damaging.

    Reading the tenth Perek of the Chovos Halvovos Shar הכניעה, where he mentions six benefits of humility vs. disadvantages of pride and conceit, one can't help but notice that what's being practiced belongs to the latter category.

    Here's what he says:

    שער הכניעה - פרק י'
    אבל תועלת הכניעה בענייני העולם הזה והעולם הבא הם שישה דברים. שלושה מהם בענייני העולם הזה, ושלושה מהם בענייני העולם הבא.
    ואשר בענייני העולם הזה: אחד מהם שישמח בחלקו. כי מי שנכנסה בו הגאווה והגדולה, אין העולם וכל אשר בו מספיק לו לכלכלתו לגובה לבו ובזותו מה שהגיע לחלקו ממנו. וכאשר יהיה נכנע, אין לנפשו אצלו שום מעלה. ומה שמזדמן לו מן העולם, הוא מסתפק בו למזונותיו ולספקו, וזה יביאהו למנוחת נפשו ומעוט פחדו. יאכל מה שיזדמן לו, וילבש מה שימצא, ויישן באשר ימצא. והמעט מן העולם מספיק לו עם כניעתו. והגאה כולו לא ימלא מחסורו עם גובה לבו וגאותו. כמו שאמר החכם (משלי יג) צדיק אוכל לשובע נפשו ובטן רשעים תחסר.

    והשני כי הנכנע סובל בעת ביאת הפגעים אליו והתהפכות העניינים עליו, בעבור שפלותו ונמיכות רוחו. והגאה פחדו גדול וסבלו מעט בעת ביאת הפגעים עליו, מפני גובה נפשו ורום לבבו ומעוט רצונו בענייניו. כמו שנאמר במי שהיה על הדרך הזה (ישעיה יד) איך נפלת משמים הילל בן שחר וגו'.

    והשלישי כי הנכנע יהיה מוצא חן יותר בעיני בני אדם ואהוב להם וקרוב לדעתם ולהתנהג במנהגם. וכבר נאמר על אחד המלכים שהיה ממהר בהליכתו כשהיה הולך. ושאלו אותו על עילת הדבר. ואמר: לפי שהוא יותר רחוק מדרך הגאווה, ויותר ממהר להשלמת החפץ. ושאלו אחד מן החכמים: במה היית אדון לכל בני דורך?
    אמר: מפני שלא פגעתי אחד מהם שלא ראיתי לו מעלה יתירה עלי.
    כי אם היה יותר חכם ממני, הייתי אומר הוא ירא אלוהים יותר ממני ליתרון חכמתו על חכמתי.
    ואם קטן ממני בחכמה, אומר כי חשבונו יהיה קל מחשבוני ביום הדין מפני שאני עובר במזיד והוא עובר בשוגג.
    ואם יהיה גדול ממני בימים, אומר כי זכיותיו רבים מזכיותיי מפני שקידמני לעולם. ואם יהיה קטן ממני, אומר כי עונותיו מעטים מעוונותיי. ואם יהיה כמוני בימי ובחכמה, אומר אולי לבו לאלוהים טוב מלבי, לפי שאני יודע במה שקדם לי מן העונות ואינני יודע מה שהיה ממנו. ואם יהיה יותר עשיר ממני, אומר כי מצאה ידו בעושרו לעבוד הבורא ולעשות צדקות ולהעניק לעניים יותר ממני. ואם יהיה דל יותר ממני, אומר כי הוא דכא ושפל רוח יותר ממני בעבור דלותו והוא טוב ממני. ולא זזתי לכבדם כולם ולהיכנע להם. וכן אמרו רבותינו זיכרונם לברכה, והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות, והוי מקבל את כל האדם בסבר פנים יפות. ואמרו: מאוד מאוד הוי שפל רוח. ואמרו: יהי אדם רך כקנה ואל יהי קשה כארז. לפיכך זכה קנה לחתוך ממנו קולמוס לכתוב בו ספרי תורה, תפילין ומזוזות.
    [התועלת בענייני העולם הבא] והרביעי שהוא בענייני העולם הבא. כי הנכנע קרוב להשיג החכמה בהימשכו אחרי החכמים והיכנעו להם והליכתו אליהם. כמו שנאמר (משלי יג) הולך את חכמים יחכם. ואמרו רבותנו זיכרונם לברכה, יהי ביתך בית ועד לחכמים והוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם והוי שותה בצמא את דבריהם. והאלוהים יעזור לו על החכמה. כמו שנאמר (תהלים כה) ידרך ענוים במשפט וילמד ענוים דרכו. ומי שהוא גבה לב, לא תתקיים בידו חכמה על אמיתתה, ולא יגיע אל תכלית ידיעה ברורה, מפני שמתנשא מלכת אל אנשי החכמה והתורה. כמו שנאמר (שם י) רשע כגובה אפו בל ידרוש וגו'.
    והחמישי כי הנכנע ממהר למעשה העבודה בחריצות ובזריזות, איננו מתגאה בהם ולא בוזה שום דבר מהם.
    כמו שאמרו רבותינו זיכרונם לברכה הוי זהיר במצווה קלה כבחמורה. והמתגאה בעצמו, מתאחר מעשות העבודה לרום לבבו ולגסות רוחו, ואיננו מרגיש עד אשר ייפול ויישפל. כמו שאמר (ירמיה יג) אמור למלך ולגבירה השפילו שבו. ואמר (משלי ו) שש הנה שנא ה' ואמר (שם) עיניים רמות וגו'.
    והשישי כי מעשה הנכנע מקובל אצל האלוהים. כמו שאמר (תהלים נא) זבחי אלוהים רוח נשברה. ועונו נמחל מהרה כשהוא שב ממנו. כמו שכתוב (משלי כח) ומודה ועוזב ירוחם. ונאמר (איוב כב) כי השפילו ותאמר נוה ושח עינים יושיע.

