Much More Than Groggers

It seems that everyone is facing deep anxieties during these days of tremendous upheaval. Whether one lives in Eretz Yisrael or abroad, the turmoil grows from day to day. How does one deal with this? Rabbi Arush’s advice is not just for Purim...

6 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 18.05.23

Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself” and emuna.


The Striking Contrast  

We were in the car a few moments before I went into the Baba Sali’s tziyun (gravesite). A tall, good-looking man recognized me and came over to the car to request a blessing. He looked young and healthy, even successful, and I thought he would ask for a blessing that he should find a good wife, or that he should make a good living. I was not ready for his request. “Rabbi,” he said, “bless me that my spirit should be healed. I am being eaten up by anxiety; I have no day and no night. Pray for me that this anxiety will go away…” 

He was not the first person to approach me on that topic. Just this week I was at an event of a famous Torah-true family. During this event, a distinguished talmid chacham with a long white beard came over to me and he too told me about his anxieties that constantly disturb him.  

I can say clearly and unequivocally that the number of people who have approached me in the past few years due to anxieties has been growing tremendously. It has become an epidemic that affects all sectors and all classes, with no exceptions. Every time I am surprised anew to see the contrast between the impressive figures who come to me and the wounded, scared, and pulverized spirits within them. 

The conversation with that young man at the entrance to the tziyun of the Baba Sali prepared my heart well. It filled my heart with all this terrible distress of the Jewish people, and I poured it all out at the tziyun of the Sidna Baba Sali, may his merit protect us.  

There Is What To Do 

Dear readers, if you or someone you know around you is suffering from anxieties or from any other psychological distress, please – do not ignore it. I too, in the role that the Creator of the World has arranged for me in helping Jews, have devoted my heart to this problem and have written an entire booklet about it, called True Happiness

From my experience, and as a I wrote at length in the booklet, emuna (faith) is the deepest and most basic cure for all psychological problems. Therefore, if you have not yet read this booklet, please read it and pass it on to everyone you know – whether you know they are suffering from emotional distress and anxieties, or whether they are among those who seem to have no problems.  

A Danger to Mankind 

We are standing at Shabbat Zachor, shortly before the holy day of Purim. We were commanded to remember the act of Amalek on this Shabbat so that we will be able to erase his name from the world on the days of Purim that we will celebrate next week.  

The holy books say that “Amalek” has the numerical value of “safek” (doubt). Amalek expresses the doubts in emuna. An emuna that has doubts is not emuna, because emuna means a very strong thing, without doubts and without change, as the passuk says, “emuna omen”, and the commentators say that the meaning of these words is something very strong, a firm emuna, as another passuk says, “I will fix him as a peg bemakom ne’eman (in a secure place).”  

Rabbi Nachman says that unlike the superficial approach that emuna is something that “floats” above reality, emuna is something very strong, the basis and foundation for reality, the basis and foundation of human personality and resilience. Emuna is life! The destructive force that is Amalek raises doubts, and so destabilizes the pillars of life, rocks the foundations of human mental health, the foundations of the Jewish People as a nation, and the foundations of all human society. And therefore, Amalek poses a danger to all mankind.  

The Saving Emuna 

Rabbi Nachman says that one would think that most people possess a simple emuna and that they are far from doubts and investigations. But that is not so. Why? Because emuna has clear definitions. To believe in Hashem means to know Him and be familiar with Him, with His middot (traits). If you believe that Hashem created the world, but you don’t know who Hashem is, then perhaps you believe in a “supreme power”, but you do not believe in Hashem.  

Who is Hashem? Emuna says that Hashem is the absolute good. Hashem does only good. Hashem is always merciful. Hashem loves you all the time. 

And that is what Rabbi Nachman means when he says that the masses are also full of doubts – because they doubt Hashem’s love and mercy. And from this come all the emotional problems and those terrible anxieties.  

The battle over emuna is the battle against those anxieties and that is precisely the battle against Amalek! 

To believe in the Creator and not believe wholeheartedly that Hashem is merciful and that everything is good and that there is no evil in the world – that is still not an emuna that heals a person; it is not yet an emuna that provides an individual’s psyche and human society in general with enough stability. 

The First Crack 

Therefore, the main doubt that Amalek instills in a person’s heart is the doubt in Hashem’s mercy. 

A person sees that he is going through difficult things, and the evil inclination starts whispering in his ear: “Do you see what Hashem is doing to you? Does it seem to you that Hashem loves you? Does it seem to you that He is merciful? Do you think He cares about you at all?” Those are the most dangerous doubts, and they are the beginning of a person’s emotional instability. That is the first crack, which broadens until the whole edifice collapses. 

Therefore, a true strengthening of the emuna means the knowledge that believing in Hashem’s mercy is a strong, unconditional and unchanging thing. Hashem’s mercy and His infinite love are not dependent on your deeds nor on circumstances – Hashem always loves you and always wants to have mercy on you.  

And this is unchanging. It doesn’t matter what is happening with you. Strengthen your simple emuna: “I don’t know anything and I don’t understand anything. I just know that Hashem is good, and does only good. And what happens is only good. And what will happen is even better! That is reality and it is unchanging, and will never change.” 

The Greatest Mercy 

Hashem’s main mercy is prayer. Prayer is called “rachmei” – the same word as rachamim – mercy. Prayer is emuna, as we read on Purim morning: “His hands were emuna”. Onkelos translates this as “His hands were spread out in prayer.” From this we see that emuna is prayer, and prayer is mercy. And so, emuna means mercy, to believe in Hashem’s mercy. Hashem’s mercy is not only to believe that if you pray and ask for mercy, Hashem will act mercifully towards you. Rather, it is to believe that the very fact that Hashem put you into a situation of distress and problems – that is the greatest mercy, because He is causing you to pray and to be in contact with Him. Hashem causes you to live the true reality – that you are connected to Hashem and dependent upon Him like a baby. Hashem saves you from the terrible falsehood of pride, disbelief, the thought that you can manage on your own, the feeling of “I am I, and there is no one else” – and connects you with prayer. There is no greater mercy than that.  

To live with prayer is to live the truth and to live without prayer is to live a make-believe reality. 

And therefore, Hashem’s greatest mercy is the very fact that he allows a person to pray. If you pray, there is no one who enjoys more mercy than you. And if it is hard for you to pray, it does not mean that Hashem doesn’t love you; rather, it means that Hashem’s mercy has been arrested, and Hashem wishes to tell you to make an effort to open the gates of mercy. Therefore, plead with the Creator: “Our Father, merciful Father, have mercy on me and connect me to prayer. Allow me to pray more and more and thank you for each and every thing.”  

To hold on to Hashem’s mercy is to pray and thank Him for everything

That is why Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa says: How do I know if my prayer has been answered? According to my feeling during the prayer. If I feel that Heaven is allowing me to pray, I know that everything is okay. But if I feel that my prayer is blocked, then it is a problem. 

The Opportunity of Your Life 

Purim is the day of wiping out Amalek! How does one wipe out Amalek? By standing and praying endlessly and believing in Hashem’s mercy.  

Purim is much more than masks and groggers and children’s foolishness. Purim is the holiest and more serious day of the year. Purim is the day most auspicious day for prayer and it is the day that opens the gates of prayer for the whole year. If you want a year of infinite mercy, a year of complete emuna, a year of mental health, this is exactly the right time. Do not miss out on this huge et ratzon, a once-a-year opportunity.  


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