Upside Down – Introduction: What is creative thinking and why should we adopt its principles


A. Judaism's great contribution to humanity

"I have a friend who wants to live forever.
I don't want to add years to my life. I want to add life to my years."
Israeli billionaire Morris Kahan at the age of eighty-eight

Judaism's great contribution to humanity

Belief in one Creator is apparently not Judaism's greatest contribution to humanity, as people tend to believe. Monotheism existed in the world even before the patriarch Abraham.

According to one view, Abraham, the nation's father, was called Abraham the Hebrew because he went against the flow. He was not afraid to innovate and to think differently from the popular opinions of his time. The Midrash (biblical exegesis) teaches that despite being only one man, he stood against the world until "the entire world was on one side, and he on the other side."

It was this principle of going against the flow, which Abraham bequeathed to those who came after him, so they would not be impressed by the popular opinions of each period.

When we examine Abraham's legacy to his people and the world, one could say that one of the most significant contributions Judaism has made to humanity is that of creative thinking and the faith which stands as its base. Faith in the ability of a single person, of all people, men or women, to break through borders and obstacles in their lives and create significant change in the world, whether their private world or in the world at large.

As distinct from the rest of Creation, the man was created alone, as we learn from Creation's description, which appears in Genesis. According to Jewish thought, the reason for this is specifically to promote this idea, that the purpose of Creation is dependent upon each and every person. Every person is an entire world unto themselves, and their development as individuals affects and influences the entire world. To truly appreciate the strength of the individual, we can consider a negative example. There have been dark periods in human history in which one man managed to sweep an entire society along with him, leading to the murders of millions, collapsing regimes, and destroying nations. If one man has the power to wreak so much chaos, then one man's ability to do good, to innovate, to enjoin, to bring succor to the world and help it advance one step further must be that much more powerful.

The Jewish belief in each person's capability to fulfill their potential and thus affect the entire world is so great that the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides posited that "man should always see himself and the world as occupying the midpoint." In other words, both man and the world are in a state of waiting, in a state of indetermination regarding the direction in which things should develop. In this situation, a great weight is placed upon the shoulders of the individual. Each of his actions may tip the balance of the world for good or the opposite.

This message prevents people from resting on their laurels and losing their powers of creativity. It does not permit a person to "just" live their lives and seek a simple, comfortable existence. This message has acted as a powerful engine in Jewish life in the past and the present-day. According to this, no reality can be boring or worthless. The reason for this is that man has a critical role to play vis-à-vis those around him at any given moment. Each moment is precise. Man needs to move through the world with the awareness that he possesses the power to determine the world's fate. In other words, all the generations which preceded him and all those which will follow are dependent upon his actions and on his ability to reveal the powers inherent in him.

Creative thinking is a modern expression. The pair of words "creative thinking" does not appear anywhere in the Jewish library or Chassidic or Kabbalistic literature. Notwithstanding, many aspects of Jewish thought deal extensively and deeply with this concept's significance, addressing renewal and fulfillment of potential. Furthermore, creative thinking as a Jewish construct, along with the belief in man's ability to break through boundaries, is not restricted to learning and theory; it is disseminated and affects all fields of life. Echoes of it may be found in the business world, in science, in couplehood, in children's education, and even in spiritual and physical health.

Judith Polgar's case is a fascinating example of success in this context. Judith Polgar is the best female chess player ever. At the age of fifteen and four months, she won the title of Grand Master and broke records for the youngest Grand Master ever, which had previously belonged to the legendary Bobby Fisher. As a child of six, she was already beating Grand Masters. She played confidently, steadily, but with incredible creativity against experienced players who were much older than she was. Judith was the first female player to enter the club of the hundred best players globally and, at her peak, was ranked eighth in the world after beating several world champions, including Gary Kasparov, who was ranked first in the world. Kasparov himself wrote: "The Polgars demonstrated through their approach that there are no real limits – this is an approach which male players refused to accept until they had been unceremoniously crushed by a ponytailed girl of 12."

Judith grew up under a Communist regime. However, her stages of development and the education she received recall some of the outstanding principles of Jewish education to creative thinking and breaking boundaries.

Judith's Jewish parents, Laszlo and Klara, maintained the traditional Jewish approach to investing in their children's education. They underwent hardships and difficult decrees and found themselves living a life of poverty in Communist Hungary. They broke out of their incisive existence through incredible investments in creativity- in this case, in the field of chess.

