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Episode 185 - Sefira & Personal Growth with Ruchi Koval

Updated: Mar 24

I'm writing up this post in my pre-Pesach prep. You'll get it "on the other side." So I'm not only currently imagining the seder (and all the things that it will take to get there) but also you, unwinding (hopefully! maybe more accurately--recovering) and what you might want right now.

What occurred to me is that for personal development junkies like us, sefira is kind of our time. It's the time where we put our awareness on different traits and check on how well they are integrated and serving us to be our best selves.

So I invited Ruchi Koval to speak to us about how to realistically bring these ideas into our lives.

How does the focus on the different traits we look at during sefiras haomer help us when it comes to our growth and our marriages?

Ruchi says, "It is the blending of the opposites that creates a sum that is greater than its parts... so I have achieved balance when I have integrated what about my spouse is different from me and can help me to become a more balanced person?"


  1. Achieving balance

  2. Self-development as a path to spirituality

  3. Character traits are inherently neutral

  4. How self-development impacts relationships

  5. Effort vs. results

  6. Conflict as a starting point for personal growth


Ruchi's Bio:

Ruchi Koval is the co-founder and Associate Director of Congregation JFX, an innovative kiruv community in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been a Jewish educator for two decades, leading self-development mussar groups for adults and teens, and mentoring educators around the world. Ruchi is a certified parenting coach, motivational speaker, musician, author, and mother. She is a Trip Leader for Momentum, inspiring hundreds of women on their journeys in Israel. She is also the author of two books: "Conversations with God" and “Soul Construction.” Find Ruchi on Instagram, on her blog at, on Meaningful Minute, and via her podcasts. Download her “Ruchi Koval” app to listen to many of her lectures online, or join a zoom class yourself!

Ep 185 ===

<00:00:00> Kayla Levin: Episode 185. Sefira and Personal Growth with Ruchi Koval.


<00:00:37> Kayla Levin: Hi, friends. I'm so excited to share this interview with you with Ruchi Koval. I know that those of you who listen in real time, I wanted to just give you something for when you're putting everything back, right?

<00:00:49> Kayla Levin: So I've been thinking for months about like what would be the best conversation for when you're just putting everything, you're turning your kitchen back over, or you're returning from the trip and unpacking all the things, or whatever it is, is you're kind of moving yourself back into real life and into this really special time of sefira, which so.

<00:01:07> Kayla Levin: You know, it can take us a minute even to notice it's happening cuz we're so busy recovering from Pesach, which hopefully was wonderful for you. So enjoy this episode with whatever it is that you are getting done in the meantime. And, um, and I would love to hear your thoughts. All right, Be well.

<00:01:25> Kayla Levin: All Right, Ruchi Koval. Now that I know how to say your name, welcome to the podcast.

<00:01:32> Ruchi Koval: It's a little education.

<00:01:33> Kayla Levin: Yes. No. Cause I have to say that now cuz everyone else is gonna be, If they've all been thinking your name wrong, like I have, they're all gonna think I'm saying it wrong. So if you want them to know, we're gonna, this is what we're gonna create this episode. We're gonna let everyone know how to say your name.

<00:01:46> Kayla Levin: So Ruchi, I'm sure really the vast majority of the listeners here, know who you are, have heard about your work. Thank you so much for taking the time to come here and, and, and speak to this audience.

<00:01:57> Ruchi Koval: I'm so excited. I've been following you for a while and, uh, I think you do great stuff too. Thank you.

<00:02:01> Ruchi Koval: So I'm really excited to partner.

<00:02:03> Kayla Levin: Thank you. So let's just do a little introduction. So how to glow community meet Ruchi. Ruchi, you could introduce yourself.

<00:02:11> Ruchi Koval: Yes, absolutely. So, hi everybody. I am 48 years old. I live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a mother to seven kids ranging in age from 28 to 12. This October we will be married for 30 years, thank God.

<00:02:27> Ruchi Koval: And uh, we have two kids in. Thank God. Wow. My husband and I started a Kiruv of Organization 20 years ago, which is now a full fledged shul and, um, here in Cleveland. And we just do a lot of teaching. I got very interested in teaching Musser 15 years ago, which is a Jewish approach to self transformation as a primary path to spirituality, which I wrote a book on called Soul Construction.

<00:02:54> Ruchi Koval: Which we'll be referencing here. I teach a lot of mussar classes and I am also a trip leader for Momentum, which is like a birthright for Jewish moms. Um, so I'm an educator for momentum too. And, um, I'm super passionate about Torah, about using Torah wisdom to live your best life, to become the best you.

<00:03:15> Ruchi Koval: And, and to really improve and enhance relationships. And, you know, the women that I teach are always telling me, they're like, everyone needs to learn Mussar, every business person, every politician, every everything. You know? Mm-hmm. And I'm, I'm really passionate about that, that, that studying mussar about like just taking a good hard look at our character traits can transform everything about our lives for the better.

<00:03:37> Kayla Levin: Mm-hmm. This has been coming up very frequently in my coaching recently. I mean, it comes up a lot, but like every once in a while I'll be in a situation where it's like four people all at once. It's the same thing, you know? And it's been this idea of like, just noticing the difference in how we feel when we're, when we forget that we're here to grow.

<00:03:58> Kayla Levin: Huh. And we're just like reacting to our life. Yeah. And then when we like have that moment of realizing like, oh, wait a second, this is here for. Yeah. This challenge, this person, this situation is here for me. Yes. And then we plug back into that journey of growth and all of a sudden we actually want that in our life.

<00:04:16> Kayla Levin: Yeah. That thing that we've been trying to get rid of,

<00:04:18> Ruchi Koval: and I think it's interesting that you use the word forget. Mm-hmm. Because a lot of times like. You know, I'll be teaching something and somebody will say, wow, that's such a good reminder. It wasn't necessarily that they didn't know it, but we forget it when we're in the heat of a moment and we're feeling, um, really stuck and really scared and really frustrated, and then like all the wisdom and all the truths kind of like floated away somewhere and then we need to like bring them back.

