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“Seventy-Five Years with Peace of Mind” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

Friday, October 19, 2021

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we draw near to Shabbat.

You can listen to it as a podcast here.

This past Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary when, Peace of Mind, written by Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list. As rabbi of Temple Israel in the 1940s, his intellect and wisdom shined brightly in his sermons, radio addresses, and community involvement. He also had a keen awareness of the inner world of the mind and our internal struggles. Liebman began his book, published in January 1946 with these words:

It may seem strange for a man to write a book about peace of mind in this age of fierce turmoil and harrowing doubts. It may seem doubly strange for a rabbi, a representative of a people that has known so little peace, to engage in such an enterprise. However, I make no apologies for this attempt to find new answers to the basic problems of human nature: its needs, motives, fears, and dreams. I have written this book in the conviction that social peace can never be permanently achieved so long as the individuals engage in civil war with themselves. I maintain that a cooperative world can never be fashioned by men and women who are corroded by the acids of inner hate, and I believe that our much-heralded “society of security” will remain a Utopian vision so long as the individuals composing that society are desperately insecure, not only economically but emotionally and spiritually.

To read Peace of Mind today is to find a sentiment that speaks directly to each of us still. His willingness to tackle the impediments to settle one’s mind in the face of tremendous challenges is an issue we all still face.

Maybe now more than ever. Maybe any time.

Peace of Mind struck a nerve and sat on the New York Times bestseller list for many weeks. That it remained on the bestseller list is often a highlighted fact, but I think there is something far more important than the accolade of a best seller.

Liebman wrote in a time before accessibility to self help literature. He may have actually created it. He gave agency to the individual to pursue an introspective idea. Each of us has the ability to explore how we process information about our feelings, anxiety, and challenges and how we react to them. Now, we may take it for granted. Then, the concept was a burgeoning field. Self-exploration and self-realization are tools we each possess. Therapy, too, is a wonderful guide.

I find myself reading and re-reading his words when I feel tumult going on in my head. His written voice opens vistas of perceiving what I might be missing. I regard Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman as a spiritual mentor. If you come by my office, you will find a bust of him created by our member Marsha Shohet Zonis. It was part of an exhibit decades ago in his honor and memory After his untimely death at the age of 41, this piece of art was created. We can only imagine how much further he would have taken the field. Nevertheless, he left a valuable legacy—one that continues to offer a beautiful gift to our hearts, minds and souls.

Zichrono Livracha. Remembering Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman and his magnificent book, “Peace of Mind,” bring blessing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Connect with me HERE. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher