Enter Rav Shalom Arush with his latest work in English, called ‘The Garden of Healing’.
In that book, Rav Arush characteristically didn’t pull any punches, and wrote about a range of topics directly affecting health and wellbeing. In the process he culled information from a number of impeccable Jewish sources, including the Rambam, (aka Maimonides, a renowned author of a number of philosophical and halachic works, and also one of the world’s most successful ‘holistic’ physicians); Rabbenu Yona (author of Sefer HaYirah); and of course, our very own Rebbe Nachman (author of Likutey Moharan, and the founder of Breslev Chassidut), amongst many, many others.
There are no laws of nature, when it comes to health
Over the course of the book’s 400-odd pages, Rav Arush spelled out the connection between, body, mind and soul and made it crystal clear that when it comes to health, there are no immutable laws of nature: all illness is a direct message from God, and a direct call to pause for a moment, to see what areas of our life might need reconsidering, improving or fixing.
I’ve been seeing these same sentiments in the more ‘New Age’ holistic health literature for ages, but it was such a breath of fresh air to find a prominent orthodox Rabbi who was willing to clearly state the same things – and also to back them up with the relevant sources.
The book starts off by explaining how God is controlling every aspect of our lives, but particularly the area of health, and then walks the reader through a comprehensive program of checking which area of personal growth and development may be the underlying ‘cause’ of the physical health issue.
If you’ve read anything by Bernie Siegel, or books like ‘Vibrational Medicine’ by Richard Ferber, Rav Arush’s message initially sounds pretty familiar, especially when he talks about the healing nature of joy; how serious illnesses is often the best thing that can happen to someone; and how important it is to eat healthy.
So far so good, but where Rav Arush really comes into his own is in his description of the various causes of all the mental health issues currently plaguing modern society, from depression and paranoia all the way through to the more serious issues like megalomania (aka narcissism) and schizophrenia.
The pathway to healing the psyche
The good news is, Rav Arush sets out a pathway for healing the psyche based on our deepest Jewish sources, that he has seen work in countless cases. The bad news is, most people probably don’t want to hear about it, as at the heart of the problem you’ll find all the atheism, permissiveness and immorality that are the unfortunate hallmarks of the modern world.
Here’s the thing: over the last few months, I’ve been pulling together the latest research on mental illness in the secular world, with a particular eye on any studies examining the underlying causes of the problem.
Time and again, I’m finding clinical, scientific evidence for the statements Rav Arush makes in ‘The Garden of Healing’. So many studies have been done on the healing effects of a happy disposition; so many experts have opined that anger and depression are ‘pathological’ emotions, underlying most serious physical illnesses; so many people have stressed the curative value of hope, and of finding meaning in suffering, that for the more knowledgeable holistic health aficionado, much of what Rav Arush says about physical health is routine.
But his unique spiritual purview is what makes his statements on mental and emotional health particularly interesting, at least for me. Rav Arush is light years’ ahead of the atheist medical psychiatry model of mental health, that’s obsessed with trying to find purely ‘biological’ solutions to problems that are rooted in the realm of the soul.
It will probably take a few decades for the scientific studies to start ‘proving’ this part of the book, too, but sooner or later, that’s what’s going to happen.
So to sum up: every orthodox Jew with even a passing interest in learning the Torah view of holistic health should read this book, and take it to heart. And anyone interested in holistic health should read this book, to learn how the spiritual dimension could impact their health and happiness even more than regular exercise and green smoothies.