<00:04:47> Ruchi Koval: Mm-hmm. You know, and this is why it's so helpful. You know, whether it's regular mussar study or regular therapy or listening to podcasts like yours on a regular basis, it just helps us remember the truths that are already somewhere in our heads. Of course, we'll learn new things along the way too, but a lot of it, and, and I'm speaking for myself as a teacher of Mussar, I also have to remember when I'm in the heat of a moment, right?

<00:05:12> Kayla Levin: So the reason we wanted to do this conversation, you know, with this timing is that we're, you know, Pesach just ended for, for people who are listening to this podcast episode, you know, on time, which some people are still catching up. They're like, I'm on 53 and I'm gonna catch up. But, um, for those who are listening to it as it's coming out, Pesach just ended.

<00:05:29> Kayla Levin: We're going into Sefira and, um, I feel like there's such an incredible potential of this time for us in the year. And at the same time, sometimes we're just kind of. Recovering we're like in such recovery mode that it, it's like off to the ra like sphere has like already been going for a little while before I'll like clue in and be like, oh right, this thing is happening.

<00:05:49> Kayla Levin: There's this kind of opportunity for me right now. Um, so I was hoping that we could like use this as an opportunity to get a little bit more intentional about. And And realistic. Can we also get realistic? For sure. Yeah. Realistically intentional.

<00:06:05> Ruchi Koval: All about being real. Yes. And authentic and just. Making it super practical.

<00:06:11> Kayla Levin: Yeah. So tell us a little bit, like what, what's Sefira all about or what, what is it that you like to teach about? About Sefiras HaOmer? Yeah.

<00:06:18> Ruchi Koval: Yeah. So the thing with Sefira, you know, it's sort of like sim, like no one ever really knows anything about sim because you've been so busy with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Like, you know, by the time Smichas Torah comes around, my kids are like, wait, what?

<00:06:31> Ruchi Koval: What are we doing? You know, like there's no time to teach about that. Yeah. So I feel like sefira, by the time sefira starts, you've been so consumed with getting ready for Pesach that you, you don't even have a minute to think about sefira until like you're saying you're like a week or two in. Right. And then you've lost a part of it.


<00:06:45> Ruchi Koval: So the, the whole thing that Sefira is about, it's about, it's about getting our. Are Namos ready to get the Torah. And so it's a seven week process. That's how long it took the Jews in the desert, and that's how long it takes us. You know? It's like Pesach was like the engagement of the Jews to, to bene of, of the Jews, to Hashem and Shavuos is the wedding.

<00:07:06> Ruchi Koval: Now. I know a seven week engagement is very short, but that's, that's the time that they need it to get ready. So, so the Torah gives, This seven week program, this seven week curriculum of how to bring ourselves up to the level that we're ready to receive the Torah. You know, it's actually very interesting that it's all about character traits, right?

<00:07:26> Ruchi Koval: It's not like week one work on kosher. Week two, work on, on your, you know, observance of Chavez and week three work on, you know, being honest in your business. It's, it's all about your character. This is why Rabbi Yisroel Salanter felt that working on one's character could be a primary path to spirituality. Um, and I have found this for many, many, many of my students over the years.

<00:07:46> Ruchi Koval: Um, and my book, after each chapter, there's a testimonial from one of my students who are describing how working on their character has made them feel closer to God and closer to other people. So, you know, we have, the first week is kindness and the second week is boundaries, and the third week is balance.

<00:08:04> Ruchi Koval: And, and the fourth week is looking at the big picture, and the fifth week is looking at the short term goals. And the sixth week is about, you know, eternity and whatever. I'm not saying them all, you know, the seventh week is about the majesty of the human being. But for me, what's so fascinating about these seven character traits, the spheros, as they're called, is this concept of balance.

<00:08:29> Ruchi Koval: We have kindness on the one hand and boundaries on the other hand, that's week one and week two. Week three is called, is called Ti Ferriss, which means harmony. It's about the balance of those two character traits. And then, and then we have another round of three, you know, in the next three weeks. But I'll just focus on these three for a minute.

<00:08:46> Ruchi Koval: And I think particularly in marriage, which is, I know your primary focus. Mm-hmm. This is actually fascinating because so often what happens is that step one, we're attracted to another person in the ways that they're different from us. I'll give you an example. I'm a very regimented person. I'm very punctual.

<00:09:07> Ruchi Koval: I'm very type A. I have my lists. I, I have my schedule. I do things on time. My husband is much more fluid, he's much more spontaneous. And when we first met, I found that so refreshing, precisely because it was different from me. So that's step one is we often, you know, opposites attract, we often get attracted, right?

<00:09:26> Ruchi Koval: If someone's very quiet and shy, they might be attracted to someone who's super loud and extroverted. They're like, wow, that's so cool. I'm so not like that. Step two, and this could happen after you're married for six months, a year or two years, I don't know, however long it starts to get on your nerves.

<00:09:41> Ruchi Koval: Like, why are you so fluid about time? We need to get places on time. There are appointments and there are expectations,

<00:09:47> Kayla Levin: and now there's kids who have bed. Right. Exactly. So it was cute when it was just you and me, but now when it's toddler.

<00:09:54> Ruchi Koval: Right, exactly. Ruffle goldblum, who is also a marriage educator, talks about this all the time.

<00:09:58> Ruchi Koval: The very thing that attracted us is the thing that annoys us. Yeah. And also step three, if a person is working on themselves and can evolve to this point, it that it is the blending of the opposites that creates a sum that's greater than its parts. So I have what I have achieved balance when I have integrated.

<00:10:20> Ruchi Koval: What about my spouse is different from me and can help me to become a more balanced person? So the ideal would be that through my spouse I can learn to be more relaxed. I can learn to sometimes ditch my schedule and be spontaneous, right? And that my spouse can also learn from me how to be regimented when that's what the moment calls for.

<00:10:38> Ruchi Koval: So when you think about these, the first three weeks, which is kindness boundaries. Usually when you look at a couple, or even you know, two friends in a friendship, or two siblings or two people who work together or whatever that relationship might look like very often. One of them is more of the kindness model, more giving, more chill, more trusting, and the other one is more boundaried.

<00:11:03> Ruchi Koval: You can even call that extrovert and introvert. It's one way to look at it, right? More guarded, more, you might call it suspicious. Deliberate in who is receiving these parts of me. Mm-hmm. And then it's important to recognize, like sometimes we get so stuck in, well, you're right and I'm wrong. This is the right way to do it.

