NEFESH: The International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals
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Anxiety and Faith
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 23rd, 2024

Dear Therapist: My daughter is in seminary this year and it's the first time she's dormed a full year with other girls. She mentioned to me that one of her roommates seems very socially anxious & has a hard time making friends & being sociable. My daughter tries to include her but she often withdraws because of her social anxiety. She suggested to this girl that she speak to someone about her struggles & she keeps responding that she …
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Finding Greatness in Humility: Balanced Self-Perception (Parshat Behar)
Author: Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
May 23rd, 2024

In Parshat Behar, we encounter the commandments to observe the Shemita and Yovel years, which emphasize the importance of balance and harmony in the land, society, and personal relationships. The parsha begins by sharing the location of the conversation between Hashem and Moshe Rabeynu, being Har Sinai. Using the psychological concept of having a balanced self-perception, we can delve into the lessons learned through the selection of this mountai …
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Diagnosis and Labelling
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 20th, 2024

Dear Therapist: Can you please share your thoughts on the phenomenon that I am noticing (not common baruch Hashem, but it happens) where people disparage others by "diagnosing" them with a mental illness. Thus, people who are rigid are called "OCD," those who are a bit different are "apspergy" and those who are jumpier are "ADD." More disturbing to me is that I have noticed the word "narcissist" being thrown around quiet casually. Unfortunat …
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You Don’t Say Bava Metzia 87 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 24th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph made an observation of the behavioral styles of the righteous versus the wicked, especially in terms of expressing and then following through with their commitments toward others: “The righteous say little and do much, whereas the wicked say much and do not do even a little.”   We can understand the wicked tend to over promise as they want to receive the admiration and appreciation in advance, without put …
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Twin Towers Bava Metzia 86 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 24th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph lists a series of notable sages, whose lifetimes and careers embodied a close of an era.    Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and Rabbi Nasan are the end of the Mishna, i.e., the last of the tanna’im, the redactors of the Mishna. Rav Ashi and Ravina are the end of instruction, i.e., the end of the period of the amora’im, the redacting of the Talmud, which occurred after the period of the tanna’im.   The …
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Holy Cow, that’s A lot of Suffering Bava Metzia 85 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 23rd, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud aleph describes the intense years of gut pain that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi experienced. The Gemara attributes his suffering to an incident where he was not merciful toward a calf. His suffering only abated, years later, when he spontaneously showed kindness toward weasels that were being harassed by his housekeeper:   There was a certain calf that was being led to slaughter. The calf went and hung its head on the corner of Rab …
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Putting the Create Back into Procreate Bava Metzia 84 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 22nd, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the anatomy of various sages, in bizarre detail,:   When Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei, and Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, would meet each other, it was possible for a pair of oxen to enter and fit between them, under their bellies, without touching them, due to their excessive obesity.   A certain Roman noblewoman [matronisa] once said to them: Your children are not really your own, as due to …
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When the Letter of the Law is to Go Above It Bava Metzia 83 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 21st, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses an incident where Rabbah bar Chanan’s hired porters broke a barrel of wine. Though they were legally hired as watchmen and thus responsible for the mishap, his teacher (Rav) required him to not only release them of liability for the broken barrel, but to even pay them their wages! Rabbah bar Chanan asked Rav, “Is this really the required Halacha?” Rav answered, “Yes it is”, quoting …
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Where Charity Begins Bava Metzia 82 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 20th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses a teaching of Rav Yitschak, regarding the status of a collateral object. Is the object considered still in the possession of the borrower, or once the collateral is taken, it is fully owned by the lender until such a time as the borrower repays the loan? One halachic outcome that depends on this distinction is if the object was lost due to unforeseeable circumstances. If the object is fully possessed by the lende …
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Struggling with Indecision
Author: Rabbi Shmuel Reich
May 16th, 2024

To the casual observer, it didn’t look like a significant exchange at all.   “Would you like a receipt?” the cashier asked politely.   “Yes, please,” Chaim responded.   Chaim left the store, crumpled the receipt, and threw it in the public garbage can.  That was it.   But for Chaim, this was a great victory.  Chaim had always been considered a people pleaser. He was r …
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Kiddush Hashem & Moral Identity Fusion (Parshat Emor)
Author: Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
May 16th, 2024

