By Michal Kohane
Yair Caspi, PhD, teaches and runs his own learning center at the Tel Aviv University. I had the honor and opportunity to participate in a summer seminar conducted by him, about his book, “Lidrosh Elohim” or “Inquiring of God”. I found what he teaches extremely valuable: it brings a 4000 year old way of life to a relevant modern use today. Indeed, it bridges what for me are two inseparable studies: psychology and spirituality. Originally, psychology – meant “the study of the soul”; and it seems that the soul can be much better understood in light of its Origin.
What I will present here is a summary of the book and the system the author suggests in it. I will also include few major parts of the actual book’s translation.
Using the methods of self-improvement found in the Jewish sources, a secular clinician and teacher has invented a new kind of psychotherapy that is giving even the Orthodox Jews and possibly many others something to think about
In the preface to his book, “Lidrosh Elohim”, which means “In Search of God,” in Hebrew, published by Yedioth Ahronoth, 2003, Yair Caspi, 49, tells about his first meeting with Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Leibowitz was well known in Israel for his Orthodox life style and beliefs along with his left wing politics. That meeting was 20 years ago, at one of the regular sessions that used to take place every Saturday night in Leibowitz’s modest apartment on Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem. Leibowitz’s students would gather there to study Torah with him, and Caspi, a Jerusalemite and psychologist, came with a friend, and was captivated.
As we will read in the translation itself, Leibowitz read a well-known line by Yehuda Halevi – “Slaves to time are slaves to slaves. Only a slave of God is free” – and explained: Those who are seeking freedom will not find freedom. But those who are seeking obligations – they might find freedom.
Yair Caspi became very excited. He felt like someone who had suddenly been told a great secret. When Leibowitz once again thundered “Only a slave of God is free!” Caspi felt that all the years during which he had “searched for himself” – through psychotherapy, spiritual quests, books, workshops on self-revelation – were suddenly exposed in all their weakness. But from that same evening, writes Caspi in his book, “I began to be another person.”
The book, “In Search of God” was published last year and has been very successful; Some 6,000 copies have already been sold, and a fourth edition is now in print. Apparently the invitation that he expressed in the book – to speak to God directly, without intermediaries – and his claim that even the Orthodox (and the ultra-Orthodox) need to be not only busy observing various ancient mitzvot (religious commandments) but must be more involved in experiencing the closeness, love and current directives of God, touched a raw nerve.