13 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Pinchas
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Quicksand of Despair    

Quicksand of Despair

The young lady came from a religious home but had served in the army and had transgressed grave sins. She was so depressed that she was ready to commit suicide...


As recounted in the book of Genesis, when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers he said, “Now don't be distressed or angry with yourselves that you sold me...” The emphasis is on the word “now.” In the book Living Each Week, Rabbi Abraham Twerski says that repentance is a Divine gift to mankind to free one from the shackles of the past. The message from Joseph: You have sincerely repented and you have redeemed yourselves. There is no need to ruminate on the past. Repentance removes the need for anger or depression. There is no need for self-persecution.


Don’t Rehash the Past


Rabbi Elimelech Biederman tells the following story about the Chazon Ish: The Chazon Ish once said to his sister, “Don’t open the door for anyone.” A short while later a girl began knocking loudly on his door. “Don't open the door for her,” the Chazon Ish repeated. Nevertheless, the girl persisted in knocking and soon she was pounding on the door. The Chazon Ish’s sister said, “If we don’t let her in she’ll soon be inside anyway because she’s going to knock the door down!” The Chazon Ish told his sister to send the girl to Reb Wolf who was the head of the Bais Yaakov school system in Bnai Brak.


A short time later Reb Wolf came to see the Chazon Ish and told him the girl’s story. He explained that the young lady came from a religious home but had served in the army and had transgressed grave sins. She was so depressed he feared she was ready to commit suicide. The Chazon Ish said to tell her that thinking about past sins is more severe than the sin itself. "Tell her not to rehash the past.  She should go on with her life and ignore what happened."


This advice saved her life. She eventually married and built a Torah home.


Making a New Beginning


When I went to Uman for Rosh Hashanah for the first time several years ago, I heard Rabbi Shalom Arush deliver a powerful and life changing message. The Evil Inclination is not so much interested in the sin itself as it is in the sadness and depression that follow. The sadness and depression immobilize you and prevent you from connecting to Hashem.


When we experience a setback he told us to say, “Hashem, from this moment on I desire to come close to You.  Please help me make a new beginning.” He cited the Gemara in tractate Kiddushin where it says that sincere thoughts of repentance make one righteous in Hashem’s eyes. This enables us to move forward, make a fresh start and elevate our service to Hashem, unshackled by the chains of depression.


Knowing that Hashem considers us righteous and still loves us is incredibly liberating and empowering.  Rav Arush said that when we do this, it will be the Evil Inclination who will be depressed and no psychiatrist will be able to help him!


To be honest, I had read aspects of this message in his books and had listened to it in the CD’s, but hearing it in person from Rav Arush made a much more powerful impression on me and helped bring into my heart. Since that night I’ve used this stratagem numerous times as a circuit breaker to stop a downward spiral and get back up off the mat.


As Rav Arush writes in Garden of Wisdom, if merely having thoughts of repentance makes you a righteous person, imagine the impact of declaring a new beginning and actually changing patterns of thought, speech and action!


Stay out of the Quicksand


I recently came across this powerful adage, “People will come and go in life, but the person in the mirror will be there for your entire lifetime. Be good to yourself.”


Repentance enables us to accept the gift of Hashem’s forgiveness and love. By doing so, we can avoid the quicksand of despair and make our setbacks part of the repentance and growth process. Our failures can then become stepping stones to spiritual progress and enhanced closeness to Hashem.

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