<00:11:21> Ruchi Koval: This is the wrong way to do it. This is the part that I like. This is the part that I don't like, but actually what these character traits are telling us is there's a time to work on being kind. There's a time to work on having boundaries. But actually the third week, TIFF s the balance. That's really the ultimate.

<00:11:37> Ruchi Koval: Right. Each one of these character traits corresponds to one of our Avos. So a Abraham was kindness, Yitzchak was boundaries. Yaakov was balanced. Yaakov was the one who was called Rah AVOs, the chosen of all the father's. Why? Because he pulled the best from Abraham and the best from Yitzchak. And he integrated into a balanced thing.

<00:11:57> Ruchi Koval: He knew when to give. When he had to give. He knew when to contract, when he had to. So I think it's so important in relationships that when we start chafing against, what about our, the other person is different. We can say This person was put into my life to help me be more balanced. Obviously that takes humbleness and self-awareness.

<00:12:15> Ruchi Koval: Yeah. Which are prerequisites to growth

<00:12:18> Kayla Levin: and a certain, and a certain stability of ego. I think also to have that, to be able to even get to that humble place. Well, I, but yeah, we. We talk about this idea of, um, make him your guru. That's how we talk about it, right? Like he's g you're given your guru, so you need to learn how to chill out.

<00:12:33> Kayla Levin: You're gonna get the chill husband, or you need to learn how to, you know, have stronger priorities. He's gonna push you there. Like in some way, we have that person to learn from in our, in our spouse.

<00:12:45> Ruchi Koval: Yeah. And, and I think also part of the reason why people feel discomfort in a marriage is because they feel like it reveals their weakness.

<00:12:53> Ruchi Koval: But there's nothing to be ashamed of in discovering one's weaknesses. That just shows you where your work is. Isn't it good to know where your work is? You know, it's like, yes. It's like

<00:13:03> Kayla Levin: you that again, for the neurons in the back that needs to hear it. You know?

<00:13:09> Ruchi Koval: It's like if a plumber tells you. You know, your pipes are rusted and they're really old, and if you don't replace 'em, something is gonna happen.

<00:13:16> Ruchi Koval: So a part of you is covering your ears and saying, LA, la, la la. I'm not listening, but really, I would rather know that I have rusted pipes and that I need to do something about it.

<00:13:26> Kayla Levin: Hey, but to play devil's advocate, I think we need to flesh this out. I think this could be like the most important conversation we have here.

<00:13:31> Kayla Levin: I am not my pipes. Yeah. Right. So my pipes can be flawed and my pipes can be rusted and they can need to be replaced. And like they might be mine, but there's my identities.

<00:13:44> Ruchi Koval: Of course, it's not your whole identity. It's not your whole identity. It's not your whole identity. It's not even part of your identity because it can be changed.

<00:13:54> Ruchi Koval: It's just the starting point of your work. Mm. That's your identity. That's beautiful. Is gonna be, yes. Your identity is gonna be far more forged or revealed rather. By how you handle that information, then what that information is. Mm-hmm.

<00:14:14> Kayla Levin: Yeah.

<00:14:15> Ruchi Koval: So I was, I was born, and I see this like from my kids.

<00:14:18> Ruchi Koval: Like some of them are just born like me. You know, my husband and I always joke, there's two kinds of people in the world, the filers and the pilots, you know, usually the filer marries the piler.

<00:14:28> Kayla Levin: No, we're just both piles in my house.

<00:14:30> Ruchi Koval: Oh. Okay, so then you have to hire a filer. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Exactly. But I can see from like when my kids come out of the womb, if they're a filer or a piler, you know?

<00:14:43> Ruchi Koval: Yes. It's so fascinating. So there's no shame in what am I in my nature. That's how I should have made. You know? Mm-hmm. There's no, there's no shame in that. Neither is it who you really are. Like, I have blue eyes. I get compliments about my blue eyes. Did I do anything to have blue eyes? No. Everybody knows that I didn't make these eyes blue.

<00:15:11> Ruchi Koval: I say thank you because it's a nice thing to say when people give me a compliment, right? But when people gimme a compliment on something I worked for, That feels really good. That's who I really am, right? Mm-hmm. So there's no shame in knowing. I happen to have a bit of a rigid personality. I happen to be a bit of a judgmental person in my default mode when I'm not working on myself, right?

<00:15:34> Ruchi Koval: No shame there. That's how I should have made me. I was born that way. But then the question becomes, what do I do about. Right. That's the starting point of my work, and then if I'm willing to be humble and open and work on it and regret where I've gone wrong and examine it and do better, that means my identity is of a growing person.

<00:15:54> Ruchi Koval: That's really who I am. Mm-hmm.

<00:15:58> Kayla Levin: Right. And who we are essentially is like underneath is what you're saying, right? Yes. It's underneath all these character traits. It's underneath all of these like external things that people can see. Yes. And judge and experience and yes, and, and the work is where that piece of us gets to interact and come out into the world

<00:16:13> Ruchi Koval: because as you said, we're here to grow.

<00:16:16> Ruchi Koval: That's the part we forget. So my flaws were given to me. To see what I'm gonna do with them and my strengths were given to me to see what I'm gonna do with them. Right? Yeah. Let's take it on the other side. Let's say I happen to be a good writer. I love to write. Okay. I've been complimented for my writing.

<00:16:34> Ruchi Koval: People say I'm a good writer. Thank God I'm very grateful for that. Is that my identity? No. Why? I could do lots of things with that. I could ignore it. I could write mean letters to the editor. I could write scathing blog posts that are full of lush. It's just a tool. Mm. Do with it what you choose. It's your choices that matter.

<00:16:56> Ruchi Koval: Your talents are not what you did. Mm.

<00:17:02> Kayla Levin: Yeah. This really turns, I mean, I, I feel like, because, you know, this is cliche at this point that our, our world has become so completely external and. So we're all to the point of, of being able to sit with you when you're like, oh yeah, blue eyes. I didn't do anything to deserve that.

<00:17:19> Kayla Levin: And like, really, I'm more than my eyes. Like I feel like most, most people listening to this podcast, it's okay, we're on that level. Right? But we, but it's also, it's even more than that. It's like another layer pull, pull back. It's not just your eyes, it's also your middos. It's also your, that's your, your natural tendencies.

