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Singing Despite the Blues

Singing Despite the Blues


Jacob traveled to Charan. Charan made Detroit look like Putney, Vermont. It was a rough place. Like Vegas but with more slot machines, like New York, but with more aggression, like Washington D.C. but with more corruption.

To make matters worse, Jacob lived in his uncle's house. His uncle made John Gotti look like a saint. Get the picture? Yet the Midrash says that Jacob sang certain psalms (120-134) throughout the 20 years he lived there.

Does that make sense? Jacob was in a precarious position, in an unfriendly and disgusting city, and he walks around as if he is starring in a Broadway musical?

Jacob was in a precarious position, and he walks around as if he is starring in a Broadway musical?Jacob was in a difficult moment in his life. He, himself would have been the first to admit it, but he refused to get depressed or lose hope. He recognized that G‑d's hand had guided him there. He knew he was in Charan for a purpose and upon completion of that goal, he would return home.

Therefore, even during the challenging moments in Charan he remained joyous, for he knew he was where he needed to be, doing what had to be done—and he was right. Twenty years later he left Charan with his entire family and quite a bit of gelt. Retroactively, he proved that all of his singing was justified and not the outgrowth of a bipolar disorder.

The world right now is a tough place to be. Anyone who can't see the problems should cut down on their meds. You don't have to be a bleeding heart liberal to recognize the issues in yourselves, your towns, and society at large.

That having been said, we can and should follow Jacob's example. Jacob didn't roll up on his psychologist's leather couch to discuss his issues. He didn't create some random blog to muse and ramble about his problems. He recognized his purpose in Charan and worked towards actualizing his goals—and he did so with joy.

Rabbi Simcha Levenberg is a writer searching for the meaning of life in Los Angeles
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BB Brooklyn February 5, 2015

needed to hear this, today thank you for this beautiful piece!!!! Reply

Debra Hebb November 26, 2014

wonderful blog
I needed a little kick of sound advice from this weeks Parshah. Thank you once again Reply

Louey Simon Baltimore November 25, 2014

misunderstanding I'm sorry, but I have to comment again.

The issue of psychiatric medication is an extremely sensitive issue that effects the mind, body and soul of Jewish people. It effects individuals and entire families in a profound way.
Since it has yet to be tackled by the leaders of the generation in a unified manner, it is my personal opinion that such sensitive issues should be treated with the highest degree of respect and sensitivity- where there is no room for someone to misread or misconstrue a comment.
The Torah says we must judge one another favorably. We don't walk in anyone else's shoes. Reply

Anonymous November 25, 2014

Good point, and very inspirational! Thank you Rabbi Reply

Frederic elie joseph feruch paris November 25, 2014

simcha but no denial. But when came the time to give a good dance to Esav's angel, it was another kind of song Yaakov did sing. No mistake here. He who is merciful to the cruel ones will become cruel to the merciful ones. No half measure in spitiuality means that there is one, which sometimes turn to be zero. and vice versa.

Avraham did listen to G-d and did go to sacrifice his son. Despite the prior order G-d gave him to follow Sarah's voice, who asked him not to. and we know the consequences.

He did not follow the root of the song of songs. Reply

Anonymous New York, New York November 24, 2014

Listen to the author's message You guys that are commenting are missing out on the points the author is writing about, zoning in on the irrelevant sides of what he's trying to bring to light.

His points are not about mental disorders. He mentions bipolar disorder in an adjective-sort of way, similar to how someone may use the term "schizophrenic" to describe their scattered, eclectic type of thinking. Naturally people don't mean the real disorder when they use it in that context. Words have many meanings, and can be applied in many ways. For example, you can talk about the "death" of love. Would you scream out in protest to say that death is a tragic thing and not meant to be used for love? No, because you understand the author's message and understand that death isn't as concrete as it sounds.

Don't be a stickler, listen to the message he's saying. Reply

Chanah Ariella Rosencrantz R.N. retired Seattle November 23, 2014

Rabbi Levenberg,
I too agree with the other commenters regarding your choice of the word "meds". I would assume that either you were referring to "recreational drugs"; or perhaps using a joke that has not been "P.C." for many years.
When one attempts to mekaver frei yidden by using secular references, it may be wise to remember that mutual respect can be a better way to reach out, rather than pop culture.
Perhaps this issue brings about the oppurtunity to give a shiur on this subject? Reply

patricia arcadia via November 23, 2014

Nice to know that Jacob didn have to make it a point to tell someone he was on meds and seeing a shrink.
If he was that secure with himself he most likely treated his 'women' with respect also.

Louey Simon Baltimore November 22, 2014

Garden of Healing "He recognized his purpose in Charan and worked towards actualizing his goals—and he did so with joy."

Amazing point. We can talk to Hashem instead of the psychiatrist. That said the Chabad video 'Sensitivity' says we all were counseled by Moshe Rabbenu. So talking to a Jewish, friend, Rabbi or psychiatrist is normal. Today we really all need our true spiritual guides, each true tzaddik for each unique soul to survive as Jews.

