Festivals Remedy Mental Illness

The Torah is multidimensional. Chasidic thought unlocked the psychological side dimension in all its depth. One of the ideas uncovered is that the festivals correspond to various mental illnesses and can teach us a great deal about how to deal with them. The observance of the festivals themselves and their timing in the year can also bring about a spontaneous end to these illnesses.

On the first day of Pesach, we left Egypt. In Hebrew, Egypt means "constricted." Thus, Pesach symbolizes the liberation from claustrophobia, the fear of narrow and constricted places.

Even after the first day of liberation from Egypt, we were still afraid of the Egyptians, who were chasing us. It was only on the seventh day of Pesach that we were healed from this fear, when the Egyptians drowned in the sea. The Seventh Day of Pesach represents the liberation from paranoia. The fact that the Children of Israel were actually being chased reveals that it is certainly possible to suffer from paranoia even when one truly is being chased. For more, see the next article in this issue.

We will now list the correspondence between the rest of the holidays and mental illnesses in short order:

  • Shavu’ot rectifies The lofty fear of God experienced at Mount Sinai relieves mundane fears that cause anxiety.
  • Coronating God on Rosh Hashanah rectifies the different forms of
  • Repentance—particularly the absolution of vows (hatarat nedarim) on Yom Kippur represents the state and remedy from
  • Sukkot corresponds with manic-depression—the movement between extreme joy and extreme sadness—for Sukkot is “the time of our joy,” which also includes a measure of melancholy (best expressed in the atmosphere of repentance that surrounds the entire month of Tishrei and serving as the backdrop for Ecclesiastes that is read on Sukkot.
  • Purim rectifies schizophrenia, a disorder of going out of one’s mind, which we rectify with the “until one does not know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai” and with the absolute defeat of evil.
  • Chanukah is the salvation from ancient Greek culture, the salvation from being unrectifiably normal, which in some ways is the most problematic mental illness of them all, as the people who suffer from it are not aware of it and because it leads to a dullness in life that preempts any attempt to do something meaningful to change the world and prepare it for Mashiach.

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