<00:17:34> Kayla Levin: It's also your Yes, totally. I have, I have my similar one, um, for your writing is like, Can be very, very good with language. Like I can come up with the phrase that will bring something home. And one of the things I struggled with so much is I would always have the best insults on the tip of my tongue when I was a teenager.

<00:17:53> Kayla Levin: I could be the one who could like drive it home. Right. And like, just because I'm capable of coming up with the language doesn't mean that I get to use it. That's right. But I like what you're, you know, like just thinking of it that way. Like we're all given that one place where we're, we have that. And where we come out is where, how we use it.

<00:18:12> Ruchi Koval: So Right. So two things about that. First of all, the mistake that we make as a culture is when we identify people, not by their choices, but by the stuff that they had nothing to do with. Like, you're so beautiful, you're so talented, and we become obsessed with beauty, talent IQ when it is far more revealing to see what does a person do with their beauty talent.

<00:18:37> Ruchi Koval: And I. That's the first point that I wanna make and I really try to do this in my parenting because, you know, pier Cavo says, Lara, according to the effort, is the reward, right? Mm-hmm. What does Hashun wanna see from us? How hard are you trying? Hash doesn't care about the stuff he gave us for free. That's not relevant.

<00:18:54> Ruchi Koval: Those are just the pieces in the, in the board game. So I really try to praise effort and. You know, grit, like when I'm talking to my kids instead of praising achievement or talent, because achievement and talent is not what, right? I, I'm, I'm far more interested in praising somebody who used what Ashm gave them for, for the good.

<00:19:19> Ruchi Koval: Um, you know, and the second thing that I wanna ba say about this Pheros, um, which you sort of touched on before, is that every character trait, every, everything that you have is inherently neutral. Every character trait that you're born with is inherently neutral. So has said, for example, the first of this pheros, which is kindness, right?

<00:19:39> Ruchi Koval: Kindness can become radicalized, right? We're not supposed to give more than 20% of our money to tka. Why not? If it's a mitzvah to give a little tka, isn't it more of a mitzvah to give a lot of tka? The answer is no. There's such a thing as too much kindness, right? Think about this in terms of ideology.

<00:19:59> Ruchi Koval: You're right. You're right. And you're right. And everybody's right. That's too much kindness, right? So the next week we come along with boundaries and then, right, that says no can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Every media can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. So how am I using the character trait that Hashem gave me?

<00:20:20> Ruchi Koval: Also means being a person of balance. Boundaries can also be taken too far. We, we are now, the pendulum has swung very far towards self-care. I don't have to make my neighbor meals when they have a baby because self-care, I don't have to have guess for Chaz because self-care, I don't have to go to shab morning because self-care, right?

<00:20:38> Ruchi Koval: Kibud Av v'Am. Good what? Kibud Av v'Am yeah. Yeah. Now self-care is good, but self-care can get radicalized. Mm-hmm. Everything right? Self-care is basically boundaries. That's what it is. I'm putting a boundary to protect me. Good or bad, good. Can I get radicalized? Yes. It can become a modality of cruelty towards doing good for other, other people, because I'm now always pulling my, putting myself.

<00:21:05> Ruchi Koval: So that's a big part of it too. Like if I have ak, let's say, you know, like you were saying, you have the, the gift of gab, which is beautiful. Guess what? Not only it can be used for the good or for the bad, but it can also be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Right? I'm also like that. I always have something to say and I, I like the way it comes outta my mouth sometimes.

<00:21:26> Ruchi Koval: My work is to not. Because I need to make space for other people. Yeah. So even that positive attribute can become unhealthy. So that's part of what the spheres are showing us. There's this side and there's this side. Here's the balance. There's this side, there's this side. Here's the balance.

<00:21:43> Kayla Levin: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

<00:21:45> Kayla Levin: And I love it. I feel like, just like it's exactly what I wanted, right? I wanted us to just get to like a really, really practical, what does this mean for me? And just remembering that like if we give ourselves that entire week to. Hassed. Where, where, where am I holding with Hassed right now? Where am I holding with, with kindness or giving, and where might there be some room for me to grow knowing that next week I'm gonna go into, it's gu, right?

<00:22:07> Kayla Levin: It's the second week. So yeah, go into boundaries or gu, however we wanna define that. I'll, I will be going there, which almost gives me more freedom to explore the hassed. More right that week because next week I'll be able to go here and then as you said, then we're in a space where we can integrate. And I think that's amazing.

<00:22:25> Kayla Levin: Right.

<00:22:25> Ruchi Koval: You know what it kind of reminds me of, I don't know. I don't know if they had this in Israel or if you were in Israel at this time, but for a while there was this fitness craze here. It was a chain of, um, gyms called Curves. Yeah. Okay, so it was this 30 minute cycle and you would spend two minutes on each machine, and then they would say, change stations now and then, you know, I have no idea if there was any science behind this or whatever, but they all closed.

<00:22:48> Ruchi Koval: So maybe there was a reason for that. Um, but it was like the gym was putting you through this program and taking the decision making off your head. Like, you know, when people go to the gym, they're like, well, what should I do? Should I go on the elliptical? Should I go on the, you know, treadmill? Should I go on the bike?

<00:23:01> Ruchi Koval: You. And people hire personal trainers to help them cuz they don't know what to do, what to focus on. So it's like curves put you, well what a lot of people liked about it is that eventually you've got your whole body done cuz you were going on each of these machines. I feel like Sefira is sort of putting you through this seven week program, a week on this, a week on that, a week on that, you know, so you don't have to, um, stress about what's happening next.

<00:23:24> Ruchi Koval: Cuz it's, it's in the program, it's already. You know, set up for you. And the cool part about it is that, let's say the week that you're spending on hassed, so every day of that week, Hassed gets partnered with itself and each of the other traits so that each day of this Vera, you get this unique combination.

<00:23:44> Ruchi Koval: So there's combined with Hassed. Ultimate kindness on that day. You say yes to every single person who asks you anything the next day. It's hued with boundaries. You're more discerning to you. Yes. Not so much. Not right now. Yes to you. Right. The third day it's gonna be hued with balance. Sometimes yes. Yes.