Anyway, I don't think it's right to make a comment about people's medicines, or at least seemingly negative in the way in the article. Because the same point can be achieved simply with the line quoted above. In addition it would be helpful to provide advice on what to actually do.


Anonymous December 13, 2007

Bipolar: a comment if I understood this correctly, you were intimating that Bipolar can be overcome with emunah?
I have friends with children who have BiPolar disorder, may G-d grant them a very speedy recovery.....but just as one cannot stop a virus from making a person regurgitate, they cannot heal BiPolar without a miracle from G-d which is not so easily obtainable. Reply

Anonymous via November 19, 2007

Singing Despite the Blues Rebbetzin Tauby and Rabbio Levenson,
I recognize the value of what the Rebbetzin is saying, but sometimes good comes from unexpected sources. I was saddened by a loved one's new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, so I clicked on "Singing Despite the Blues," which seemed an apt title. I saw that 1. Jacob was joyous despite his circumstance, 2. that he left Charan "with his whole family," which to me means that if I react joyously to my circumstance, not only I but my loved one will leave the unhealthy place, and 3. the clincher -- the reference to bipolar disorder that made me feel like, "yeah, this pertains specifically to my concern." Reply

E. Tauby Richmond, Canada November 17, 2007

Singing despite the blues Rabbi,
Your Dvar Torah was creative and humorous with its comparisons of Charan to some large American cities. It also showed how Yaakov had a clear sense of his purpose and focus in serving Hashem. Something that we can all aspire to. However, your point about Yaakov's happiness despite his surroundings and circumstances, I feel, could have been written in a way that didn't need to offend or insult people who may need medical support to help them with their depression. As a Rebbetzin and counsellor, I meet many people who suffer from all types of ailments and who sometimes need help in dealing with life's struggles. They deserve our respect and compassion as much as anyone else. Is that not what the Rebbe taught us? Rather than teaching the point in a negative way, why not show a beautiful example from Novi, of Dovid Hamelech, who was known as the singer of Israel, who sang Hashem's praises and gave us the most beautiful gift in the form of the 150 Psalms, despite his horrific life? Reply

Haddasah Rut Bat ANONYMOUS Austin, TX November 16, 2007

Hashem Makes It Possible Sometimes there are genetic predispositions that make a medical condition .

My father had diabetes. My mother had a serious and tragic neurological chemical imbalance in addition to diabetes -- may they rest in peace.

The meds they took kept them alive and I monitored their medications dosages. I was glad that they were able to extend their lives by taking the meds.

I think the rabbis can provide a better answer that I could why things are the way they are. Reply

Molly LA, CA November 15, 2007

Rabbi Levenberg's Parshah Picks on Jacob Thanks for the laughs... and the lesson. I know someone who needs this very much right now, so I'll be passing it on. Reply

Ben Friedberg Harrisburg, PA via November 15, 2007

In Context Let's be honest - does a sharply worded, witty & cutting edge funny article scare us? Does an author that is not afraid to uncover a bit of the edge of honesty really sacrifice his chassidicness? I don't think so. Rabbi Levenger's articles are refreshing - they're funny, they're creative and they convey relevant points and concepts. Regarding the meds - that was a bit racy, but in context it doesn't seem like the Rabbi is actually advocating throwing your meds out the window just because you know the story of Yaacov. Reply

Hadassah Rut bat Anonymous Austin, TX November 14, 2007

Sometimes, You Just Have to Sing! As one of our sages once said, "It is better to laugh than to cry."

Good music brings laughter to the soul no matter how bad things appear to be. Reply

Rochel R Chicagoland, Il November 14, 2007

I feel like Tevye On one hand I have to agree with some of the things you said, like Jacob being in a lousy situation, but he made the best of it because he knew what the outcome would be. On the other hand, to suggest that one should "cut down on their meds", well Rabbi, unfortunately you don't know anything about my life. I pray to Hashem that I could cut down on my meds. Not going to happen though. The world is a very tough place right now, not just for me, but for many of us, and I wake up every morning and thank Hashem that I did.
I recognize my purpose in life and I try to do so everyday with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Most of the time it works. My husband and I do the best we can everyday to honor Hashem, and for that I can only say to you that cutting out my meds wouldn't allow me to do half of what I'm able to do because I do have to take medication for my health and well being.
Blessings to you Rabbi Reply

Ze'ev Yosef Ben Avraham Perth, Western Australia November 14, 2007

Response to Anonymous, Maimi, Florida Well done Simcha. You really told it like it is. That's the world we live in today. There is so much going on with drugs and 'meds', Simcha. you hit the nail on its head. So, Mr Miami, get a life and look at the big picture - the secular & spirtual worlds as a whole. You need to enjoy and have fun in whatever it is you're trying to attain and DON'T DO DRUGS. Reply

Dan Wolfe Westchester, NY November 14, 2007

Inspiring Thank you Rabbi Levenberg for an inspiring and uplifiting article. I think you capture the essense of what it means to be chassidic, in a way that can be appreciated by all. Reply

Patricia via November 13, 2007

Singing Thank you, I will remember this article tonight as I address the city council. ( with my staff ) Reply