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In a world made of steel, we can learn to heal

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A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

Robert Frost, “A Question”

So far, this year in particular, it has been hard to stay present. The noisy news, the pitiful politics, and the limitless lockdown – all have brought their challenges into 2021. As I reflected on this lockdown, the only word which came to my mind was “exile”.

Exile from my own ‘normal’ life, it seems, is what G-d is asking of me. Yet, when I looked deeper at the concept of “exile”, so pivotal to our heritage, in Judaism, I was shocked.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the 18th Century Hassidic master, suggests that the Jewish concept of exile is not narrowly defined in physical terms.

“Exile” is symptomatic of sadness and depression which overpowers the heart. Conversely, a person that is in a good frame of mind in a joyous state would not be “in exile”.

The question is how we should proceed from a state of sadness and depression in the exile mindset to a liberated and redeemed state of joy and happiness. It is worth noting that some 264 million people, according to the WHO, of all ages, suffer from depression of some kind. Indeed, it was first named as a condition over 2,400 years ago, when Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek physician called it “melancholia”.

Indeed, depression is not a respecter of fame or fortune. From Eminem to Emily Dickinson, to Ellen Degeneres to Edvard Munch – all are well-known examples of people who have struggled with the “black dog”.

Rabbi Nachman offers the following analogy.

Imagine a wedding – a joyous occasion. Many different types of guests arrive at the wedding. Filled with uncles, aunts, family, friends, and plus-ones.

Despite it being a Simcha, (and this is the terrible truth of things) not necessarily all the guests will arrive in the same mindset

There are two groups, those people that are in a joyous frame of mind and those that are in the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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