Dec 23, 2011

Getting Help: Books You Can Trust II

Ahh, I love two-part posts. I first posted earlier this week about Rabbi Goldfeder's "Relationship 1:1" and now it's on to the second book that hit my doorstep thanks to the rabbi-author's publicist. Read on!

Life is Great!
Revealing the 7 Secrets to a More Joyful You!
By Rabbi Yitz Wyne

I was always a sucker for Why Bad Things Happen to Good People -- it got me through some really craptastic times. It seems as though these helpful books were coming out of the woodwork over the past few months, giving me food for thought and some wisdom with which to run.

Rabbi Wyne's book is, to put it simply, an eyesore. I say that because, well, you can see the cover, and it screams of "I AM A CHEESY JEWISH SELF-HELP BOOK!" with its sunshiney rays and smiling rabbi. Rabbi Wyne is the founder and spiritual leader of Young Israel Aish Las Vegas, which also threw me for a loop because I didn't realize that Young Israel and Aish were bound up in any way, and he's also a popular radio personality on "The Rabbi Show" on AM 720 KDWN talk radio. With a radio show, six kids, a wife, and a congregation, it's no wonder perhaps that the book cover design was an afterthought. Or maybe it wasn't. Either way, if you can get by the "don't judge a book by its cover" bit, you should be fine.

The book is divided into chapters according to the seven "secrets" that Rabbi Wyne wants to share, which feels a little gimmicky to me. Why do self-help books always have to have "secrets" to offer up? Why can't the author say what he or she means and get on with it. Each chapter leads with the secret and a sunshine clip art, which grated on my nerves at the turn of each chapter. (Can you tell this book annoyed me?)

However! I read the entire book. In fact, I flagged probably 20 different things in it that I found particularly interesting or inspiring. I just wish someone would re-release this book with a new layout, getting rid of the "secrets" and the bad clip art and cover.

Some of the great takeaways?

  • Happiness ratings are subjective || Rabbi Wyne explains how what might be a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 for me might be completely different on a scale of 1 to 10 for someone else. Our scales are incredibly varied, so we can't and shouldn't compare our levels of happiness (21). 
  • Happiness is a choice || "No one can 'make you' happy or 'make you' sad. The most others can do is create situations and environments that make it easier for you to be happy or upset, but ultimately the choice will be yours" (46). Amen, amen. Now to drill this into mine own noggin!
  • Learn from your experiences || Rabbi Wyne quotes the Talmud, saying, "Who is wise? He who learns from everyone." The rabbi-author stresses that "Judaism doesn't view wisdom as accumulation of facts and formulas. Wisdom is a process that is acquired with a particular attitude" (90). I like it. It makes me wonder if I'm wise, however.
  • The Passion Principle || I often wish I was a better waker-upper in the morning, but I often roll around, sometimes for hours, lamenting my lack of sleep or poor sleep and bemoaning getting up. Rabbi Wyne discusses the importance of being passionate about something as it gives life meaning and purpose. He says, "This concept is so important that in Jewish tradition the very first law that is stated in the law books is to 'strengthen yourself to wake up every morning like a lion, to serve your Creator" (137). I need to find my inner lioness, methinks.
I have to give mad props to the rabbi-author for crowd-sourcing a question on Facebook and using some of the responses in his book (99-100). On a negative note, however, I found the rabbi's discussion about how you should "Expect nothing from anyone else. Don't expect gratitude. Don't expect kindness. Don't expect loyalty" as a bit harsh. He goes on to say, "The more we expect from others, the more we will be disappointed" (104). What do you think? I feel like if I get married, I have the right to expect things -- emotions and otherwise -- from my spouse. In a job, one has the right to expect to be treated a certain way. Right?

Overall, this book has a lot of morsels of goodness that will make you tilt your head, go "huh," and think. Aesthetics aside, the rabbi-author offers a lot of personal insight, stories, and tales from his mentor as well. It's not as personal as some other books I've read, and it feels a little cheesy and forced at times, but if you're in a tough place, you can definitely walk away with some things to think about.

Read this book? Know the author? Let me know what you think!


Anonymous said...

Lots of Jewish books have the design problem. I wish there were a way to remedy this. From font, page texture, cover...
Also aish and young Israel are not connected at all, but it seems in that particular community, they've partnered. Always nice to see.

Shira said...