<00:24:03> Ruchi Koval: Sometimes yes. No. Right. The fourth day, it's gonna be long-term. eternity long That's gonna have long-term ramifications. The next one is short-term. That's only relevant today. Tomorrow, nobody's gonna remember that I ever did it. Mm-hmm. The third one is gonna be foundation. That's, that's like about, um, about sexual boundaries and keeping that part, that energy, you know, in its right boundaries.

<00:24:31> Ruchi Koval: So doing with that, whatever that means in each particular person's life. And finally, the last day will be um, , which means in a way that enhances my majesty as a daughter of hash. What kind of husk could I do? You know, there's actually a beautiful book by Rabbi Yako Haber. It's called Spiros.

<00:24:49> Kayla Levin: I was just gonna say this.

<00:24:51> Kayla Levin: Are you kidding? Yeah. No, no, no. Not at all. On my shelf right over there.

<00:24:54> Ruchi Koval: He makes it super duper practical. A lot of what I learned about Spiro comes from that book and he, he gives like a little assignment every day. Yes. For how to make this combination real. So it's not just that every week you're working on this media, but you're learning how to apply it in each of its iterations.

<00:25:11> Ruchi Koval: Mm.

<00:25:14> Kayla Levin: Ugh. Okay. Wait, we still have a little bit of time cause there's so many things going through my head that I wanna talk to you about. So, so from here I wanna talk about, and then I have to circle back to, to discussing with you something that you said on when you were on the D M C podcast recently.

<00:25:27> Kayla Levin: Sure. So, brilliant. Um, but I wanna start with is, is, and its, and I wanna, if you could give us a little bit more about your book, um, in this conversation, but I'd love to hear, explain how. Because I think everyone listening to this podcast is into self-development. Mm-hmm. What you're bringing in more explicitly than what we talk about, I think normally is self-development as a path to spirituality.

<00:25:53> Kayla Levin: Hmm. Spell it out for me. Could you like why?

<00:25:57> Ruchi Koval: Absolutely. So the thing about Musser, which is self-development as a path to spirituality, is this, the main point of it is transformation. To make yourself a better person. However, it's not possible to work on yourself and not have it spill over onto all your relationships.

<00:26:19> Ruchi Koval: So it's really about yourself, but it will by definition impact everyone else. I'll give you an example of something I heard a long time ago. What is the difference between middos and manners? Right? Mm-hmm. Manners. You're polite, you're nice. You give other people compliments. You say, please, and thank you.

<00:26:36> Ruchi Koval: Isn't that the same thing as having good mitos? The answer is no. Manners are skin deep and are relevant only when other people are around. Hmm. Right? If somebody else is around, I'm not gonna pick up a piece of chicken and eat it with my bare fingers. That's not polite. But if I'm standing alone in my kitchen at 2:00 AM why?

<00:27:01> Ruchi Koval: I'm not making anyone else uncomfortable. It's just me. Musser says, you are a child of God. Don't stand up in the kitchen at 2:00 AM and eat chicken with your bare fingers. You are a dignified, beautiful human being. Take a plate. Sit down, wash your hands, take a fork of knife. Feed yourself like a child of God.

<00:27:21> Ruchi Koval: It's about refinement, personal refinement, personal evolvement, even when it affects no one. If you are transforming as a human being, by definition, you know, like, like the wine at Havdalah, there will be this spillover effect. It's not just about your relationships, but it can't help but enhance all your relationships.

<00:27:44> Kayla Levin: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And this, and, and primary relationship being, our relationship with Hash as we're developing. And the idea of, like we were talking about the sun chaves, right? That the idea of like, what, what is closeness with Hashem? Because Hashem's not like, I can't, I can't say like I can't go get a plane ticket and go visit, but similarity, right?

<00:28:04> Kayla Levin: Similarity in Mitos is spiritual closeness. And so then that. Can develop that relationship as well.

<00:28:09> Ruchi Koval: Yeah, and, and one of the interesting things about Mussar, and that's why when I wrote my book, I didn't actually publish it through a Jewish company. I published it through a, a company that actually markets to religious Christians because I felt that there was such mass appeal.

<00:28:23> Ruchi Koval: A big part of the reason why I teach Mussar is because, you know, I teach non-religious Jews primarily, and I found that it was such a gateway to Torah because everybody wants to know, well, okay, I shouldn't say everybody. A lot of people wanna know how to be a better person, right? And, and this is about how to be a better person.

<00:28:40> Ruchi Koval: Everybody wants to know how to improve. Most people wanna know how to improve their relationships. This is a way to improve their relationships, right? You don't even really have to start out with God in the picture. You know, the Torah has incredible wisdom on kindness, on how to, I mean, these are the chapters in my book.

<00:28:55> Ruchi Koval: Acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, silence, renewal, happiness, speech, favorable judgment. These are universal. Character traits that a growing person wants, then what happens? You start studying this wisdom, right? And then you say to yourself, this is brilliant. Where does this come from? And then the answer is, this comes from our tradition.

<00:29:17> Ruchi Koval: This comes from our wisdom. So it ends up being a tremendous , you know what I mean? So it, it might start out as saying, how do I make my marriage better? How do I make my friendship better? How do I make my relationship with my parents better? And then it can go into, I wanna be a better person for my own sake.

<00:29:35> Ruchi Koval: And then it comes to, well, God is in this picture. Hashem gave us this wisdom. Oh my gosh, we're so lucky to be Jewish. Right? And then what happens is we start behaving when no one's watching. Why? Because Hashem is watching. Because I'm watching cuz my is watching. You know? So it ends up having this cumulative impact.

<00:29:56> Kayla Levin: Beautiful. Amazing. That's exactly what I was, I was hoping you could, you could clarify for us. So, okay, this is a little bit off topic, but I, I've got you here. Okay. So I have to thank you for something. So you were on the, the D M C podcast, which I make no secret of being a huge, huge fan of Same, um, talking about parenting recently.

<00:30:15> Kayla Levin: Yeah. And, um, what you said so explicitly is something that I feel like I've. Only implicitly. Okay. And I'm so grateful because I, I want to be more explicit with this. And in talking about this in the context of marriage, which was, and you know, rephrase it for me if I, if I don't quite get it, but that we don't learn parenting techniques to get the result mm-hmm.

