Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Welcome to the Blogsphere: From Darkness

December 31, 2008

I’m interested in non-pharmaceutical, soul-based responses to depression.  There are a few programs integrating the science and spirit of mental health and a few projects here and there, mostly the spheres are far apart.  Welcome to Borei Hoshech “Who Creates Darkness.” (found via Jewschool). From the ABOUT section:

This blog explores the weekday morning prayers in light of the contributors’ personal experiences with depression and anxiety, complemented by an analysis of what traditional Jewish sources have to say.

In addition to exploring the intersection between tefillah [prayer] and depression, an important secondary goal of this blog is to create a virtual community around reflections on Jewish religious practice in general from the point of view of people who have experienced depression and other mental illnesses.

The blog’s title, “Borei Hoshech” or “בוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ,” means “who creates darkness,” and comes from the first blessing before the morning Shema. The full blessing reads:



“Nip the Buds of Expectation”

December 9, 2008

“Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee; but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design.” Spurgen (more info)

A similar theme here:

By not getting
What you want you become who you
Are: time permitting

[Line separation in original.  I was told the meter is off with the line breaks, but works otherwise]

Radio Silence

October 18, 2008

About 2 weeks ago the campaign left me cold.  I decided I really wanted to figure out a compelling explanation of the Palin phenomenon (why she inspires) to the liberals.  Overcoming such a longstanding rift is no easy task and has brought about a period of silence as I’ve experienced the chasm which separates us.

Fear and Repentance: 5769

September 30, 2008

For many Jews, the most meaningful element of High Holy Days synagogue services is the rabbi’s sermon.  Indeed, careers are won or lost here.  However talented our clergy, reliance on their performance for spiritual elevation reduces our commitment to God to paid entertainment or sound-bite movie reviews.   I hope the ancient liturgy and melodies make the uncomfortable topic of our t’shuvah (repentance) real.  Amid the lengthy Hebrew and English readings, may you find small nuggets that provoke or disturb you after the service heading to Yom Kippur.

With that said, I want to share parts of Rabbi Andy Bachman’s Rosh Hashanah sermon entitled “No Fear.”  Andy reflects on existential fear that, more than anything concrete, pervades the lives of his Brooklyn congregants.  Meaning, Purpose and Rootedness are the themes congregants always use to describe what they want.  Here, toward the end of the sermon, Andy suggests active Jewish life pushes back against fear and allows us to step into the unknown.

Learning, Spirituality and Acts of Lovingkindness. The Pillars of the Universe. Shimon Ha Tzadik said the world stands upon three things: Torah (study), Avodah (service), Gemilut Hasadim (generous acts). Meaning, Beyond the Self, and CommunityEach serve as a kind of antidote to fear that we encounter on a daily basis.


The Work of Repair (and Repentance)

September 25, 2008

The Jewschool group blog has a new contributor named HatamSoferet, or Torah scribe.  She is the first woman known to have completed writing a kosher Torah and the creator of T’fillen Barbie (see below). Reflecting on the busy month of Ellul which transitions us to the High Holy Days — esp. busy for Torah scrolls repairers —  she wisely notes:

I find repair work to be a lot more taxing than writing from scratch. I can write all day quite happily, but repairing all day leaves me wilting, exhausted, and consuming quite startling amounts of chocolate. It’s a physical strain and it’s a mental strain; more of the latter than the former.

When you write, you sit down and words flow, letter after letter, and fill the page slowly but surely. Sure, you have to concentrate, but you’re going with the stream. When you repair, you have to focus in on every single letter, one after the other, and examine it minutely for potential problems, since even one broken letter invalidates the sefer Torah – and there are 304805 of them. It’s intense, intense work.

Well, it occurs to me that this is a metaphor for Life. Merrily going along writing (or living, as it might be) is relatively simple, although you don’t necessarily know what it’s going to look like in twenty years’ time – but if your job is to go through from one end to the other, find every little thing which isn’t right, and repair it, well, that’s a whole lot harder.

Nonetheless, the message of the season is precisely that – check things over, find the bits which are broken, and repair them.

Check out her website for all you wanted to know about scribing Torah.

A Second Amichai poem

September 23, 2008

A Man Doesn’t Have Time

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
Was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.


The Race for Smarter Kids, Classic Literature at Age 12

September 1, 2008

Nothing impressed me in this week’s Sunday Washington Post.  Last week, and forgive me for no link, I’m tired and cranky, there was a good essay by a high school literature teacher who noticed the curricular demand for earlier reading of classics, say middle school.  These changes often mitigate against the value of reading literature in the first place.

Summer reading books, for example, are an increasing demand for most schools.  Student reading for joy or to be transported into that world for a while is taking a backseat to memorization of names, actions, motiefs and symbolism. The stuff of tests.  Is the practice of finding beauty killed through the race to study for a 100 question test on the first day of school?

I’m all for learning how to read a story.  In fact, I think I began to do so in my 20s.  (more…)

Tattoo You?

August 30, 2008

I Corinthians "Love is.."

Chronicles of Atlantis directs us to R.R.Reno’s fine essay at First Things. Chronicles supplemental insights are not his own, he rather “defers to the words of René Girard on originality.” Girard, as you know, is the literary scholar who developed anthropology in the service of theology.

Reno’s essay is short, moving and sad.  He sympathizes with the desire of many youth, especially the successful meritocrats, to stand out a tad in their heavily standardized and mobile lives.  See what you (th)ink.


Confederate-tainted Conspiracy Theory Links

August 13, 2008

Thanks to the dozens of folks who’ve stopped by from and Crimlaw‘s nod to where where they heard about the story (see “Too Weird for the Wire” below and the original story here). I posted comments on those sites which developed my thinking beyond my original post.  Use the above.

Just today, renowned blogger Andrew Sullivan has picked up the ball but, alas, fails to mention yours truly.  I can’t recall if I sent Andrew the link back on July 30 which I sent to half-dozen higher-profile blogs that might have an interest.  (Turns out my BCC: Blind Carbon Copy keeps the addresses hidden forever.) But, he had to have read it from one of those posts which link to me.  I mean, does anyone read the Washington Monthly still? (sorry Kevin Drum and Mr. Peters)

Anyway, I’ll await the popularity from an Andrew Sullivan link until I’m more mature and can better handle the attention.  Mr. Kevin Carey, author of aforementioned story, feel free to write me about the responses you’ve been getting or anything else you wanna talk about.  Maybe we can see a movie or something?  I like drama but really whatever you want to see is cool with me.

Too Weird for The Wire

July 22, 2008

This article in The Washington Monthly reminded me of a fun but one-sided men’s college basketball game I attended with a friend. As we entered the parking my pal began to speak about his strange day at work. A middle-aged Black defendant (race is relevant) walked into his Baltimore office with a question about the man’s upcoming criminal trial. The guy learned during his last jail stint a theory involving the the illegitimacy of the federal government since the Civil War resulting in the unconstitutionality of the income tax and our leaving the gold standard. If a defendant expressed all this to the judge, he must release you. “Should I use this defense?” he asked my friend?