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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Toras Hashem’

An Inner Harmony Like No Other

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Although I am only 40 years old, I feel as if I have discovered the ultimate emotional healing remedy. More than a great relationship, soothing music, superb entertainment or any otherworldly pleasure, I have come to the realization, after having tried so many ways to cope with melancholy and hopelessness, that our holy eternal Torah is the key to the comprehensive development of one’s psyche. This is especially so when dealing with a wounded soul. Despite being taught in yeshivos and in our girls’ high schools “Toras Hashem temimah, meshivas nefesh – studying our Torah revitalizes and rejuvenates our souls,” we often move on in life and place the pursuit of Torah study on our proverbial backburner.

Here’s my question: Do you or any other Orthodox therapist utilize this priceless advice when counseling your patients who are suffering or recovering from mental illness or who are just plain depressed? While here in the United States we have the greatest surplus of blessing that mankind has ever experienced, we are still witness to a staggering number of individuals who are suffering from depression – and even some who have resorted to suicide. In the Torah-observant community, however, we are, thank G-d, not as heavily affected by these and other social ills. The strong promotion by our families of a purposeful life that espouses giving, learning and teaching no doubt plays a pivotal role in keeping us emotionally healthier than the general population.

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense, especially for male clients, to be encouraged by their therapists or psychiatrists to attend Torah lectures or to have regularly scheduled study partners as a means of repairing an emotionally damaged or wounded mind?

Having benefited from both psychotherapy and psychiatric medications, and as one who has seen many others heal as well, I have come to recognize that the healing procedures based on these scientific methods alone are somewhat incomplete and superficial, as they do not heal the soul but rather the physical body and spirit.

Jews are highly complex individuals who are never really happy unless our holy neshamos are fed the proper spiritual nutrients. Many complain of feeling empty inside or of having a certain longing and hunger that seems so unquenchable that it hurts terribly. If only more of our parents, friends and educators would illustrate to those of us who battle perpetual emotional pain that Hashem’s eternal gift to us is not only a tool in achieving the greatest mitzvah but that it also contains the healing properties that no other physical, medical or psychological medicine can deliver. I write this based on 20 years of experience battling clinical depression. If only I had adhered to my Torah instructors’ admonitions about the celestial powers of Torah study decades ago, I probably would have experienced fewer dark days and scary nights of severe melancholy.

Even Torah scholars are at times smitten with inexplicable sadness, but their ability to recover certainly includes having recaptured the joy that Torah learning afforded them. Yet they might have stopped experiencing it due to their chronic illness. Therapy and medication can help them learn Torah once again, ultimately providing them with the inner peace and sense of self- esteem that is deep in their souls.

Is Torah learning, or doing chesed and other mitzvos, part of the wise advice that you give your clients? Is that the usual practice for frum therapists? Torah learning’s healing effect on me is quite apparent and long lasting.

I’d appreciate your feedback, based on your experience, on this matter.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I was very inspired to receive your letter. Frum therapists walk a fine line on this issue. For instance, I receive mixed reviews when I suggest that people ask Daas Torah. Although I agree with you, not all people are on your madregah. Some clients may feel resentful when a therapist “directs” them instead of listening to their feelings. As a therapist I see my job as one of listening to the client’s pain and trying to guide them properly. If a person is happy with himself or herself, the individual has an easier time learning and doing chesed. It is also true that being productive can help people emerge from depression. Thus being productive emanates from learning and doing chesed.

For most people chesed should begin at home. Those who immerse themselves with outside chesed sometimes forget their own loved ones. I am often forced to remind people who become overly involved with outside chesed projects that the welfare of their families should be their priority. Someone who feels an inner sense of simchas hachaim has the yishuv ha’daas (clear mind) to learn with more enthusiasm. I believe that most frum therapists do not see their role as urging clients to learn and daven. I find that when my clients are happier in their shalom bayis, it helps them to learn and daven with more serenity.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/12/08

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Dear Readers:

To no one’s surprise, families are going through trying times as singles anxiously await their life partners. This column has heard from suffering mothers whose hearts ache as they watch their children rejected and dejected, singles/parents experiencing difficulties out of the norm, and well intentioned “as I see it” criticizers.

