“In Sacred Therapy Estelle Frankel travels to the heart of Jewish mysticism to reveal how people of any faith can draw upon this rich body of teachings to gain wisdom, clarity, and a deeper sense of meaning in the midst of modern life. In an engaging and accessible style, Frankel brings together tales and teachings from the Bible, the Talmud, Kabbalah, and the Hasidic traditions as well as evocative case studies and stories from her own life to create an original, inspirational guide to emotional healing and spiritual growth.”
“Sacred Therapy integrates profound Hasidic and Kabbalistic teachings with psychotherapeutic insight, revealing to readers how to shift from ordinary self-centeredness to a more spacious, ’spirit-centered’ perspective. I highly recommend this compelling book to readers from all backgrounds for its wisdom is rich and universal.”
“Frankel has done an impressive job of blending ancient Jewish wisdom with modern psychology to fashion a powerful force for healing.”
“Estelle Frankel is a masterful and seasoned spiritual helper who has the expertise of both the empirical-spiritual and the Jewish mystical in her competence. Her writing opens awareness so that readers can find the tools for inner work as well as the hope that makes for sustained effort.”
“For years people have talked about the need for an integration of spiritual insights into therapy. Estelle Frankel actually does it, and does it in a way that avoids simplistic New Agey nonsense and pop-psychology and instead provides a new vision of what spiritually informed psychology could be.”
“Frankel deftly harvests the pearls of her own deep-sea dive into the intimate world of spiritual counseling. Filled with usable stories, quotes, and concepts, this book is a must-read for rabbis, therapists, Jewish educators, and other professional who take to heart the transformative power of the spiritual journey.”
Read the Jewish Community Library Book review
by Erik Gleibermann (August 22, 2005)
“An ancient Kabbalist creation myth far different from the genesis version describes a universe born through divine fracture and needing cosmic healing...In Sacred Therapy, Berkeley psychotherapist and jewish educator Estelle Frankel applies this myth as her central metaphor for individual psychological healing work.”
Read the “Jerusalem Post” review
by Dr. Henry Abramowitz (August 22, 2005)
“Frankel’s approach to Jewish self-help offers readers a way to deepen their relationship with Jewish spiritual teachings and may encourage the same kind of emotional healing from which she benefited.”
Read the “Jewish Post and Opinion” review
by Julie Bloom
“At a time when many psychotherapists have concluded that spiritual teachings can be valuable companions of traditional counseling modalities, few books have been written as beautifully as Sacred Therapy.”
Read the “Spirituality & Practice” book review
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
“Frankel...does a good job of heralding humility as a spiritual resource...”
Read the “Presence Magazine” review
by Rabbi Amy Eilberg (December, 2004)
“When Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was on his way to Mezerich to study with Rabbi Dov Baer, the great Maggid, he was asked why he wasn’t instead going to study with Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon (genius) of Vilna, the most illustrious Torah scholar of the generation. Shneur Zalman responded that one goes to Vilna to learn how to learn Torah; he, however, was going to Mezerich to learn how to become a sefer Torah (Torah scroll). (p. 282)”
Read the “Library Journal” review
by Stephen Joseph
“Her use of Kabalistic cosmology to reflect on emotional pain, broken-heartedness, and separation is especially strong and moving... substantive...”
“There is nothing more whole than a broken heart, ..."
“...a practical exploration of how humans can heal and be whole... credibly researched, throughtfully written... applicable to all.”
Read the "SF Gate" interview
by David Ian Miller, Special to SF Gate (October 10, 2005)
FINDING MY RELIGION Teacher of Jewish mysticism talks about the High Holidays, forgiveness and imperfection.
Select reviews from Readers (Amazon.com & BarnesandNoble.com)
“Frankel has written about a complex topic in a manner that is personal and inviting. Whether you are Jewish or not, spiritual or not, interested in therapy or not, the book is welcoming and accessible. The many parables and quotes from Rabbis through history are wonderfully apt. The book has a quality of deep teaching. The writing flows effortlessly. This is a book to enjoy the first time through, and to re-read and refer to throughout the course of a lifetime.”
