Hierarchy of needs – aish.com


Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who taught at Brooklyn College and Brandeis University in the mid-20th century. He proposed a theory of motivation, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is taught in virtually every introductory psychology course, and is also popular in business and education. Although the theory is more nuanced than usually presented, the basic idea is that humans have five different levels of needs to satisfy.

The hierarchy starts with physiological needs like food and water, then moves to security needs like shelter and protection from danger. The third need is to belong and connect socially, and the fourth is to feel respected and have a sense of self-worth. The ultimate need is self-actualization, which is the need to fulfill one’s potential. In later work he added a concept called self-transcendence, which is driven by something bigger than yourself.

Maslow’s theory is often illustrated by a triangle, with the lower physiological needs placed at the bottom, progressing to the pinnacle of self-realization.

However, Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings and John Ballard argue that Maslow himself never mentioned the triangle concept anywhere in his writings, and that the use of this icon to illustrate the theory was first made by a management manual. Although integrating the theory with the visual aid of a triangle has helped spread its widespread popularity, they argue that several misconceptions emerge due to the way the triangle is used to symbolize hierarchy – a point on which we will come back to shortly.

One of the oldest and most ubiquitous prayers we recite is rooted in this week’s portion, namely the priestly blessings or Birkat Cohanim. It is recited several times a day and has a special place on Friday evenings as part of the blessing that parents give to their children. Even though we recite it so often, or perhaps because we recite it so often, we may miss its textual nuances. As you read the verses, pay close attention to the structure and see if you notice any patterns, as well as if you can identify the basic meaning of each separate element of the blessing.

May Hashem bless you and protect you. May Hashem make his face shine on you and favor you. May Hashem raise his face to you and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Rashi explains that the first blessing is a material blessing – that your possessions and properties are to be blessed. Protection refers to physical security, that “looters must not come and take your property”. According to the Midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 11:6), the second blessing, which recites the light, is a reference to the Torah and represents a spiritual blessing. The third blessing, according to Professor Nechama Leibowitz, summarizes the previous two and adds the concept of peace, because without peace the previous blessings do not hold.

Summarizing his analysis, Professor Leibowitz writes: “Accordingly, the three sections of the priestly blessings illustrate an ascending order, beginning with a blessing concerning man’s material needs, then dealing with his spiritual needs, and finally reaching a climax combining these two factors together, crowning them with the blessing of peace.

If we juxtapose his analysis of the priestly blessing with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we notice that the first verse deals with Maslow’s first two levels, physical needs and security needs. The following verse refers to spiritual needs, which can be conceptualized to include social needs (commandments between man and his neighbour), self-realization (commandments between man and himself), and self-transcendence. (commandments between man and God). The last verse, which she says is a combination of the first two, highlights the essential idea of ​​Jewish thought, that we must integrate the physical and the spiritual.

In conclusion, Professor Leibowitz writes:[t]its ascending order and growing momentum of blessing is reflected in the language and the rhythm. The first sentence is three words, the second five, and the third seven. Strengthening the argument for literary accuracy, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks adds that not only is the number of words accurate, but also the number of letters. ! The first line has 15 Hebrew letters, the second has 20, and the third has 25. When centering the verses, the image that emerges should be familiar;

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְקוָ֖ק וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃

יָאֵ֨ר יְקוָק ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃

יִשָּׂ֨א יְקוָ֤ק ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃

When comparing the triangle depicted in the Birkat Kohanim with the triangle associated with Maslow, there is a stark difference. Maslow’s hierarchy is described as bottom-up. The long part of the triangle at the bottom represents physiological needs, while the highest point is self-actualization. A criticism of this depiction is that it can be interpreted as elitist – only a small number of people can achieve self-realization. A related criticism is that this imagery might suggest that most of the time and energy exerted by most people is devoted to the lower needs, mostly ignoring the higher needs.

In the “hierarchy of needs” presented in the Birkhat Cohanim triangle, the starting point is not down but up. Perhaps this symbolism represents a counterpoint to the aforementioned critique of the triangle associated with Maslow. These blessings are for everyone, not just the elite. Everyone has the ability and the charge to reach their potential by blending the physical and the spiritual. Also, when prioritizing our time and tasks, we should devote as little time as possible to purely material endeavors and focus most of our energies on serving God by combining the spiritual and the physical, with the hope and blessing that we can do so in a state of peace and tranquility.


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