For the week ending 25 December 2010 / 17 Tevet 5771

Should I Be Happy?

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Name Withheld

Dear Rabbi,

Hi. I take antidepressants, and it has helped me a lot. The only problem is that, truthfully, I do not feel the same connection to G-d now as I did when I was depressed. Sometimes I used to pray with tears. I guess you could say that medication has made it harder for me to feel spiritual.

So this may be a silly question, but should I keep taking the medication even though it makes it harder for me to feel as spiritual as I felt before?

Dear Name Withheld,

Your question is both silly and serious. Silly, because you know the answer: Keep taking the medication as directed by a competent health care professional.

But serious, because you’ve touched on a basic Jewish concept: “Man was born to struggle” (Job 5:7). All of life’s situations are in fact challenges and struggles to be overcome for self-growth.

Depression has been a painful challenge for you, but you’ve used it as an opportunity to feel close to G-d. That’s a great accomplishment. So why not stop taking the medicine and go back to the challenge?

Because you’ve overcome the hurdle and G-d has decided that you’re ready for a new challenge: Finding spiritual inspiration in a normal, healthy state.

You know, after my son was in first grade for a few weeks he asked if he could go back to kindergarten. Kindergarten is fun and affords wonderful growth, but I said no. There’s no going back to kindergarten.

For you, depression was a course called “Spirituality 101 - Finding G-d during Dark Days.” But you graduated. Now you’re in a class called “Spirituality 102 - Finding G-d in Normal Life.”

This may be harder. The Sages taught that wealth makes it harder to be spiritual, and the same is true when we’re well-off in other areas as well, such as health. The challenge is, can you seek and find inspiration when things are OK? The answer is yes, because G-d only sends challenges that we are capable of overcoming.

May G-d bless you with success and happiness and continue to give you strength and courage to take responsibility for your emotional health and spiritual growth.

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