“Into the Heart!”
“Sacred Therapy is the most acessible book I have read on Jewish Mysticism and healing. Estelle interweaves stories from Jewish mysitical tradition with the real struggles of what it means to be human living in the world. Her writing goes straight into the heart. It is a companion for all those who wish to connect with the divine and make the most out of life with all of its trials and joys.”
“A precious resource for emotional healing”
“I highly recommend Sacred Therapy, by Estelle Frankel. It is both a thoroughly enjoyable book to read and also full of useful teachings that can help us lead our lives in a more mindful way. The stories mostly come from the Jewish tradition and are often both entertaining and instructive. The chapter that focused on seeing the good in others particularly resonated with me. It might sound like a simple minded idea however, as explained by Frankel, it is a very powerful practice. It can transform how we relate to others and also help to transform those we interact with in our lives. This is just one of many wise teachings found in Sacred Therapy. I highly recommend Frankel’s book.”
“A transformative read”
“Estelle Frankel’s Sacred Therapyis one of the most important and optimistic books I have read, as a woman, a therapist, a Jew, a human being. Whether the reader arrives at this writing with explicit spiritual knowledge and practices, or simply a deep longing for understanding and peace, Estelle’s graceful blend of wisdom and heartfulness inducts each of us into a direct experience of wholeness, of the Divine. Estelle does not skirt around issues of pain and suffering, nor the practical, rather, she dives headlong into the darkness with us, with Torah and simple tools, and, magically, we resurface with more hope and a greater ability to respond to Life as it truly is. For psychotherapists, Jewish or otherwise, Estelle offers a language and a context which urges us to “remember” our Selves large enough to hold our clients and to offer them a well to drink from, too. Through rich stories of Jewish history and spirituality, and with the support of guided meditations, Estelle invites us to know our Selves individually and in connection, through the eyes of God, even if we don’t believe in God.”
“A Masterful Blend”
“I am a psychotherapist and spiritual director and I found Estelle Frankel’s book Sacred Therapy to be an absolute jewel. The blend of Jewish teachings, psychotherapy, and spiritual direction is masterful. I resonate very much indeed with many of the teachings, and say “yes!” often as I read. I particularly loved Estelle Frankel’s writing on T’shuvah as being the call from the inner divine spark to return to our wholeness....delicious! I have read parts of the book to my husband, and he too has found the work rich and inviting...”
“A Groundbreaking New Book”
“Estelle Frankel’s Sacred Therapy is a groundbreaking book in the new field of Spiritual Guidance. She explains the major concepts in Kabbalistic mysticism and creatively applies them to one’s life; she also includes many examples from her own psychotherapy practice. This is a book for professionals and those studying to learn these concepts and to apply them to their daily life. It extends and updates the historical concepts laid out by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Frankel’s meditative exercises allow the reader to experience the esoteric elements personally.
I have used this book twice in its short history on my bookshelf. This spring I used her as a example in an academic paper on Jewish women’s spirituality and its syncretism with Asian paths; Frankel readily admits to having studied Buddhism and how it opened many concepts in Judaism for her, especially the idea of Ayn Sof, a holy name for God meaning “without end.” Presently for a workshop at Hofstra university in August, I will be quoting her concise explanations regarding the four worlds of being: Assiyah: action/actualization - the physical realm; Yetzirah: formation - the emotional realm; Beriah: creation - the Thinking Realm; and Atzilut - emanation - the spirit realm. After explaining how the worlds relate to the mystical idea of the Sephirot, which she explains describes “the progression or process of divine unfolding from infinite being to finite reality.” In other words, the Creation story. She also applies the four worlds to Jewish liturgy and to Jungian principles as well.”
