The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute’s new course is turning worriers into warriors and attendees are suiting up in droves. JLI’s latest six-week syllabus is being praised by many students as the organization’s best yet, with record attendance to match. Based on eight chapters of the Tanya, “Worriers to Warriors” tackles real feelings such as guilt, anxiety, and inadequacy. The source material is pulled from the first Lubavitcher Rebbe’s seminal work helping Twenty-First century people recognize, and appreciate, the positive side of struggle.
Deane Dubansky is an avid student of Tanya and JLI courses led Rabbi Dovid Vigler, a popular JLI instructor in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The lessons, she says, help her to “recognize the good in everything. I am a very happy person. I have had five major spinal surgeries in the last few years and I live with pain and disability, but happiness is my thing. I’ve learned that everything is good in the end. If it’s not good, it’s not the end.”
Dubansky, a business owner, particularly enjoys the last six minutes of each class during which Vigler gently guides his students in meditation. “I don’t meditate enough, and these exercises are a good way for me to get out of myself, get out of my ego,” she says. “Sometimes the meditation brings the whole lesson together, sometimes it highlights one point. I always like it.
“The classes are a roadmap for me, explaining what I think about and giving me the answers I’m seeking. Tanya gives me permission to let go of me. Life is not about where I want to be, it’s about where I am needed.”
Tanya, believes Vigler, “is not always an easy subject to teach. The creators of this course had the courage to focus on these often-overlooked chapters to take on the Alter Rebbe’s big questions, and even bigger answers, on character development.”
Rabbi Mendel Bluming is one of the 460 teachers sharing this course with 14,700 students around the globe. Worriers to Warriors, says the Potomac, Maryland instructor, “is just what people are looking for. JLI does its best when it touches people where they are, when it brings the lens of Torah to their personal lives. And that’s what it’s doing here.”
In his 18 years behind the JLI lectern, Bluming has realized that “people gain from active study more than frontal teaching on its own. They come to class with their hands up,” he says. “As soon as we engage personally, as soon as their voices are heard, we’ve connected and they tune in.” Bluming asks open-ended questions allowing for quick answers that captivate his class of 70. His students stick around after class, and call and email with additional follow-up questions.
The lessons, he says, are resonating very strongly this semester. “Jews carry suitcases of guilt and do not let go, fearing that it would betray their people. Endlessly stewing and regretting may feel holy but it’s really a distraction from what we’re supposed to be doing, which is serving G-d with drive and joy.
“Many people who come for a Jewish experience (such as Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur) sit there feeling like hypocrites, not allowing themselves to connect to the moment. ‘I wasn’t here yesterday, I won’t be here tomorrow, so who am I fooling?’ they think. We discussed in the lesson that every good deed is an authentic reflection of our G-dly side. We are not hypocrites by doing a good deed, we are making a choice at that moment.”
As Vigler prepares for his fifth lesson in southern Florida, the rabbi says his class is enjoying these “Jewish secrets to feeling good. The quickest way to lose power,” he declares, “is by believing you don’t have any in the first place. The Tanya is the most empowering of texts. This class is inspiring people to study Torah and perform mitzvot and it’s just extraordinary.”