One of the hardest feelings for the human soul to grapple with is the feeling of being trapped. Trapped in a dead-end job, trapped in an unhealthy relationship, trapped by our own negative habits and inner demons. Even when facing a monumental hardship, if there is a sense of forward movement, of progress, the pain of the hardship is not as intense. But when a person feels trapped, with no clarity on how to proceed or any hope for things to change, the pain is infinitely worse.

The three weeks between the 17th of the Hebrew monthWhen a person feels trapped, the pain is infinitely worse of Tammuz and the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av are called Bein HaMetzarim (“Between the Straits”), and during this period Jewish people the world over enter into a period of constriction, minimizing outward expressions of joy and observing different customs associated with mourning.

As their name so clearly implies, these three weeks are hard. We reflect on the spiritually and physically destructive events that occurred between the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls on the 17th of Tammuz and the fall of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) on the 9th of Av in the year 70 CE. Even today it’s considered to be an inauspicious time, when negative forces manifest more freely in the world.

But despite their connection with energies of destruction, these three weeks are, on a deeper level, permeated with powerfully positive spiritual influences as well. In our timebound world, Bein HaMetzarim occurs during the summer, when the sun is at its strongest. Kabbalah teaches that every detail of our world here below is a reflection of what’s going on behind the scenes in the spiritual worlds above.1 Every physical object and circumstance is the manifestation of its corresponding spiritual force, and of the interactions between individual spiritual forces. The sun is associated spiritually with the Divine Name Havayah,2 a Name of G‑d that expresses His attributes of compassion and revelation. So the strength of the sun during Bein HaMetzarim tells us that during the darkest period on the Hebrew calendar, G‑d’s love and compassion are in truth shining the brightest.

Each human being is a microcosm of the universe at large. And so, each of us, in our journeys through this world, experience our own periods of Bein HaMetzarim—periods of personal destruction, when the sacred spaces within us and within our lives feel razed to the ground, and we feel trapped in the wreckage of what was. But it is precisely during these periods of deepest darkness that the light of compassion shines the strongest in our souls, that the Infinite Itself is revealed before us. Because destruction, like all other forces in the universe, is filled with Divine purpose.

After the birth of my second child, I descended into the deep darkness of postpartum depression. The identity I had so carefully crafted for myself as a loving, attentive mother of one crumbled under the need to divide my attention between two; pressures mounted from a job I didn’t even want to be in; people with whom I desperately needed to set boundaries invaded and violated my inner life; and I felt absolutely trapped in an ever-raging storm of uncontrollable chaos.

But from this destruction, an entirely new reality emerged.

In order to be lifted from the seething darkness and chaos, I needed to awaken previously dormant powers within my soul and to address very real issues in my psyche that had hidden themselves in a hollow facade of seeming contentment. With support, and guided by the chassidic teachings, I acknowledged and faced the issues I had around mothering, working and self-care. In the course of this healing work I discovered and embraced my soul’s true passions and gifts—writing, speaking and teaching—and I learned how to set healthy boundaries and to handle toxic people and situations with strength and dignity.

Had I never experienced the destruction of postpartum depression, I would never have uncovered, let alone resolved, these issues that were lurking just below the surface of my consciousness, silently sapping away at my spiritual, intellectual and emotional energy. My soul—the real me, a literal piece of the Infinite—would have remained indefinitely constricted and blocked from manifesting consciously in my mind and heart. Each of us came into this world precisely for this reason: to cultivate the conscious presence of our G‑dly soul within our minds and hearts.

The chassidic mastersWithin darkness, the most potent light is hidden3 teach that the inner purpose of the Holy Temple’s destruction is to facilitate the ultimate building of the next and final Holy Temple, which will signify humanity’s elevation to the ultimate state of geulah, G‑d-consciousness. So, too, in the microcosm of our lives, the inner purpose of all destruction is the ultimate construction of a new and higher consciousness, of a fortified Temple within each of us where the Essence of the Infinite is manifestly revealed.

Within darkness, the most potent light is hidden. Within chaos, the highest Divine order is concealed. It is up to us to reveal it.