It had been 10 years since Bert spoke with his parents. He cut them out of his life following a minor disagreement that had escalated into family warfare. Throughout the years, he sometimes thought of making peace but his pride told him that he didn’t need to. After all, he was happy without them; at least that’s what he thought. When both of Bert’s parents were suddenly killed in a car accident he was forced to face his real feelings.
When a person gets angry, says Rebbe Nachman, “a flurry of accusers and enemies come down and take charge of him. Since Bert refused to look past the surface meaning of what had happened, Hashem sent him a “surface” solution. Bert developed the worst case of psoriasis (a skin disease) that his Manhattan dermatologist had ever seen; literally every square inch of the surface of Bert’s body (except his face) became covered with a thick rash of painful, itchy scales. His skin cracked. He was covered with blood and pussy infections all over. Bert was so sensitive to-the-touch that He couldn’t wash, dress or even walk without excruciating pain. As Bert’s depression worsened, his will to live grew weaker. Suicide began to seem like his only option. He curled up in his bed, became psychotic and prayed to die. The wish to end his tortured existence continued to progressively dominated his mind.
The Torah teaches us that all human problems, illnesses and negative personality traits (such as anger) have their root in holiness and are a part of the Divine Plan to help one to advance spiritually and achieve ones true mission in life. When I first met Bert, I discovered, as I have with other psychotic people, that he had very special abilities. Clothed within his vivid and terrifying visual and auditory hallucinations was a powerful source of intelligence and creativity. Hashem’s healing Light is always there hidden even in the darkest places.
I asked Bert if he had ever had any unusual extra-sensory experiences. He told me two fascinating stories. On one occasion, he was swimming in the ocean when suddenly a storm struck and he was pulled out to sea. The powerful waves tossed him around like a leaf in a hurricane. He was pulled under water and thrown in all directions. He felt his body splitting in half. Out of air, he knew this was it. He was about die in the raging sea. Suddenly, Bert felt an indescribable calmness and confidence. He was no longer worried about breathing; the air in his lungs could last. He simply decided to wait and do nothing; and, when the ocean was done tossing him around, he’d swim safely to shore – and he did.
Bert worked on the shipping docks as a longshoreman. Once there was a very tall pile of tracker trailer tires stacked up near him (he estimated that each tire weighed almost 200 pounds). Bert didn’t see a small vehicle accidently back up into the stack - the tires began raining down toward him. Again, Bert felt the assistance of “a force outside of himself.” Everything around him, including the tires, shifted into slow motion giving Bert, who is neither athletic, nor graceful, the time that he needed to deftly weave his way out from under the danger.
Notwithstanding his profound ability to experience supernatural phenomena, Bert needed to break his anger and make amends to his deceased parents. We began to use various forms of meditation. Bert re-experienced the calm serene experiences that he had felt on the docks and in the sea. He was taught how to re-experience these calm and empowered states on his own. He visualized a “good” army of “killer” white blood cells chasing after the “foreign enemy” psoriasis cells; they surrounding and killed the enemy cells. Bert watched as the evil foreign cells staggered and fell dead with a thud before being thrown out of the body. Then, he felt a special warm feeling all over his skin; it was the gentle soothing sunshine healing his wounds. He spent a lot of time absorbing this experience. In a deeper state, Bert dreamt that a miraculous healing ointment from Heaven was being gently applied to his skin by angels with pure loving faces.
Bert began to feel a little better. His symptoms abated slightly; and it was then that Divine Providence began to turn in his favor. Rebbe Nachman says that when a man gets angry… the image of G-d disappears from his face. He no longer has the face of a man…but the appearance of a beast. Bert was startled by an old photograph of himself; there was something about his face, he said, that just revolted him: he broke down and sobbed – finally, he was in touch with his core feelings and not just those on the surface of his skin. Years of pent up feeling poured forth in a torrent. He cried out to his parents for forgiveness like a young child begging to be held and comforted one last time. He confessed to all of the evil in his heart, hurling it all out. He saw all of the mistakes he had made in his life. As he took hold of each one of his mistakes, he hurled it into the raging sea which pulverized each one into tiny bits. The image of G-d returned to Bert’s face and he was blessed with a complete cure. At our last session together Bert admitted to me, for the first time, that he had been an alcoholic for most of his life but never even tried to stop. Finally at age 57 Bert decided to recover from alcohol.
Only Hakodesh Barucho , the Holy One, Blessed is He himself, could have so perfectly orchestrated that Bert would find a picture of himself that was taken when he was in intoxicated. Hashem knew that the moment of truth, for Bert, would come when, he gazed deeply into the “face of the beast.”
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).