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Is Psychology Kosher?

 

Full Question:

As a Yeshivah Bochur, one of the things that bother me the most is the way psychology is so widely accepted by the whole world including the most extreme Yeshivesh and frum people, Rabbonim, and Communities! Howcome Rabbonim throughout the generations didn’t use psychology!?

Now I’ve heard some try to answer, that they were our sages were the biggest experts in psychology… However according to this opinion (which may be true – that the sages understood the TRUE psychology, – but there is definitely differences, and besides, a lot less focus on the issue by them), we shouldn’t have any need to study what the secular world discovers in this topic, rather just delve into what our Chachomim said.

I’ve heard others say “L’maiseh it is a new discovery that wasn’t known in previous generations, but it is absolutely not a part of a persons Avodas Hashem and will not help bring one to Sheleimus. The only Mailah in going to a psychologist is to cure emotional problems”.

Can you please advise me on this issue?

 

Answer:

There is an assumption implicit in your question that Rabbonim in the past have not used psychology. This is not the case. Though the specific field of psychology as an independent subject of study and practice has been formally developed only in the 1870s, the concept existed before and we have many examples of great rabbonim who made use of its services (e.g. The Rebbe Rashab consulted Freud).

As for the further developments in the world of psychology, this is no different than developments in the field of medicine where we make use of them on the basis of what Chazal (Eicha Raba 2:13) told us: יש חכמה בגוים תאמין.

True, we need to be particularly cautious when it comes to the discipline of psychology as it can involve reliance on doctrines which are inconsistent with Torah. At the same time, it should be noted that this issue is less a concern with psychology of today as opposed to yesteryear since it is much more scientific than philosophical. Still, we must exercise caution and proceed only with advice of a Rov, etc.

One example of many: There are different views within psychology. Often the psychologist will highlight the fact that one may not be responsible for their shortcomings and things they go through. some psychologists take the path that therefore one doesn’t need to work harder to overcome their issues. Others take the approach that you davka have extra kochos to overcome.

 

 

ראה שו״ת אג״מ יו״ד ב, נז. תשוה״נ א, תסה. ועלהו לא יבול ב ע׳ קלד. התורה המשמחת ע׳ 155. שבט מישור חו״מ ז.

וראה ברשימות רש״ב ורנר, בתשורה משמחת הנישואין של יעקב אריה ליב ומרים אלישבע שיחיו וורנר: פעם הלכתי עם גיסי ר’ יוסף לויטין ז”ל (היה מגיד שיעור ב’תורה ודעת’ וגדול בתורה) בליל פסח, אחרי הסדר שלנו, לסדר של הרבי. פעם נכנסתי עימו ליחידות, ובין הדברים שאל את הרבי, היות שמתעסק עם נערים ולפעמים צריך לשלוח בחור לפסיכולוג, מהי דעת הרבי על פסיכולוג, והוסיף שהרב יעקב קאמינעצקי טוען שזה ביהרג ואל יעבר. הרבי השיב שלדעתו אינו כן. ואמר “מ’דארף גיין צו א אידישע, און אז מ’טרעפט ניט א אידשע מעג מען גיין אפי’ צו א גוי’שע” [= יש ללכת לפסיכולוג יהודי, וכשלא מוצאים יהודי מותר ללכת אפילו לגוי]. גיסי שאל, אם יש פסיכולוג שהוא יהודי שומר תומ”צ, אבל לוקח הרבה כסף, ואחד שאינו שומר תו”מ אבל לוקח פחות כסף? הרבי השיב “פאר אביסל געלט וויל איך ניט דינגען מיט ר’ יעקב”… [= עבור קצת כסף איני רוצה להתווכח עם ר’ יעקב…].

וראה בספר שתולים בבית ה’ ט ע’ 397: “אחד שאל את הגרש”ז אויערבאך זצ”ל כיצד להתייחס לענין פסיכולוגיה, כי לכאורה לומדים על גויים, אם מותר להשתמש בזה. ואמר, אם זה מסייע, למה לא”.

וראה לקו”ש לו ע׳ 325 – כו״כ מכתבים.

ובמענה מפי הרה”ח ר’ שמואל שי’ לו, בקשר למקרה מסויים: “רופא נפש ירא שמים”.

וראה מכתב באנגלית מכ”ב מנ”א תשמ”ה:

It would be advisable that you should talk things over with a Torah-observant psychologist.

See also here:
“So then I asked if perhaps I should undergo a course of psychotherapy, which is much less intensive and less time-consuming. The Rebbe responded, “Kenst geyen fir, finef mol – you can go four or five times.”

“Must the therapist be a Jew?” I inquired, to which the Rebbe replied, “Es macht nicht ois tzi er iz a Yid oder a goy, ober er darf zayn a baal maamin – it doesn’t matter if he is a Jew or a non-Jew, so long as he is a believer in G‑d.”

And here:
“1) Does a therapist carry the status of a physician according to the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law]?

The answer: Anyone who is trained (and formally attested) to bring therapeutic relief to a human being has the status of a physician in that area of his training and expertise. Furthermore, since medical science has become so specialized, the area of therapy, and also dietetics, have in recent years been researched and systematized, etc., much in the same way as an eye doctor and an ear doctor have become specialists in their particular field.”

Note also Teshura Sandhaus 5768:

“A Rebbe is obviously not in place of a psychiatrist. Just like if a person needs an aspirin, the Rebbe will refer him to a chemist, similarly if someone needs psychiatric help, the Rebbe will of course not take the place of the doctor.”

 

 

This Q&A is brought to you:

לע”נ אליעזר בן יהודה ורבקה בת נחמן הלוי ע”ה

 

 

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