Polgar's father, the son of Holocaust survivors, thought differently from his time's popular beliefs and acted against them. He believed that "every healthy child is a potential genius." The education instilled by Polgar's father was intended to prove that genetics and talent are not obstacles and that any child could be trained to be a genius. To prove his theory, he removed his three daughters from the official school system and home-schooled them in chess. To a great degree, he succeeded in his mission. Polgar's three daughters became excellent, world-class chess players. The fact is that when Judith is asked why she went further than her two sisters, she doesn't say that she is cleverer or more talented but instead explains that being the third child meant that she benefitted from her sisters' knowledge, experience, and encouragement, all of which helped her to develop.

Judith's father had different ideas regarding gender as well, and he had no qualms about confronting the National Chess Association in Communist Hungary. Separation of men and women was common at chess tournaments. Even today, only a small percentage of the world's grandmasters are women. Judith's father believed that the lack of women succeeding in intellectual pursuits resulted from social obstacles. Thus Judith, at the advice of her father, avoided competing in matches intended for women only.

In interviews with her, Polgar described how it was not the strict nature of her education which encouraged her creativity and progress. It was the love of the game instilled in her and her sisters. This love made her capable of handling the great mental and intellectual difficulties inherent in professional-level play. In her words, the discovery of intellectual and creative abilities lies primarily in the ability to inspire motivation and love of the challenges themselves.

Judith and her sisters' example was not intended to teach us that every child ought to be turned into a genius by focusing on a narrow field of specialization. However, it was intended to inspire the understanding that creativity and its implementation are an acquired skill, which everyone can and should discover during their lives. The Polgar family's success teaches us that fulfilling intellectual potential depends on the ability to awaken curiosity and desire regarding the fields we practice.

Author and former Chief Rabbi of England Jonathan Sacks sum up the abovementioned approach with a question. He asks why for thousands of years, Jews were innovative in all areas they were involved in and why they continue to lead in innovativeness even today. His response is that when the entire world went one way, the Jews headed in a different direction. For this reason, the principles of creative thinking have flowed through Jewish DNA for thousands of years.

This reverse thinking is so inculcated in the Jewish understanding of life, in their very DNA, that it emerges immediately at the opening of conversations between Jews. In every place in the world that one person greets his friend with a good morning, the friend will respond good morning as well. However, when two Jews meet, and one greets the other with "Peace be upon you" (Shalom Aleichem), his friend responds with the opposite order- "And upon you be peace" (Aleichem Shalom). Why does the responder reverse the order of the greeting? "Because it is in their very nature to tend to the opposite. From his very nature, he seeks to say to his friend: Hang on, wait. You think this way, but my opinion is utterly contrary.

At a glance, Judaism may seem conservative and opposed to innovation, creativity, and change.

However, as we abandon the outer gaze and move inward, it becomes easy to identify that the deeper rhythms of Jewish thought encourage creativity, innovation, and personal potential fulfillment. While these rhythms may be hidden from the eye, in the works of the great thinkers of Chassidism and Kabbalah, they become evident and binding, to the point that it could be said that creative thought is the beating heart of Jewish mysticism.

What is creative thinking meant to achieve?

Academic writing teaches that every summary and introduction to research ought to open with a description of the problem. The problem, per se, emphasizes the solutions that the research, the book, or the article will posit. Without a problem, there is no need for a solution. The description of the said problem is intended to convince the reader of the importance of the solution and encourage them to learn the research addresses. The broader problem is that which gives value to the solution and increases its importance.

Creative thinking is the solution to the problem. A lack of creative thinking is not the problem in and of itself. From a Jewish perspective, the problem teaches why creative thinking is so important in all areas of life, from learning methods to management to handling crises and troubles through healthy relationships. Thus, before responding to the questions of what is creative thinking, the response needs to be presented; which problem in human lives is solved by creative thinking, and what would be lacking without this form of thought?

Most people in our world are not really living.

That is to say; they are alive. They work, make a living, study, travel, go out, get married, have children. But most of the time, they are not truly living. Their lives are limited and, at times, blocked off.

They may watch a good action series, get excited by it, and count the hours until the next episode is aired. They may also get excited by upcoming sports finals. However, films, series, or sports matches will excite them more than life –or their own lives and actions – does.

