Sometimes, the best way to deal with negative emotions, is not to deal with them. The best method to fight feelings that bolster despair is to engage in actions that bolster hope. The best remedy for a heart that feels threatened by darkness, is a Mitzvah, a positive deed, that reassures it with a Divine light.Rabbi Allouche
It has always amazed me.
After 210 years of slavery in Egypt, G-d “hears the cry” of His people, and sends Moses to deliver them from bondage to freedom.
But what about the emotional state of all of these slaves? Did G-d ask Moses and his co-leaders to provide them with intense therapy after so many years of slavery and trauma? Did he offer them any psychological treatments?
Of this, we don’t hear a word. But why this insensitivity to the people of Israel? Surely, they needed some sort of emotional support and psychological treatment?
The reason shares a powerful truth: G-d and Moses were not being indifferent to the emotional state of their people. Instead, at the brink of their exodus, they focused on that which was vitally needed: actions, not feelings. Moving forward and focusing on the future, instead of standing still and analyzing the present.
Because, sometimes, the best way to deal with negative feelings, is not to deal with them. The best method to fight emotions that bolster despair is to engage in actions that bolster hope. The best remedy for a heart that feels threatened by darkness, is a Mitzvah, a positive deed, that reassures it with a Divine light.
So Moses tells his nation to put their feelings aside, offer a pascal lamb, eat it with their “cloak tucked into their belts, and their sandals on their feet. and their staff in their hands,” and march forth toward redemption. Sure enough, their anxiety vanishes, their trauma, dissipates, and their confidence is regained.
The lesson is clear: at the end of the day, our actions, not our feelings, define who we are. We may experience all sorts of moods, but at the end of the day, it is a person’s deeds that mold his life. A smile, a helping hand, a generous act can mold us and our lives infinitely more than the emotions of our hearts. In the words of Victor Hugo, the 19th Century French poet: “Our acts make or mar us – we are the children of our own deeds.”
This applies to our Jewish lives too. For how many of us deprive ourselves of the gift of a mitzvah, just because we are scared? How many of us are reluctant to get involved, just because we are intimidated? How many of us are hesitant to move forward in our spiritual journey, with study, prayer, or a good deed, just because we are not “feeling it”?
I recall the story of a woman who sought the advice of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, who became the unrivaled leader of the Jewish people exactly 71 years ago. She wanted to cancel her wedding because she had a “bad temper” and she was afraid that this would ruin her marriage. The Rebbe’s response was astounding: “G-d will bless you with many children and these children will teach you patience,” the Rebbe replied. “Meanwhile, do volunteer work – preferably in a hospital with children – and you will find your patience growing. Don’t call off the wedding.”
Similarly, the Rebbe once wrote to a man who was complaining about his inability to shake off his melancholy that, “it seems that the principal cause of your situation is that you ruminate about your situation constantly. The more you take your mind off of it — the better it will become, and the medical avenues you are trying will be more successful. In order to make this easier, you should keep busy with something completely different, no matter what it is. If you take your mind off of it completely – within a short time you will be healed.”
So, if your feelings are holding you back with all sorts of excuses, just march forth, and do good, again and again.
You will be doing yourself a favor that you, and the world, will surely benefit from, to eternity.