The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 18 – Heartfelt Prayer: Sweetening within Submission

After the intensive contemplation on one's shortcomings described in the previous chapter, the person turns to G-d in prayer, crying out from the depths of his heart. He beseeches G-d to uphold him and, in His infinite mercy, bridge the abysmal chasm that separates him from Him. Every facet of the person's awareness of his distance from G-d becomes the cause and subject of another prayer, another cry directed toward G-d.

This crying out is not out of depression, but rather out of frustration and bitterness. As we said above, someone who is keenly aware of his own lowliness is happy. But he is not happy about himself; he is bitter about himself. This bitterness makes him pray.

When someone is beset with a problem and surely with an anxiety of some sort he should beseech G-d to help him solve it. Belief in the omnipotence and mercy of G-d implies that He alone can and will provide the surest solution to any problem. Whether through the inspiring words of the liturgy or the book of Psalms, or through spontaneous, informal verbalization of the heart's desires, a person should always avail himself of G-d's benevolent interest in his life.

A person should not fall into the trap of thinking that since G-d is compassionate by nature there is no need for him to pray, or that if G-d is making him suffer despite His compassion it must mean that it is for his own good. Although all this is certainly true, it is only part of the picture. G-d wants us to acknowledge our powerlessness before Him and be aware that we can and must turn to Him for everything. Therefore, even if a person's suffering is an atonement for his sins or a rectification of a previous incarnation, the sentence can always be commuted through prayer.

We are taught, for example, that the reason G-d kept the forefathers barren for so long was in order to inspire them to pray for children. Similarly, it is told of the Ba'al Shem Tov that he and his entourage once visited a certain poor Jew and ate him out of house and home. When the poor man's wife became overcome with distraught, he cried out in prayer to G-d for salvation. Shortly thereafter, he discovered a hidden cache of gold coins in his backyard. When he reported this to the Ba'al Shem Tov, the latter replied that he had foreseen that the poor man was destined to inherit wealth, but that he had not prayed for it because of his self-effacing, undeservant attitude. So the Ba'al Shem Tov had to do something drastic to force him to pray for his livelihood, and the only way he could do this was to bring him to such abject poverty that he had no choice.

The act of praying serves to deflate the ego, for by invoking G-d's mercy a person is admitting that certain things in life are just too big for him, that he does not hold the keys to his own salvation. And as above, as soon as the ego is deflated its anxieties are deflated together with it. The wind knocked out of them, they no longer pose the ominous threat they did before.


We have thus identified three distinct sub-processes within the overall process of submission. The general suppressing of the ego is submission within submission. The detailed examination of shortcomings and anxieties is an act of separation. Heartfelt and humble prayer to G-d, the private conversation between man and his Creator, is similar to the sweetening stage of confiding to a trusted mentor. It thus may clearly be identified here with the stage of sweetening within submission



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