CHANGING CURSES FOR BLESSINGS –
LOVING YOURSELF AND THE WORLD AROUND YOU

by Rabbi Shai Specht
A Love & Light Publication
© 2011
44 pages
ISBN 9781610615822

“One should bless G-d for the bad
  in the same way as for the good…
  [regardless of] what happens to you.”
(Talmud; Berachot 54a; mishnah 9:5)

     How many have learned this mishnah over the centuries? Probably millions.

     How many have actually used it to make their lives happier?

     “Helping” isn’t always a question of “What” you say.

     There’s a whole aspect to Jewish teachings that, despite a somewhat “mandatory” tone, is meant to help us live happier lives.

     But perhaps because of that (possibly) “mandatory tone,” and the fact that these teachings are often accessed only by those who learn in a traditional Jewish format, the inspirational quality can be overshadowed.

     As every teacher finds out, it’s often a question of “How” you say it.

     In every generation, teachers must find new ways to share Torah.

     Rabbi Shai Specht has found his own special “How,” restating Jewish teaching in an uncomplicated, modern way:   

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.

     Rabbi Shai is, without question, a “hasid” of his rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, z”l. 

     He endearingly remembers his teacher, dedicating the book to his rebbe’s memory and incorporating his rebbe’s teachings into his own, with acknowledgement.

     He captures much of his rebbe’s spirit – the inspirational quality, the practical suggestions and applications; the story-telling and references to traditional rabbis and sources; all without becoming “academic.” He employs some of Rabbi Gelberman’s favorite kinds of word-play, but makes it his own.

     So, Rabbi Shai’s book carries on Rabbi Gelberman’s inspirational work.

     Yet, the presence of Rabbi Shai’s own positive energy is undeniable. It’s part of what this book offers, even beyond the words. Reading it, you feel yourself to be in the presence of a caring friend. Not just a caring friend, but one whose presence alone seems to lift you up effortlessly. People can feel better simply by reading this book, whether they follow the suggestions or not. For this alone, his is a best-selling “self-help” book on Amazon.com.

     He has accomplished several very important things in this inspirational book:

1 – He includes multiple approaches

     Rabbi Shai synthesizes his suggestions from numerous sources, including Kabbalah, Hasidut, modern psychology, and so on. He covers walking, guided imagery, positive thinking and more – all within a few, short pages – with a brevity born of wisdom. Implicitly, he also shows us that countless good resources are available to us today. We can make us of whatever works for us.       

     Touching numerous “bases” is in keeping with the open-minded approach that many of us take today. It’s no longer a question of exercise versus self-examination; “intellect” vs. “body”; religion versus science; etc. More than ever, we draw on multiple sources in our quest to lead happy, healthy lives. We need exclude none.

2 – He keeps the language simple and direct.

     He’s found the right format for an audience that wants practical advice in the most accessible form possible. In the introduction, he rightly describes his book as a “life manual.” A “manual” instructs or guides us. It gives us specific steps to follow. The “owner’s manual” for a car doesn’t go into the history of the internal combustion engine, or the aerodynamic principles involved in the car’s design. It tells us what to do if we want to get in that car and go somewhere! Rabbi Shai’s book does the same: it tells us what to do.

3 – He has kept the book short!

     The small size makes it all the easier to consult. How right he was to keep it small!

     The book is currently available only through Amazon.com, in a “Kindle” (download) format. Go to  the “Amazon.com,” enter “Books” as a category in the left-hand window, and “Rabbi Shai Specht” in the right-hand window, click “Go,” and it should take you to the order page.

     His use of the “Kindle” format is another example of adapting his teaching to a modern medium. It also helps keep the price at a very reasonable $4.99 – saving who knows how many trees in the process!

     Rabbi Shai Specht’s “Changing Curses for Blessings” is a book from which we can all learn many things.

     Of course, I owe Rabbi Shai something personally: It was originally his suggestion that I have a blog at all!