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THE ART OF PHYSIOLOGY OVER PSYCHOLOGY
One of my favorite Sefarim is the Sefer Hachinuch. The Sefer Hachinuch gives a reason for each and every positive and negative commandment. There are so many Mitzvot on the night of the Seder. The mitzvoth of the night have, mostly, to do with living like kings, princes and free men. For example, in Temple times, one was not allowed to take his portion of the Korban Pesach and eat it away from his group. If he did, punishment would be 39 lashes. Why? Because kings and wealthy men don’t eat alone. Only poor people and mourners, eat alone. You can’t leave over the meat of the Korban Pesach for the next day, and whatever remains, you burn: because kings don’t eat leftovers. The night that we became free from Egypt, we merited great heights and royal status. You can’t break a bone from the Korban Pesach, to eat the meat that is inside the bone, because it is not suitable for princes’ status to break the bones of meat, like dogs and poor, hungry people.
One of my favorite portions from the Sefer Hachinuch is right here, on the law of not breaking the bone of Pesach. The Sefer Hachinuch asks, why do we need so many reminders of our being free on the night of the Seder, and becoming royalty? Couldn’t just one reminder suffice for us and our descendants?
To this, the Sefer Hachinuch says that we can derive from here a big life lesson. “The way a person behaves makes a big impression upon him: his heart and thoughts follow his actions, for better or for worse. Even a wicked man with a wicked heart, with an Evil Intention who advises evil all day – if he will try to put effort in learning Torah and doing Mitzvoth, even for personal gain of fame or pleasure, immediately he will become good, and his intentions will be directed toward G-d’s will, and, through his actions, he will kill his Evil Inclination. The heart follows the action! And even if the person is a full-fledged Tzaddik with a complete heart who desires Torah and Mitzvoth, if he will always busy himself with bad entertainment, or he allows himself to be forced into doing negative acts, eventually, his pure heart will be turned around, and he will become a full-fledged wicked person.
This is the intention of the words, רבי חנניה בן עקשיא אומר רצה הקדוש ברוך הוא לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה להם תורה ומצות G-d wanted to give merit to Yisrael; therefore, He gave them Torah and many Mitzvoth. What? Wouldn’t it be easier to be a good Jew, with more merit, with much less than 613 Mitzvoth? But that is the point! By having so many Mitzvoth and busying ourselves with them, our minds and desires will be such that in the end, G-d will give us so much good, so much Olam Haba. As our Rabbis say, ‘Anyone who has a Mezuza on his door and Tzizit on his garment and Tefillin on his head… he can be sure that he won’t sin! (Menachot 43b) Because these Mitzvot are continuous, and they leave an impression on the person who performs them.
This is why you must never rely on your internal faith alone, but you need to focus, also, on your actions and deeds. It is never enough to say, I am frum at heart! I totally believe in G-d! What is so bad if I sometimes enjoy the enjoyments of life? Why can’t I just hang out, chill with the townsfolk, enjoy their entertainment and laugh at their jokes? Nothing bad will happen, if I just do what they do, act as they act, because on the inside, I know what’s right! I know the truth about the world, about G-d, about Olam Haba!
No!!!! Many have made this mistake! Don’t fall into this trap! Many have drunk from this cup of poison! But you need to save your soul! Don’t let the many Mitzvoth of remembering the Exodus bother you! On the contrary! Learn from them lessons for life!”
This lesson from the Sefer Hachinuch has so many ramifications. If you have trouble with your teenager, student, congregants, etc… don’t get into discussions of proving your side over theirs. Instead, keep them busy with doing the things you believe are right and, eventually, they will identify with their behavior, and they will come up with their own reasons to explain their behavior! It works like magic!
When Avraham Avinu did kiruv, he did not try to “prove” G-d’s existence! He just put people into a position where either they were going to say birkat Hamazon for the food he offered them, or he would charge them for an expensive meal in the middle of crossroads of the desert, with the prices of an airport. That is all he did to make people serve G-d! He opened a free catering service, and got them to say their “after” blessings!
Physiology affects psychology. It is not only that the body language never lies about the person’s mindset. It is that if you want to change your mindset, you need to change your body language/performance/behavior! If you stand tall and smile, you will feel that you can succeed! If you stand with slumped shoulders, if you have deeply furrowed eyebrows, you become Mister Serious, and unapproachable.
After paying much attention to this, I can literally “read” a person, how he is in relationships, from just his handshake! How did I learn this? Simple. I learned the steps to making the best handshake, and anything that is different than those steps is screaming out to me, a sign from the person’s subconscious.
1.Smile, showing your upper teeth. 2. Head up high, as high as possible, as erect as possible, not overdoing it. 3 Look at the person in the eye. 4. Try remembering his eye color as you shake the person’s hand. 5. The handshake should be in the middle between the two parties involved, not pulled closer to either of the two sides. 6. Pump the handshake 2-3 times. 7. Hand should be straight, not either hand on top or bottom. 8. Handshake should be web of one hand to the web of the other. 9. The hand should circle around and support the other person’s hand, supportive and firm, but not a tight squeeze. 10. Use a particular, specific, custom-tailored, “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
If someone does anything different, if the person gives me a dead-fish handshake, a weak hand with no energy in the pump, I know this person has no energy in relationships. If the person is too firm in the handshake, the person will be too firm in relationships. If the person does not look me in the eye, I know he can’t have an eye-to-eye conversation. If the person shakes my hand more than 2-3 times, this person does not know how to “let go” of the other person in relationships. If the person is pulling my hand to his side, it means he wants the relationship on his terms. If the handshake is sweaty, I know this person has social anxiety. If the handshake is cool, it means he likes to be cool and not so formal. If the person also holds my arm, as he shakes my hand, it means, he wants my donation, or my vote, or something. If the person puts his hand on top as he shakes hands, it means he wants to be the giver, the provider, the decider. If the person puts his hand on the bottom, it means he wants to be receiving, or accepting.
What is funny about all of this is – if you change your handshake, you will change in personality. You will change how you are in relationships. This is not only true for relationships. This is true for other areas of performance, such as reading. If a person reads like a genius, he will become a genius. I taught hundreds of people to speed read, up to speeds of 1,350 words-per-minute, with comprehension. But you have to fake it till you make it. You need to sit up straight, with your back off the chair, moving your finger across the text at 10 percent faster than your comfortable reading pace, and the feet need to be straight, like in the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. You can’t put your head on your hand. Look at pictures of the Gedolim learning: they all learn the same, with the same body language. At least 50 percent of your reading performance is dependent on your body language.
If I dress you in a certain color, you will be feeling like that color. Red: love, passion, danger, anger. Orange: happiness, energy, vitality, activity. Yellow: cheerfulness, joy, intellect, mental clarity. Green: abundance, nature, new beginnings, wealth. Blue: loyalty, honesty, reliability, communication. Purple: royalty, creativity, mystery, spirituality.
There is so much more to be said on this topic. But what I can’t get over is that the Sefer Hachinuch, which was written in the thirteenth century, brings out so much psychology from the Torah, way before any psychologist wrote any findings in psychology.