Don’t mention it

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Exhibit A:

Studies show that depression and anxiety are more rampant than ever. Suicide, drug and alcohol abuse and divorce are at all-time highs as well. The number one cause of death in the world is heart disease and depressed people are four times as likely to have a heart attack.

Exhibit B:

We all agree that the western world is currently undergoing an information revolution. We have far superior technological capacity to store, communicate and compute information than ever before. This technology not only gives us access to scientific, behavioral and literary information that was inaccessible prior to, but it also compounds and speeds up the level of produced information in the world as well.

But more information isn’t bad, is it? Well, it depends on how the information is presented and who it’s presented to. If scientific information is presented, as it mostly is, with the intention to belittle faith and increase skepticism, it can be a dangerous medium of information. When it’s presented to people whose faith is weak, whether because they’re religious education was poor or whether they went through some traumatic events within the religious system, those recipients of that information will likely buy-in to the anti-religious peripherals that swarm around their beloved information.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that all the pain and suffering in the world is from not believing in Divine Providence (Torah 250). I believe that so much of the scientific information which we read and circulate, that is presented without the intent to glorify God’s presence in the world, has the opposite effect. Just merely reading about scientific breakthroughs that coincidentally omit the existence of our Creator infuses us with doubt as to His existence, and ultimately His Guidance. In my opinion this is a huge factor behind the increase of depression, atheism and overall hopelessness that pervades the world.

The central theme of Pesach is faith. As Reb Nosson explains (Netilas Yadayim 2), Chometz represents the atheistic scientists and Matzoh represents those who believe in Hashem’s providence. For seven days we need to rid ourselves totally of any denial or doubt of Hashem’s supremacy in our daily lives. It’s not an easy battle. We really need to topple over that doubtful side of us, just like the Egyptians had to be drowned in the sea. I’m sure many might read this article and think “Oh please! I believe in Hashem and nothing I read or see has any effect on that for me”. Let’s not lie to ourselves. At least for those seven days, let’s stop the evil inculcation and only imbue within ourselves strong teachings of faith and belief. Beware though, you might actually start to feel happy. You’ll probably be less cynical and more hopeful too. Consider yourself warned. Happy Passover!

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Holy tears

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The Talmud tells a story about Rav Ketina, who was passing by the door of a wizard when the earth shook violently. He asked the wizard, “Do you know what causes an earthquake”? The wizard replied, “When the Holy One remembers that His children are suffering among the nations, He sheds two tears into the Great Sea, and His voice is heard from one end of the world to the other (Berachos 59a).

I just came back from Leżajsk where we visited the grave of the great chassidic master, Rav Elimelech from Lizhensk, who’s yahrtzeit is today. It was a very powerful experience to be together with thousands of Jews who make the yearly pilgrimage. There is a tradition passed down from several chassidic masters that whoever visits his grave will certainly be inspired to come back to Hashem before he leaves this world. I felt that feeling of Tshuva when I was there. It was a little scary, but good-scary. I spent a lot of time talking to the tzaddik about my friends and loved ones. I felt so much unique love for many of the people whose names I brought to the Rebbe, smiling as I pictured them in my head. I had a certain clarity when characterizing their situations to the Rebbe, as well as when I discussed my own circumstances. I shed tears and felt waves of truth crashing over me. I don’t easily cry but sometimes the tears were to be expected and sometimes not.

In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. (The Rebbe brings a number of sources for this). This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling. Not only that, but seeing someone else we love cry can arouse us to cry too. Truth is contagious. Unfortunately we go through much of life wearing an armor of defense, so we can escape the uncomfortability of feeling vulnerable. But it’s important to be real and allow ourselves to be exposed every once in awhile, so our true soul could shine and draw down all the remedies it knows it needs.

 

 

 

לעילוי נשמת הצדיק של הצדיקים רבינו אלימלך בן הרב אליעזר ליפמן זצ״ל