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The Presence of Hashem in Mental Illness

Question:

I have debated whether to send this email for awhile. I think on some level the subject matter is unanswerable, but I would value your perspective.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that mostly revolves around kashrut and other religious issues. It would be impossible to provide a complete account of living with this condition. In short, it attacks what is most important to me and causes me to suffer intensely. It is horrible, to the point where sometimes suicide seems preferable. I’m receiving treatment from mental health professionals.

It has been difficult to make sense of this experience. Sadly, I often feel abandoned by Hashem and continue to search for what possible purpose, if any, could exist in this madness. I will continue with the exposure response therapy (ERT) with the therapist, however, I’m confused. Where is Hashem in this experience? What possible purpose, if any, could exist in this madness?

 

Answer:

Hello,

Dealing with mental illness, is extremely difficult, and the suffering that people like you go through is significant. It is understandable, that when one is suffering, we ask, why? Or “Why me”? The truth is that we don’t know the reason why Hashem decides to do what He does, but we do believe, that He does know what He is doing.

Anyone who studies the human body, or almost anything created by Hashem, will see the extensive planning and tremendous wisdom that goes into it. The human body, is made of trillions of cells, and each one is tremendously complicated, and there are hundreds of different types of cells. Blood cells, hair cells, muscle cells, brain cells, taste cells, nerve cells, bone cells, skin cells, nail cells, eye cells, ear cells. Different types of muscles for different functions, (heart muscle, fine co-ordination, muscles for strength, eye muscles, lung muscles, to name a few, each one with its unique properties, that help it do its job for the specific place in the body that it is needed. Then there are, numerous systems in the body, respiratory, circulation, nervous, digestive, and each system has its specific wisdom of how it works. This is only in a human, but there are thousands of other creations, and each one has its own set of systems! The point I mean to make is that Hashem’s infinite wisdom, is evident in his creation. Not only that but everything He created has a purpose. If he created you with the issue that you have, there MUST be a reason for it. We don’t know the reason why Hashem in His infinite wisdom has decided, that we must undergo whatever challenges and difficulty we endure, but we trust that He knows what He is doing.

Aside from this we also know that whatever Hashem does for us is with our best interest in mind. Right now, we don’t know what the reason is, however Chazal give us some insight and ideas. One idea is the idea that we know that our neshoma has an eternal existence, and what we experience in this world is to properly prepare us for the eternal world to come. Each person was sent to this world in order to fulfill a certain job. How do we know what our job is? By fulfilling the mitzvos under the conditions that we were created with. Different people are born into different societies, with different relative, friends, and difficulties. This is the sign from Heaven that our perfection is specifically with these conditions. Regarding your situation, it is clear, that one of the jobs that your neshoma was given to accomplish in this world, is your OCD. Why? We don’t know, and when we get to shomayim we’ll find out (and honestly therefore we aren’t in any rush).

Rabeinu Bachya (Deutoronomy 22-8) brings an eye-opening, life changing Midrash, that has potential to help all of us though all of our difficulties. The Midrash that before a person’s neshoma is sent down to this world, it is shown exactly ALL of the difficulties that it will go through. If it will be rich or poor, all the tribulations and situations that it will go through, and even exactly how it will exit this world. After it is shown all of this, it is asked, do you agree to all of this? Then (and knowing what the purpose of its life, its job etc.) the neshoma happily agrees, and only after that does the neshoma come down to this world!! Therefore, not only does G-d know the purpose of our difficulties, but we also knew their purpose, and how it is beneficial to us.

In your situation, you have an extra bonus. Many difficulties that people are supposed to endure, can be related to business, family, neighbors, etc.. Your difficulty is regarding mitzvos, as it is much harder for you to do some of the mitzvos properly, and you have difficulty because of it. The Midrash (Avos D’rabi Nosson 3-6) says that a person that performs a mitzva with difficulty gets 100 times the reward as a person who doesn’t have that level of difficulty. (True in your situation, it is to fulfill the halacha, and NOT anything else, but that is also part of avodas Hashem, to do the mitzvos in a healthy way.)

Bottom line, Hashem knows what He is doing, we trust, that although it is difficult, but it is only temporary, and the benefits that our neshoma will reap from it will be eternal. That is why our neshoma consented for us to come to this world even with the difficulty, because it understands, the tremendous benefit that it will have out of it.

After all of this, Hashem should help you heal from this condition, and your should have more peace of mind.

Best wishes

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi there. I don’t know who you are, but I went through the same hell. I had the same questions. I don’t have answers, but, I want you to know there is a better life on the other end of treatment. I’m not there yet; it’s a journey, but hold tight – you’ll get there. And there is healing there – even if you can’t see it now. Have faith. Hashem will help you.

    1. Thank you for your warm words of encouragement!

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