In this age of road rage and dangerously short fuses, people don't need to “manage” their anger, they need to rid themselves of it completely. That's the goal of Laibl Wolf, a rabbi, lawyer, educational psychologist, and author, who believes that anger is an “unnatural product” that can be eliminated overnight.
Using the teachings of the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbalah, which Rabbi Wolf traces back to Moses on Mt. Sinai, along with the latest scientific research on mind-body interaction, he teaches the art of self-understanding and inner balance.
His books and seminars, such as the one he will lead Tuesday night sponsored by the Chabad House, are designed for average folks of all faiths, or even of no faith. Rabbi Wolf calls it “practical Kabbalah,” and his most recent book, published by Random House, is titled Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Mysticism for Everyday Life.
The Kabbalah, which means “the process of receiving,” is considered the deepest level of interpretation of the Bible, Rabbi Wolf said. The first level is the simple meaning of the words, the second level is allusion and its deeper implications, the third level is allegory and analogy, and the fourth level is the Kaballah, “stripped of form to reveal underlying elements.” It explains not only the nature of the cosmos and how the human being is a template of the universe, but can “re-orient” the spiritual energies that make up human personality and the world around us, he said.
Rabbi Wolf said his teachings transcend religious boundaries, a fact that became evident during a meeting last year with the Dalai Lama. The two spiritual leaders “discovered amazing similarities” between the Kabbalah and Buddhism during their talks.
“At one stage he asked me to share with him the Jewish teachings,” Rabbi Wolf said. “I took one of the 10 spiritual energies ... the spiritual energy force responsible for our nurturing, giving nature, and as I explained it to him, I said the word is `compassion'. He stopped me and said, `Rabbi, that's one of mine.' And I said, `That's where you got it from!'”
Some Kabbalah concepts appear in New Age teachings, but most of the New Age leaders have not achieved personal understanding of the Kabbalah, Rabbi Wolf said.
The 53-year-old native of Melbourne, Australia, founded the Human Development Institute 10 years ago. He leads about 100 self-help and conflict-resolution seminars worldwide each year.
“My particular take on it is that I stress the personal self-mastery aspects, the nature of mind and emotion,” Rabbi Wolf said from Hartford, Conn., where he led a seminar earlier this week. “My pet area is to explain how we can eliminate the posture of anger from all of our response mechanisms to life's challenges and life's adversities.”
As an example, he said that when someone is confronted by another person who is screaming and yelling, the most common response is to take it as a personal affront.
“The person will say to themselves, `How dare they scream at me? Who do they think they are?' That's based on ego, on self. But if you are aware that they have a problem, you shift the balance from self to other.”
That shift in perception can prevent feelings of anger from arising, he said, and it's so simple that the impact can be instantaneous.
“I have received e-mail after e-mail from people who said my [audio] tape eliminated their anger, that their lives have been absolutely transformed by it. Most people think it takes years of therapy and psychotherapy exploring childhood traumas. I bypass that. That's speculative and takes years and it might hit the mark and it might not.”
Rabbi Wolf believes we are living in an age when people are searching intensely for spiritual meaning in their lives.
“Different eras of history are characterized by different spiritual auras that descend. In the '60s and '70s, there was youthful zeal to benefit society. Then it moved into something quite else, the egocentric and self-centered '80s. In the '90s, there was a different aura, one of trying to define further depth in personal life and to find meaning, realizing that the physical is just a boundary of something deeper. We are continuing that aura in a geometric progression.”
The search is not necessarily a response to rapid advances in technology, he said.
“Technology itself is neutral; it's inevitable. It's the nature of human curiosity, playing with the playthings of nature. It's how we choose to value it that creates positive and negative.”
Today's information overload can be intimidating, but it also has brought diverse people together.
“Providing the human being with the power to choose determines meaning in life,” he said. “Using the choice wisely advances our image as an extension of the divine, and when we choose poorly, we actually reduce that image. But it's our choice.”
Rabbi Laibl Wolf will lead a seminar entitled “Practical Kabbalah: Achieving Inner Balance, Mastering Your Heart and Mind, Loving Truly and Eliminating Anger, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at Congregation Etz Chayim, 3853 Woodley Rd. The cost is $12 per person, $20 per couple, and $8 per student. Information: 843-9393.