<00:30:44> Kayla Levin: Of a certain type of child. We learn parenting techniques to be a good parent Yes. To do. Yes. And I often will say things like, your husband's not a puppy. Right? Like, we're not learning. I, I love, I'm fascinated with the difference between the way male and female brains work the way male and female motivations are.

<00:31:04> Kayla Levin: They're so they can be so dramatically different. And of course different personalities

<00:31:08> Kayla Levin: and different ways of being brought

<00:31:09> Kayla Levin: up. But we're not learning to, we're not trying to understand our husband so that at the end of the day, he's a marionette and I can pull the strings that I want and get the husband of my dreams.

<00:31:18> Ruchi Koval: Right. That's manipulation. That's

<00:31:20> Kayla Levin: manipulation. Exactly. And um, so I just really appreciated that. I appreciated that a lot. I would love to note, do you have any other thoughts about that?

<00:31:34> Ruchi Koval: Yes, and I, I think that this message. Is so insidious in our culture. You know, even when people say something like, oh my gosh, they've been married for 50 years.

<00:31:47> Ruchi Koval: What's their secret? You know, you can have a couple who got divorced where one member of the couple was doing all the same things. And it just didn't take in that relationship for a hundred different reasons. We want to correlate results with effort. We want to so badly. We want that to make sense. We want it to be true academically.

<00:32:10> Ruchi Koval: We want it to be true economically. We want it to be true spiritually. We want it to be true in our families, our health. Yeah, but that's just not. You can have two people who eat exactly the same, and one of them is gonna have cholesterol issues and one is not. You can have two people who raise their kids exactly the same and one kid turns out, you know, having really a lot of struggles and one does not.

<00:32:32> Ruchi Koval: We want it, we want it to be true because we want to be in control and we want someone to hands us the recipe and say, do this and this will happen. You know, and I find that a lot of marriage education also falls into this. You know? Yeah. Um, I don't know what, I don't know where you stand on the whole Laura Doyle situation, but I feel like books like that really make it very recipe oriented.

<00:32:59> Ruchi Koval: Do this and then you'll get that. And that just totally misses the boat on the complexity of human relations. Right. But taking it from a Jewish perspective, and this is what I was saying about Mussar being primarily about self transformation, right. You should do those things because they're the right thing to.

<00:33:18> Ruchi Koval: Not because results are guaranteed. Right. You know, Al Hirsch says in his commentary on Peros, he says, A person should, you know, where it says that a person should always try to combine, uh, profession with Torah study and that will be the formula that will help him forget sin. You know, and he talks about in his commentary, um, which is my next book, God Willing, working on that, um, why it's so important for a person to be, um, financially independent so that other people don't call the shots for them.

<00:33:46> Ruchi Koval: Mm-hmm. So that, you know, however, It's an effort to become financially independent. A person can make all the efforts they want to co become financial independent. They might succeed, they might fail, right? The point is, are you doing what you can? What is in your control? Again, you're defined by your choices.

<00:34:04> Ruchi Koval: You're not defined by the starting point, and you're not res defined by the ending point. You're defined by the choices that you make. What that means is that if you are overall a good wife, a good parent, right, you're kind. You always try to improve your skillset. You try to forgive, you try to communicate.

<00:34:24> Ruchi Koval: You try to see the other person for who they really are, and accept them for who they really are. You try to make what's important to them, important to you. You need to know that that relationship might still flounder. And that doesn't mean you're a failure. If you did what you could, you're not a failure.

<00:34:44> Ruchi Koval: Results not withstanding. That's the part that's in Hashem's hands.

<00:34:48> Kayla Levin: And I wanna add to this, especially for the newlyweds, because we right now, unfortunately, have an entire generation of women who are completely freaked out. Yes. On our marriage. And I wanna add to it that I think there is a complete dearth.

<00:35:03> Kayla Levin: Relevant and helpful and tactical and practical information about marriage and having a healthy marriage. So,

<00:35:08> Ruchi Koval: oh, I was literally just telling this to my daughter. Yes, there is.

<00:35:11> Kayla Levin: So, I, so it's not, it's so, so, so, yes, a hundred percent. I'm cheering you from the rooftops, everything you just said. This is not in any way to contradict it.

<00:35:19> Kayla Levin: I wanna add to people who, who are hearing that without keeping that in mind. There is so much you can do. Yes. And it's not just sweating and it's not just crying. It's also there is so much information. This, for me was the absolute turning point when I, you don't know my whole story, but when I was a newlywed, I really, really didn't think we would make it.

<00:35:39> Kayla Levin: I was. Completely, and this is why I work with Millie Wes today. And the, the, the lifeline that I had was realizing that there is some skill to this uhhuh. There is a skill that can be learned uhhuh, and at the same time, a person can learn the skill and they can, they can devote themselves and they can take all the classes and they could do all the work that they need to do personally and exactly.

<00:35:59> Kayla Levin: They, so I, I think some people are given harder spouses than other people. I think some people are given harder situations. They're, they're, it's less of a match or it's, or it's more getting on the thing that really, really does trigger you or does bother you. And so we all have different things we have to dig into and work on, and.

<00:36:16> Kayla Levin: You know, somehow there's this idea that like, I know I'm here to grow, but within my marriage, like it's supposed to just go otherwise, right? Like right something's wrong. No. If Hashem wants you to grow, of course your primary relationship in life is going to be another opportunity for growth.

<00:36:30> Ruchi Koval: Right. Um, so one of the thing I, I, I appreciate you bringing out that point.

<00:36:35> Ruchi Koval: One of the things I said in that parenting podcast, which is also true, so true of marriage, you know, cuz people could just like throw in the towel and say, okay, fine. So to heck with all these parenting books, like what the results are Not in my Hands. What's the point? Right? No, no, no, no. The learning and the growing and the trying, that all raises your odds.

<00:36:53> Ruchi Koval: Mm-hmm. You know, of, of having a successful relationship. It doesn't necessarily mean from a parenting perspective that your kid will turn out the way you or society calls a success. Right? They're from, they're married, they have kids, they're making a living. However, you know, you define success, but the strength of your relat.

