The Healthy Soul
What constitutes a healthy soul? Is everyone capable of feeling genuinely happy? Rabbi Arush answers these questions in a way that we can all implement...
You won't find two happier people in the entire Gemara than Nachum Ish Gamzu and Chanina ben Dosa. Nachum Ish Gamzu's body was afflicted from head to toe and Chanina ben Dosa couldn't afford to eat anything but carobs all week long. His wife lacked flour, even for Shabbat, and they didn't even have enough oil to light Shabbat candles. As important as health and income are, they aren't what made Nachum Ish Gamzu and Chanina ben Dosa happy in life.
So what did make them happy?
They had healthy souls. A person with a truly healthy soul doesn't worry about a thing. If someone embarrasses or belittles him in the worst way, he doesn't get upset. In fact, nothing angers him because he lives his life in complete emuna. He lives the emuna truth that everything in his life is from Hashem and all for the best. Therefore, he has no grudge or bares no malice toward any human on earth. His heart harbors no toxic emotions, like revenge or disappointment. He's pleased with the way Hashem runs his life and is therefore always happy.
So what do we learn? A happy person is a person with a healthy soul. A healthy soul is a soul with emuna. Rebbe Nachman says so explicitly, that a soul and emuna are the same aspect. Simply speaking, when the soul lacks emuna, it lacks health. A soul with complete emuna is a completely healthy soul. People with healthy souls are genuinely happy, regardless of external circumstances. This is a profound thought, for it means that all of us are capable of being happy. It turns out that people with healthy souls live the good life.
People with unhealthy souls suffer terribly. Some people suffer from periodic ailments, such as a nagging seasonal allergy. Some people suffer from extreme weather. But a person with an unhealthy soul suffers constantly. The tribulations of his soul torment him around the clock. Such feelings as hate and revenge corrode a person's soul like acid. Worry and anxiety are emotions that give a person no respite. For him or her, life is one constant purgatory. They dream of a suffering-free existence; that's why in extreme situations, people commit suicide. They want to escape their life of agony, which comes from an unhealthy soul.
Negative emotions are indications that one's soul is not healthy in some degree.
What can a person do to cure himself?
King David says in Psalm 34, “Leave the bad and do good.” "Doing good" is learning and acquiring emuna, for we've already learned that a soul with emuna is a happy and healthy soul. "Leaving the bad" means to purify ourselves of promiscuity in any way or form, on all three levels of thought, speech and deed. People can look holy on the outside, but if they harbor lewd and lustful thoughts, there is no way that their soul can be healthy. What's more, a truly modest individual is just as modest on the inside as he or she appears to be on the outside.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev explains that forbidden thoughts are the "chametz" that sours the heart. When Jewish Law teaches us to cleanse the chametz from the tiny nooks and crannies in our domain, it is also alluding to the nooks and crannies of our brains and hearts. Rebbe Nachman further explains that unless a person cleanses his heart of lewd and extraneous thoughts, the words of prayer that register in his brain will not resonate in his heart; the resonation of our words of prayer in our hearts is what gives our prayers intent and power. With intent and power, our prayers are heard, for they reach the Heavenly throne.
Let's not forget another important teaching of Rebbe Nachman – our good inclination manifests itself in positive emotions and optimistic, positive thoughts. Negative thoughts and negative emotions are products of the evil inclination. When we fill our brains and hearts with positive content – Torah, prayer and contemplating Hashem – there is no room left for the evil inclination.
Let no one fool themselves – it's impossible to attain the emuna required for a healthy soul without an hour of daily personal prayer. This is the greatest gift in the world that Hashem gives us, for one who devotes an hour a day to self-assessment, teshuva and speaking his heart out to Hashem will surely have a healthy soul and a very good life.