Michael Doochin’s 7½-year quest to gain a deeper understanding of an important Jewish text concludes today.
He studied the five books that make up the Tanya with Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel of Congregation Beit Tefilah in Bellevue for at least an hour and a half to three hours a week since March 1998.
The men met almost every week over the years to focus on a few pages at a time of the text, which contemplates the metaphysical aspects of God, creation, Judaism and the human soul, Doochin said. “Judaism has this incredible heritage and all this time, I’ve rediscovered aspects of it,” said the Nashvillian, adding that he gained deeper insight about purpose and the meaning of life.
“More things speak to me that didn’t before I started this process. … We are all connected with each other and we’re all part of this divine unity. With Kabbalah, you start feeling it not only intellectually but also in your heart. It also changes your relationships with people.”
Doochin, a married father of three who owns Interstate Packaging Company in White Bluff, finds himself more patient with colleagues and others in his life now.
Before studying the Tanya, a book central to Kabbalah, Doochin had no experience with the text or the ancient Jewish mystical tradition. It’s recommended that scholars be at least 40, married and observant before embarking on intense study of Kabbalah.
“When you’re married, your soul is completed,” said Doochin, 52. “When you’re over the age of 40, you have the experiences of life. This was a process for me, and I learned that it was an important one.”
Tiechtel was impressed with Doochin’s dedication. “When Michael studied Tanya, a basic book of Jewish mysticism based on the Kabbalah, he focused on how one can live a life of fulfillment and satisfaction,” he said. “It is a gift for one to take the time to try to understand purpose of creation, why they are created and God’s understanding the world.”
Congregation Beit Tefilah Chabad, one of five Jewish congregations in Nashville, is a part of the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The writings of Russian Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who published the Tanya in 1796, influenced the formation of this Jewish movement and organization.
Doochin wanted to grow stronger in his faith by immersing himself in holy writings. He and his wife, Linda Kartoz-Doochin, live in the Forest Hills area of Nashville. The family attends services at Beit Tefilah and Congregation Micah.
“Michael has a great mind and a great thirst for knowledge,” Kartoz-Doochin said. “I think this has been as spiritually uplifting for him as it has been for me.”
Doochin’s study concludes after the High Holidays — Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when time is set aside to atone for one’s sins over the past year. “The Tanya talks about living a life of fulfillment,” Tiechtel said. “Yom Kippur is a day that we look back at the past year, recall our actions and how we may make amends and improve the world around us.”
Doochin’s study happens to be ending just as Jews around the world mark the ending of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. His years-long journey is an unusual one, Tiechtel said.
“I teach Kabbalah all the time, but no one has taken up this endeavor to study with this commitment. It’s been a growing experience for not only him but for me, too. When you learn something yourself, you understand it. But to really internalize it is to give it over and teach it to someone else. It has been an enriching experience to study with a lay person who has great interest in following up what he has learned.”