<00:37:15> Ruchi Koval: Will largely be dependent on what you do. You can raise those odds and enormous degree. Are there guarantees? There are no guarantees. Right. And the same thing is true in marriage, right? It's almost like you have to hold these two opposing truths in your mind at the same time. Yeah, right. On the one hand, my efforts are not always correlated with results and also, You know, through my efforts, I am raising the odds of having a connective relationship, but I have to let go of what results look like.

<00:37:45> Ruchi Koval: You know, if I think, well, I'll do this, and then my husband will be really dotting and he'll buy me the presents I want for tif, and he'll clean up his hat and jacket off the table and he'll, you know, do his own laundry. I don't know, whatever. Whatever you think is like, wow. When you see other people's husbands and you're like, wow, okay, if I do that, then my husband will do.

<00:38:01> Ruchi Koval: That's bartering, that's manipulative, right? Yeah. But can you raise the odds to have a connective relationship if you're truly willing to be accepting and generous and forgiving? Absolutely.

<00:38:14> Kayla Levin: Yeah. And really what it comes back to, I think, and, and you're, you're, you're getting to this, which is. Am I looking at this person through the lens of what I want them to be, what I think they should be, and therefore I'm completely blocking my ability to appreciate and connect to that person.

<00:38:28> Kayla Levin: I cannot be in a relationship with a person if they're being evaluated according to some other standard that I've come up with. Yep. Or have been fed right, and just sort of imbibed. But what I can do is I can compare the relationship to what it is when it comes to my. Right. This is the relationship with my child.

<00:38:45> Kayla Levin: This is what it probably will be five years from now if I continue on this path. If I do this work, I can make that comparison. And I think that can be very motivating. I can take the relationship, the marriage that I have now and say, if I wanna move this, forward it, but as soon as I get into the picture of this is what it needs to look like for me to check that box and say that I, it's right.

<00:39:04> Kayla Levin: It's what I need. That's when

<00:39:06> Ruchi Koval: we get. Yeah. And I think the problem is too, that a lot of, like when you're saying there's such a dearth of marriage education, and by the way, just to give you a job, you should totally write a book. Um,

<00:39:16> Kayla Levin: but everyone needs to join my membership when they get married. This is what we're doing.

<00:39:21> Kayla Levin: We're educating. We're educating. But you're right, we, the book is coming. It's a show. Um,

<00:39:25> Ruchi Koval: so I think that's so much of, you know, even like Laura Doyle, I just, not to pick on her, but I just looked at her book and the prac, the subtitle is a practical guide to Finding Intimacy, passion and Peace with a man. It's still transactional.

<00:39:39> Ruchi Koval: Do this. Mm-hmm. You'll get that. Right. And a lot of, a lot of secular or non-Jewish marriage books will, or even self-improvement books will be like, do this to get that. Yeah. You know, do this to find love, do this, to have resilient kids do this, to have that, you know, that's not Jewish, it's not j, it's not about getting a result.

<00:40:03> Ruchi Koval: It's about you becoming an amazing human being. Yeah, yeah. And the, the, the unpleasant truth is that you don't get to be an amazing human being without working your tail off. There's no shortcuts to that. None

<00:40:27> Kayla Levin: and everyone exactly in the place where they would rather someone else's challenge. You will be pushed in.

<00:40:36> Kayla Levin: That one spot will be. Cause that's where you need to be pushed.

<00:40:40> Ruchi Koval: Yeah. It's so fascinating because like with your kids, you could say, okay, do you know what Hasham put this child in my life? And th this is okay. Even then PE parents need a lot of encouragement. But this is the child I was meant to have.

<00:40:50> Ruchi Koval: It's obvious this was the child I was meant to. Clement into my life. Right. But with a spouse, you picked them. Okay? So in theory, this should be the person who poses the least amount of annoyances to you. You literally picked them by yourself, but of course we know that's not true. Why? Because Hashem put that person in our life to grow.

<00:41:11> Ruchi Koval: The picking is almost, it's almost an illusion. Not that we shouldn't pick wisely, and not that we shouldn't get to know ourselves and see, well, you know, which kinds of relationships with my friends make me feel safe and confident and comfortable. You know, those are the traits I should be looking for in a spouse.

<00:41:28> Ruchi Koval: Of course. Of course, of course, of course. Be. But inevitably, and I don't care how long people know each other for how long they live together, you know, in the secular world, people live together for years and then they get married and they're like, what? Yeah, what? This is what you're like as a husband, this is what you're like as a father, life threw us a curve ball.

<00:41:47> Ruchi Koval: I had no way of knowing how my spouse was gonna react. I know way of idea how I was gonna react to that. Why? Because life happens and life changes us and life challenges us. So even the spouse that we picked, Supposedly our eyes wide open. It's still so clear that Hashan put that per that person in your life for a reason, and it's usually all the stuff you didn't think about.

<00:42:11> Ruchi Koval: And there's a reason for that. You know, I remember when I was ins and, um, somebody said to me to say, for a spouse and our, our rub actually just told my daughter to do the same thing. So that's she Esri, right? I looked to the mountains. Where will my help come from? One of the we, we say in that chapter is,

<00:42:34> Ruchi Koval: by day the sun shall not harm you. nor the moon by night. And, and this, this teacher of mine who told me to say it said, what does that mean? It means that when you're dating, there are certain things that there are gonna be clear as day, certain things that you see right away. Those things should not be bad for you nor the moon by night, nor all the things you don't see.

<00:42:55> Ruchi Koval: The things that are eclipsed. The things that you're not gonna know about until after you're married or after life happens, that you're governing, that those things also should not be harmful to you. Cuz as much as you know, you just don't know a person until you start living your life together,

<00:43:10> Kayla Levin: and I don't think you even know

<00:43:13> Ruchi Koval: Right. Not that's for sure. True. I remember when I was having my first kid and I was in Israel and I asked somebody, well go to this doctor, and then they, there's this like small birthing center intel. I'm like, oh, cute small birthing center. I get to the small birthing center and I'm like, whoa,

<00:43:27> Ruchi Koval: stop. I'm a big hospital kinda girl.

<00:43:30> Ruchi Koval: I'm not

<00:43:30> Ruchi Koval: IVs. I want doctors.

