Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Jewish Response to Mental Illness

The room was dark.

Rabbi Eleazar was still in bed.
His face turned toward the wall.
He couldn't even bring himself to look toward the window at life and light.
Rabbi Yochanan entered the room.
He looked down through the darkness at his friend.
Rabbi Yochanan pulled a chair to the side of the bed.
He hung his jacket on the back of the chair and sat down.
The rabbi prepared to sit in this heavy silence for a long time.
He began to roll up his sleeve.
His face reflected the darkness.
But his hands and arms seemed to brighten the room with their own light.
Rabbi Eleazar turned from the wall to face his friend.
Yochanan asked: Why are you crying?
Is it because you didn't study enough Torah?
Surely we learned: the one who sacrifices much and the one who sacrifices little have the same merit, as long as they direct their hearts toward heaven.
Is it perhaps lack of wealth?
Not everyone gets to enjoy a double portion.
Perhaps you suffer because you are jealous.
Could it be that you regret not being a father?
You are looking at a man who has buried ten children!
Rabbi Eleazar looked into the darkness
for another silent moment.
Then he blinked at the brightness
of Yochanan's crisp, white shirt.
His gentle hands.
The pale skin of his forearms.
Eleazar finally spoke.
I weep because all light fades into darkness.
Because all beauty eventually rots.
After some time Rabbi Yochanan replied: On that account, you surely have reason to weep.
They wept in darkness together.
Yochanan asked: Does darkness comfort you?
Slowly, Eleazar shook his head. Maybe it did in the beginning, but it can't protect me from my thoughts.
Yochanan asked: And the silence? Is it comforting?
No.
And being alone?
Eleazar looked into his friend's eyes.
No. No, loneliness adds to my suffering.
Do you continue to welcome this darkness, this silence, this sadness?
No. Before, I couldn't bear light, noise, or laughter.
Now, I can no longer bear the alternatives. But I didn't dare to look for a way back to living.
Yochanan asked: Will you let me help you?
I will try.
Can I give you my hand?
Eleazar stretched out his hand. He felt light and life touch him. He felt strength and warmth reach him. His friend raised him out of his bed and helped him to the door.
Please read the remainder of this d'var torah here

I found this hand washing cup at The Source for Everything Jewish. It is acrylic and embedded with 100s of little flowers from Israel. Lovely isn't it?

3 comments:

Sandi said...

Thank you for this (and, while I'm at it, for everything else, too).

DrMom said...

It is MY blog... or my soapbox. I try to keep some of my opinions to myself but treating Mental Illness is what I do! I get frustrated by the Jewish community frequently playing ostrich with their head in the sand.

DrMom said...

But Sandy, you are very very welcome.