The Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of the Chassidic movement, often spoke of the importance of enhancing one’s service of the Almighty by drawing lessons from all that one sees, hears, or experiences.

Upon seeing an event or phenomenon, it is our duty to invest some thought to understand the message G‑d is conveying by exposing us to this experience. For example, the renowned chassidic master Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli famously drew several lessons from a thief’s shady modus operandi. Among them: he works quietly without others knowing, he is ready to place himself in danger, and the smallest detail is of great importance to him. (Click here for the other lessons he gleaned.)

A handful of people suffering from a similar condition gather and discuss their fears, symptoms, and share ideas how to copeLet us use psychotherapy as a case in point.

In the less-than-perfect high-stress world that we inhabit, many people suffer from various emotional and psychological issues. In increasing numbers, otherwise perfectly normal and sane individuals have to cope with stress, depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, addictions, grief, marital disharmony and a host of other conditions.

The Talmudic sages pointed out, “A shackled person cannot free himself.” And not anyone can unchain a fettered prisoner. Only someone with the keys can do the job. This is also true with regards to individuals who are emotionally shackled: in many instances, outside help is necessary to free them from the disorders which are stifling their souls. And here, too, the average person cannot relate to the mindframe of the emotionally troubled individual, much less bring him out of his darkness. It takes a trained therapist who has studied the workings of the mind, its idiosyncrasies, and the way it reacts to different situations, to relate to such an individual and hopefully restore him to a healthy state.

Towards the middle of the 20th century, a new trend in psychotherapy took hold: group therapy. A handful of people suffering from a similar condition gather, and under the guidance of a trained professional they discuss their fears and symptoms, and share ideas on how to cope.

There are many benefits to this method of therapy. One of the primary advantages of the group therapy setting is its capacity to infuse its participants with a sense of hope and optimism. Those present see that they are not alone in their struggle, which in itself is a source of comfort. The members of the therapy session also serve as a support group, encouraging each other to be strong and take the measures necessary to be healed. Additionally, the sentiments, ideas and original coping techniques shared by the participants are not taken from a sterile textbook, but are real-life experiences, which are so much easier to relate to than the clinical words of a professional.

Let us now try to apply this to our service of G‑d—the comparison almost draws itself . . .

We all are afflicted with a spiritual Multiple Personality Disorder. On the one hand, we wish to serve G‑d and lead a spiritual, meaningful life. On the other hand, we have a yetzer hara (evil inclination) that is continuously bombarding us with thoughts, temptations, and aspirations which are decidedly unspiritual and contrary to what G‑d wants of us. And this struggle isn’t a temporary, or even a curable, condition. It is a lifelong battle. Our success is measured by winning the individual battles, not the war, which is never-ending.

Some cope, some don’t. Some can’t seem to find the resolve to win the battles, while others are fatigued and stressed by the toll the battle exacts from their energy and willpower. For this reason, professional spiritual mentors have always been key to individual spiritual survival and growth.

Spiritual group therapy has been standard practice by chassidic Jews for more than two centuriesBut how about group therapy? Can this method of therapy be successfully applied to spiritual disorders as well?

Simply put, the answer is that spiritual group therapy has been standard practice by chassidic Jews, and Chabad chassidim in particular, for more than two centuries. These sessions are also known as farbrengens, or in Hebrew, hitvaaduyot.

“One shall aid his fellow, and to his brother he shall say, ‘Strengthen yourself’”—Isaiah 41:6.

Farbrengens are normally convened in honor of special dates on the calendar, birthdays, and on the Shabbat preceding the onset of a new Jewish month (Shabbat Mevarchim). Normally led and moderated by a rabbi or chassidic mentor, the farbrengen offers all its participants the opportunity to express their souls’ troubles and worries. Those present share inspiring insights, practical ideas and stories which fortify spiritual resolve and rejuvenate the participants’ commitment to higher ideals.

Chassidic songs and melodies are sung. L’chaims are said. The assembled group thus warms up, and escapes the natural inhibition against baring the soul to others. The results are astounding. Ask the chassidim who endured decades of Soviet persecution for the secret behind their steeled resolve. The answer is likely to be the clandestine farbrengens, which, even in the darkest of spiritual nights, and despite the mortal risk involved, the chassidim refused to give up.

Try it. Join a chassidic farbrengen and see how it will profoundly affect your life.

The Alter Rebbe said that a note fell from heaven stating that a chassidic farbrengen can accomplish more than what the archangel Michael can do on our behalf!

Perhaps the lesson we learn sometimes from a given experience is that we need not always look elsewhere for the answer to our issues and difficulties. The answers are all too often found in the Torah, and in hallowed Jewish tradition.