Often, we do not experience life as exciting because they're veiled. This veil needs to be drawn aside actively in order to expose the inner pulse of life.

Most people also don't adopt creative thinking.

They prefer not to. They do not choose to think differently or to fulfill their powers fully. They are happy to let reality lead; to live cookie-cutter lives. Not special. Not inspiring.

They are equally uneager to teach their children creative thinking. They mistakenly believe that in this way, they're encouraging stability and creating a sense of security.

There are also those who have adopted creative thinking principles at some point in their lives and may even have achieved a breakthrough that led to financial success. But they were satisfied with that. They fondly recall that chapter of their lives but don't dare continue to think creatively. They may actually become one of the people who actively discourage creative thinking and breaking boundaries. They reduce the motivation around them because they are sure that achievements, luck, or success such as they enjoyed cannot be repeated.

Why are we often willing to settle for a lesser life? One possible answer is that states of lesser life are part of the system meant to bear the insecurity, the difficulties and the sadness which sometimes are part of life. This same mechanism helps us to manage situations of emptiness and want. When we sedate ourselves and stay within our everyday, template lives, we are supposedly able to better handle reality and can avoid looking it straight in the eye and changing it.

The primary goal of adopting creative thinking, according to Chassidic thought, is not to reach a breakthrough in business, make us better managers, help us do better on exams, promote us in our research, inspire those who work in intelligence to identify when the enemy is planning an unexpected move or to get ourselves out of uncomfortable situations with some semblance of control. All of these are mere by-products.

Creative thinking is the way to live more of life. It is meant to increase the extent to which we live. It conducts a stronger flow of vitality to our world. Without it the conscious man feels he is lacking oxygen. He is missing something to fill him up. The problem that creative thinking was intended to solve is those situations in which there is a lack of vitality; states in which people are not living their lives to the fullest.

Vitality in the abovementioned sense and as we will describe it in more detail further along, is not merely instinctual or following urges. An angry man, for example, may seem like a person within whom there flows a great deal of vitality. In Chassidic thought this is vitality which linked with the "peels", to the external, and is not a true display of vitality. It does not link the flow of vitality with the inner powers of the spirit. Thus, after expressions of anger and eruptions of fury we feel only more exhaustion, emptiness, and a lack of vitality.

The result of increasing the flow of vitality to life through creative thinking is often success in business, better management, scientific or artistic blooming, growth within relationships and salvation from pits and hardships. When someone is more vital, more active, and engaging their mind in the best way possible, they will also find the solutions and creative ways to develop and succeed.

Not what you thought

Generally, creative thinking is defined as thinking outside the box; a process in which a fresh, new angle is offered for challenging problems. Original, valuable ideas are suggested, and unusual solutions are presented. Creative thinking is applicable in a broad range of fields. Researchers of creative thought seek to find what they look for within all science; links and regularity among variables. They seek to examine whether there are similar characteristics within creative thought in different areas of knowledge. If these characteristics were to be applied within all fields, they would yield creative results. Characteristics which could be copied, adapted, and offered as a recipe for success. As part of this process, they point to methods, techniques, and characteristics of creative thinking which repeat themselves in every field. These are features such as expanding the limits of existing knowledge, creating new connections among different fields of knowledge, implementation of behavioral methods from one area in others, reorganization of knowledge within a range of possibilities, identifying and surveying ideas and solutions from a the broadest variety and range of points of view possible through maximum openness and avoiding premature judgment.

The similarities sought by researchers are not solely among the conditions and characteristics of the places in which creativity is revealed but also among the features and tendencies of people who are gifted with creative thinking. These features include expressions of curiosity, lack of fear of failure, empathy for multiple meanings and paradoxes as well as a developed imagination.

Jewish thought posits a different approach with regard to creative thinking. It teaches that even if creative thinking appears to offer a solution for a specific problem, it actually addresses a much broader issue; the general question of the content of our lives in this world. From here, even the definition of creativity as understood in Judaism differs from the usual definitions.