"Expect nothing from anyone else. Don't expect gratitude. Don't expect kindness. Don't expect loyalty" ... "The more we expect from others, the more we will be disappointed" (104).

Chaviva: "What do you think? I feel like if I get married, I have the right to expect things -- emotions and otherwise -- from my spouse. In a job, one has the right to expect to be treated a certain way. Right?"

I think he's right, and you are right. We can't change other people, even our spouses. Once married, you really can't expect much beyond what your partner is able to give. If you go into a relationship with such expectations, and your partner can't live up to them, it doesn't bode well. Marriage isn't a 'job' - neither is motherhood. Its best not to think of it that way. There isn't a monetary recompense, and ideally you can't 'quit' either. You're your own boss, but really you're not. So its not quite comparable.

For marriage, what I think it boils down to, is seeking a person who has those qualities to start with - and not having expectations of changing a person after the fact. Some people will change - are changeable. Self-reflection and flexibility vary among each person, and you can't really know what you've got until you've been married about 5 years (my opinion). And in my experience, it takes another 5 years to recover and build the relationship after that. Going on 8 years here, and a pretty crappy start is turning into a beautiful thing.

The way I see it, I don't have the right to expect anything from my husband. I nourish and cherish and am thankful for everything he does provide (an income, taking out the garbage with constant reminders, loving our children, etc.). I try to create an environment where the best in him can come out. I ask him for things, to do things, to say, "I love you" or remember to buy me a gift... and he does or doesn't. I know he loves me, because I see that he expresses it in the ways that he knows how, and I learn to appreciate his 'love language' - the little things he does for me that I might write off as his 'responsibilities' in this marriage, but are really a gift of love from him to me. Just going to work, in his type of job, is a huge gift of love to me and to our children. I can't expect anything from him - and the flip side is that if I never received ANY of that from him, it might be a sign of time for outside help, or time to leave. Oh, and the opposite side, I set expectations of myself for what I WANT to give to him - love, kindness, peace, gifts, whatever. He appreciates the love in every little thing I give freely that way, including picking up his socks every morning. And when I'm too tired to cook (8 months pregnant here), he gladly goes out to get us falafel. More love. :) No expectations - I could have boiled eggs. But falafel is yummier.

PamBG said...

I was going to respond to this bit too: "Expect nothing from anyone else. Don't expect gratitude. Don't expect kindness. Don't expect loyalty" ... "The more we expect from others, the more we will be disappointed" (104).

Shira's on to something with "both / and" here. Of course, we all want to marry someone who shares our values. We all want to avoid having an abusive spouse and, yeah, I expect (and receive) respect and love.

But what if we just saw everything in life as a blessing? I haven't read Rabbi Kushner's book in years, but I'll bet he says something along the lines of there is no reason to ask "Why don't I get life the way I want it?" and every reason to ask "Why do good things happen to anyone?"

When we go through life reacting to everything and everyone that doesn't meet our pre-determined EXPECTations, we live pretty difficult lives. If we take every day as it comes and respond to the blessings we see (rather than react to our disappointment that things are not as we wish), we will - strangely - find more blessings than we ever imagined.

That's the perspective from which I see his advice. If this sounds like a lecture, I apologize. This was a lesson I needed to learn and is a good lesson for most people, I think.

Avraham said...

The self help Jewish books are in general pirated from Christian self help books. I saw this especially in Israel. in fact it got to be a regular project. people would go to the Barnes and Noble in new York then take the book back to Israel. then translate it into Hebrew and delete all reference to Christan and then sell it as a Jewish book. I sew a whole book in Netivot (south Israel) that was word for word from a self esteem book that i saw in Barnes and nobles. After this noticed that a certain professor at yeshiva university also noticed this phenomenon and wrote about it in his blog.(the name of his blog is The Book of Doctrines and Opinions: notes on Jewish theology and spirituality).
This is not done only with Christian books. i heard from someone selling another type of self help who told me openly that he got it all from Japanese books, only he would take out the references to idolatry.

However on a positive note I do want to mention there is a two very god self help books in the Jewish world which I highly recommend: the first is the Old Testament, the other is the Babylonian Talmud. They are both excellent books and better and deeper and more profound than any modern nonsense.

Batya said...

Have you seen "I Only Want to Get Married Once by Chana Levitan?"

I wish I had read it a very long time ago.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@Adam Your book suggestions are valid :)

You all make true and good points. Thanks for the input!

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