“Breathing towards Wholeness”
“Sacred Therapy, Estelle Frankel’s newly published book on healing from a Jewish perspective, is warm, well-written and inspirational, but it’s not necessarily suggestive of an easy path. Reading Sacred Therapy immediately evokes in the reader primary difficulties: losses, deaths, broken-heart moments, grief, disillusionment. I especially thought of profound empathic breaks that have occurred within my own relational world -- in my psychotherapeutic work, in my daily life-flow, in my own character and spiritual development, in integrating the lows and highs of conscious, collective experience (organizational, marital, extended-family) relative to ideals and in my often ambivalent relationship with G-d. Such existential problems of living gain a spiritual, mytho-poetic context in Frankel’s alchemy of Kabbalistic teachings and psychological nuance. Frankel accomplishes this with personal, experiential illustrations; examples from her therapeutic encounters; pleasant prose; a poetic sensibility; and elucidations of ancient mystical wisdom embodied in and culled from Jewish myths. Her generous seasonings of Chassidic legends illuminate her insightful interpretations of Torah teachings and Midrashic wisdom. She provides contexts of “sacred embrace”, a transformative crucible for re-contextualizing our very human suffering patterns.
Frankel’s book offers empathy, meaning and purpose to our struggles with challenging life-processes; inevitable losses, betrayals and heartbreaks in life are held with honor as essential to the fabric of our humanity and our own psycho-spiritual growth. Well-written and clearly organized, we journey, under Frankel’s humble yet keen guidance, through our own and others’ broken places and wounds. We are connected, as it were, to ancient human sufferings in a process that engenders humility, compassion and a healing sensibility, essential qualities in an effective therapeutic response. We are invited to honor our and others’ wounds, depressive moods and life struggles, by culling and “extracting the meaning” from them.
Frankel skillfully brings our attention to the integration of brokenness and wholeness. When empathy flows, there is an engagement, an involvement, an “I-Thou” exchange that is inherently whole and healing. Conversely, “empathic breaks“ are painful misses, shatterings of the wholeness and unity we long to have and sustain. Spiritual crises, loss of faith, betrayals, trauma - can be terrifying separations from our ground of being engendering blame, self-doubt, mistrust and paranoia. It is this Frankel addresses. Frankel reassures us throughout of the healing power inherent in our suffering. An initiation is often necessary for spiritual growth.
“God created a flawed universe in order to give every creature a role in its restoration.” Tikkun, or repair, can then come about through a re-engendering of empathy between g-d and people, a re-collecting and re-constructing of the pieces into a “mosaic”, a synthesis of gathering profound meaning and direction from the imperfect. One such transformative initiation in my life was the break-up of a communal housing project in the Santa Cruz mountains. On the heals of an idealistic collective vision came the realities of years of challenging hardship and ultimate failure.
Accompanying the ordeal of this collective calamity was the painful dissolving of friendships between two families whom had grown very close through the years. These families, like a poorly divorcing couple, were not able to manage the inevitable differences that arise in human relations and accomplish a clean break; rather, the project devolved into an ugly battle, with both parties feeling offended, betrayed and wounded.
The pain of an intimate betrayal and loss can be severe and intense: blame of self and other; maligning of character; alienation and a sense of “cut-off” from what is beautiful, good and nurturing; ongoing financial and legal stress; community discontinuity. The process of such a transformative “long, dark night of the soul” can be a lonely period of Ayn, of emptiness, sorrow and grief; and the beginnings of recovery. Teshuvah work, “holy aloneness”, is difficult, compelling, transformative work; when the impact of one’s choices and actions are felt to be “unforgivable” by the other. Nonetheless, such personal work can result in shifting of consciousness and reconciliation desires began to emerge.
I have had to struggle through such an alchemical process to reclaim my integrity and purpose after the damage of our Santa Cruz bust. What has burst through for me is a sense of a greater resilience within that I had previously known. A sense of forgiveness and of acceptance, a spirit of love and reconciliation, a redemptive longing and intensity has emerged as a clear prism, a healing gift from the ashes of destruction. It is akin to the greatest loss of my parents’ lives, similar to the legacy Frankel has had to transmute -- the traumatic devastations of the Holocaust. Survival from such traumatic ordeals, when skillfully processed and integrated from a psychologically grounded and spiritually centered perspective, can engender tremendous compassion, humbly connecting us with the entirety of the human condition; liberation, as with my father’s release from Buchenwald, is akin to the Exodus from Egypt and is thereby suggestive of ultimate human redemption.
