The first sefer in this series “Getting to Know Your Self” דע את עצמך is a general introduction to the very idea of self-recognition & attaining inner quiet and should be studied before the other sefarim in this series. Secondly, it is recommended to learn “Getting to Know Your Soul” דע את נפשך which deals with the faculties of the soul in their potential form; and thirdly, “Getting to Know Your Feelings” דע את הרגשותיך which both explain the general structure of the abilities in the soul, by showing how the intellect can be built for the purpose of improving one’s character traits. The main purpose of these sefarim is to reach the world of character traits that are within the soul.
Getting to Know Your Self דע את עצמך stresses that to grow properly, you must first know who you really are. This sefer teaches us to see ourselves as pure souls, and not be disheartened by flaws, which are in fact nothing more than superficial “garments” over the soul. Once this awareness is achieved, we learn to feel love toward the rest of the world, and finally, to discover Hashem deep within us. The approach in this sefer is: “How can I take care of myself (as un-spiritual as that sounds) and try to build my own world by removing the evil in my midst and exposing the good contained within me?”
Getting to Know Your Soul דע את נפשך begins to explain the general structure of the abilities in the soul, by showing how the intellect can be built for the purpose of improving the character traits. The first part of the book explains the basic elements of fire-wind-water-earth which correspond to the four fundamental traits in the personality. Fire causes conceit and anger. Wind cause excessive chatter. Water causes pursuit of pleasure. And earth causes laziness and depression. Each person has a unique mixture of these elements, with some being more dominant than others. The second part explains the thirteen basic faculties of the soul. By understanding these faculties, we can develop them and align our personalities with the will of Hashem. Each individual has unique characteristics, as well, but we must first understand the human soul in general before working with the specifics of each individual.
Getting to Know Your Feelings דע את הרגשותך continues the exploration into our soul.. We each have seven primary emotions, which can be used either negatively or positively: self-love, self-hatred, pride, stubbornness, admission, connection, and lowliness. We can each uncover the main negative emotion in our lives and attain emotional peace. We can also learn how to access our true emotions, which are the deeper feelings within the layer of our G-dly soul. If we access those deeper feelings within us, we can all lead a life of gratifying emotional experiences, knowing how to develop lasting feelings, and reacting better to our respective life situations.
In contrast to the first three sefarim, the series “Getting to Know Your Thoughts” דע את מחשבותיך and “Utilizing Your Knowledege” דע את דעתך explain how one clarifies the character traits at their root, in a fundamental manner. The sefer “Getting to Know Your Imagination” דע את דמיונך explains the bridge between the intellect and the character traits, which is the very concept of medameh, imagination, comparing, resembling.
Getting to Know Your Thoughts דע את מחשבותיך discusses the mind – the power of thought. and requires contemplation and patience. While the focus of this sefer is on how to build and develop the power of our machshavah (thought), its greater purpose is to help a person develop the analytical abilities that are necessary to learn Gemara with. Part One focuses on how to build the power of thought, analysis, and decision-making. Part Two which explains more about the difference between thought and imagination – and how imagination needs to be improved.
Utilizing Your Knowledge (Da’as) דע את דעתך is a cerebral journey into our minds, where we can learn how to develop the power of our mind and increase the strength of our intellect, as part of developing the powers of our soul. It is a sequel to its predecessor, Getting To Know Your Thoughts דע את מחשבותיך. In this series we take an in-depth look at what lays in our power of da’as, how we can have more access to it, beginning from the more basic abilities and then exploring its deeper uses. By understanding the inner workings of da’as, we can greater abilities of sensible decision-making, greater self-control of mind over emotion, strengthened mental abilities, and greater control over the imagination (which links this series with Getting To Know Your Imagination).
Getting to Know Your Imagination דע את דימיונך explains that imagination is at the core of most of the problems in the world. When imagination is leading our lives, we are off-base and not in touch with reality. Imagination fools us all the time and leads us to make all kinds of mistakes. While imagination certainly helps us be creative and fulfill our dreams, it is doing more harm than good, and so we have to work to uproot imagination. We also learn how we can steer the imagination in a positive direction, as well as how to use it for the purpose that Hashem created it for.
Getting To Know Your Inner World דא את יחודך and the Torah Way To Enlightenment דע את נשמתך, which explain the ways of avodah that speak more to the neshamah, a more inner level of the soul.
Getting to Know Your Inner World דע את יחודך teaches us how we can reach our true self. As such, it is an actual manual to navigating through the various parts of one’ssoul. It requires contemplation. The Rav states that the purpose of this series is to explain how to know and cling to our Creator (which is the purpose of our life) by knowing our soul. The knowledge of our soul is vast and complicated. The series explains how we can learn to detach from the outer layers of our soul, “wearing” and “removing” our soul layers at times when we have to. By detaching from our soul layers, we are able to reach our very essence as we go deeper and deeper into our soul.
Torah Way to Enlightenment דע את נשמתך . You may have heard about hisbodedus before and you may have read about it in other places, but in this series, you will study it as never before, seeing it in an entirely new light. This is a sefer that spans the fundamentals of religious Jewish life, of our values, of how we can reach our purpose on this world , of how we can use the soul and all its powers to reach our desired purpose. In the introduction to the hebrew sefer, the Rav states “The purpose of this series is therefore not meant to deliberately cause people to become interested in these matters. It is simply coming to give guidance to those who anyhow are involved in hisbodedus. We hope that this series will indeed help those who need that guidance”.
We should be clear that we have an avodah in our realm of action, which is through observing halachah, and we also have an avodah in our world of middos/character traits, as well as an avodah in our world of seichel/intellect. We also have a personal avodah based on the nature of the neshamah, and the series Inner Silence Series דע את היתבותך – הכנה ומעשה takes this path. Finally, there is Reaching Your Essence דע את הויתך which is a guide to help one reach one’s very essential being.
Inner Silence Series – 22 Gateways to Developing Solitude (hisbodedus) “as an ideal path to intimacy with God” according to Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam & Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia. These classes discuss Jewish meditation by describing the power of “uniqueness” (“yechidiyus”) residing in a Jew’s soul. One of the ways how we can reveal our uniqueness is through our power of yechidus, through being “individual” – an ability which is also identified by our holy sefarim as the power of hisbodedus, “solitude.” Hisbodedus, simply put, is when a person is alone with himself, away from people. The first 11 classes described in detail how to prepare for hisbodedus and the last 11 classes described how to “talk with Hashem.”
Reaching Your Essence דע את הויתך consisted of 15 classes in which the Rav explained the essence of Jewish spirituality and several ways how one can identify and access the deepest part of the Jewish soul. The Rav clarified: that there are certain types of people who may begin their inner work by first trying to reach the havayah point in the soul. “These kinds of people cannot be told to ignore their inner point; they live with it as an existing reality. … For such people, their avodah is to receive further guidance in how to use their havayah point, to clarify more of the ways of how they can properly connect to it.”
Everything else in the “Getting to Know Your” series “סדרה “דע את are essentially the “branches” and “garments” of one’s essence.
For example: The series דע את כוחותיך explains the more detailed aspects of the soul’s abilities. Everything contains roots and branches. The three root forces of the soul are in the three forefathers, which correspond to the right, left, and middle. The offspring of the forefathers are the 12 tribes, which correspond to the 12 senses of the soul, as explained in Sefer Yetzirah. After that, the soul subdivides into the 70 descendants of Yaakov Avinu. The “70 forces of the soul” [as described by the Gra, and which is explained in the series דע את כוחותיך] correspond to the 70 descendants of Yaakov Avinu.