Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jewisih Bibliotherapy

from the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz


I recently read an article entitled: Read a Novel: It’s Just What the Doctor Ordered. The piece begins:

   It’s well established science that reading boosts vocabulary, sharpens reason and expands intellectual horizons. But the latest round of research on the benefits of literature focuses on how it improves not our IQ, but our EQ.

The essay goes on to introduce us to “bibliotherapy”–the prescription of books, especially novels, to improve our mental health. A bibliotherapist in London is quoted as saying that, “the right book at the right time of your life can open a door and help you to see something in a new way, or just give you that next leap into new maturity.” Her colleague adds, “inhabiting a novel can be transformative in a way that using a self-help book isn’t.” Clients fill out a long questionnaire about what they like to read and what is going on in their personal lives. After discussion, the bibliotherapist sends them a list of six to eight novels designed to address the challenges in their lives and the reasons for their recommendations. The London practice claims a 99% positive feedback rate.

With that in mind, I am going to become a Jewish bibliotherapist and prescribe a half-dozen of my favorite Jewish novels:

1. As a Driven Leaf (Milton Steinberg)
for a crisis of faith.

2. Goodbye Columbus (Phillip Roth)for emotional insecurity.


3. Exodus (Leon Uris)
for apathy to Israel.


4. The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
for father-son issues.

5. The Assistant (Bernard Malamud)
for those in need of empathy.


6. The Slave (Isaac Bashevis Singer)for overcoming self-pity.


I have many other books for many other situations. Just give me a call or send me an email.

Unlike the London therapists who charge £100 ($125) an hour, my service is free. My only reward is your reading pleasure! In the words of the medieval sage Judah Ibn Tibbon, quoted in the Jewish Book Month  poster below, “Make books your companions”.

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