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Curing Dissociative or Split Personality Disorder

The verse in Jeremiah states, “I have surely heard Ephraim complaining.”[1] Chassidut explains that someone complains because they have found in their psyche two opposite impulses. The simplest such impulses are known as the good and evil inclinations. Even when one learns Tanya, and reads that one has both a Divine soul and an animal soul, he may not internalize the fact that this is not describing some theoretical situation; this is really how his psyche is! But, as a person matures in his understanding of Chassidut, he sees more and more that he is on a psychological see‐saw; alternating between two personalities.

Jeremiah states, ”I have surely heard (שָׁמוֹעַ שָׁמַעְתִּי),” which literally means, “Heard, I have heard.” One explanation for the use of the double verb is that Jeremiah at times hears Ephraim going in one direction, and at times he hears him going in the opposite direction. This is the prelude to Ephraim’s teshuvah (return to God and His Torah).[2]

Individual and Society

If these two personalities are something that we all have, why is Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם) brought as such a prominent example? We can find the answer by looking at the letters of his name itself. With regard to the first three letters, פר indicates the individual (as in the word “individual” פְּרָט), whereas the first letter א symbolizes the oneness of the Almighty.

The fact that the second and third letters follow, or are “drawn to” the first, symbolizes how each individual member of the Jewish people is drawn to God’s unity and oneness, represented by the letter aleph (א).[3] But, the first three letters are also drawn towards the fourth and fifth letters of Ephraim’s name; the yud and mem (ים). In Hebrew grammar, these two letters are a suffix that indicates plurality.

This means that a plurality (ים) exists even within an individual (פר). In our drive to actualize our fullest potentials, we must also learn to balance between the animal soul on the one side, and the Divine soul on the other. When each of us is able to manifest our abilities to the fullest, we are all also granted the highest level of life—or the pinnacle of all our pursuits—our connection to the aleph (א), or the oneness of God.[4]

This is one possible explanation for what it means to “complain” (מִתְנוֹדֵד), and why Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם) is torn between these two extremes more than others. Whereas the animal soul only cares about its own individual cravings and pursuits, the Divine soul seeks to connect and unify with the Godly oneness as manifest in all.

Expressing our Uniqueness

In Rabbinic literature, a desire to express uniqueness is referred to as, “The general that requires the individual.” Each person wants to reveal their latent powers and abilities, which is one of the reasons why people want to have children. By having offspring, they reveal their potential. This concept certainly relates to Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם), as his name is conjugate to the verb, “to be fruitful” (פְּרוּ).

Healthy Anxiety

The form of anxiety that a person feels when they see themselves as having a split-personality is potentially something most positive. A person who harbors false beliefs, or worships idols (as did Ephraim), becomes very anxious and nervous as a result.[5] The best way to cure such false anxieties is to redirect them in a proper and positive way. A person who fluctuates between two impulses, or who is confounded by his two personalities, also has the ability to make the bold decision to “have nothing more to do with idols.”[6]

As will be explained in our upcoming article on Mother Rachel, Ephraim is also the child that Rachel most weeps for. Even though his situation seemed hopeless, in the end he was called the “most precious” child.[7]

Each member of the Jewish people experiences this “split personality” between either being far removed or precious. Although Mother Rachel continues to weep, she has also been promised by God that those children that seem far from the fold of Judaism, will eventually return and be considered the “most precious” children of God in the end of days.

 Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Ra’anana, 6 Tishrei 5774

[1] Jeremiah 31:17.

[2] As was explained earlier in the shiur, relating to the verse; ʺEphraim [says], ʹI have nothing more to do with idolsʹʺ (אפרים מה לי עוד לעצבים). Hosea 14:9.

[3] Which has a numerical value of 1.

[4] This paragraph of course summarizes the formation of the name Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם).

[5] The word for ʺidolsʺ in the verse, ʹI have nothing more to do with idolsʹʺ (אפרים מה לי עוד לעצבים), is עצבים, which is also used to designate nerves, or having a nervous tendency or anxiety. From this we can learn that whoever has false beliefs, similar to what idolatry was, is prone to suffer from anxiety or nervous tension.

[6] Hosea 14:9.

[7] ʺIs my precious son Ephraim…ʺ (הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרָיִם). Jeremiah 31:19.

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