Jewish World Review
Jan. 20, 2006
/20 Teves, 5766
Healthy souls are lovesick
Rabbi David Aaron
The endless joy in endless discontent
When Moses encountered in the desert the burning bush that miraculously was not consumed and heard the voice of G-d he turned away not to look. He was afraid he had found G-d and that his spiritual journey and search would be over. A true spiritual seeker never wants to find G-d he wants to feel that he is always finding G-d and there is always more to find.
A verse in the Psalms reads, "Happy is the heart of the one who seeks G-d." It does not say who finds G-d. Why? Because you can never find G-d. In fact, if G-d could be found then you would be eternally depressed.
Fortunately, the soul's desire for G-d can never be fulfilled. The soul's joy is to always be seeking G-d but never quite finding G-d. This guarantees that the journey of love will never end. There is so much joy to a soul lovesick for G-d. As soon as we feel close we feel far and thankfully the journey goes on forever. In other words, as soon as you think you have found love you have actually lost it because love is not a thing you acquire but an endless journey you take.
If a couple one morning wakes up and say to each other, "Hey, you know what we did. I love you and you love me!" then that would be the end of their marriage. The miracle of love and the beauty of love is that there is no end to the depth of love. We can love each other more and more every day. Love is not a destiny it is a journey an endless journey. This goes all the more so in our love for G-d.
The Prophets teach that in the future there will be a hunger and thirst in the world but not for bread and water but for G-d. One of my teachers explained that when you are hungry for bread you feel empty but when you are hungry for G-d you feel full. The soul is satiated by its' hunger for G-d. There is so much joy in the anticipation for getting closer and closer forever.
Therefore, when we hear the voice of our soul, our inner self, yearning to connect with G-d we experience intense sadness. Embracing this sadness is the key to happiness.
The Key to Happiness
It takes maturity and courage to be willing to acknowledge and feel the pain of the soul pining for G-d. Most of us think there is something wrong with us if we are unhappy. We feel guilty over our discontentment and quickly look for a painkiller. But in truth this pain is the source of great pleasure. When you embrace the soul's pain it turns into pleasure. When you understand the true meaning of this sadness you are happy. In fact, you realize that your sadness is a sign of your spiritual greatness and wellness because it comes from a deep yearning to come closer and closer to G-d. Then you discover that in a paradoxical way there is great joy in your sadness. Very often we are depressed not because we are not happy but because we are not sad. We are afraid to feel the sadness of our soul. Depression makes us livid but the sadness of the soul longing for G-d makes us alive. It is invigorating and motivating.
When we awaken to our thirst for G-d we discover that our thirst can never be quenched because we can never be completely united with G-d. There is always the possibility for more spiritual growth and a deeper connection. Mysteriously in the spiritual life the more full we feel the more empty we feel. The more connected I feel to G-d the more disconnected I feel when I realize how much more connected I could be. Just as soon as I feel whole with G-d I feel this huge hole in my life missing G-d. In the spiritual life to feel whole means to be constantly filling the hole in your life with more and more communion with G-d. And the more you fill it the bigger is gets.
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If all I really want out of life is designer jeans, tickets to Madonna and to drive a Ferrari then it is really no big deal if I don't get what I want. None of these leave a gaping hole in my soul. I am not missing much because it is not really a lot that I am asking for. In addition, such desires can be accomplished. But when I tap into my soul's desire and yearning for a connection to G-d then what I am really asking for is to connect with the one who is Endless. The thirst for G-d can never be quenched because it is an endless thirst for the Endless One. Our love for G-d is endless it can never be achieved. Thank G-d.
Ego trips end but spiritual journeys never end.
We often get depressed because we deny the sadness of our soul and run from it's painful longing for meaning and G-d. Before we can be happy we need to learn how to be sad otherwise we are on the road to depression.
People frantically run from the sadness of their soul seeking happiness. Most forms of fun, entertainment and amusement are really simply painkillers. They are part of the great escape from the sadness of the soul. When you go to a doctor with something hurting you he can give you an aspirin to stop the pain. If the pain is too great for aspirin then he can give you cocaine. But even though you don't feel the pain you are still unhealthy. A truly healthy soul is one who is lovesick for meaning and G-d. But people look for painkillers to stop the pain and drown out the sadness of their crying soul yearning for G-d. Because they are afraid to be sad they run for distractions.
I know this from experience. For years I ran from the sadness of my soul. I threw myself into comedy and rock and roll. They were my religion. I once heard a comedian say that as long as you keep laughing you will never get an ulcer. So that's what I did. And he was right. I got a hernia. Just kidding. I adopted as my philosophy for life the lyrics of a popular song at the time that went: Gimme the beat boys and free my soul I want to get off on your rock and roll and drift away. I recall one rock album I especially loved that had on the cover the following advice: For best results play at full blast! But what were the results that I was seeking? I wanted enough noise and distraction in my life to drown out my crying soul. But the louder the music the louder my soul cried out. So the louder I turned up the music.
People confuse painlessness with happiness. But the key to happiness is to embrace the sadness of the soul's endless craving for meaning and G-d. Within this sadness lies the greatest happiness.
The soul cries for meaning. We long for G-d. We long to belong to the One who is beyond and yet mysteriously manifest within ourselves. We want to be part of a greater picture and we want to feel that we are playing a role serving a greater theme. But most people run from this sadness rather than stop and listen carefully. They turn up the volume on their CD rather than make music out of their soul's longing.
I once read a story about the life of a king. Upon wakening in the morning he is serenaded by a musical quartet. While eating he is entertained by the court jester. Every night he throws a royal ball and dances with the fairest of maidens into the night. The king is constantly bombarded with stimulus to keep him happy. Otherwise in just one quiet moment without the joker and the music playing he would suddenly hear his crying soul.
This is the strategy of most people. They try to fill their lives with distractions to make them happy and protect them from feeling the emptiness and sadness in their soul. They opt for a disco or a drink or a reefer or a movie to get happy. But this kind of happiness is truly sad and this kind of fulfillment is truly empty.
If you just run for fun then you're done. Depression is often not because we are not able to be happy but because we are not willing to be sad. Before a depressed person can be happy he must first acknowledge his soul's sadness longing for G-d. When a drug addict beats his addiction he has not solved his problem rather he has now succeeded in getting rid of that which distracted him from dealing with the real problems that he was running from. Drugs, alcohol, eating disorders are not problems they are really cover-ups to problems. Once you kick the habit the real work starts.
The key to spiritual health is to be forever lovesick for G-d - to always aspire to go higher and higher.
For more on this topic see The Secret Life of G-d: Discovering the Divine Within You
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2005, Rabbi David Aaron