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Spiritual Boredom: Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism

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Spiritual Boredom

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Spiritual Boredom
Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism
By Dr. Erica Brown
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2009, 183 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-58023-405-4
ISBN-10: 1-58023-405-4


Reviewed by Israel Drazin - December 28, 2009

No one, writes Dr. Brown, is immune from the debilitating disease of boredom, a modern condition that is cited in a dictionary for the first time in the mid-nineteenth century. The disease cannot be treated by an injection or any other outside intervention. The cure must come from inside the bored people themselves.

Boredom affects all aspects of life - an inability to enjoy oneself, family and religion and destroys the self and others. In Judaism, boredom with Hebrew classes, synagogue services and religious lectures is well known, and all-too-often turns into an alienation from Judaism.

The main cause of boredom, Dr. Brown writes, is "a feeling of uninvolvement, a lack of concentration, an absence of motivation, a feeling of emptiness and, above all, no excitement or enthusiasm for what is happening." How can people overcome these destructive feelings?

Dr. Brown's well-written book is well-researched and filled with reasonable practical advice and interesting, poignant and instructive quotes, at least one and sometimes two or three on every page. For example: "Something is boring me. I think it's me," said Dylan Thomas. He understood the problem and cure.

Dr. Brown writes: "When we believe something is destined to be boring, we often make sure that it lives up to expectations." Boredom, she explains, is the result of selfishness, excessive concern about one's own benefits and pleasures. And "It is commitment that provides the real relief to boredom."

Dr. Brown offers ten prescriptions to heal the disease, which she discusses in detail.

    1. Stop speaking about boredom. By mentioning it, you make it so.
    2. When you see something, go through the ten times two exercise. Try to think of ten things you notice about what you are seeing. Then try to add ten more. This exercise trains people to find interesting meaning.
    3. Do something unusual, even scary, and move on from lethargy and feeling sorry for yourself.
    4. Get involved in helping other people for a side effect is satisfaction.
    5. Smile. Just making the facial gesture changes attitudes.
    6. Find time when you can be alone and learn to enjoy your own company.
    7. Minimize distractions for they will keep you from seeing interesting events.
    8. Open a Jewish book and study it with a teacher. Jewish teachings only seem dull when they are read only cursorily, without understanding.
    9. Set a Shabbat table or any Jewish activity. The side effect of these acts is enjoyable.
    10. Practice listening to others, Look them in the face and you will find a fascinating world that you have been ignoring.

These ten ideas together with the many insights that Dr. Brown offers about boredom will cure people of the modern man made malady of boredom.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on www.yutorah@yutorah.org. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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