Biographical Information for Ephraim David Becker, Ph.D.
Early influences: I am the only son and youngest child of Holocaust survivors who retained a strong connection with their religious practice and faith in spite of unspeakable losses suffered during that dark period. I have always felt called to understand the process of emotional and psychological health that would endure such a challenge and to help pass that understanding on to others. Early on I assumed that the forum for learning about that fortitude and passing it on was the American pulpit rabbinate, and towards that end I served, after receiving ordination at the tender age of 22, in my first and only rabbinical pulpit, for three years. I found that the most attractive aspects of the position were the frequent hospital visitations where I brought support and solace to those in need, the teaching of Torah and personal counseling. I eventually followed the lead of each of those areas, becoming a clinical chaplain with the Jewish Chaplaincy Service of Milwaukee, teaching at the Yeshiva in Milwaukee and receiving a Ph.D. in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I focused my coursework on counseling. I wrote my dissertation on approaches to introducing counseling skills to teachers for use in aiding instruction. I have subsequently discovered a great deal of my own leanings in the writings of Victor Frankl and I have gone on to be certified as a Diplomate Logotherapist by the Victor Frankl Institute for Logotherapy.
When the opportunity arose to combine these skills in a position in Israel, I accepted the post as Mashgiach Ruchani at the David Shapell College/ Yeshivat Darche Noam in Jerusalem where I served for four years. The demands of my growing private counseling practice made it necessary to choose my full-time work and I have pursued my practice while teaching part-time, primarily in those programs which supervise teachers and counselors.
I have found that the Torah (through the Torah commentaries, Talmud, Midrash and esoteric texts) addresses the definition of a healthy personality and even provides therapeutic methods for achieving that health, if its sources can be properly accessed. Towards this end I have endeavored to study those sources and to consult with Torah scholars who have been able to direct my search for such insight and guidance. While this research continues, I have tried to transmit that which I have learned, and I look forward to opportunities to share those insights.
Counselors are often inundated with assumptions about what constitutes emotional well being, many of which are not informed by Torah sources and are borne primarily by the intuition and experience of the advocating practitioner. The search for, and insistence on, Torah grounding for assumptions about human beings is increasingly urgent, as the stakes are high and the emotional instability of western society increasingly knocks at the Jewish door. It is my hope that my talks and writings will be useful in bolstering confidence that the answers lie in the Torah and that the search is invaluable in its own right.
In the Mesilat Yesharim – the foundation of Avodas Hashem (ed note: Divine service) seems to be knowing what your ‘chov (ed note: obligation) is and how you’re going to achieve it’. The Ramchal then goes on to tell you what Chazal’s (ed note: the Torah, as understood by the Rabbis) definition is. Chazal’s definition is built upon a certain premise – namely that there is a G-d. I’m looking to have clarity on that premise, I want to have clarity that there is a G-d so i can at least start the Mussar process by having a valid mission statment or ideal as you put it – how do you recommend I go about it – and what sources do you recommend. Hebrew is not a problem.
Does Rabbi Becker have an email address that he can be contacted through?
Forgot to tell you to take a look a the writing of Richard Rohr. He’s a Catholic priest who thinks outside the box and has some interesting ideas on adult maturation. You may find my suggestion strange but I like his ideas on looking at life and adult development a little differently. He talks about understanding one’s life in terms of the first half and second half stages. I’ve taken the liberty of including below a summary of his book “Falling Upward”. Hope you enjoy his ideas. df.
In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand “up.” Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.
Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness
Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens
Richard. Rohr is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines
This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right–a fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.
Thank you, Dick. Your suggestions are always on target.