Sunday, October 4, 2015         


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Empathy in pain heals anger, rabbi teaches

By Pat Gee


There is never any justification for expressing anger, says a Jewish spiritual mentor whose parents were survivors of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf, an Orthodox Hassidic teacher from Australia, wants people to develop more beneficial responses to anger, fear, stress and other triggers.

"When someone is yelling and screaming at you, you should respond not by yelling back, but to see a picture of them in pain," he recommends. "A really key step is to ask yourself, What is it that is causing the other person to say and do what they are saying and doing? The point is you become more empathetic."

Wolf is speaking on strategies for mental strength, emotional maturity and body wellness at 7:45 p.m. today at Chabad of Hawaii, on the second floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. The presentation, for $10, is part of a lecture tour of the U.S. and Canada.

Wolf, also a lawyer and educational psychologist, is the creator of MindYoga, which teaches people to "adopt postures of mind and emotion" that have a positive effect on physical and emotional health and the energy of one's soul, he said.

His New Age teachings are based on 4,000-year-old Judaic texts, called the Kabbalah, explained in his 1999 best-seller, "Practical Kabbalah." The book is about balancing 10 elements of spiritual energy ("sefirot") that are the building blocks of the cosmos and individual personalities. The teachings are universal and applicable to people of all faiths, said Wolf, who has conferred with many global spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama.

WOLF GREW UP with his parents' anguish as concentration camp survivors during World War II, and the horror of having relatives murdered in gas chambers, according to his book. It concludes with a special note on the destructiveness of anger, which should be avoided at all costs.

In an interview this week, Wolf said, "I grew up an angry young man."

But he later learned about anger's correlation to illness, poor relationships and other dysfunctions. Rather than allow anger to poison his life -- "Why give Hitler a posthumous victory?" -- he decided that he would work to "become a compassionate person to make the world a better place."

"Why spend time just feeling very angry and wallowing in your pain? Even though you have the most horrific set of circumstances, it's not making things better. Take the pain and use this as a strong motive of goodness."

He came to believe "there is no justification -- ever -- for expressing anger," which he said is often an "attempt to control or dominate others for personal gain."

He added, "Anger is a complete no-no, a complete negative." Though anger might be an understandable reaction, it is ego- and fear-based, and behavior that an individual is responsible for, he said.

"When people are angry, it usually means they're in pain, emotionally or physically. Our response should be, What can I do to assist them? (This way) you're not fueling the fire with your own anger. If you respond in kind, you will create a much bigger fire."

However, Wolf acknowledged, "Should anyone seek to snuff (your) life out or diminish it, it is an absolute duty to defend one's physical and emotional integrity to the utmost. But not out of anger, which is always a put-down of the other, but out of conviction that one's life is of infinite importance and worthy of total defense."

Similar circumstances include soldiers who are being fired upon. They are responsible for firing back, "but the emotional disposition is different even during the moment," he said. "There should be a level of concern that one is taking someone's life."

His philosophy does include seeking justice under the law, which is objective, however, as opposed to taking revenge, which is subjective and egotistical, he said.

Wolf is also founder of the Human Development Institute in Australia and founding lecturer of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality at Melbourne University.

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