Author Spotlight: Rabbi Elihu Abbe
In our Author Spotlight, we introduce Rabbi Elihu Abbe, known for his insightful books “Psychology in the Talmud” and “Torah Leadership.” Rabbi Abbe stands out for his ability to blend secular psychology with Jewish teachings, providing readers with a distinctive and thoughtful perspective. Join us as we delve into the inspirations and journey behind his impactful writing.
Inspiration and Writing Process
- What inspired you to write your book?
- What was your writing process like?
- Do you map an outline of your books beforehand? Why or why not?
- What resources did you find helpful when you were writing your book?
- Can you describe a moment where you felt profoundly connected to your writing?
I’ve always enjoyed reading classic works of psychology and personal growth put out by renowned secular authors. I have gained a lot from their writing, and it has struck me that so much of their material is identical to lessons found in Torah and Chazal. For many years I had wanted to write a book that would share these concepts from both the Torah and secular sources.
As I read these books, I take down notes of Torah sources that express a similar idea. As I learn Torah and see a concept that resembles something I have read about in a secular source, I take note of that as well. As these notes build up, I compile them and prepare to write them up in book form. These notes served as the basis for my first two books, Psychology in the Talmud and Torah Leadership. The section in Torah Leadership dealing with Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was also based on shiurim I gave that I took from the notes I had compiled.
My upcoming book, Uplifted, was inspired by seeing how all too often, perfectionism leads to low self-esteem. My hope is that it will help all those who aspire to greatness to not be held back by a detrimental perspective toward imperfection.
Challenges and Enjoyment in Writing
- What are some of the challenges you faced while writing your book?
- What are some of the things you enjoyed most about writing your book?
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
- Have you ever had writer’s block?
For me, writing is always a process that begins with taking notes. I then compile the notes and organize them into chapters based on their content. Once the content is separated into chapters, I create an outline for each chapter. Then I compose a first draft.
The note taking is always a pleasure because I enjoy doing it along with my learning and reading. As I see the book taking form through the organization of chapters and outlines, I derive satisfaction from knowing that the book is coming together.
The most tedious part of writing for me is translating the sources in Torah and Chazal into English.
Personal Reflections and Experiences
- Which three character traits have played a key role in your success?
- Which opportunities or personalities played a key role in your career path?
- What was a failure you experienced? What did you take away from that experience?
- What is the most inspiring feedback you’ve ever received? Did that impact what you did next?
- Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
- Could you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?
- How has your background influenced your writing style or themes?
I had the zechus to spend thirteen summers at Morasha Kollel, a summer learning program run by Rav Willig and Rav Cohen, roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University. These summers were the best and most inspirational times of my life. The roshei kollel infused the talmidim with an approach of serving Hashem with joy, striving for growth, appreciating every person, and enjoying the pleasures Hashem created for us to enjoy. These experiences fostered within me the approach to avodas Hashem that I have tried to convey in my books.
Lifestyle and Hobbies
- What do you do to relax, recharge, or simply have fun? How do you make time for that, and how often?
- What book (or books) are you currently reading?
- What is your favorite mitzvah?
- What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of writing?
I enjoy jogging and reading books on personal growth. I am currently learning in the YU dayanus Kollel — remotely from Baltimore — and I have time to run and read during the lunch break. I just finished a book titled Leadershift by John Maxwell. It describes eleven shifts in perspective that are imperative to growth as a leader.
Writing Community and Influence
- Which other authors are you acquainted with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle positive or negative feedback?
- Which book (or books) have you given as a gift, and why?
- Which three books have greatly influenced your life?
- What is your favorite sefer?
- Who are some authors or thinkers you admire or draw inspiration from?
My favorite sefer is Talmud Bavli. I strongly believe in the comment of the Gemara that “Man was created to toil in Torah,” and the basis of our Torah She’baal Peh is of course the Talmud Bavli. I get great satisfaction from knowing that I am spending my time bringing Hashem’s Shechinah into the world and improving the lives of all of its inhabitants by studying Talmud Bavli. I also enjoy reading the books of Rav Zelig Pliskin, Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, and Rav Avigdor Miller. They all share the common denominator of inspiring joyful avodas Hashem and connection with Hashem Himself.
Current and Future Projects
- What are you working on next?
- If you were granted an extra three hours per day, or a spare million dollars, what would you do with them?
Aside from Uplifted, which will G-d willing be coming out soon, I have been taking notes toward writing another volume of Torah Leadership, this time on the parashah.
Writing Practices and Routines
- Do you see writing as a kind of spiritual or therapeutic practice?
- How did you celebrate when your book(s) reached completion?
- What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
- Do you write alone or in a public space?
I like to write in my study. I have a few shelves with all the books on personal growth I have read, and a large collection of sefarim. It is easier to write when I have all of the sources on hand and can look things up as needed. When I’m in the editing process, I prefer whenever possible to print out the document and read through it in the beis midrash. There is something special about being in the environment of the beis midrash.
- What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
- Is there a story or a joke you enjoy telling, and why?
- What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has significantly influenced your career?
If anyone is considering becoming an author — or is really aspiring to do anything — I would point out to them that everything is a process. There are many stages in the process of accomplishing anything and you have to invest your efforts in them one step at a time. And enjoy the process, because everything in life is a process and the process is life itself!