Last week’s column featured an eye-opening letter from an exasperated single, who – in her early 30s – is keenly conscious of the clock that ticks in sync with her diminishing procreative capacity.

So powerful is her nurturing instinct and so strong her desire for family life that she has opted to widen the parameters of her shidduch guidelines and is dating a man who she describes as kind, generous, smart, funny, honest, serious and mature − but not observant.

Dear Thirty-Something,

Only one who walks in your shoes can claim to feel your pain. And how exhilarating it must be to have the company of a man with such a winning combination of attributes! Your own intelligence and crisp clarity of mind are discernable in your methodical articulation of your dilemma.

Yet, while laying out your case in favor of forging ahead in “new” territory, you concede that doing so may come at a high cost to your principles, as you will be compromising the mores of the belief system that has been your guiding compass from childhood on.

Your inner struggle is apparent. “I am not oblivious to the consequences,” you state outright. You furthermore are “taking the risks quite seriously” and admit that the pros on your list do not outweigh the cons. You speak of the strong probability that you will not delight in Shabbos zemiros or Torah discussions at your table and the likelihood that you will be making concessions on halachos. These unsettling thoughts have you crying out at intervals in your letter – “What do I do?” “What more can I consider right now?” “But what am I to do?”

Your uneasiness is justified. You yourself don’t put much stock in your friend’s lukewarm aspiration to be religious “when he is married; however not at this point in time.” Let us examine the stark reality up-close: When you date, you pick the site, you choose the time and the activity, and when the day is done you both retreat to your respective abodes, to your own individual lives and agendas.

Life together, on the other hand, is altogether a different story. Once the honeymoon phase wanes, there is only so far you will go before coming to a fork in the road. How many rifts will it take before you realize that love doesn’t conquer all? How many “compromises” will you make before your admiration for your beau’s brains, generosity and maturity begins to dwindle?

Whom will your children emulate as their role model? Whom will your son look up to, lean on and learn from (and with)? How long before your own enthusiasm for your religion and rich heritage begins to wither; before the fabric of your culture will start to unravel? And if you will manage to keep strong and hold on to the practice of your faith, how long before your respect for your life-partner gives way to frustration and resentment of a spouse who does not share your value system?

Then again, there is a possibility that it may work out. Perhaps if he were faced with the real prospect of losing you, the holy spark within his soul would awaken him to earnestly commit to a religious way of life. (If he has had an upbringing in such a setting, this would increase the chance of his coming around.)

Otherwise, you must ask yourself whether you are ready and willing to chance jeopardizing the lives of innocents who will be born totally reliant on you, whose neshamos will come into the world with the natural expectation to be nurtured, taught and primed by their parents in the ways of Toras Hashem.

As an adult you have the right to choose, to decide how to live your life. However, there is something not quite right – amoral, in fact – in knowingly endangering the sacredness of innocents whose charge you will be entrusted with.

You claim to be G-d-fearing, religious and serious. Surely, then, you take your religion seriously. You feel that matchmakers are not as concerned with you (older singles) as with the younger generation. Do you mean to say that you have actually entertained the thought that your Maker, the Arbiter of all matchmakers, is less interested in you than in the younger generation? Believe purely and simply that nothing is beyond His capability; beseech Him purely and simply to guide you in the right direction; rely on Him whole- heartedly to lead you where you were meant to go and He will relieve you of the enormous burden of uncertainty.

If all your friend can offer is a “maybe one day I’ll think about becoming observant,” your projection as to how your future with him will play out may prove prophetic. Notwithstanding that the choice is yours to make, be forewarned that the consequences of that choice will be with you a lifetime − and the hands of the clock cannot ever be turned back.

If it is children you yearn for, consider the option of becoming a foster or adoptive parent to a child who has already been brought into the world but has been shortchanged and is in desperate need of a mother’s love and nurturing. The satisfaction and benefits of such an arrangement can be vastly fulfilling.

On behalf of our communities everywhere: We applaud your achievements, admire your resilience, and appreciate the contributions you selflessly endow us with. May you continue to enhance the quality of the lives that you touch and merit to do so with your zivug at your side − as you go on to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-127/2008/12/10/

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