In Parshat Emor, we encounter various commandments regarding sanctification, sacrifices and observance of the holidays. However, one of the seminal tenants of Judaism and morality is also presented, the mitzvah of not desecrating the name of Hashem. Through the lens of the psychological concept of moral identity fusion, we are provided a meaningful opportunity to explore this mitzvah, better known as Kiddush Hashem.   Moral identify fusion i …
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We Are Not Alone Bava Metzia 81 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 19th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph discusses what happens when two people agree to watch each other’s possessions.  Since they are both doing it in exchange, they are considered to be paid watchmen and liable for theft that could have been prevented by more vigilance.  However, the Gemara raises an objection:   But why is this the halacha? It is a case of safeguarding with the owners simultaneous involvement! There is a principle that …
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Contracting with God Bava Metzia 80 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 17th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud beis discusses what are the liabilities of a rented object.  A paid watchman is liable for ordinary theft that could have been prevented through vigilance, while an unpaid watchman is exempt, so long as he was not negligent.  The basic idea is that if you are paid, you are expected to devote more energy and focus on safeguarding the object.   However, a renter can be seen either way:  Is he like a paid watch …
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I Got You This Far, Didn’t I? Bava Metzia 79 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 17th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph discusses various scenarios and liabilities incurred where a hired porter or wagon breaks down mid trip.  Even if the wares did not reach the desired and contracted destination, if at the current location they can be sold too, albeit inconveniently, or if after a day he can hire another transport for the remainder of the journey, the person must still pay the fare for the trip up to this point.  The claim of the …
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He Sees The Moment Bava Metzia 78 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 16th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the idea that certain funds are dedicated for one purpose and cannot be transferred to another purpose, no matter how noble. Thus, charitable funds donated for the indigent to use for the festive Purim meal cannot be used for other charitable needs. (The actual Halacha is subject to discussion and qualification, see Shulchan Aruch OC 694:2)    Chavos Yair (responsum 232) rules that if a person gave some …
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Shabbos Neuroses Bava Metzia 77 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 15th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the unique status of the workers in the city of Machoza. They were conditioned to continuous hard work, and having an unanticipated day off would be harmful to their routine.    In the times of the Gemara, Machoza was a bustling metropolis. From various references in Shas one gets the impression that it was a real urban landscape with a scholarly class, wealthy business class, and many laborers. They h …
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The Right to Complain Bava Metzia 76 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 14th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph describes a scenario where a landowner sent an agent to hire contracted workers at four dinars but the agent, unsolicited, negotiated a lower rate of three dinars. Upon discovering that they could have negotiated a higher wage, the contractors have no legal recourse, since they agreed to those terms. But the Gemara says they still have a grievance, as they can say to the one who came to terms with them: Don’t you ha …
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No Interest in Interest Bava Metzia 75 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 13th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph presents a surprisingly lenient ruling: Torah scholars are permitted to borrow from each other with interest. The Gemara explains: Why is this allowed? Because they are fully aware that interest is prohibited, thus they do not intend the loan as a formal business transaction. They willingly forgo additional payments from each other at the outset, considering the extra payment a gift exchanged between them.   This unc …
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Self-Actualizing Holiness (Kedoshim)
Author: Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
May 10th, 2024

In Parshat Kedoshim we encounter a profound commandment, which has reverberating impact through out all our daily lives. The passuk states “kedoshim tihyu ki kadosh ani – you shall be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 19:3). ”  the word Kedoshim, which has the Hebrew root word kadosh – usually translated as “holy.” However, the word has a more appropriate definition described by Rashi of separation or setting …
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How to Lose Friends and Discourage People
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 8th, 2024

Dear Therapist: I am a parent of a 9th grade girl in a large mainstream high school. She is trying to find her footing in a long lasting friendship and is starting to get to know a few girls. But because she is a very friendly girl, she is nice to the girls who aren't as socially gifted. The problem with this is when her friendliness gets in the way of spreading her wings, since these girls cling to her in an unhealthy way. While she doesn't …
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The Doctor Will NOT See You Now
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 8th, 2024

