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Good Grief

Good Grief

Is Sad Bad?


There is nothing as whole as a broken heart.

Chassidic saying

Depression is not a sin; but what depression does, no sin can do.

Chassidic saying

Is sad bad? Chassidic teaching differentiates between two types of sorrow: merirut, a constructive grief, and atzvut, a destructive grief. Merirut is the distress of one who not only recognizes his failings but also cares about them; one who agonizes over the wrongs he has committed, over his missed opportunities, over his unrealized potential; one who refuses to become indifferent to what is deficient in himself and his world. Atzvut is the distress of one who has despaired of himself and his fellow man, whose melancholy has drained him of hope and initiative. Merirut is a springboard for self-improvement; atzvut is a bottomless pit.

How does one distinguish between the two? The first is active, the second—passive. The first one weeps, the second’s eyes are dry and blank. The first one’s mind and heart are in turmoil, the second’s are still with apathy and heavy as lead. And what happens when it passes, when they emerge from their respective bouts of grief? The first one springs to action: resolving, planning, taking his first faltering steps to undo the causes of his sorrow. The second one goes to sleep.1

Based on Tanya, ch. 31.
Yanki Tauber served as editor of
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Pesel Silver Spring, USA via July 14, 2013

suffering vs. agonizing Pain, felt as agony is inevitable, suffering optional. Pain guides me as I learn right from wrong from my life and the insights and hope are energizing. If I don't learn from it I suffer and get nowhere--- and that's draining. I hadn't seen grief explained in such a positive light. Thank you for this. Reply

Brigitte Jones Australia June 19, 2013

A most helpful and enlightening true perspective that I'd never been able to see before. I'd had the notions at the start of bitterness but fears and self doubt could propel me to enter the stage of sadness then eased, not solved by antidepressants. I'd been convinced by correlation studies that adversity weakened one even despite increased understandings of even others plight and suffering. I'd puzzled before over those who had found challenges and adversity become inspiration to action. I'd still despite my passivity been unable to evade the thoughts I was remiss in not attempting constructive action, yet doubting such potential being within me strongly enough. This has confirmed the correct way to be followed with continued sensibly planned efforts for myself first and even wider areas of the social world were appropriate. Reply

Anonymous Atlanta, Georgia July 18, 2011

two types of depression Very beautiful and filled with insight . I just happen to see this article - almost as though it was meant to come my way. As someone who struggles with depression, it pinpointed great truth. It holds tremendous clarify. Reply

Anonymous Reynosa, Mexico July 19, 2010

Thank you! Now this is something I needed... I needed to know about, I need to do something about it, and I need to be able to tell the difference!! Reply

Sara Menashe July 19, 2010

Poignant Explanation I want to thank you for this very poignant explanation and description! I can not wait to share this with my loved ones!
G-d willing this will help all of us 'spring into action'! Reply

bett albany via July 19, 2010

similarities Reading the Chassidic deep wisdom, I was reminded of Rumi:

Oh break my heart, oh, break it again. So I can learn to love even more, again. ... Reply

Anonymous bklyn, ny July 30, 2009

Helpful for daily life thank you, this was very helpful. Concise information about how to learn about ourselves and be "user-friendly" with our neshamas and psyches.
Very clear, and helpful, thank you Reply

Anonymous Miami, Florida July 30, 2009

accurate Your description of the differences between atzvus and merirus is quite helpful. It brings out the clear and distinct differences between the two. I don't believe you set out to cure anyone of thier depression, just to explain the 2 major types of sadness, as Torah describes it. Thank you for your clarity and brevity. Too many articles on the topic go on endlessly, overly psychological, ad nauseum.
Keep up the great work, and it should always be B'SIMCHA (with joy)!! Reply

Anonymous Berkeley, California, USA July 29, 2009

I'm not sure that it isn't acurate though. but how does one change, move from atzvut to merirut? Reply

Hebro Queens, NY via July 29, 2009

Superficial? I happen to respectfully disagree with the above statement about this concept being superficial or cold-hearted. Being one who is struggling with depression myself, i found it "eye opening". I personally believe that before a "productive" struggle can even begin, an awareness that there is indeed a problem must come about. The problem must be defined as best as possible, highlighting it in a sense, then energy can be consolidated and focused toward fixing the root of the issue. How many of us are depressed but truly unaware of what that means? Too many. I look at this concept which is based in Tanya as sort of a list of "symptoms" that flag depression. Identifying these character markers in urself is the first step thereby allowing you to go into the phase of meirirut and redemption from depression.
this article is one piece of a beautiful and complex 'remedy' for depression layed out in the Tanya. The rest is in the remaining chapters.

Be well,
Two actions to bring Moshiach NOW Reply

Anonymous new york, usa via July 28, 2009

Superficial View This review of depression/grief seems cold-hearted and judgmental. It offers no compassion or remedy for one who is stuck in the abyss of depression. Reply

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