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Feeling Depressed?

GYE Admin Thursday, 10 November 2016

The winter months can often make us feel down and depressed. And when feeling that way, our natural instinct is to reach for those things that make us "feel good”, which we all know on GYE can lead us down a destructive path. So what attitude can we adapt to stay out of trouble?

It’s interesting to note that after all the Yomim Tovim have ended and we are no longer blowing Shofar or saying “Ledovid” each day, there is still one thing that we take from Yom Tov with us into the winter months. The words “Mashiv Haruach Umorid Hageshem” that we started saying on the very last day of Simchas Torah is the only prayer that escorts us into the cold winter months ahead. What lies in these words that makes them the only thing that we take with us into the new year?

The Sefer “Doleh U’mashkeh” brings that the words “Mashiv Haruach” really mean – “If you want to maintain and preserve the “Ruach” – the Ruchniyus part of you and (all that you gained during the Chaggim) then “morid hageshem” – make sure to keep DOWN the “Geshem” – the Gashmius side of your life. The less we indulge in Geshem, the more we bring our Ruach to LIFE.

If we contemplate our inner feelings when feeling down or depressed, we will often find that the root of these feelings stems from the conflict between our own will and the will of G-d. This conflict leaves us feeling down because we never feel that we can satisfy both of these wills properly. Indeed Chazal say that the two Yuds in the words “va’yeetzer” - וייצר ה' אלוקים את האדם– come to teach us that a person by their very nature, is always saying: אוי לי מיצרי, אוי לי מיוצרי– “Woe to me from my Yetzer (my will), and woe to me from my Creator (His will)”.

Where can we find in the Torah someone who was depressed, and Hashem Himself gave this person advice on how to get out of his depression?

When Kayin and Hevel both brought sacrifices for Hashem, it says that Kayin brought from the fruits of the earth and Hevel brought from his “first born sheep and their fats”. After Hashem accepted Hevel’s sacrifice and didn’t turn to Kayin’s, it says about Kayin that “his face fell”. He was depressed. Like we explained before, the root of all depression is the conflict between our will and G-d’s will. On the one hand, Kayin wanted to do G-d’s will and bring a sacrifice, but on the other hand, his OWN will wouldn’t allow him to sacrifice that which was truly precious to him like Hevel did. When Kayin saw that G-d didn't accept this strategy, he became depressed that he couldn’t properly fulfill both his own will and G-d’s will at the same time.

And what did Hashem tell him? “Why are you upset, why has your face fallen? If you will do better, you will be carried”. Most mefarshim explain “carried” as “forgiven”. But perhaps it can also mean that when we let go of our own will, we feel happier and lighter - we can carry ourselves. When we throw our will onto Hashem (as the Pasuk says “Shlach al Hashem Yehavecha”), Hashem will carry us and we will no longer feel heavy and down.

We can learn from this that to get out of depression, we have to let go of the illusion that we can fulfill both our own will and G-d’s will equally and fully. We have to be ready to give up our “firstborn sheep and their fats”, i.e. that which is truly precious to us, if we want to find favor in G-d’s eyes and begin to truly LIVE.

The Gemara in Tamid (32a) brings 10 questions that Alexander the Great asked our Sages. One of them was, “What should a man do to LIVE?” and the sages responded, “Yamis Atzmo - He should kill himself”. The death of one’s “SELF” is what brings a person to true LIFE. As they say in the 12-Step program (lev’havdil), “Give it all away to get it back”.

So whenever we are feeling down, let us try to remember the root of these feelings. And instead of seeking out things that “make us feel good”, we have the opportunity – specifically then – to GIVE UP the “fats” of our hearts to Hashem and do His will even when it’s difficult. And then we will merit to truly feel ALIVE.