Dear Therapist: My spouse has the interesting issue where he just refuses to go to the doctor for a well checkup. He is pushing 45 and probably hasn't been by a doctor in 15 years. When he is sick etc. he will go to an urgent care or a PA and take care of it, but that is pretty much it. He claims he is healthy and doctors just find issues. He seems ok but at this point I wonder if he is just nervous and so he is avoiding it. Do you have any sugge …
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Why Do We Need Things?
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 8th, 2024

Dear Therapist: I have been pushing off writing this, which maybe is part of the problem, but I feel like at this point I really need to. A few years ago, my husband was making a very nice living which caused us to raise our standards of living significantly. Now unfortunately, like I imagine many others are, we are feeling the crunch of the economy. Baruch Hashem, we have what we need but we can no longer afford to spend like we used to. We …
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Do You Know Who You Are?
Author: Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
May 8th, 2024

Dear Therapist: I was recently asked by a shadchan to write a detailed description of myself and I was surprised at how stuck I got. It was very hard for me to write about what's important to me, what my personality is like, and what I truly value, in a way that is anything other than cliche. I started thinking that there is something wrong with me that I can't do this. I think part of this is because there is a big difference between w …
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The Seal of Disapproval Bava Metzia 74 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 12th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph describes a marketplace custom and procedure that confers enough intent so that acquisitions are binding, as if a kinyan or contract was made:   אָמַר רַב פַּפִּי מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרָבָא: הַאי סִיטוּמְתָּא – קָנְיָא. לְמַאי הִלְכְתָא? רַב חֲבִיבָא אֲמַר: לְמִקְנֵיא מַמָּשׁ.   Rav Pappi said in the name of …
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Work for Your Freedom Bava Metzia 73 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 10th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses an interesting, ethical law, that is not utilized in modern times:   The Gemara relates: Rav Se’oram, the brother of Rava, would forcefully seize people who were not acting properly and have them carry Rava’s palanquin. Rava said to him: You acted correctly, as we learn: If you see a Jew who does not behave properly, from where is it derived that you are permitted to have him work as a slave? The …
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Deterrence Theory Bava Metzia 72 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 10th, 2024

  Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses what penalties are incurred should someone flout the prohibition of usury, and draw up a contract, and actually lent the money:   תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: שְׁטָר שֶׁכָּתוּב בּוֹ רִבִּית – קוֹנְסִין אוֹתוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ גּוֹבֶה לֹא אֶת הַקֶּרֶן וְלֹא אֶת הָרִבִּית, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי מֵאִיר …
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The Woke Bystander Effect Bava Metzia 71 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 9th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph quotes a verse from Chabakuk (1:13):   You whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil, Who cannot countenance wrongdoing. Why do you countenance treachery, and stand by idle while the one in the wrong devours the one in the right?   The prophet is identifying two problematic patterns in human behavior, and suggests that they are related: People tend to act with false righteousness and self-serving piety, too pure …
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The Issue is the Feelings, Not the Facts Bava Metzia 70 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 8th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph uses an interesting idiom to refer to “older” orphans, “Diknanei”, meaning they have beards. Rashi adds, “They are no longer considered orphans.”  What does Rashi mean?  A beard does not add or detract from the status of an orphan!   To understand this, we need to appreciate the special status that orphans occupy in halacha and Jewish ethics.  There are specific proh …
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Shear Profit Bava Metzia 69 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 7th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses an interesting economic and psychological scenario regarding partnership versus working as a subcontractor on commission. As we shall soon see, psychology and economics can be heavily intertwined. In our Gemara, due to certain halachic technicalities of usury, a person who enters into 50/50 financial partnership in raising an animal, actually makes out with less profit than if the owner of the animal had contrac …
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Speech is Not Free At All Bava Metzia 68 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
May 6th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph references an incident whereby Rav Ashi raised a hypothetical question, which involved a halachic dimension of a student’s inheritance, Mar son of Ameimar. The power of Rav Ashi’s words were so great, that his mere mention of Ameimar’s possible death somehow induced his actual death.   Our tradition, among many ancient traditions of the world, believes that words have extraordinary power to create a …
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Catharsis of the Soul (Acharei Mot)
Author: Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
May 3rd, 2024

