Rabbi Applebaum rose from his seat, went to his bookshelf and took out a copy of Chovos Halevavos by Rabbeinu Bechaya ibn Pekuda. He turned to Sha’ar Habitachon and said, “I don’t know if you should speak to a mental health professional about your anxiety, but I do think that reading these pages will help you. Learn them for ten to 15 minutes each night before you go to bed for the next 30 days and contemplate deeply what is written here. If you’re still anxious in a month, we can talk about meeting with a mental health professional.”
Within eight weeks, not only was David able to fall asleep without difficulty, but his anxiety had almost completely vanished. “Even more remarkable,” he said, “was that the improvement in my psychological state had occurred despite the fact that none of the anxiety-producing factors in my life had been ameliorated. I was faced with a grueling exam schedule, worse social woes than before, and I remained completely uncertain about my future! What had changed was my attitude towards my difficulties and towards life in general. I had increased my level of trust in Hashem and had gained the spiritual acumen to navigate through the world of anxiety. In the same way that a medical patient faithfully places himself in the hands of a skilled physician, I had realized that the events of my life were in Hashem’s hands. Ultimately, I had little to worry about.”
Rabbi Ashear then went on to describe how the student became a noted Harvard psychologist, Dr. David H. Rosmarin, and went on to open successful mental health clinics where part of his treatment protocols are based on the principles of emunah and bitachon.
I was intrigued.
One question I ask each of my subjects is, “How do you deal with stress?” The most common answer from successful frum people is that they turn to the principles of emunah and bitachon to help them through difficult times and protect them from business- and life-related anxiety.
Dr. Rosmarin, it turns out, is an extremely unique combination of entrepreneur and psychologist. He went from being a single practitioner in a small Manhattan office one day per week to overseeing seven offices and over 80 staff across three states. He has also become internationally known for his groundbreaking work at Harvard Medical School in the field of spirituality and mental health. He has authored 100-plus peer-reviewed papers on the subject as well as several well-received books on anxiety, including Handbook of Torah and Mental Health and The Connections Paradigm: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for Modern Mental Health. He is about to release another book, Thriving with Anxiety: 9 Tools to Make Your Anxiety Work for You, published by HarperCollins, which has already been featured in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
While I did discuss business concepts with this unlikely entrepreneur, we focused mostly on practical psychological lessons that can make a real change in our business and personal lives.
At this time of the year, when we are all looking forward to the next year with hope of positive change, Dr. Rosmarin offers inspiration for living a life of emunah and bitachon.
Wishing everyone a kesivah vachasimah tovah, and may Hashem grant you and your family a year of health and inner happiness.
My parents are both South Africans; they are very traditional but also modern in their appreciation for the best in medicine, the best in academics and in finance. We grew up in Toronto, and my father, Mr. Ian Rosmarin, is an accountant by trade but an entrepreneur at heart. He has advised high-net-worth families in Canada for nearly three decades. My mother became a social worker later in life. I think she saw that in the finance world, you really need to have a balance of emotional wellness and emotional literacy, and that interested her. I originally thought I was going only in my mother’s direction of helping people. Then one thing led to another and I put on my father’s entrepreneurial hat. I ended up sort of bringing them both together.
“I went to the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto for high school and ended up going to Eretz Yirsael for yeshivah afterwards, which was atypical for my class. I learned in a very modern yeshiva, but it was also the beginning of my journey and led me to where I am today. In that yeshivah, I found that it was more intellectual and there really wasn’t a focus on the pnimiyus. I came back and went to college because that was the expectation of my family, but I managed to put in two to three hours of learning every day, even with a full college schedule. I had several chavrusahs, including at Kollel Avreichim in Toronto, Rav Shlomo Miller’s kollel. Through college, I started to pivot from my more modern background into, ‘Hey, there is an entire world of ruchniyus and pnimiyus here.’
“I went to graduate school to study how spirituality is related to mental health. To me, they go hand in hand. The stronger and healthier we are spiritually, in our emunah and bitachon, the stronger our mental health is. My goal was to study that scientifically and develop a clinical method to help people in therapy. This was 20 years ago; psychology was a very different field then, much more anti-religious, and I had a hard time getting my work published. I couldn’t have made it through without my rebbeim, without the Chovos Halevavos, without the Shaar Habitachon.
“It was important for me to publish my work for credibility. In psychology, when you publish papers, it’s easier to work with the top people and get coveted training slots. In graduate school, I ended up getting an internship with the president of the Canadian Psychological Association, Martin M. Antony, who became my direct mentor. After grad school, I landed a position at Harvard’s McLean Hospital (they had 200 applicants for just six slots). These and other opportunities wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t published peer-reviewed papers, as well as a healthy dose of siyata dishmaya.
“More importantly, my parents and my rebbeim taught me not to cut any corners in my clinical training. Unfortunately, many people in the mental health field are very quick to get an online degree, complete their internships part-time while working on the side, and they are eager to charge $150 or $200 per hour to see clients. I did not take one dime throughout four years of college, a two-year masters degree, a five-year doctorate, or two years of fellowship: that’s 13 years of education. During graduate school I worked 50 to 60 hours per week on my studies and developing myself as a clinician and scientist.
“My parents supported me throughout my education. Without their financial assistance, I would have never been able to do it. But they did not give me a large chunk of money to start a business. We lived in cramped corners, spending as little as possible to make it through. They invested in me but didn’t spoil me.
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