The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 35 – Meriting Mercy

We have made mention several times of the necessity for the individual seeking therapy to feel enveloped by G-d's mercy. The secret to obtaining this feeling is described in the following verse from the book of Proverbs: 28:13.

He who hides his transgressions will not succeed,

But he who admits and forsakes them will be shown mercy.

Feeling G-d's mercy is thus dependent on admitting wrongdoing, feeling remorse over having done it, and resolving not to repeat it (the latter two requirements are contained in the idea of forsaking ). This threefold process of change is known in Judaism as teshuvah , typically mistranslated as repentance but more accurately meaning returning, both to G-d and to the more noble vision of oneself.

Through teshuvah , a person liberates and redeems himself from his present state, and frees himself from the behavioral patterns in which he had previously been locked.

Since teshuvah is a process of spiritual growth, we may parallel its stages to the three stages that typify the spiritual growth process, as follows:

Confession is clearly an act of submission, of humbling one's ego. Forsaking sin by regret and resolving not to repeat it is an act of separation. Feeling surrounded and supported by G-d's mercy is the sweetening phase of the process.

Teshuvah itself is a threefold process passing through the intellectual, emotional, and behavioral facets of man's consciousness. The person must first intellectually admit the truth. He must stop deluding himself (or allowing himself to be deluded) into thinking that the sin is not a sin. He must then emotionally feel indebted to G-d for the opportunity to change. Finally, he must both acknowledge the fact that he did something wrong and resolve not to repeat it in the future.

The larger picture thus becomes:

Admission of truth/ Confession of wrongdoing Submission/Intellect

Indebtedness for opportunity to change Emotion

Resolving not to repeat sin Separation/ Behavior

Receiving G-d's mercy Sweetening

Just as mercy is the most essential attribute of G-d, the threefold psychological pattern of admission, indebtedness, and resolution not to repeat sin is the most basic attitude that characterizes the Jewish psyche. Thus, it is customary that the first words a Jew says upon awaking in the morning, the statement that serves as the foundation of his consciousness for the rest of his day, is: I gratefully acknowledge, living and eternal King, that You have restored my soul to me; Your faith [in me] is great.

In this sentence, the Jew expresses all three sentiments we have just mentioned: He admits the truth regarding the purpose of life; that G-d is the true ruler of the world and the sole arbitrator of what is good and what is evil. He offers thanks to G-d for the gift of renewed life for restoring his soul to him. And he confesses his guilt of not living up to his potential by acknowledging G-d's trust that he will do better today despite the failings of yesterday.


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