Last Thursday night, Rabbi Shmuel Reichman spoke in Queens at Ohel Sara about his new sefer, The Journey to Your Ultimate Self. The book tour was hosted by Chazaq and the Ohel Sara Youth Minyan. As part of his book tour, Rabbi Reichman spoke in five other communities, as well. Rabbi Reichman is an author, speaker, coach, and the CEO of Self-Mastery Academy.
He began the shiur by sharing that “If you want to create something in reality, it has to originate in your mind.” He then shared a story that he said reflects the theme of the sefer. There was a carpenter who was ready to retire, and his boss asked him to just build one more house. He did the work half-heartedly because he wanted to just finish and retire. When the house was built, all the people he worked with came and the boss presented him with a set of keys. He told him that he had just built his own house. The man lamented that if he had known he was building his own house, he would have built a masterpiece. The Maharal said that most of us think that what we are building during our lifetimes will be enjoyed by our soul in The World to Come, but not for “us.” In reality, what we will experience in The World to Come is ourselves, the inner world we built. Throughout our lives, we are building our homes, our entire lives. “We’re building ourselves.”
Rabbi Reichman then asked, “How do we become our ultimate selves? Why is it so difficult to build ourselves?” He taught that there is a misinterpretation of what greatness is. People think that greatness is an objective standard. However, in truth, greatness is becoming the ultimate version of you. When you learn Torah, you learn the ultimate purpose of reality. Hashem used the Torah as a blueprint to create the world. As the Gemara in Nidah 30b states, before you are born, a mal’ach taught you the whole Torah and then caused you to forget everything. The Vilna Gaon says that this Torah is something much deeper than the revealed Torah. You were given access to the ultimate purpose of creation, and you were shown exactly who you are supposed to become. “You were being shown you.” And you don’t lose it; you just lose access to it. This is because your job in this world is to build yourself and become you. Learning Torah is giving you access to ideas you already learned. “Happiness is when you strive to become your best self.”
Rabbi Reichman taught that we must all go on the journey to become our best selves. How do we do this? His sefer is meant to be an inspiring gateway into concepts that are usually too difficult to understand. “To truly grow, you have to give up who you are and walk into the unknown. The key to life is engaging in a never-ending pursuit of new levels of growth. It’s deepening every concept, breaking it down, analyzing the concept, and rebuilding it.” We need wisdom and depth. “True learning is changing the way we see the world.”
Academia is analytical. It’s not learning for the sake of living the ideas and transforming our lives. In contrast, Torah transforms you and provides a way for you to renew yourself. Talmud Torah is transformational.
Every single Hebrew word, every mitzvah, and every spiritual concept is filled with depth. Every aspect of Torah has infinite levels of depth. When you learn Torah for the sake of living Torah, you literally become Torah. Torah becomes your essence and your life.
Falling in love with learning means falling in love with growth and struggle; it requires us to realize that we don’t yet know. People are scared to fail. However, when we realize that failure gives us an opportunity to grow, we can embrace the process. Rabbi Reichman explains that “we are in this world to endlessly grow. We need to fall in love with learning, thinking, and the slow process of internal growth. When we do so, life becomes an incredible journey of becoming.”
Rabbi Reichman’s passion for life and Torah is encapsulated in this wonderful sefer. Every single chapter is an inspiring gateway into the deepest concepts of Jewish thought, exploring aspects of Torah that many people haven’t engaged in. Every chapter opens with a story, and the book is organized according to the parshah. Every chapter concludes with a summary, as well, to ensure that you can remember the main ideas that you read. There are also discussion questions – to bring the ideas into a social environment, such as the Shabbos table or a chavrusa. Finally, there are action points to help bring the ideas into your life and help you live them. Rabbi Reichman shared that it is great to learn ideas, but often it is difficult to apply them to our lives. The action points give the reader the next stage of the philosophical concepts, which is how to apply them to our lives, and truly live a life of Torah depth.
He wrote this sefer to help the reader take the journey towards their greatest selves. At the end of our lives, we will be asked what kind of a house did we build? “Life is about a never-ending journey of self-awareness. This sefer was designed to give you an inspiring gateway into deeper Torah wisdom, to challenge you, and to help you embark on the incredible journey towards your ultimate self.”
By Susie Garber