The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 38 – The Therapeutic Books of the Bible

The Hebrew text of the Bible is annotated with diacritical marks that indicate how it is to be sung. These marks, known as cantillation marks, indicate both the melody to be used for each word and the overall cadence of the verse. They are thus both a musical shorthand and a guideline to the grammatical structure of the text.

The same system of cantillation marks is employed for all the books of the Bible, with the exception of three books, which use a system unique to them. These three books are Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. The cantillation system used in these books is more complex and intricate than the regular system, and is harder to chant, as well. Many, if not most Jewish communities have lost the knowledge of the exact rendition of this system of cantillation.

The fact that these books are crafted and chanted in a unique, complicated, difficult, and somewhat esoteric way sets them apart from the rest of the books of the Bible, as if they reflect a deeper, more penetrating layer of understanding life. This judgement is reinforced by their deep philosophical and emotional content, which distinguishes them from the other narrative and wisdom literature that makes up the Holy Scriptures. Thus, although the whole Bible is of course rich with insights into the nature and psychology of man, these three books may be considered the quintessential Biblical psychological books.

Indeed, upon close examination, we may indeed parallel each of these three books with one of the three approaches to psychological therapy we have discussed. They may thus be seen as a sequential progression of consciousness corresponding to these three facets of therapy. The order in which these books appear, one after the other, in most editions of the Bible, follows this developmental sequence.

Job: articulation/ sweetening
Proverbs: ignoring/ separation
Psalms: quashing/ submission

Psalms is the book of prayer and crying out to G-d. It is a time-honored Jewish custom to pour out the heart to G-d through reciting psalms with a broken heart in times of pain and suffering.

The Psalms were written by King David, the sweet singer of Israel. ( 2 Samuel 23:1). King David personified the character traits of humility and submission, as evinced by his reply to his wife Michal when she taunted him for dancing uninhibitedly before the ark of the covenant, in full view of the servant girls: I have always been low in my own estimation. ( Ibid . 6:22.) By virtue of his lowliness before G-d (and before the lower classes as well), David was granted the strength and conviction that enabled him to lead his people fearlessly, with the authority befitting a king of Israel.

Proverbs is the Divine book of ethics, written by King Solomon.

The classic commentator, Rashi, writes in the beginning of his commentary to the book of Proverbs: All [King Solomon's] statements are parables and analogies. He compares the Torah to a good woman and idolatry to a harlot.…He used these analogies in order to teach man wisdom and ethics, that he might dedicate himself to the study of the Torah, which is the true wisdom, ethics, and understanding.

At the end of the book, the wise father admonishes his son how to escape his evil inclination and keep his distance from it. The advice he gives is to replace the thoughts planted by the evil inclination with thoughts about the attractiveness of the Torah, which is compared to a good woman, a lovely doe and a graceful mountain goat. (Proverbs 5:19).

This is the therapeutic process of separation, in which a person excises the foreign thought from the mind by replacing it with a positive, Torah-oriented thought. In this way he rectifies his warped psyche and circumcises his heart, opening it to holiness and purifying it from all forms of negative anxiety.

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