Estelle Frankel is a practicing psychotherapist and a seasoned teacher of Jewish mysticism and meditation. She was ordained as a rabbinic pastor and spiritual guide by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and is one of the spiritual leaders of her local Jewish Renewal community. Frankel has taught widely in the United States and in Israel, where she lived for over eight years, and is currently on the core faculty of Chochmat Halev: Wisdom of the Heart Mediation Center. She lives in Berkeley, California, and this is her first book. The central focus here is "the ways that Jewish spiritual teachings and healing practices can enhance our lives and open up new pathways to wholeness." The chapters reveal the breadth of Frankel's vision and the depth of her insights into the teachings of the Bible, the Talmud, the Kabbalah, and Hasidic tradition: Becoming a Vessel of Light: Kabbalistic Cosmology and Healing; Healing and Birthing the Self; and Sheleimut: Wholeness and Integration. We were very impressed with her incisive use of Hasidic stories to illustrate the various points she makes.
"Jewish spiritual healing is essentially about breaking out of the narrow prison of our own personal heartbreak to enter the heavenly palace of compassion and connection. It is about how the human heart can be broken open, so that the veils that keep us separate from one another and from our connection to the divine can be removed." In an erudite chapter on the Kabbalah's myth of shattered vessels as a healing metaphor, Frankel discusses how this relates to transition, loss, depression and illness. She does a good job heralding humility as a spiritual resource that can help us balance the demands of the ego and the spiritual practice of egolessness: "Humility frees us up to use all our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities by enabling us to accept our limitations and vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. With humility we can enjoy our achievements without unnecessary ego-inflation or -deflation: neither are we full of ourselves nor do we pick ourselves apart. And being humble doesn't mean that we stop trying to better ourselves. We are all works in progress! But it does mean we don't have to be the best; we just have to be our best."
Equally cogent is Frankel's treatment of the Jewish practice of teshuvah or repentance. Looking at this important pathway to wholeness or personal transformation, she delineates its mystical, ethical, social, biological, alchemical, and psychological meanings. As an antidote to self-disgust, Frankel offers the spiritual practice of "Seeing Yourself as God Does":
"Take a moment to relax by simply paying attention to your breath. As you settle into a steady rhythm of breathing, notice that you may begin to feel more centered and still inside. Take a few moments to just be in this relaxed state fully present.
"Now imagine, if you can, what you might look like if you were to see yourself through God's eyes through eyes that are filled with wisdom and loving-kindness, eyes that see with compassion and do not judge. Try to see yourself as the amazing mystery and pure being that you are."
The inner work suggestions here will open up new avenues for your personal transformation.