Excerpts from an interview with Rabbi David Green, author of “A Book About You — Individuality and Soul Awareness,” published recently by Mosaica Press.
How do you hope this book will help with building self-esteem and strong Jewish identity?
If people know more about who they are and what contribution they have to make in the world, they will no longer need to be anyone else but themselves. I don’t take the approach like a sports coach, pumping up an athlete to believe that they can achieve greatness. This book is about showing people the reality of the greatness of what is already inside them and helping them bring it out into their lives. It’s about digging, not pretending.
What is different about your book than other books on self-esteem and identity?
This book is based on principles in the Torah that are discussed in so many sources in tremendous depth. My book is not a book on self-esteem, but it serves as a powerful foundation of the principles that allow people to build true self-esteem. You can dig for a goldmine anywhere in the world but if you don’t expect to find it nearby, it will be a very discouraging dig. On the other hand if you become aware of the gold mine within yourself, then digging for it becomes an exciting growing experience because you know that every step is really getting closer.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
As a child I loved books like “the way things work,” an encyclopedia on how the technology of the times worked. I remember as a little kid reading about how a toaster knew when it was time to pop up the bread when it was ready. I have always been fascinated by what makes things work, especially people.
What is your goal for readers of this book?
I hope it will be read by people from many backgrounds. Those from a non-observant background may have a similar impression of Judaism as I describe to have had in the introduction to my book [in which it] looked like a life of Torah and mitzvos meant that you had to throw away your identity and put on a uniform — when in truth that is that is the opposite of what G-d wants of us. This misconception is something that prevents many people, especially creative people, from exploring and benefiting from the beauty of a meaningful life waiting for them in their own backyard.
I have also seen so many observant people who are in tremendous pain because they were given the impression that they are a failure if they don’t fulfill the life that they were pressured to become. … I want to help people realize that they can find themselves within the framework of a Torah life.
What is your next project?
I am in the middle of recording a new album and developing some educational videos to help further bring the message of my book home. All of these activities are part of what I call “The real you project.”
our forefathers. Just as the world stands on three things — Torah, avoda and chased, which are respectively based on the tiferes, gevurah and chesed, so does every individual stand on these three things. We must have all three or, like a tripod with one leg removed, we will fall over. On the other hand, Avraham was primarily chased, even though he was a well-rounded person. So too we each have our primary personality type that is a powerful first step before digging deeper into who we are.
Why do you think today’s society’s struggles with self-esteem?
As I tell over in my book, I remember Rav Simcha Wasserman saying that we all have a beautiful jewel buried inside every one of us. Then as tears started pouring out of his eyes, he said, “But they are all covered with mud.” We just need to clean off what we already have and stop looking to be someone else. Then self-esteem will be staring at us in the face.
How should one balance the scale of narcissism versus low self-esteem?
Simhah Bunim said, “A person should have two pieces of paper, one in each pocket, to be used as necessary. On one of them [is written] ‘The world was created for me,’ and on the other, ‘I am dust and ashes’.” Self-esteem is what enables a person to be the opposite of a narcissist. The people who need to prove their greatness to the world are the ones who don’t recognize their greatness. Moshe Rabeinu was the greatest leader and the most humble man. Narcissism is a major block that prevents a person from hearing their own true potential. It’s fake. Real self-esteem is emes.
Who would most benefit from this book?
Anyone who is feeling the need for direction. Either in their religious choices, career, dating and other major areas that require self-awareness and confidence in choosing what is best for themselves. Also people who find it hard to deal with people who are different than them. Understanding how different personalities play off each other is a powerful tool for tolerance.
What is your background in psychology and interpersonal relationships?
I have always been fascinated by the way people work. Along with music, I enjoyed studying philosophy in college. But my real experience came when my students filled up my day with private meetings to discuss the real issues on their minds. As a rabbi, I was able to give advice much more directly than as a therapist. That is what they were looking for and I did not pretend to have the training in the mental health field. When I saw that students needed more, I referred them to those who were in the field.
Why did you choose to publish with Mosicia Press?
Rabbi Haber is my Rav. I have learnt with him for years and I had no thoughts of going anywhere else. Tremendous guidance, support and encouragement every step along the way.
What is your Jewish background?
I came from a non-observant home and I thought religious Jews were missing out on life. In my early 20s I wanted to resolve a number of hypocritical conflicts in my Jewish identity. On one hand I cared about being Jewish, on the other hand I could have easily intermarried. One thing I knew was that I didn’t want to live on the fence feeling guilt and indecision through my big life choices. So I decided to go to Israel and find out about Judaism from people who really believed it — then I could prove them wrong and never have to worry about anything Jewish again! I went to Aish Hatorah and did my best to prove to them that there was no G-d and that the Torah was not true. The rest is history.
What is your book’s appeal to
non-Jews and Jews alike?
My book is all about the soul. People need to acknowledge that they have a soul that is created in the image of G-d — this is something universal to Jews and non-Jews. The main personality types discussed in this book are also universal. So regardless of the background of the reader, the foundation of true self-esteem and an absolute basis for loving oneself is relevant to everyone. People who claim to be atheists are obviously going to have a hard time with it, on the other hand it may be quite enlightening to an atheist to see how much depth of knowledge there is about something they don’t believe in; perhaps it will open their minds to considering a more spiritually aware life.
For observant Jews, although these principles are in our prayers and books, as Mesillat Yesharim tells us, we need to be reminded of what we already know or it will fade away quickly. The lessons of this book may be already known to well-educated religious Jews, but remembering to live by them is a much bigger challenge. I hope this book will bring their self-esteem, individuality and soul awareness back to the forefront of their minds and hearts in their daily life.
How did you develop the Kabbalistic
The quiz is really based on the chapters of the book that describe each of the primary personalities. They are based on what numerous Torah sources describe to be the main attributes of