Thus, painful, traumatic initiations can inform psychotherapeutic work and inspire spiritual development. I know now that the resource of resilience exists within me, spiritually, which I can embody in my life and offer whole-heartedly to my clients and. I have succeeded at “mining the meaning” and of evolving to a point of “meaning without blame” - Frankel draws out a new paradigm based on old myths, a “teleological perspective” that asks us to ask of our suffering:
“*Where is this experience potentially taking me, and who might I become as a result?”
“*How can I grow by being fully present to my experience?” and
“*What is God revealing to me through this particular revelation of divinity known as illness?”
One travels through Frankel’s book slowly, chewing on the ideas, myths and stories and digesting the insights and teachings in a moment to moment way.
Profound truths can be suggested and coaxed into life - Frankel’s book breathes life into transformative spiritual processes, suggesting that we often need journey through initiatory experiences that chose us, alive and kicking, towards our greater wholeness.”
“A Sacred Narrative Guide”
“Behind the scholarly title, Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wholeness is a book I found to be entertaining, informative, and comforting. The format of Sacred Therapy lays out a field I can easily navigate. Author and therapist Estelle Frankel defines terms and sets a course that weaves personal context through the primary Jewish mystical map: to see ourselves as imperfect (but perfect-able) vessels of light; working through healing and rebirth; and, finally, becoming a whole and integrated person. Frankel writes conversationally and cuts to the chase in the first chapter: just as the universe was scattered in its inception, so are we like shattered vessels. Looking at our lives, we can relate to the kabbalistic paradigm and begin to love our imperfect selves while we work to reassemble our emotional parts into wholeness. I’ve always found deciphering and distilling wisdom I can use from the Kabbalah an esoteric and many-layered task. Similarly, the writings of Hassidic mystics have often seemed like they belong to another time. Frankel compares elements of our personal stories, the aspects which trouble or confuse us, with historical and mythical characters whose narratives parallel ours when viewed through a mystical prism. In my case, the death of my granddaughter, something I can’t ever imagine “getting over” was addressed in the Hassidic perspective on an unexpected need to reconnect after loss. Even if I weren’t looking for a message I could specifically use, I would have found Sacred Therapy riveting for its success in making Jewish mysticism understandable and helpful in my not-very-organized efforts to get my own shattered psychic parts back into a lovely vessel.”
The Jewish New Year: Music & Inspirational Teachings from the Kabbalah
An hour-long program on the High Holidays. This CD was originally produced as a special holiday program for KPFA radio, by Russ Jennings at Common Soul Productions.
This CDs is now available at cdbaby.com
The Kabbalah of Chanukah: Tales, Teachings, and Sacred Music for the Festival of Light
“... With support from KPFA’s Susan Stone, producer Russ Jennings has arranged a new invitation to an old natural mystic. I know my Chanukah data pretty well, but Estelle Frankel’s evocative narrative, like letting you in on a delicious secret, is an order of magnitude up the ladder, from mind to spirit....And Cantor Richard Kaplan is something beyond easy categorization.... This is music to leap cultures...‘ The Kabbalah of Chanukah’ empowers man’s best hopes. And it feels good...”
This CDs is now available at cdbaby.com
“Kabbalah as Sacred Psychology“
A 2-hour course on Jewish healing taught by Estelle. Available for purchase through Chochmat Halev’s Jewish Healing Program.
“Estelle Frankel’s Rosh Hashana sermon at Chochmat Halev, 2015 (5775)“
Listen to the live teaching:
“Rosh Hashana 2015“ (mp3, 28.1mb)
Connie Martison Show (2004)
Video excerpt of Estelle discussing Sacred Therapy with Connie Martison. View (3 minute mpg, 30mb)
Phil Blazer Show (August 9, 2004)
An audio excerpt of Estelle discussing Sacred Therapy on the Phil Blazer television show. Listen (mp3, 2.24mb)
The Kabbalah of Chanukah: Tales, Teachings, and Sacred Music for the Festival of Light
Download the Podcast version of Kabbalah of Chanukah (mp3, 51.2mb).
Copyright © Estelle Frankel 2017