Monday, January 27, 2014

One Size Fits All

15 years ago Alex was a popular guy, a gifted musician, an athlete and a gourmet cook.  Loved by everybody, Alex conversed in three languages and was known for being a super handy and helpful person. He could fix just about anything and was always willing to lend a helping hand. 
Alas, today Alex is unemployed, unable to study, his marriage is on the rocks and he's a stranger to his kids because he sleeps all day. Sometimes his body shakes violently, sometimes he literally can't move and sometimes he simply collapses. When Alex began to think about suicide as a "solution" he was taken to a doctor who diagnosed him with mental illness.  
In a famous study, David L. Rosenhan proved that psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric social workers really can't tell the difference between people who are genuinely crazy and those who were really sane but were simply pretending to be "crazy."
Alex was neither crazy or pretending to be crazy. This might sound odd but his problems resulted not from an illness but from rejecting the truth of how he was meant to live.  Please allow me to explain. 
The paradox of Alex's story, as you'll soon see, is that he really was looking for the truth - like so many people in our troubled times, Alex yearned to find G-d in his life.
When Alex met the Rabbi he was told that the only way to be close to G-d and live a life of truth was to learn the Talmud for 12 hours a day. Alex went along with this advice because the Rabbi showed him in writing that this was the "truth." Since Alex was serious about finding happiness in spirituality he followed the Rabbi's advice and made an abrupt change in his life. He began to learn 12 hours daily and in one fell swoop he cut out every other activity in his life that had been giving him pleasure. 
The problem with his new lifestyle was that instead of making Alex happier, it was making him more depressed. Alex's body began to revolt against conforming in this way. But Alex thought it must be his fault. After all, if the Torah said that learning was the main purpose of a man's life why wasn't it making him happy? He went back to the Rabbi to find out what he was doing wrong. Continue here...

More great reading:

By Rabbi Lazer Brody - Tale of Two Shidduchim

By Rabbi Shalom Arush - The Price of a Lollipop

By Natalie Kovan - The Wagon Master

Blessings for a wonderful day!
Dr. Zev Ballen

Dr. Zev Ballen