The meaning of Depression seen from the perspective of Judaism


As an ongoing examination of major world religions, our  first being Buddhism, we would like now to focus on  Judaism’s perspective on the subject of depression.

Abramo  Alberto  Piattelli tells us  in his paper presented at the world conference on depression,  that he would like to refer to cases of depression that are to be found within the Jewish community and try to identify its causes and focus on the contribution that Judaism can offer to a solution to this problem in the light of millennia- old tradition.

From an examination of the condition of a depressed person, what most provokes anxiety and interest is to see that in such a person every vital dynamism is suppressed and this is translated into a strong diminution in that person’s interests and initiatives.; indeed, to the point of reducing the activity of the subject to a state of complete inhibition.

In a society in which individualism is exalted and relationships between people are limited, every individual runs the risk of being alienated and isolated by society.

From a theological point of view, the human community works against the loneliness of man and the loneliness of God. Thus it is that a Midrash states ‘since the first day of creation the Holy One, may He be blessed, has wanted to enter into communion with the terrestrial world and live amidst the creation together with His creatures.’

“…the whole of Jewish practice is constructed in such a way that the individual finds his proper role in that community.”

“…society as a whole cannot ignore the condition of the individual human being but must, rather, see him  as an integral part of itself.”

“…what Rabbi J.D. Soloveitchik defines as the ‘community of prayer’   he means a community united in shared pain, in shared suffering, and also in shared joy. According to the Jewish tradition, the language of prayer must always be in the plural so that the praying person always associated his own neighbor with the supplications that are expressed. Individual prayers, that is to say those expressed at times of illness, mourning or other critical moments, must also be expressed in the plural.

“…the whole community takes upon itself the suffering of another person and works for his reconnection with the community.”

The correlation that exists between the individual and society, and the obligations that derive from this correlation, are the foundation of the whole of Judaism.

During our time, in which the most evident symptom of depression lies in the marginalization of the individual and his non-relevance within society, the Jewish tradition emphasizes the value of the participation of the individual  in the life of the community, precisely because in this context man is called by his destiny to manifest all his dignity. The concern of the community in relation to the individual who suffers from depression involves freeing this person from worry, paralysis and  desperation.” Pages 106-107. THE JEWISH VISION.

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