Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am so depressed I just don’t know where to turn for help. Every corner leads to a dead end and the feeling of hopelessness wears on me like an iron mantel I cannot take off. I have found no joy in anything, not my son’s recent wedding, not the birth of a grandchild whom I haven’t seen for over a year and not the coming of a new day when I arise in the morning.
I feel nothing when I daven, I just go through the motions by rote, not because I believe or have faith but simply because I don’t want anyone to know the black cloud that has enveloped my heart and overtaken my soul. My wife just thinks it’s because of all the covid misery we have been enduring for nearly two years, and she may be right, but it losing meaning for me as to why this explanation should make me feel any better. The vision I have is only bleak and hopeless and my faith, which once held me up, sustained me and brought me joy has disappeared entirely blocking out everyone’s words of comfort.
You may find this all the more tragic because I am a rabbi of an impressive number of congregants and I am afraid that what and who I have morphed into is beginning to show. I turn to you because I read your column and often your words somehow find the small crack in my being that still allows such logic to seep in. I am feelingless. Please help me find the empathy I must have to lead my flock and guide them. I am without hope. Please show me then how to instill and maintain hope in those who look to me for comfort. I am without faith. How can I elevate another’s faith when I feel abandoned by my G-d. I am half the man I was mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Can you help me find my way back?
Although I know it will do little for you to hear that you are not alone and that you share, perhaps to a greater degree, the great challenges that most of us live with. First, let me assure you that our Heavenly Father has not abandoned you, nor any of His children. You, more than anyone else should understand on a greater level than most, that all things in our world happen for reasons that we cannot understand but that the Almighty decrees, for our own benefit. Even what we perceive to see as punishment or abandonment wrapped in pain, sorrow and bewilderment that Hashem could allow this to happen to His children and His creations, we would be wrong and greatly amiss in such thoughts and they would yield all the wrong answers because we tend to ask them from a dark place.
A father has children who, as they grow older, start to challenge him, then defy him until, ultimately, they turn away and shun him altogether. The father is left with little choice but to increase the punishments as their behavior grows worse, until ultimately, he allows them to bring about their own destruction, but turns away so that he does not have to see them suffer. from their own misdeeds. I’m sure you see the correlation buried in the metaphor and how the story applies to all of us. I will not be disrespectful in plainly pointing out the nuances. You are a man of the clothe, you have undertaken to be a teacher, a role model, an example and a parent to all in your congregation who require any said service of the many hats you wear. But we are all human and prone to fall on occasion on that slippery slope of life. Even the mighty lose their footing. And herein lies the comfort, the solution and the cure.
Just as the father waits for his wayward children to return to him and beg his forgiveness, so too does HaKodosh Boruch Hu await our teshuva and return to the Torah way of life, to stop lusting for things and pleasures we want to enjoy but that are not meant for us because ultimately they will lead the way to destruction. Our Father has never left us, we have left Him! He has never abandoned us, we have abandoned Him! He has never forsaken us, we have forgotten His blessings and goodness and replaced them with what we thought was better. So He stepped back and turned away from us so as not to witness the pain of His wayward and disobedient children. He Was, He Is, and He Is always with us. We just have to return to Him.
Dear Rabbi, we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, and it is now that you must pull yourself up to your full height and reach deep within yourself to find the core of who you are and who you chose to be. In order to be a leader, you must be sure of yourself and set the standard that your congregants need to see in their rabbi. I firmly believe that you can pull yourself up from this fall and return to them the rabbi they are proud of and to whom they look for their own assurance, guidance and comfort.
May this New Year bring you strength in your convictions, peace in your heart and the return of absolute trust, faith and love in Hashem Yisborach Shemo who is ever with you as He is with us all. We have but to place our trust in Him, have faith in Him and adhere to the life He has blueprinted for us in His Torah. May your success in this endeavor be a zechus for us all to welcome Mashiach in the days to come.