Since the invention of the printing press, thousands of books have promised to contain the secret to life’s most elusive goal: happiness. In the secular world, they call them self-help books, but in our world, we know that the Torah view is the place to look for answers.
But with so many out there, which one to choose? My suggestion is Stop Surviving Start Living by Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier. It’s a hashkafa book with a difference.
What makes Stop Surviving Start Living so unique? Its tone. Written in accessible language, it reads like a casual conversation with a friend – except this conversation is deceptively deep and spiritual.
Thematically, I would divide the book into three sections. The first is about happiness. Does more money equal more happiness? If not, where can I find it? The answer – all around you. Just open your eyes.
I’d classify the next section as “spiritual psychology.” What is the neshama? Why do we need a yetzer hara? Lest you think you’ve heard this from other sources, I urge you to read the chapter called “The Princess and the Peasant” for its literary quality alone.
Last, Rabbi Shafier takes on the issue most of us would prefer to avoid: death. “Is death depressing?” he asks. Not when you read what he has to say about it. Between the story of a cancer survivor, the medically documented account of a woman’s near-death experience, and a mussar exercise I won’t dare spoil for you, the final chapters left me soaring.
Anyone familiar with the shmuz.com knows what makes Rabbi Shafier’s message so effective. For change to work it has to speak to us. If it seems too lofty, too complex, too daunting, we might begin with the best of intentions, but eventually, we give up.
When mussar addresses life as we know it and manages to be entertaining besides, then that’s a recipe for success. Stop Surviving Start Living is short enough to be finished in a few hours, engaging enough to keep you reading, and most of all, spiritual enough to move your soul.
To obtain this book, contact www.theshmuz.com or call 866-613-TORAH.