Parshat Acharei Mot contains profound insights into the human experience, including the psychological concept of catharsis. This Parsha delves into the rituals of atonement performed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Amidst the detailed instructions for sacrifice and purification, there lies a powerful lesson about the cathartic nature of confession and atonement.   The parsha describes (Leviticus 16:5-11) how th …
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Humility or Lack of vulnerability? Bava Metzia 67 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses a practice that was technically not usury, but the Talmud ruled that rabbis should abstain from it nonetheless, because they should behave according to a higher standard. The Gemara records that Ravina did not abstain from this practice and stuck with the letter of the law. Tosafos (ibid) wonders about this, and Rabbenu Tam suggests that thiswas due to Ravina’s humility in that he did not want to portray hi …
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Mind Reader or Emotion Reader? Bava Metzia 66 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the implications of a person who appears calm but perhaps he is not. The Gemara sometimes rules that a verbal commitment is binding as there is a clear indication of serious intent, while other times we assume he was under some kind of duress and offered an empty verbal assurance but made no kinyan (physical act of transfer or acquisition) to solidify the transaction. The actual halachos are complex however we wi …
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Extra Credit in Mitzvos Bava Metzia 65 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the legal technicalities of whether a rental or hire incurs financial obligation from commencement, or only at the end, when the rental or work contract is completed. Halachically this has implications for whether advance payment at a discount is considered charging interest or not. The halacha is that the obligation to pay a rental fee is incurred only at the end of the rental period.  The Chida (Midbar Kd …
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Profiting from the Prophets Bava Metzia 64 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph uses the Hebrew word “Sachar” to describe the potential and likelihood for profit versus loss that one can achieve in a business venture. If he is a silent partner with another by contributing the funds and the other contributes the business efforts, whether it is categorized as charging interest via the profit or merely being in a partnership depends on many factors, including that there is equal or greater l …
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The Illusion of Control Bava Metzia 63 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis conceptualizes the prohibition of charging interest as any financial compensation that is an incentive for the lender to delay payment of his debt. In essence, time is money, and the charging of interest is an enactment of the value that having access to money at one time over another brings profit. Assuming that the rate of interest is not exploitative, the Torah asks us to run against a normal instinct to manage money wi …
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A Life Worth Living Bava Metzia 62 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud aleph discusses the famous moral dilemma of a circumstance where you must choose between another person’s survival or your own survival, such as you are in the desert with another person, and only have enough water for one person to survive.  Ben Petora taught: It is preferable that both of them drink and die, and let neither one of them see the death of the other. Until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that the verse sta …
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Hitting Bottom Bava Metzia 61 Psychology of the Daf
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 26th, 2024

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses textual and theological parallels between the prohibition of charging interest, the commandment of wearing Tzitzis and maintaining honest weights and measures in commerce. Rava says: Why do I need the mention of the exodus from Egypt that the Merciful One wrote in the context of the halachos of the prohibition against interest (see Leviticus 25:37–38), and the mention of the exodus from Egypt w …
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Pesach: Four Sons - A Tapestry of Individualized Communication
Author: Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
April 21st, 2024

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Pesachim provides us with one of the most famous Midrashim on the entire Hagaddah, ‘K’neged Arba’ah Banim’, the story of the Four Sons. This story offers a rich tapestry of psychological insight when viewed through the lense of individualization of attention whether for children or generalized overall. Communication works for those who work at it. Each individualized interaction is an opportunity t …
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Beautifying or Deceiving? Bava Metzia 60 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Author: Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
April 28th, 2024

Our Gemara on amud aleph discusses deceitful business practices, such as feeding an animal in a certain way to make it temporarily appear more robust than it actually is, or grooming a slave and dyeing his hair so he will appear younger.  Rav Yaakov Emden (Hagahos Ya’avetz, ibid) discusses if it is permitted for a woman of marriageable age to adorn herself with make-up and other cosmetics to appear pretty, and rules that it is permitte …
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