Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am severely depressed and have nowhere to turn for help. All words of comfort fall off my deaf ears and my eyes are blind to any light of hope. Every corner leads to a dead end and the feeling of hopelessness wears on me like an iron mantel fused to my skin and which I cannot remove. I find no joy in anything, not in weddings or births of grandchildren nor the hope that comes with the dawning of a new day.
I feel nothing when I daven. I just mouth the words and go through the motions by rote not because I believe or have faith, but simply because I don’t want anyone to see the black cloud that has enveloped my heart and overtaken my soul. A therapist came to the conclusion that it is because of the state of the world and the huge mapolah of Covid deaths that have stifled my spirit and, for a time I thought, perhaps he is right. But I can no longer force myself to believe this as it does little to take away the mental and emotional pain it only masks. Hope is non-existent and the loss of faith that once sustained me and brought me joy has vanished, thus blocking out any source of comfort.
You may find this all the more tragic because I am a pulpit rabbi of an impressive number of congregants and I am afraid that who and what I have become is beginning to show. I turn to you because I read your column and sometimes your words find the small crack in my being that still allows some threads of logic to seep in. But I am feelingless.
Please help me find the empathy so vital in leading my flock and guiding them. I am without hope. Show me how to instill hope in those who look to me for comfort. I am without faith, how then can I instill faith in others when I feel abandoned by my G-d. I am a fraction of the man I was years ago mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I am lost and cannot find my way back.
Although I surmise it will do little good for you to hear that you are not alone, these last several years have done much to rob us of our ‘simchas hachaim.’ First, let me assure you that our Av Shebashamayim has never abandoned us. You, more than anyone, should understand on a higher level than most that all things in our world are beyond our ability to comprehend. But that the Almighty decrees for our greater good, even what we perceive as punishment or abandonment, wrapped in pain, sorrow and bewilderment that Hashem would allow this to happen to His children and His Creation, we would be wrong and sorely amiss in such thought and would ultimately sink deeper into the abyss because it comes from a dark place. We must find the emunah shelaima and not to ask ‘why’ because we don’t know the answer.
A man has children who, as they grow older start to challenge him, then they outright defy him, until ultimately, they turn away and shun him because they believe they know better. The father is left with little recourse but to watch as their bad behavior grows worse until they bring about their own destruction. From a distance he weeps as he watches their suffering which they themselves have brought about from their own misdeeds. I’m sure you see the correlation buried in the metaphor and how the story applies to all of us.
You are a man of the cloth, a rabbi, a teacher and you have undertaken the task of being an exemplary role model and a ‘parent’ to all in your congregation who require any service you can render. Yet we are all human and prone on occasion to fall on the slippery slopes of life. Even the mighty have lost their footing and therein lies the comfort, the salvation and the cure. We pick ourselves up and beg the Almighty to forgive us our transgression just as the father awaits his wayward children to return to him, so too does HaKadosh Baruch Hu await our return to Him and to the Torah way of life we have veered away from. Our Father has never left us, it is we who have left Him by lusting after things that are not designed for us and that lead us away from Him. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has never abandoned us, we have abandoned Him and in so doing, have bought about our own downfalls. Yet, He awaits our return to Him.
Times are hard and getting harder in the foreseeable future because we have drifted away from our Father. The summer is over and the Yomim Noraim are once again upon us. It is now that you must pull yourself up to your full height and potential and reach deep within yourself to find the core of who you are and who you chose to be. In order to fulfill your destiny as a leader, you must be sure of yourself, re-establish your connection with Hashem and reaffirm, recommit and reconsecrate yourself to Him in order to do His work. Set the highest standards your congregation looks for in their rabbi. I firmly believe that you can achieve this and return to your congregation the rabbi they are proud of and to whom they can turn to in their moment of joy or pain, for assurance, guidance and comfort. I know you will succeed in this endeavor. Hatzlacha Rabba!