An initial definition of creative thinking

A popular talent-scouting show in the United States hosted an artist who specializes in speed painting. He had one minute and a half, an easel, four brushes, and paints. The moment the bell went, he began painting rapidly. The background music created a dynamic sense of movement. His body moved like a virtuoso. However, as the seconds passed, the looks of curiosity on the faces of judges and audience were replaced by expressions of disappointment. They had been certain that nothing would come of the scribbled picture, which was developing on the canvas. The MC warned that there were only seconds remaining and the time earmarked for the artist was almost up. Despite the artist's continuing efforts, no recognizable picture emerged on the canvas- certainly not one to admire or be amazed by. The gong sounded. A minute and a half had passed. The artist stopped working and turned the picture around. In a micro-second, the murmurs of disappointment had been replaced by sounds of amazement. The face of Anderson, the head judge on the program named after him, stared out from the canvas as painted by the artist. The painting had been made upside-down, with Anderson's head below and his neck above. It was only when the artist had turned the picture around that it was possible to see what he had drawn and appreciate his genius.

 Jewish thought tells us that the picture of the world has been completed. It is a masterpiece which just needs to be turned around. The world needs to be turned upside down in order to clearly appreciate the whole picture, to understand its quality and discover the missing root of the world. The purpose of creative thinking is to identify the essence and the root of the world, in all its components, and within this to realize that the reality which is visible to us is not quite as it seems.

Creative thinking is a process which seeks to present the entire picture- a complete portrait of the world. This is what makes it a thought process which is contrary to the "world's" basic assumptions. At the same time, this manner of thinking is not against the world and does not diminish its value. It tries, instead, to work towards a deeper understanding, to see the world clearly and discover its root. In this sense, the story of the speed painter would have been even more perfect if there had been visible beauty in his picture even before it was turned over. In other words, if the judges had expressed reserved appreciation of the picture before it was turned upside down as well, and greater wonder once the artist had changed the perspective.

Describing the world as the opposite is not part of the thought process meant to inspire different thinking. According to Judaism, this is a true description of the world's structure. An example of this would be the clinical death which Rabbi Yosef underwent. Rabbi Yosef, was the son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, one of the great scholars of the Talmud, a third-generation Amorite who lived in the Land of Israel one hundred and fifty years after the destruction of the Second Temple, in the early third century C.E. When he returned to life, his father asked what he had seen.

"I saw a world of opposites," his son responded. "Those on top were below, and those below had risen. Simple people, who are unimportant in this world, are located high up there while the important and famous people are found low down." His father responded, "What you saw was not a world of opposites but a world of clarity".

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi did not give his son a satisfying answer. He confirmed that the world really was this way when seen from above; a world turned upside down.

What exactly is a world turned upside down?

From a technical point of view, the idea is that the order of creation is like "a seal which has been reversed". 

Imagine a wax seal; the wax is poured and the seal is pressed into it to create an impression. The result is that in places where there are negative spaces on the seal, protrusions appear in the wax. In places where there are protrusions or bumps on the seal, negative spaces will be formed in the wax.

The image of the reversed seal teaches us that according to Chassidic literature and Kabbalah, life is composed of two dimensions. There is the dimension belonging to the experience which is revealed to us- known as the revealed world. Above it there exists a hidden, inner and inaccessible world, known as the veiled world. The veiled world is similar to the seal; that which is superior in the hidden world becomes inferior in the revealed word. That which is superior in the revealed world becomes inferior in the hidden world.

This perception of the world of creation has various significances which touch on all aspects of life. The most immediate of these is that the entire purpose of the development of the upper worlds is for this world, the lower one. It exists for us, for this current moment in which we are living. We can deduce from this that in this world, great value can be found in small things. What may occasionally seem to us to be temporary, insignificant, and low, is in fact, important and significant. At the same time, what we may perceive as superior, lofty and desirable may actually be inferior and external- of no true value.

So how are we to know what is valuable and important to invest in; or what is of inferior value? In order to discover the value of everything in our world, it is necessary to change the perspective through which we view the world and according to which we live. In Chassidism's language, we need to break through the boundaries of the world to bring new light into it, which will reveal those layers hidden from us.

From the perspective of creative thinking, several meanings emerge from the definition of the world as inverted. The core of this is that we need to move out of our places, change our perspective, deepen and simplify our ways of thinking to encourage sparks of understanding and the discovery of new ideas.

According to scholars, man is "a small world". All that exists in the world exists in man as well. To break through the boundaries of the world, to identify its inner essence, man too needs to break through his own limitations. He needs to free himself of undesirable tendencies, fixed perspectives, cooling emotions, and unfocused desires. It is crucial that he overcome his obstacles and fear of the world and learn to handle contradictions and resolve opposites within himself and in the world.

