Sunday, September 07, 2008

Real-Life Role Models

While browsing through a shopping mall in Ra'anana a few weeks ago, my wife and I were amused by a poster of Albert Einstein which we thought was apt for our oldest son's dorm room; "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."

Encouraging children by reflecting on our own difficulties provides a much needed comfort zone -- we experienced many of their same challenges.

I find solace and hope when reading gems from our rabbinical leaders about their personal challenges and limitations.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski shares a very personal and eye-opening essay, "My Own Struggle with Low Self-Esteem" which I highly recommend.


I first became aware that I had a self-esteem problem at age thirty-eight. For three years, I had been director of a huge, 300 bed psychiatric facility with a very busy emergency room. If a nurse could not reach an attending doctor, I was called. Every other night I was on call to the emergency room. On a good night, I was awoken only five times; on a bad night, ten or more times.

I had a vacation coming, and was desirous of getting away from an impossibly hectic situation. I sought a vacation spot that would allow me to do nothing other than vegetate. I wanted no sightseeing or activities. I finally decided on Hot Springs, Arkansas, which promised to allow me total rest.


People assume that low self-esteem is caused by parental neglect, abuse, comparison to other siblings, illness or failures. None of these applied to me. I had loving parents and a nanny who thought I was G-d’s gift to the world. I was a chess prodigy, and achieved excellence in school that enabled me to graduate high school at 16. There was simply no logical reason for me to feel inferior, yet I suffered from low self-esteem and was not aware of it until the incident at Hot Springs.


That’s the way I felt even after being a psychiatrist for several years. If you find that you have any of the traits I discussed in Life’s Too Short, you are suffering unnecessarily from low self-esteem. Do whatever it takes to get over this.

Read and hear the rest of it over at TorahWeb.

This story is what inspires people to work on their own faults and improve themselves, not stories of perfect, flawless icons with no faults that always do the right thing. Such a person, if he actually existed, while certainly worthy of respect is completely irrelevant to our own day to day lives.

R' Twerski learned that he had an inner conflict and went about working on it, and that's why he wrote this essay and shared it with others -- to help others do the same thing.

Some might this story and censor it at best or scoff at it at worse, casting out the "insulting suggestion" that a great talmid chacham would have such faults...or if they did accept the the story as true, they would say it would be "insulting to a talmid chacham" to publicize his condition.

Such behaviour would leave this story buried and hidden, and the benifit that R' Twerski wanted to bring by sharing it with others would be lost.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Very, very, good. I have heard R' Dr. Twerski discuss this before, but his words always make an impact on me. He's the greatest - and, yes, I think it does help others (me most definitely inclded) to hear him talk about it.

Leora said...

Rabbi Dr. Twerski is indeed an inspiring person. I had the honor of hearing him speak a few months ago. He has the patience to try to understand many individuals (alchoholics and women with post-partum depression are just two examples) that others can't or don't even try.

Loved the Einstein quote.

Anonymous said...

You can't fool us. This is really another Srugim post in disguise.

Anonymous said...

...and yet he never made aliyah, and probably has no plans for it. a role model?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRH: Yes, he is truly amazing -- and his greatness lies in his humble humanity.

Leora: Inspiration is what I was thinking :) [and einstein had many cool quotes...see the link I put up]

Anon: Of course this is a srugim related post. Not. Well, in that the srugim characters aren't davka role models, just characters. Do you look up to Nati?

(Give me some time and I'll find you a cool quote from R' Twerski on aliya ;-)

aoc gold said...

Silent Night


Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright!

Round yon virgin mother and child!

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.


Silent night! Holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight!

Glories stream from heaven afar,

Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!


Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, ,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

~~~by Age Of Conan gold

Lion of Zion said...

great post.

HolyCityPrayer said...

anonymous 8:05 - he DID make aliyah! R Twerski lives in Efrat.

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