<00:43:31> Ruchi Koval: I want pain meds. You know? I'm like, what

<00:43:33> Ruchi Koval: was I thinking? I didn't know myself. Right. I didn't know what kind of birth I was gonna want. Mm-hmm.

<00:43:42> Kayla Levin: Yeah. And then you come up, I mean, you, so much living happens for the first time when you're Yeah. After the hpa, you know, and this is why, how, you know how you're gonna

<00:43:51> Ruchi Koval: And this is why couples who go through like, you know, serious changes in their lives, whether it's a financial change, the loss of a loved one, um, uh, you know, financial issues, the special, you know, special ed kids, these things can really throw marriage for a loop.

<00:44:07> Ruchi Koval: Nobody knows how their spouse is gonna react to these totally unforeseen things. Yeah. And very often couples end up turning away from each other to find solace instead of to each other. Yeah. Right. These are things you can't know. We didn't start experiencing serious difficulties until we were married for 20 years.

<00:44:27> Ruchi Koval: Hmm. You know? And now that I'm married for almost 30 years and the past 10 years have been spent navigating parenting challenges. I think to myself, I thought I knew my husband after we were married for 20 years, there were parts of us that were just revealed in this challenge that neither of us really understood.

<00:44:50> Ruchi Koval: And you know, thank God we learned to turn towards each other and to put our marriage first and to make that the most pressing issue of the day. But that is a conscious decision that a couple has to

<00:45:05> Kayla Levin: Yeah, you just have to keep pushing it onto the front burner. It's just so, yes. Easy to take for granted.

<00:45:10> Kayla Levin: Yep. And I'm so grateful that you said that. I think that that's one of the things that we just have to keep in mind that the marriage relationship, it's an investment off over so many years. Like we're in this for the long term and sometimes there's, remember at one point when I was in newly newlywed hearing a couple that had been married a very long time talking and they were like, oh yeah, that was like a rough couple of years for our like, years like we got in a fight last night and I'm panicking. You know, like right. You get, we have to like stretch the timeline here for what we're looking at and how. Sort of our operating, so

<00:45:44> Ruchi Koval: Absolutely. It's amazing. Absolutely. It's so true. Um, and I think, I mean, I know this is not so much your focus on this podcast, but I think it's so important to let young people know, like, you know, my teenagers that.

<00:45:58> Ruchi Koval: You know, some people say, oh, never fight in front of the kids. I don't agree with that. I think the kids Oh good. Should be I, I think the kids have to see how their parents resolve conflict. Mm-hmm. There's a role modeling there. You think kids don't know that there's conflict. Kids are psychic. Yeah. You know, so at least a role model.

<00:46:20> Ruchi Koval: Here's how you disagree. Here's how you discuss. You know, you don't view politics the same. You don't view a family situation the same. You don't have the same opinions on how to raise the kids or what. Okay, whatever. If you're discussing that kid, don't do it. If you're discussing the kids, don't do it in front of the kids, but you know that they should see that there is a way to navigate conflict that is ultimately healthy and constructive in a relationship.

<00:46:44> Ruchi Koval: Instead of just thinking, oh, my parents never disagree,

<00:46:51> Kayla Levin: percent and also to see the repairs. Yeah. For those relationship repairs, what do they look like? How does that work? Yeah.

<00:47:01> Ruchi Koval: Exactly, because I think, like you're saying, a lot of young people are afraid of conflict. They're terrified.

<00:47:06> Ruchi Koval: What does that mean for my relationship? You know, conflict is just a starting. It's just another starting point for growth. You can become closer through your conflict. You talk to each other, you turn towards each other. You speak to each other respectfully. You uphold the relationship. You can come out way stronger after a conflict.

<00:47:26> Ruchi Koval: You know, these past 10 years that we've been na, navigating so many parenting challenges, there is no question that we have become so much closer for having navigated these issues. You know, does that mean that there weren't rough moments? Of course not. You know, there's so many things that that challenge a marriage, but if you play your cards right, if you really put in that effort, you know, and especially if, if both spouses are putting in that effort, the relationship can be a thousand times stronger after.

<00:47:59> Kayla Levin: this was like so perfect. Thank you so much. I mean, I didn't know that we would get to all of the things and I feel like we got to all the things and now I have a new book on my book list. I'm really, really looking forward to. Well, I have to decide if I'm gonna read it or listen to it. Cause now I was like an audio book version.

<00:48:12> Kayla Levin: This is very exciting. I'll make sure to be linking that in the show notes along with, um, your Instagram account because I know you provide a lot of great content over there. Thank you. The Pheros book that we mentioned, the D M C podcast. Yes. Those are the other, think the other two things that we Yeah.

<00:48:28> Kayla Levin: Mentioned here on this. Yeah. And hopefully this will just like launch everyone into a really growth oriented spra season. That's awesome.

<00:48:37> Ruchi Koval: Yes. So my book is called Soul Construction and um, uh, and then I also teach two Zoom classes a week. So if anybody wants to contact me and join up with my classes, that's also an option.

<00:48:51> Kayla Levin: Amazing. How and how could they get in touch?

<00:48:53> Ruchi Koval: Um, if you Google me, my blog will come up and you can contact me through that.

<00:48:57> Kayla Levin: Perfect. Okay. Amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on.

<00:49:02> Ruchi Koval: Thank you. This was an amazing conversation. I feel like I just had coffee with a friend, minus the coffee. I had the coffee.

<00:49:11> Kayla Levin: All right. It was a great opportunity to talk to you. This was really great.

<00:49:15> Kayla Levin: Hey friends. Okay, so I wanna just put in a quick request. If you are listening to this episode and you know someone who's the person who would just have loved this episode, would you do me a huge favor and send it along to her? The easiest way to do it, and I'm gonna include this link in the show notes, is, that's gonna send her a link where she can access it based on whatever podcast player she has. So that's the easiest way to share the podcast. I would love to just get it out to more people. If you don't have anyone in your mind, or you wanna do two nice things for me, that's my aficoman present.

<00:49:51> Kayla Levin: I'd love to get a review from you if you haven't done it yet on the podcast. It again is another way for people to discover this podcast. It's a huge, huge help. And of course, I love reading the reviews, so thank you so much and enjoy your spra and self-growth. Bye.

<00:50:11> ​

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