  36. So, if we assume that "self-esteem" as practiced is a contradiction to humility (let's coin the term "entitlement based self-esteem" to describe this phenomena), then the six negative consequences, based on the aforementioned C"H, can be rephrased as:

    1) Lack of contentment as a consequence of this sense of entitlement.
    2) Lack of resilience as a consequence of resentment based on sense of loss of entitlements.
    3) Diminished psycho-social skills, as a consequence of narcissism which is the consequence of sense of entitlement.
    4) Conceit breeds Ignorance, Error and Falsehood.
    5) Conceit also breeds laziness, sloppiness and carelessness.
    6) Last but not least - Hashem can't stand you!

    No wonder many thoughtful people resist the urge to join the supposedly "kinder, gentler" self-esteem bandwagon!

  37. When I said critical thinking, I meant truth. And what I'm trying to say is that although Rabbi Twerski's emphasis on self-esteem may be too strong, he is not entirely wrong in that it is detrimental to have a low self-esteem, and that misplaced self-effacement is harmful. Also, having read many Twerski books, I never got the impression that Rabbi Twerski was saying to inflate grades and distort the truth. On the contrary, he seems to always be addressing the question of Gaavah and Self-Esteem. I think you and he may be defining "high self-esteem" differently. (Alothough granted, your definition being more precise.) I remember seeing in Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim that the Chofetz Chaim said not to speak against Chassidim because lemaaseh they bring up their children as Shomrei Mitzvos and Yarei Shamayim. He told over that Reb Chaim Volozhiner once stood up for a person who supposedly knew shas. People asked him, "Rebbi, but in some places he barely even knows pashut pshat." He answered, "There are two [current] editions of Shas. One is the [A] shas and one is the [B] shas. The A shas is mesukan and free of error whereas the B shas is full of errors. But who would say that the B shas doesn't have kedushas shas? (this is from memory so the details of the story may be incorrect.) I think Rabbi Twerski has brought an awareness of "Al Tehi Rasha Befnei Atzmecha" into the frum world, although maybe in an imprecise fashion. I agree with your point that life-changing must be true, but I do not think this is comparable with Jesus or even Shabbesai Tzvi. I know you just brought these as extremes to present a point, but I still think this is different because Rabbi Twerki is overall encouraging people in their Torah observance. (And btw I wasn't clear- when my friend told me that the book changed his life, he implied that it helped him in his keeping the mitzvos.)

    1. When a person is drowning you save him with any means possible. However if you have time to prepare and think - then you try and do it in the best way possible.

      Rabbi Twerski is using a theory which is not based on an accurate reading of Jewish or Psychological sources. The fact that he is widely cited and used and praised - doesn't change the fact that this is not Science or Torah. My point is that a methodology based on solid research and in accord with Torah sources can in fact be contructed. He is using the word self-esteem in an idiosyncratic matter (accurate self-evaluation) - so that people who listen to him readily err and assume it applies to the subjective feeling of self-worth or self-confidence. Furthermore I find it disturbing that he offers absolutely no research data validating his therapy. Aside from the fact that it is clearly not based on Torah sources.

      You keep saying "Well it helps people". The point of science is that one finds the most powerful therapy techniques not by writing 50 books repeating the same theme that you started with - but that you find under what circumstances and with what groups and with what problems a technique is appropriate. Torah also requires that you be concerned for the welfare and money of other Jews. If you have the ability to make a technique more powerful and to know when it is inappropriate to use it - then you have the obligation to do so.

  38. I agree. I'm just trying to dan lekaf zechus.

  39. I agree. I'm just trying to dan lekaf zechus a heiligeh yid.


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