What is an evil spirit
The three weeks of mourning before Tischa beAw are a good occasion to reflect on the meaning of depression. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I know what I'm talking about - I'm a Jew.
Possibly the first depressive in history was Cain. He was saddened because God loved his brother more than him. His face collapsed, he sank into himself. He could no longer speak, only react with anger - with fatal consequences (Genesis 4: 5–8).
Noah Let's think of Noah. After the flood was over, his ark was on the mountain, and the animals had gone - what did he do? What many other survivors did when they saw that everything they had before, the friends and cities, their culture and homeland, that everything had been destroyed. A little heap remained in the mud. Noah planted a vine, made wine from it, and got drunk alone in his tent.
Depression means you see no point, no way forward, no purpose.
He could no longer make friends with this world. It was not his job to provide more offspring and life. He'd done everything he had to do, stayed in that dark box for weeks - and for what? So that the world could go on, but without him. And would it be better than before? Noah also reacted angrily, with curses against his own son (Genesis 9: 20-29). He lived on 350 years after the flood, but nothing is mentioned about the joy of life.
Saul King Saul is also a famous example. In the second book of Samuel, the Tanakh speaks of "an evil spirit from God". This is interesting because God is mentioned as the source. Depression is more than disappointment, frustration, grief over a loss or many other reasons not to be happy. Depression eats its way deep into the soul.
Depression means that one sees no meaning, no way forward, no purpose, one loses orientation and inner strength. And it doesn't help at all if you have high social status or wealth.
This is no substitute for happiness and brings with it even more worry, responsibility, and stress. Saul had no training, no experience and, most importantly, never expressed a desire to become king. But the people wanted a king, and the prophet Samuel, against his own will, chose Saul almost at random: “Whose head is above the other? Let him become king ”(II. Samuel 8,4-10,1).
Depression eats its way deep into the soul.
Intriguers This burden rests heavily on Saul, he makes mistakes, he knows that he suddenly has enemies, intrigues, competition, he is now solely responsible for ensuring that the people win all wars. He needs distraction, music, conversation. He no longer has faith in David and even in his own son Jonathan, but he is also losing faith in God. At the end (II. Samuel 28) he even wants to talk to Samuel again - who has long since died. The prophet is called and makes it clear to Saul that he has good reasons to be depressed. He will die soon.
The psalmist shouted, "Mima'amakim" - "from below," but he was able to look up in spite of everything. That is why many find the Psalms a comfort in difficult times. And today? After everything that has happened in the past century and many Jews have suffered and are suffering from survivor or "second generation" syndrome? Today, when we see how Europe is changing again, when we have to deal with climate change?
Happy end? There are good reasons to be depressed. Will there be a "happy ending"? Or just an end? The more history I learn, the harder I try to look forward to the future, the more depressed I get.
Judaism is a GmbH, a belief with limited hope. You need a little hope - but how do you manage that when you are a person with eyes and mind, observing this world and listening to the people? Of course, we shouldn't give in to sadness. But maybe depression is a healthy reaction - and better than a naive denial of real problems?
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