One man has broken through the boundaries of his intellect and consciousness and has achieved the spark of ideas, he is then welcome to return to the world with these ideas to use them to influence reality. In other words, creative thinking, according to Judaism, involves movement, a sort of back and forth. Once the creative thinking process works to discover the essence and root of matters, it then returns to the world with the newly-discovered ideas and understanding, with the desire to implant them in the world to create change.

The process of creative thinking could be compared to a diver who swims underwater. When his lungs run out of air, he rises above the surface, fills his lungs with air again, and dives back under. Creative thinking is the act of breathing, of creating airflow, vitality, without which man lives only in the lowest levels of being. The air is meant to return him to the world with a renewed ability to manage better within it, with the knowledge of how to escape the labyrinth.

The unique contribution of the Jewish inner dimension

It now becomes easier to understand the unique nature of creative thinking, as explained. Generally, one could say that Jewish mysticism is spread over some fields or "sciences" it wishes to impart to the learner. The "science" of the soul; the structure of the worlds and the world in which we live; the "science" of the Creator and his connection to creation, and even the "science" of the body from thoe point of view of spiritual powers which operate within it. In all fours of these fields, Chassidism and Kabbalah seek to reach a significant inner grasp of matters' source. For this purpose, the structure of Jewish knowledge has developed an intellectual method through a unique gaze. According to this, techniques and methods generally do not grasp the "internal" aspect of things. Instead, they view only an external image or a translation of matters, in an attempt to find solutions. A focused, methodical gaze, even when dealing with opposing concepts, is a way of reaching the essence of matters- the true inner workings of their nature.

An example that serves to clarify matters is the attitude towards creative thinking in the army. Omri Pedahtzur points out that due to a lack of an organized doctrine through clear work, creative thinking has remained "a simplified aspiration and positive characteristic that is nice to have, but which can't be developed". In order to be able to implement creative thinking, it requires a method which can be practiced, examined and executed. Pedahtzur, in fact, posits a number of principles meant to provide military solutions and eventually lead to "a doubling of the technological power and an impetus to victory on the battle field".

According to Jewish creative thinking it is definitely possible to agree with the need for an organized doctrine which can be practiced, examined and implemented through mindfulness, effort and training. One could also agree with the popular statement that creative thinking is inherent in all men and not only in the few who are particularly daring and open. However, creativity is not simply the result of specific actions, but rather comes out of a way of life and a process of how one views the world differently. Creative thinking is not a technique made up of points of principle but is essential thought which requires awareness and training and the shine of insights, and the discovery of hidden opportunities within the hidden structure of the world. It does not merely study the constancy of the world, but seeks its inner essence, and thus attempts to understand this constancy in the broadest and deepest terms possible.

In this sense, Judaism perceives creative thinking as a way of life that must be adopted and practiced in order to channel more vitality into life, and in this way achieve results, resolve problems and meet challenges. Rather than focusing on techniques, it seeks the essence through a method of examination and fulfillment of intellectual potential.

When a person trains themselves to use creative thinking on various plains in their life, they will be more successful even if they end up on the battlefield, are invited to the bargaining table at a business or if they find themselves in a family crisis which needs to be solved. Notwithstanding, a person who explores creativity only when faced with a specific threat or problem, will find it more difficult to awaken the creative powers. Methods and techniques can limit creative thinking; preventing man from challenging the boundaries of his mind and perspective. When adopting creative thinking as a way of life and while the search for the root of the matter is at the center, breaking through the obstacles of the mind and of thoughts becomes part of a constant exercise. The person will be adept at them and will therefore succeed in implementing them within the various areas of his life. In the end, when we make the effort to think employing Upside Down principles, it becomes part of our lives. Anywhere we look, we will look for the chance to break through our limitations and fulfill our potential, through the creative thinking we take on.

In order for creative thinking to become part of a person's being, and in order for them to be labeled a creative person who channels more vitality into his life, Judaism lays out a system of inner insights, methods of contemplation basic assumptions and mental movements which it requests that man integrate into their lives.

Why is the world upside down?

