Review of Journey Together

By Rabbi Ari EnkinJourney Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family

Following the order of the “sefirot” that are a popular study during the Sefirat Ha’omer period, Journey Together is a guide for building and repairing relationships during the 49 days of the sefira count. Consistent with the themes of the individual sefirot, the primary attributes that are focused in the book are: loving kindness, strength/restraint, harmony/truth, endurance, humility, foundation/bonding, and leadership/nobility.

The book opens with a great introduction on the importance if counting the omer, and a primer about the concept of the sefirot. Each of the seven content-packed chapters opens with an explanation of what that week’s sefira emanation represents. For example, week one opens with a discussion of “chessed” and its ramifications on creation and the world. We then examine examples of the day’s sefira in the context of the Biblical figure who is associated with it, and then move on into the motivational stories. And so it is with each day’s sefira count

The book is overflowing with ideas and inspirational teachings, anecdotes, analogies, and stories to help us transform the days of sefira for better. There is an extremely refreshing blend of teachings from modern day rabbis, educators and inspirational speakers, such as Rebbetzin Jungreis, Rabbi Avraham Twerski, Rabbi J.B. Soloevitchik, Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi David Aaron, Rabbi Stewart Weiss, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and many others. 

The book is impressively up to date, covering very recent events and figures in both the secular and Jewish world with stories from Nefesh B’nefesh, Nachshon Wachsman, Gilad Shalit, Hatzala, Zaka, and many others to convey improvement messages.  At the end of each day’s teaching there is a concluding page that offers questions and discussion points on implementing what was learned in that chapter. One can also use the material in the book as a self-help and inspirational guide all year long.

Here’s an excerpt:

Day 28: 

Malchut sh’b’Netzach (Leadership/Dignity within Endurance)

Malchut within netzach allows all the sefirot to come together in a holistic, comprehensive way to ensure that our endurance is balanced and not distorted by extremes in our drive to actualize and achieve results. Malchut within netzach is a steady course that incorporates a mature state of being that can overcome challenges and obstacles over time, while working towards a worthy outcome with dignity, sovereignty, leadership and vision.

The leader and teacher who embarked on a mission from G-d to bring three million Jews out of Egypt, receive the Torah, teach a people how to transform themselves into servants of Hashem and survive through 40 years in the desert was none other than Moshe Rabbeynu. With the completion of this task, Moshe rectified the sefirot that had been imbalanced since the sin of Adam and Eve.

We must do the same in our own lives by displaying malchut within netzach – sovereignty and leadership in achieving, though hard work and determination, worthy life goals and ultimately our mission. Let’s look at a couple of people who succeeded at this.

“True Super Heroes”

You may recall her face and name when all of Israel mourned the loss of her courageous son, Nachshon, brutally murdered by terrorists in October 1994 and her response then: “Hashem answers all our prayers, but sometimes His answer is no.”

But few know that Esther Wachsman has another courageous son, Raphael who has Down syndrome. In a moving article in the Jerusalem Post, Esther describes how society has scorned Raphael and how his four-year-old twin brother has tried to defend him against the cruelty of other children by saying, “My brother has a soul from G-d, and you should just thank G-d that he made you normal.” Relating this incident, Esther writes:

My hands shake and I burst with pride, knowing that my husband and I were instrumental in enabling Raphael’s brothers to love him, care for him and protect him just a little more than anyone else. My wish is for all of you readers, all of society to treat those among us who are slower, less sophisticated (and thus less cynical), as the beautiful and pure souls they are. Accept them, embrace them, love them, for they are your brothers and sisters. Please show them the empathy and caring, the concern that you showed my family in our darkest days, while praying for and mourning my son Nachshon. I have made it my mission to be both of these sons’ voices, for they have no voice. [i]

In the quest to give both her sons voice, she has created a project called “True Super Heroes” that is designed “to promote tolerance and combat prejudice against challenged individuals … [for] these heroes and their Herculean struggles to overcome their G-d-given disabilities do not always make headlines, but True Super Heroes they remain.”

Esther Wachsman has had to endure the unspeakable murder of her son Nachshon, may G-d avenge his blood, as well as to find the strength to face the challenge of raising a child that society labels as inferior. She has gathered her love for her children and then deployed its power to focus and worked tirelessly along with Shalva, the Association for Mentally & Physically Challenged Children in Israel. In this she has created a lasting legacy while bonding with Hashem and her family.

Esther is a true Super Hero.

It is clear that a lot of work when into making this book. It’s definitely one of the better sefira companions that I’ve seen.

This review originally appeared on Torah Book Reviews.

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