Thursday, / September 24, 2020

A Song for the Insane

Chabad Shluchim tell us how the individual challenges they’ve navigated in their personal lives have inured them to the stress of uncertainty and self-isolation.

The day I turned 33, as per the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, I began saying Chapter 34 of Tehillim (Psalms) each day, in correspondence with the new year of life I had entered. You may recognize the unusual first line: “By David, when (he feigned) he had gone insane before Abimelech…” 

Fleeing from Saul, David found himself in the hands of his enemies. He was outnumbered and overpowered, so he pretended to be crazy, allowing spittle to dribble from his mouth and scrawling delusory proclamations on the walls. Amazingly, they bought the act and let him go free.  

Before this episode, David had questioned G-d about madness: Why was it necessary? What purpose did it serve? Now, his questions answered, David offers thanks. 

It’s an incredible story. But more incredible, to me, is that I have found myself thanking G-d for the pain that psychological disorders have brought into my life. The psalm taught me to acknowledge that G-d created these challenges. He has a reason. I don’t understand it, but I trust that it is there. This is my foundation.

David goes on to ask: “Who is the person who desires life? Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” I might be stuck with periods of extreme, irrational mental pain, but here is a clear guideline for a good life: Avoid the wrong stuff, actively do good stuff, and if you want peace, you’re going to need to pursue it.

What was a moment of clarity on my thirty-third birthday has become a continuous source of comfort, never more so than during this time of self-isolation, when my anxieties ramp up and I wonder, yet again: How, Beloved Creator, am I to pull through at a time of uncertainty, when I struggle to do so in calm times as well? 

That’s when I take out my copy of Psalms and flip to Chapter 34. I acknowledge, Almighty G-d, that this struggle is for a purpose I have yet to understand. And then, I actively pursue those things that will bring me some peace.

Shaina Rosenfeld and her husband continue the work her parents began as shluchim in Hamilton, Ontario. She is the executive director and program coordinator of Chabad Lubavitch of Hamilton and the Beit Menachem Jewish Student Centre serving the Jewish students at McMaster University.

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