Before we expand upon the method of contemplation mentioned above, it is important to clarify the answer to the question, why was the world created in a way that in order to discover its value we need to employ creative thinking "which turns the world upside down".

Clearly, it is more difficult to draw a portrait upside down. The artist in the speed-drawing competition did it because he wanted to touch the audience. He wanted to elicit amazement and win the contest. Looking at it from a more internal perspective, the artist helped the viewers to discover something about themselves, about the way in which they judge things and their ability to be creative and to surprise.

The Hebrew word for world "Olam" comes from the root meaning to conceal. The reason that the world hints at concealment and disappearance is because the world was created with limitations. The resources, the distances, the heights, the amounts, the measurable, material perspectives of the world are all limited. Life functions within it according to a system of rules and natural arrangements that hide the inner workings of the world. What is revealed to us is only the external aspect of creation. This external nature which appears in the world includes a limited, reduced measure of vitality. For this reason the world is also known as the world of "peels" and "the world of lies". The task of the world is to hide the powers of the soul and minimize the level of vitality exposed in it.

As a result of the fact that in the superficial view, the world exposes only is most external facets to us, it appears to us to be a place which is not good. "Man's instinct is corrupt from his youth", as it says in Genesis. And truly, there is evil in the world, intrigue and egocentricity, and "all acts of this world are incisive and evil and the evildoers overpower it", as the Ba'al HaTanya, one of the great Chassidic thinkers explained.

The world was created in order to leave a significant role in the hands of man. Despite the fact that externally it appears that the world functions according to a natural order and that the evil in it is winning, it is the task of man to develop an internal perspective. With this internal perspective, a new light emerges, which illuminates the world and makes it appear as if creation in its essence is positive. It emerges that the difficulties and the evil are merely challenges meant to fully expose man's powers.

The role of creative thinking is to discover the inner dimension and link it with the external. This process implies breaking through boundaries of the world and an ability to perceive the root of things in a deeper way, which is opposite to how they appear to the external, superficial gaze. Within the framework of this process, the hidden dimension and the internal pulse of creation are exposed.

Adopting creative thinking – the structure of the book

Raish Lakish is considered one of the great scholars of the Talmud. It is said of him that he was "an uprooter of mountains". All those who were exposed to his personality, as our sages describe, "it was as if they saw a man who could uproot mountains and grind them against each other". An "uprooter of mountains" means that he was not knowledgeable or well-read, but he was sharp, creative, and tough on every idea. Rish LaKish was the leader of a gang of robbers around one hundred and fifty years after the destruction of the Second Temple. One day he came across Rabbi Yochanan, the Head of the Tiberias Yeshiva who was known for his beauty, bathing in the Jordan. He jumped into the water after him.

Instead of rejecting the thief, Rabbi Yochanan chose to put his faith in his ability to change his ways. He told Rish LaKish that if he would agree to leave the gang of thieves and use his power for the benefit of Torah study, Rabbi Yochanan would marry him to his sister, who was even more beautiful. Rabbi Yochanan's faith in the ability of Rish LaKish to change, to develop and become a scholar affected him deeply. He abandoned his life of theft, immersed himself in learning and spiritual development, married Rabbi Yochanan's daughter and became his friend and colleague.

One day the two wise men sat debating a question of Jewish law: when do bronze containers become impure. Rabbi Yochanan presented his case. Rish LaKish was hard on him and offered a different opinion. In response, Rabbi Yochanan admitted that when it came to preparing bronze containers that Reish Lakish understood the subject because he himself had been a robber and a thief and that was his profession. "A robber knows about robbing".

Rish Lakish was terribly hurt by the comment. After years of friendship, he left the yeshiva and died of grief. Rabbi Yochanan could not stand the pain of the loss. He could not forgive himself for the comment he had made to his friend and brother in law, and would go and scream "Rish LaKish, where are you? Rish LaKish, where are you?", until he lost his mind and passed away as well.

Here the question begs to be asked; why was Reish Lakish so insulted by Rabbi Yochanan's comment? Why wasn't he able to simply let the comment slide, particularly when it did not reflect Rabbi Yochanan's opinion of him. After all, the Gemara narrates that Rabbi Yochanan lost his mind due to his yearning for Reish Lakish.

