Emotional Wellness - Tune Out and Tune In


Avraham Avinu was the quintessential self-made man. Idolaters surrounded him, yet he managed to not only recognize Gd, but to learn and teach Torah, as well. We may wonder: How did he accomplish this? 


The Special Quality of the Kidneys 

We are not alone in our curiosity. The Midrash (Bereisheet Rabbah 95:3) asks: From where did Avraham Avinu learn Torah? Rabbi Shimon answers that his two kidneys evolved into two jugs of water and streamed out Torah. How do we know that this is possible, that kidneys can help in understanding? David HaMelech (Tehillim 16:7) states, “Also in the night my kidneys reproved me.” So we see there is indeed a concept of knowledge emanating from the kidneys. 

Additionally, Hashem asks, “Who placed wisdom in the kidneys, and who gave understanding to the heart?” (Iyov 38:36). The Chida (Chomat Anach ad loc.), brought a proof to this from science.  The wise surgeons of his day, using the newly-invented microscope, saw very small veins issuing from the kidneys to the brain. They also found a connection between the kidneys and the heart. Recently, as well, modern researchers found a link between the heart, kidneys, and brain. Poor kidney function is linked to decreased blood flow to the brain, including increased risk of dementia, stroke, and memory loss. 


Tapping into Our Inner Torah 

How is this possible? How can someone really learn Torah from himself? We know we are filled with all kinds of nonsense, but are we also filled with Torah? 


Yes, a person can be filled with Torah, but he has to know how to access it, to isolate it from all the nonsense attempting to drown it out. In Alei Shur (Vol. II, p. 252), Rav Wolbe quotes the pasuk where Shlomo HaMelech teaches us, Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of Hashem will prevail (Mishlei 19:21). As the Gra explains, we think so many thoughts and have so many plans and worries, but Gdly wisdom is inside of us; we have the ability to let this wisdom rise above all the others. Our task is to find that thought of Gd within us.  


What are these many thoughts, and how do we find the thought of Gd? 


There are many different character traits and emotions – e.g., arrogance, anxiety, jealousy, and desire – inside of us. All of these traits and emotions create thoughts in our heads. These many voices, coming from the many different forces inside of us, are competing with each other. We see all of them as if projected from a movie projector in our brain. On the screen, different thoughts pop up, even as we read today’s entry in this book. 

Paying Attention to Our Own Voices 

One thought may be: Who does this rabbi think he is? Why is he spouting all this psychobabble? That may be the voice of arrogance. If we think to ourselves, What’s going on over here? I am having trouble following the rabbi’s train of thought, that may be the voice of anxiety.  


Different voices, one person. 


Imagine you’re standing outside a room, listening to someone’s voice over a speaker system. You can’t see who is talking, so to you it seems as if the various voices emanating from the speaker are coming from the same person. In reality, there is a portable microphone being passed around the room, and many different individuals are speaking.  


Similarly, all the voices in our heads are not us. 


Tuning into Our Gdly Wisdom 

The Sfat Emet, discussing the above pasuk in Mishlei, explains that everyone has Gdly wisdom, a nekudah tovah, a good point, which Hashem placed inside him. Each of us can cancel all the outside distractions and thus let this hidden wisdom come to the fore.  


On old car radios, we would turn the dial and hear many different voices, as well as static, as we searched for the station we wanted. Finally, when we tuned into the right station, all the other voices and static faded, and we were left with a single voice to listen to. 

This is what Avraham Avinu did. He tuned out all the noise and found the correct channel within himself, from which he learned the entire Torah.  


We can do the same. After all, an angel teaches every Jew the entire Torah while he is in the womb. All we have to do is remove the interference and access what is already inside us. 



Take a moment to not just think, but to think about your thoughts. Most times, you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find there.