To Live or To Leave?

By Joyce A. Isaacson, Fairfax, Virginia
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

To live or to leave has been one of the great and challenging choices that many people who are depressed struggles with and unfortunately those who chose to leave and end their lives.

In The Torah, in the book of Vayikra 19:16; G-d commanded us not to stand idly by our brother’s blood.  The case of losing quality of life among the depressed people and those who committed suicide; are such a serious concern in our society, In which I chose to address the problem of depression and suicide with the hope of providing solution to this problem from G-d’s teachings and the teachings of our Rabbonim Gedolim ve Tzaddikim.

I asked the following social experts who are also my friends working on a different field but having a common call to help those who has struggle in a personal and social issues; namely a school Psychologist, a hospital Psychiatrist, a private practice Psychotherapist and a Doctor of Social Work for the military servicemen and their families.

The patients varied ages as young 8 years old up to people who are in the age of 70’s and older. These people suffers anxiety for different reasons such as family relationships – sibling rivalry, lack of quality time, lack of peace and love in the home, parent’s divorced, bullying and competition in schools and work places, personal goals and aspirations not met, financial stress, social stress/difficulties due to personality disorder such as being bi-polar, ADHD and other poor or bad character traits; substance abuse, traumatic experience, bereavement, guilt feeling, medical issues, bio-chemical cause, feeling loss of worthiness, loss of hope and involvement; and also feeling spiritual emptiness or confusion among the factors that all these if not addressed or fixed immediately leads to depression. And when the depressed person felt either alone or hopeless resolved to end their life.

Suicidal people have a strong feeling that they are alone and hopeless. It is a fact and a natural part of life that people has problems and challenges. The problem of losing people we know through suicide is if we fail to connect to people by checking how is their life going, how do they handle in coping-up and how can we help. Base on the observance of our social experts they advised to ask frankly a troubled person the following questions:

  1. Are you depressed?
  2. Are you suicidal?
  3. When is the last time you were thinking or planning to do it? How do you plan to do it?
  4. Tell me what bothers you and let us figure the solution together
  5. Give assurance to that person that he/she is not alone and not to lose hope
  6. Give a hug (if you can according to the Halacha/within The Torah Laws). The power of a hug is very life saving. Connecting to another person brings healing to the soul and gives moral strength to the person
  7. Keep the social connection to assist the depress person to find and build strength to choose and live a meaningful life.

In the book of Tanya, Chapter 26; The Alter Rebbe explains that:

In the The Torah, Devarim/Deut. 28:47-69 “Because you served not the L-rd your G-d with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shall you serve your enemies, which the L-rd shall send against you, and in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things, and He shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he has destroyed you…

That these unfortunate events happened because of our lack of joy in serving G-d; lack of joy is derived from lack of gratitude from G-d and from his agents of blessings or good that we received from people such as parents, teachers and other people who benefited us either in big or small ways.

Further more as explained in the Tanya the importance of serving G-d joyfully even if there are many things in life, both physical and spiritual that can cause sadness. The Alter Rebbe goes on to propose how to combat this sadness, so that one may always be joyful.

Our Sages explained just as one recites blessings for his good fortune (Blessed are You, G-d…Who is good and does good) so must he also recites a blessing for misfortune (Blessed are You G-d…the true Judge) the implication is that one should accept misfortune with joy, like the joy in a visible and obvious good. For it too is for the good, except that it is not apparent and visible to mortal eyes. For everything that G-d does is for the good.

Having this principle in mind, it is important to learn and develop strong Emunah/Faith in G-d.

The first prayer we recite upon waking up is Modeh Ani… I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King for You have mercifully restored my soul within me, Your faithfulness is great.

We thank G-d for another gift of life that even though life could be full of challenges still being alive is the best gift. And when there is life; there is hope. Hope is life itself.

In life, there is always someone whose status whether spiritually or materially is above us and also someone whose status are below us. When we feel down we should reach out to those who are less fortunate. The Rebbe said in the book Keeping in Touch with your Jewish Roots volume IV said that “when we bring out the best in us (there are lot of blessings that we own that we can count on despite of anything that put us down) we bring out the best in others. The Rebbe also instructed us that when we know Alef, we should teach Alef; if we also know Bet, teach also Bet, and so on.

Our social experts also explains that joy can be achieved in so many ways:

  1. Prayer
  2. Gratitude
  3. Learning positive attitude
  4. Positive perspective in life
  5. Volunteering
  6. Giving yourself to others also nurtures you back by your own good deeds.
  7. Build family ties
  8. Build friends
  9. Engaging in positive, healthy and lively activities such as sports and spending time with love ones and friends.
  10. Collect Kosher Jokes and make others laugh. Laughter is contagious. When the people laugh together they create a bond that dissolves feeling alone.

The Rebbe also suggested that moral education should be a part of education in schools and that also includes schools for the non-Jews. Educating them with the Seven Noahide Laws and good moral conduct. Children will grow-up living and developing peace and harmony with people in any environment such as in school and in their adult life. By doing so, they developed a strong recognition that there is G-d, that G-d is Good, everything He does is for the Good.

Also Ramchal explained that good middos is the vessel of acquiring The Torah. When we have the attitude of Hakarat HaTov (recognizing the good) and Emuna’t Hashem (Faith in G-d) we acquire joy. The Arizal said that he merited in opening the gates of wisdom through the power of joy.

In The Torah, Bereishis/Genesis 18:12 “Sarah laughed…Thus Sarah consequently gives birth to Yitzchak; G-d has made laughter (tzchok) for me. Yitzchak embodies laughter and joy. His is the joy of the future, Yitzchak being the Patriarch associated with the messianic era – then (in the Messianic era) they will say to Yitzchak, “you are our father”.

The Rebbe also explained as he gave message about the month of Adar, everything should be freilichkeit (joy). The true essence of joy is found in Moshiach. The letters of Moshiach also spells Yismach (to be happy) and Yesamach (that he makes others happy).  That is the definition of Moshiach, the happiest soul that makes everyone happy.

Our Rabbonim explained that we all have a spark of Moshiach – that there is a treasury of joy inside us and that we can make others happy and therefore can save many lives.

May we merit a complete and speedy redemption in our time soon with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. When G-d will wipe away our tears and that death will be swallowed forever.