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TOPIC TITLE: Rebbe's letter
Created On 2/2/14 9:53 PM
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gad
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2/2/14 9:53 PM
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I am pasting the following letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on anxiety. The letter just came to my attention.

The Rebbe was writing to an individual, and what he writes here is not necessarily for everyone.
But I am posting it, because I think that many of the ideas and explanations can be useful to many people.




By the Grace of G-d
26th of Teves, 5725
[December 31, 1964]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with the enclosure, in which you write about your problem of acute anxiety, and ask my advice.

The best and most effective thing to do, in a situation such as yours, is to study thoroughly those sections and chapters in our sacred books where the matter of Divine Providence and Bitochon are discussed, such as Chovos Halvovos, Shaar Habitochon, and similar. It is well to keep in mind those chapters and verses in the Tehillim which speak of these subjects, as well as the Midrashim and interpretations of our Sages on them. These things should be studied with such depth that they should become a part of one’s thinking. In this way there will be no room left for any kind of anxiety or worry, and as King David said in the Tehillim, “G-d is with me, I shall not fear. What can man do unto me!”

As you well know, the matter of Hashgocho Protis is the basis of true monotheism, a concept which to us means not only that G-d is one, but that there is oneness in the whole of Nature. In other words, the whole universe has one Supreme Being, Who not only is the Creator of everything, but also is the Master, continually supervising every detail of his handiwork. The corollary of this is that there cannot be a single point in the whole order of the world which is separated from the Supreme Being, or in any way not subject to His control. At the same time it is obvious that the Supreme Being is also the Essence of Perfection and Goodness. And although many things in the world seem imperfect, and require completion or perfection, there can be no doubt that there is a perfect order in the world, and even the lowest in the scale of Creation, namely the inanimate things, display wonderful perfection and symmetry, as can be seen from the atoms and molecules of inorganic matter. Hence, the conclusion must be that even those things which require completion are also part of the perfect order, and necessary for the fulfillment of the good, as all this is explained at length in the teachings of Chassidus. It is explained there that in order for a man to attain perfection, it is necessary that he should also have the feeling that he is not only on the receiving end, but also a contributor, and according to the expression of our Sages of blessed memory, “A partner in the Creation.” This is why many things have been left in the world for him to improve and perfect.

I also want to make the further observation, and this is also essential, that there is really no basis for anxiety at any time, and as you yourself mentioned in your letter, that you find no reason for it. Even in such cases where you think you know the reason for your anxiety, the reason is undoubtedly imaginary, or at any rate, not the real cause. For the real cause is that one’s daily life is not in complete harmony with the true essence of a Jew. In such a case it is impossible not to have an awkward feeling that things do not seem to fit somehow, and it is this disharmony which is at the bottom of the anxiety, and it is in proportion to the discrepancy between his way of life and his true natural self.

Everybody recognizes that anxiety has to do with the psyche. But in the case of a Jew, the so-called psyche is really the Neshama. Some Jews have a particularly sensitive soul, in which case the above-mentioned disharmony would create a greater anxiety. In such a case even subtle and “minor” infractions of Dikdukei Mitzvoth would create anxiety. But even in the case of an ordinary soul of the average Jew, there must inevitably be created some anxiety if there is a failure to observe the fundamental Mitzvoth. It is very possible that the above may have a bearing on your situation. If this is so, then all that is necessary is to rectify matters, and bring the daily life and conduct into complete harmony with the essence of the soul, through strict adherence to the Torah and Mitzvoth. Then the symptoms will disappear of themselves.

It is necessary to mention also that in your case, where your position gives you a great deal of influence on your environment, your influence is an integral part of your harmonious life, and it is therefore essential that your influence, too, should be in harmony with the Torah and Mitzvoth in the fullest measure.

I suggest that you should also have the Mezuzoth of your home checked, as also your Tefillin, and before putting on your Tefillin every weekday morning, to put aside a small coin for Tzedoko.

Hoping to hear good news from you in regard to all the matters discussed above

With blessing

P.S. As for the question of seeing me personally in connection with this year’s occurrence, the calendar of appointments is filled to capacity and for a long time in advance. But the important thing is that it is not at all necessary for you to take the trouble and time to see me personally, inasmuch as all I could tell you is what I wrote to you above.


Edited: 2/2/14 at 9:59 PM by gad
 
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Lasthope
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2/3/14 1:44 PM
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It can be tricky to balance the reality of mental illness and the Torahs perspective. These kinds of letters dont help but rather make me realize how little the big Rabbis understand about mental illness. Would he say that someone got cancer because he has a sensitive soul? I dont know, i have a lit to say on this subject but just want to point out that we need to take everything with a grain of salt. The person suffering from anxiety who wrote the letter may have needed more than just dtrengthening his or her emunah. They may have needed medication and therapy. The torah does advocate those too.
 
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gad
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2/3/14 2:51 PM
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I wrote at the beginning of the post, that the letter is not necessarily for everyone.

But you can choose which parts might be useful to you.

The rebbe has often encouraged people who need to go to a doctor for their mental health, that they should follow the doctor's instructions.

 
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HopefulMommy
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2/4/14 1:28 AM
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I agree with Lasthope. Look at the date of this letter -- 1964. This was before all those medications we take for granted now became available. Maybe in those days someone with anxiety had no real solution, but these days, B"H, there are things like Xanax. Just one little pill can take the anxiety away, without any changes in bitachon.
 
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gad
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2/4/14 1:47 AM
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There is room for both.
Indeed, modern approach to mental health includes medicine and also psychotherapy.

In Dr. Twersky's book 'let us make man,' he writes in chapter 22, regarding self esteem and anxiety, that anxiety can have different causes.
It can be physiologic, which responds to medication. And other types of anxiety are related to psychological causes, that there are ideas in the unconscious mind that produce the anxiety.
He elaborates on this in the chapter.


Edited: 2/4/14 at 2:18 AM by gad
 
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gad
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2/4/14 2:16 AM
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In his book 'it's not as tough as you think,' page 60, Dr. Twersky writes that we are never alone.
He writes that rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrote extensively about his depression, and there were times when he felt he was in the deepest recesses of hell. Yet, he never felt abandoned, because he recalled the verse in tehillim (139,8) "if I ascend to the heavens, You are there, and if I descend into hell, You are there too.... The knowledge that G-d was always with him banished the frightening feeling of aloneness and abandonment and gave him a modicum of comfort.



Edited: 2/4/14 at 2:19 AM by gad
 
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gad
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2/4/14 11:28 AM
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When we go outside in the extreme cold, the more layers of protection, the better.

When we ride a bike, we are careful and pay attention to ride safely. But we often wear a helmet for extra protection. And sometimes it's the helmet that makes a life saving difference.

Taking medication, when we need to, is important. Having bitochon and doing other mitzvos adds protection.

The above is a general observation. Sometimes people may need to relax and be less stringent, to not pressure themselves with too much frumkeit. But as a general observation, bitochon can often help a lot.
 
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