Rish LaKish left the world of crime and his bullying behavior because of Rabbi Yochanan's belief in him. Rabbi Yochanan did not see him as a dangerous criminal, but recognized the potential hidden within him. Having his potential seen and the trust he received both contributed to his development as one of the great minds of Judaism. In Rabbi Yochanan's comment, dozens of years later, he expressed something utterly different. He expressed a lack of faith. He had not forgotten Reish Lakish's past. In fact, he practically threw it in his face that despite all of the years which had passed, he still remembered where his colleague came from. The thought that he was still being labeled made him feel he could no longer remain in the biggest yeshiva in the Land of Israel during that period.

The tragic end of two of the sages of Israel , great men of the Amorite period, teaches that creative thinking requires more than just fulfilling one's intellectual potential. It demands that emotional, social, and environmental conditions be fulfilled, which will support the flowering of the creativity and its sustenance over time.

A cynical, skeptical, or cold environment will sterilize the creative thought process. It inhibits the effort to discover the essence. Even unwanted emotions, lack of confidence, or an absence of faith in oneself are liable to weaken the chance of the creative thinking developing.

Upside Down's purpose is not to provide a historical survey or to point out examples of creative thinking in its Jewish version and how it influenced humanity. The goal is to examine what creative thinking is according to Judaism, what are its characteristics and principles; what conditions does it require to flourish and how can this sort of creative thinking be adopted and instilled in a world which is developing and changing at such a rapid pace.

Based on this, the chapter order seeks to rise to the challenge and respond to how creative thinking is developed and implemented. The core of creative thinking lies in the intellectual process, at all its levels. The intellectual process is responsible for renewal. Through it, man becomes able to break through the bounds of his mind and discover new depths and unique perspectives. The first section of Upside Down is dedicated to a description of the process and to an examination of the powers of the mind which need to be exercised in order for creative thinking to exist. Along with an exposition of the intellectual movement which characterizes creative thinking, the first section posits a layout of four layers which permit assessment creative intellectual activity. The draft or model will be analyzed through examples from fields including health, couplehood, and entrepreneurship. In addition, the first section will consider questions such as when should one expect the spark of an idea, an insight or an invention; when should the intellectual process be implemented; what is this vitality which has been mentioned; why is it the intellectual process which is responsible for drawing 

and channeling this vitality into our lives; and finally, what manner of creative thinking can we expect and hope for?

Creative thinking is thinking which has clearcut premises. These axioms are opposite to those which "the world" presupposes. The second section of Upside Down presents some of these premises of creative thinking, which are inverse to those of the world. These include a series of concrete examples from the fields of management, business, technology, and freelancing, as well as a discussion of which perspectives are useful to adopt and which should be avoided as a basis for creative thinking.

When the premises are lightweight creative thinking cannot develop. A platform is not enough; one needs fertilizer which will encourage thought patterns to flower. The third gate of the book points to a series of mental movements that are crucial in order to break through the boundaries of the soul and of thought; movements which demand training and awareness in order to instill them in the life of the persons seeking to think creatively.

Creative thinking and the fulfillment of one's potential develop against a background of an encouraging and promotional environment. This is particularly true insofar as accepting axioms which are the inverse of what is commonly held. It is therefore the responsibility of every person not only to think creatively but also to encourage this thinking within his immediate environment, by encouraging the discovery of these desirable psychological movements.

The final section, Discovering my potential, tightens the three sections and adds practical aspects to the challenge. This chapter responds to the question how do we fulfill our potential and do the right thing for ourselves. This part of the book encourages the adoption of creative thinking through Judaism as well as exercising this thought process in everyday life.

To summarize the introduction, we could say that Judaism does not present its perception vis-à-vis creative thinking solely as a suggestion to adopt. Creative thinking is the solution posited by Chassidic and Kabbalistic literature to the world's burning issue, that of a lack of vitality. In this way it seeks to encourage us to turn the world upside down, to change it and fix it, to discover the hidden breadths in it and in this way to breathe new life into it. Creative thinking encourages us to believe in ourselves and others, just as Rabbi Yochanan believed in Reish Lakish and pushed him to grow into one of the great sages of the Talmudic era. 

Jewish principles of creativity demand that we learn to renew ourselves at every moment. At the same time, it calls for the maintenance of the reference point. It is necessary to know how to view the past and the depth of Jewish thought, not as a weight dragging down creativity but as a growth and renewal source.

בדקו גם
Back to top button
דילוג לתוכן