Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Higher & Higher

Shraga Simmons

Nineteen years ago, Rabbi Doniel Katz didn’t have a single Jewish friend. Today, he leads Elevation, teaching even FFBs how to connect to Hashem

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

mishpacha image

WITHOUT A NET “Society thinks that happiness is found in the outside world. In truth, only when our emotional state is internally generated — independent of external influences — have we achieved emotional liberation” (Photos: Courtesy of Elevation Seminar)

A t a recent Elevation seminar in Jerusalem, Rabbi Doniel Katz takes the stage to share the Baal Shem Tov’s technique of ha’alos hamachshavos for getting in touch with one’s inner world.

“We first identify a negative middah, then subdue it, then turn that energy in a positive direction,” he explains. “This is how Chazal define the difference between a rasha and tzaddik: The rasha’s heart speaks to him, while the tzaddik speaks to his heart.”

At the seminar, Reb Doniel emphasizes how constant dveikus is predicated on controlling one’s own mind. “Society thinks that happiness is found in the outside world. In truth, only when our emotional state is internally generated — independent of external influences — have we achieved emotional liberation.”

Reb Doniel then selects an audience member for a real-time practical application of the technique. “Talk to your heart,” he encourages, as the participant silently focuses on an inner struggle. During five minutes of guided meditation, the participant reports that decades of anxiety have dissolved on the spot.

“No, it’s not magic, and lasting change doesn’t come instantly,” Reb Doniel tells the group. “Once we have awareness of our inner thoughts, we can build a tool kit to control our minds.

“That,” he says, “is the beginning of tikkun hamiddos and true dveikus.”

Point of Connection

Ironically, in today’s hyper-connected world, the greatest challenge facing Jews is spiritual disconnect. We step up to pray and struggle to stay focused. We face life’s challenges and fail to see Hashem’s constant intervention. We yearn for dveikus but find it elusive. The high percentage of non-observant Jewry, and “frum at risk,” are painful symptoms of this problem.

“Without question, the greatest challenge facing Jewry today is the lack of an emotional connection with the Borei Olam,” Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz shlita of the Jerusalem Kollel told Mishpacha. “This phenomenon spans all segments of our people, from the unaffiliated to the highly observant, Lithuanian bnei Torah and even chassidim. We must bring the neshamah back to Yiddishkeit. Every Yid has to know Hashem loves him. Every Yid has to feel close to Him. Every Yid must learn to speak to Him.”

Reb Doniel Katz, a 42-year-old Australian baal teshuvah now living in Jerusalem, is embracing the challenge. Through practical and experiential workshops, his multilevel “Elevation” curriculum mixes tools from mussar and chassidus for increased self-awareness, inner serenity, and joy. His 300-page sourcebook covers the gamut from Rav Wolbe to Tanya, Chovos Halevavos to Maharal, Rambam to Rav Dessler.

From Joburg to Boro Park to Jerusalem, people are flocking to seminars like Elevation to learn how to connect with Hashem

This message has clearly struck a nerve. Over the past year, Elevation’s “spiritual connection” seminars have been presented to packed shuls and kiruv events in Brooklyn, London, Tel Aviv, and Los Angeles; to a crowd of 5,000 at Johannesburg’s Sinai Indaba; and to thousands more in online chaburahs, business summits, and mindfulness conferences.

Those who grew up Orthodox note the irony of a baal teshuvah teaching them about connection with Hashem.

Speaking with Mishpacha from his home/study center in Jerusalem, Reb Doniel explains that while the Elevation seminar is officially a kiruv program, its message resonates with frum audiences.

“For centuries, rabbanim have been speaking about mitzvas anashim melumadah — the rote performance of mitzvos. But until now it’s never had such fatal consequences. Previously, even a Jew doing mitzvos by rote still had emunah peshutah, along with a communal safety net. In our generation, this is no longer the case. A Jew might appear frum externally, yet is missing the true experience of Hashem. With today’s outside stimuli so strong, that house of cards can quickly collapse.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 679)

Related Stories

The Words They Need to Hear

Rav Eliyahu Gut and Rav Ephraim Galinsky

Rav Moshe Elazar Lipka, who followed Rav Yisrael Zeev Gustman ztz”l to Eretz Yisrael, shares memorie...

Yonah: The Grand Finale?

Osher Chaim Levene

In the relentless battlefield of life, man has to choose good and reject evil. But there are two opt...

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Project Coordinator: Rachel Bachrach

Kosher pizza, hat-shaped hatboxes, bike-a-thons, group flights to seminary, snoods… Who are the inno...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

I Also Read Perfidy
Rabbi Moshe Grylak I read it twice, and both times it kindled my rage
“Reeducate” UK’s Jewish Kids?
Yonoson Rosenblum Orthodox Jews in England face anti-religious agenda
Hold the Phone
Eytan Kobre Phew! Only one quote was something I simply hadn’t said
The Way I See It
Nathan Diament “Engagement with the policy makers is indispensable”
Pot of Gold
Yisroel Besser The Rebbetzin is gone, but the message is alive and well
More Top 5 Shiur Title Techniques
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Aside from the classics, here are five more
Bill of Rights
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Whether Avrumi or Allan, whether peyos or blue jeans”
Don’t Thank Me
Jacob L. Freedman “Are you a psychiatrist or a witch doctor?!”
5 Things You Didn’t Know about Shlomo Simcha
Riki Goldstein 600 meals a day for poor people
You Can Always Rely on the Rebbe
Riki Goldstein “The chassan just wouldn’t take no for an answer”
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds boosted performers into the limelight
Profession of Perfection
Faigy Peritzman He’s not just an educator; he’s a role model
Summer Clock
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Consistency is key to drama-free bedtime
How Do I Find My Son’s Bashert?
Sara Eisemann “What about this girl made you think of my son?”