`The Spiritual Heimlich Maneuver

.     Kabbalists speak of a passageway, a channel, that connects the mind to the heart. This channel enables the heart to feel what the mind is thinking. Through this passageway our thoughts travel on the way to becoming emotions. Thus a cold, distant, objective observation becomes a warm feeling  on passing through the connecting bridge. As Dov Ber Pinson, in his book Meditation and Judaism, points out, the structure of the human body resembles in some ways the spiritual form of the soul. Spiritually, the neck represents the passageway through which our thoughts are channeled into emotions. But sometimes the grossness of our thoughts, our false values, our smugness and arrogance clog the passageway. On a physical level, when food gets stuck in the esophagus and we begin to choke, it takes the pressure and shock of the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the morsel of food. In the realm of the spirit, a personal crisis, marital, familial, financial, health or simply the search for meaning in life is the spiritual Heimlich maneuver. It jolts our misguided thoughts out of us and opens up the passageway from head to heart.

     The talmudic Rabbis call this crisis yissurin shel ahavah, sufferings of love, based on the verse “For whom the Lord loves he rebukes” (Proverbs 3:12). It is like good parenting that requires disciplining our children and enforcing certain rules and regulations. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”   

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About Rabbi Joseph Schultz, PhD

Dr. Joseph Schultz served as Rabbi for congregations in Brookline, MA, Norwich, CT and Cambridge, MA. Dr. Schultz founded the Jewish Studies Program at Boston University where he was Assistant Professor of Religion and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where he was Oppenstein Brothers Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies. He helped establish the Center for Religious Studies in 1996, a consortium of six colleges, theological schools and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, offering an interdisciplinary graduate program for the PhD in Religious Studies. Dr. Schultz was its first director.

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