Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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3 Shevat 5762 - January 16, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family
It All Has to Make Sense

by R' Zvi Zobin

The symptoms described by the Ramchal -- the feeling that one is continually loaded down by a heavy weight, trying and laboring, feeling constantly exhausted and tired, seeing no satisfaction in life -- seem to be those of classic `burnout.'

In the Preface to his work, Derech Hashem, Rabbenu Moshe Chaim Luzzatto stresses the importance of thinking and understanding in an organized way. He explains that the nature of the brain is to look for Reason and Order.

The Ramchal asks us to compare the feelings we have when we look at a beautifully landscaped garden with beds of colorful flowers, clean, well organized paths and manicured lawns -- to the feeling we have when we look at a ruin of a garden, overgrown with weeds and full of trash.

If a person is presented with a random array of items, the brain automatically tries to analyze them and establish some sort of logical connection between them. If the person fails to learn how to deal with the array in a unified way, subconsciously his brain continues relentlessly to search for a pattern. The result is that the person feels that he is continually loaded down by a heavy weight, trying and laboring, feeling constantly exhausted and tired, seeing no satisfaction in life.

These words of the Ramchal strike a warning bell. The symptoms he describes are rampant among many people who see no rhyme or reason to their lives.

Significantly, the very first requirement that the Ramchal makes in his Mesillas Yeshorim is that a person should "clarify and verify what is his obligation in this world."


R' Moshe has been "in learning" for many years. He is depressed, constantly tired and has no desire to do anything. He wakes up late, goes to sleep late and looks back on a day that seems to have yielded no accomplishment. Yesterday was the same and tomorrow will be the same.

R' Moshe never spent much time learning hashkofa. He does not know why he is learning gemora. He does not know what the learning does for him. He keeps all the mitzvos, but does not know why.

He davens and he understands all the words, but he does not know why he is davening and he does not know how to relate to the One to Whom he is praying.

R' Moshe has no ambition. He does not know where he is headed and he sees no end or purpose.

R' Moshe goes along with the sentiments expressed in Yigdal but does not really understand what the Thirteen Tenets of Faith really are and he has not been given, nor has he taken, the time to clarify their significance. Of course, he believes in the Creation, but he does not know why the world was created, why he was born, nor why he will die.


The symptoms described by the Ramchal -- feeling that he is continually loaded down by a heavy weight, trying and laboring, feeling constantly exhausted and tired, seeing no satisfaction in life -- seem to be those of classic `burnout', yet their source is very different.

Our R' Moshe might have had a relaxed upbringing; he might enjoy learning, but, for whatever reason, he missed out clarifying basic issues of hashkofa!

It is important to note that the Ramchal regards the need to "clarify and verify what one's obligation is in this world" as an essential prerequisite to advancement in serving Hashem. He calls it a foundation and a root.

A foundation provides stability and a root supplies nutrients. This means that someone who has not "clarified and verified what his obligation is in this world" will also be spiritually unstable and starved.

Of course, it is never too late to correct this oversight and the Ramchal himself answers most, if not all, of the points raised in his work Derech Hashem. Many other classic seforim also deal with these issues and there are contemporary works that also deal with issues unique to our times.

Parents and educators therefore need to ensure that talmidim have solid grounding in basic hashkofa. They need to guide their talmidim and make themselves available for answering questions whenever a talmid feels that he needs clarification.

We are not referring here to spurious philosophy or mental gymnastics but to the very foundations of Torah and yiras shomayim. Never before have we been so inundated with continual challenges to the bases of our conduct, from the media and environment and from our own children.

But the issue here is not so much regarding the need to meet the attacks on us from the outside -- though this is valid. The issue here is of the need for a person to be able to see Reason and Order in his own life.

FRAMEWORK is considering organizing closed-session workshops for helping parents and mechanchim learn to deal with the types of questions that worry us and the youth of today. The workshops will be small, low profile and not recorded so that discussions can be open and frank.

Anyone interested can write to their local FRAMEWORK office, write to the Yated office, to R' