The Power of Imagery

Yehuda Shmotkin
Essays 2020 / Finalists

Yetzias Mitzrayim

Yetzias Mitzrayim in Chasidus means to leave our own personal Meitzar and Gvul. Leave our boxes. Get out of our comfort zones and enter a space of Merchav.

Broadness. Expansiveness.

How do we attain this?

One way is to simply do those things that are difficult. Getting out of ourselves. Doing the hard, the difficult, and the uncomfortable. Despite not feeling it.

Yet it sometimes feels like a rubber band. The more we stretch it, it eventually snaps. Constantly pushing ourselves against our inner desires, cannot be the only mechanism and way to achieve perfection.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya addresses this. צדיק תהי .Although you may never attain it, you must try to be aTzadik. You have to put in effort to change your insides. Your emotions and feelings should feel a love for Hashem. To feel closer and in sync with spirituality and holiness.

We each can get out of ourselves and enter a new space. We can change our desires and our passion by thinking and meditating about G-d- his closeness to us, his love to us- and a new set of feelings will develop.

The Power of Imagery

The Frierdiker Rebbe writes in Likkutei Diburim about the power of imagination:

“Not only do thought and imagination have the power to place a person in the distant past, to the point that here, in his present situation, he is enabled to experience things long since seen with the same sensations as he then experienced, but moreover, now that he is older and more experienced, with a certain lifetime behind him, he is able to view the same events more perceptively. (Likkutei Diburim, volume 1, p. 237)”.

A powerful question the Rebbe Rashab used to frequently ask the Frierdiker Rebbe after the Rebbe Maharash was געדענקסטו וואס ?What do you remember? Those memories should not only be etched in his mind, but he should be able to relive those memories now.


Science has come to recognize the idea of neuroplasticity- the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout an individual’s life. Similar to a film. When you photograph a picture of a mountain, you’re exposing the film to new information. It reacts to the light, and its makeup changes in order to record the image of that mountain. In the same way, your brain’s makeup changes when it’s exposed to new information, so that it may retain that information.

When we bring new information to our brains, to our minds- we are not stuck in the past. Our brains are actually wired to change based on new information, stories, and experiences that we expose it to.

In chassidus we’re taught through our Avodah in davening, hisboinenus, learning Chassidus, farbrenging we are able to not only change our behaviors but in fact change our insides. Our feelings. Our emotions.

Power of Imaging

In Harvard Medical school Neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone experimented with his class. Two groups- the first one was instructed to play piano – 60 beats per minute- as fluently as possible for five days. The second group was instructed to do the exact same thing- but through imagination. Imagining in their minds- going through all the motions and practicing those same movements.

They did tests on the brains of both groups. The results were astonishing. Both groups brains changed similarly. Imagining practicing the piano had the same effect as actually practicing!

In other words- one is able to create a new reality for himself by imagining only. We create new neuropathways when we imagine ourselves in a different place.

As Mark Wolyn writes in his book- It Didnt’ Start With You- “Whether we’re imagining a scene of forgiveness, comfort, or letting go, or simply visualizing a loved one, images can profoundly settle into our bodies and sink into our minds. In my work, I’ve found that helping people to unearth the image that most resonates with them is the cornerstone to Healing.”

“Doidge tells us that we can change our brains simply by imagining… Brain scans demonstrate that many of the same neurons and regions of the brain become activated whether we are imagining an event or actually living it.”

Just like training oneself by repeating something again and again you become accustomed and good at a craft. When you imagine yourself doing it- it has the same effect.

When we are able to imagine ourselves in a different place, whether it be with our finances, our family, our relationship, and really put ourselves in a different place in our head. Once and twice, again and again- we create a new story for ourselves. A new reality that is not stuck in our own habits, the stories, and the upbringing we have become habituated with.

We create a new story. A new reality. Free to become one with Hashem. Free to love. Free to dream. We can experience a new Yetzias Mitzrayim for ourselves. A reality that is unshackled by past beliefs and hang ups.

Athletes choreograph their every move through imagery. A skier imagines navigating every inch of terrain. A Quarterback imagines his throws and the defensive alignments. And a ballerina and gymnast imagine every move of their routine.

This is called coping imagery.

The Frierdiker Rebbe writes in a letter- about the power of imagination. The Rebbe Rashab spoke- is it a Talent or Skill? The Frierdiker Rebbe explains at length the Rebbe Rashab’s talk.

During the Sicha the Rebbe Rashab spoke about the Neshama’s descent into this world through a mashal of king that sent his son to a far away land, and how painful it was for them to depart from one another. The fear they each had separating from one another. How the king tried communicating to his son. And how the prince slowly became accustomed to the ways of the land and forgot his home. Suddenly he remembers his father and the palace, and makes a strong resolution to keep connected to that reality.

The Frierdiker Rebbe says hearing this- he felt the pain of the king and prince when they parted and hugged, his struggles being far away in a far away land etc. It was that real.

The Frierdiker Rebbe continues at length about the picture and image that one can create כי ציור המחשבה מעמיד את האדם בגובה רום הנפלא במינו. וכל -line punch the and- thought through in imagery of power The.- אשר יעמיק דעתו ביותר בציור המחשבתי יתדבק יותר ויותר בהענין המצוייר thought puts a person in the highest planes. The more a person contemplates and imagines in his mind, he connects more and more to the imagined thought” (תרצ״ה ניסן ב(

When we imagine ourselves going through a difficult situation, a struggle, a battle, and coming out on top- this allows us to actualize it in real life. I.e. The struggle will become exponentially easier to overcome when faced.

The Rebbe famously brought the words of Tracht Gut Vet Zein Gut to a whole new level. When one thinks positive, it actually affects the outcome of events. When one imagines him/herself in a better place, in a healthier place, in a more unified place, he creates that reality for himself. Literally!

We want that rubber bands tension to decrease, to relax. Let’s start using our power of imaging. Imagining ourselves differently. This gives the courage to face our battles, and gives a true testing ground to eventually win the battle when tested.