The Age of Anxiety

Vials of valium and an assortment of anti-depressants and “uppers” can be found in the medicine cabinets of the very best homes.

Tzvi Fishman ,

T'shuva
T'shuva
Penima

It is no secret that there is great darkness, confusion, and pain in the world. Bookstores are filled with self-help books on how to be happy. Layman’s guides to psychology line shelf after shelf. Our generation has been called “the age of anxiety.” People often live out their lives plagued with depression, sickness, a sense of non-fulfillment and constant unrest. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and humanists have become the prophets of the moment, proposing dozens of theories to explain man’s existential dilemmas.

Whether it is because we suffer from an Oedipus complex, or from a primal anxiety at having been separated from the womb, from sexual repression, or from the trauma of death, mankind is beset with neuroses. Vials of valium and an assortment of anti-depressants and “uppers” can be found in the medicine cabinets of the very best homes. Not to mention the twenty-four-hour bombardment of work, television, computer games, Facebook, Internet surfing, and drugs which people use to blot out the never-ending angst that they feel.

Rabbi Kook understands all of this darkness and anguish. He sees its source not in external causes, not in the traumas of childhood, nor in the pressures to conform to behavioral norms. He looks beyond social, cultural, psychological, sexual, and family dynamics to shed spiritual light on the world’s confusion and pain. In his book, “Orot HaT’shuva,” Rabbi Kook writes:

“What is the cause of melancholy? The answer is the over-abundance of evil deeds, evil character traits, and evil beliefs on the soul. The souls deep sensitivity feels the bitterness which these cause, and it draws back, frightened and depressed.”

“All depression stems from sin, and t’shuva comes to light the soul and transforms the depression to joy. The source of the general pain in the world derives from the overall moral pollution of the universe, resulting from the sins of nations and individual man.”

“Every sin causes a special anxiety on the spirit, which can only be erased by t’shuva. According to the depth of the t’shuva, the anxiety itself is transformed into inner security and courage. The outer manifestation of anxiety which is caused by transgression can be discerned in the lines of the face, in a person’s movements, in the voice, in behavior, and one’s handwriting, in the manner of speaking and one’s language, and above all, in writing, in the development of ideas and their presentation.”

The melancholy and anxiety haunting mankind is not a result of the “trauma of birth,” but of a spiritual separation much deeper — the separation from G-d.

“I see how transgressions act as a barrier against the brilliant Divine light which shines on every soul, and they darken and cast a shadow upon the soul.”

The remedy is t’shuva — for the individual, the community, and for the world. Rabbi Kook teaches that to discover true inner joy, every person, and all of Creation, must return to the Source of existence and forge a living connection to G-d.

The paperbacks on personal improvement, psychology, and self-help which line bookstore shelves, contain many useful insights and tips. After all, man is influenced by a wide gamut of factors dating back even before his conception, through his time in the womb, his childhood years, and spanning the many life passages each of us face.

Rabbi Kook reveals that in addition to all of the fashionable theories and cures, on a far deeper level, there is a spiritual phenomenon of wondrous beauty, like a butterfly enclosed in a cocoon, waiting to soar free. This is the light and healing wonder of t’shuva.

[Excerpted from the book, “The Art of T’shuva” by HaRav David Samson and Tzvi Fishman]

Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."



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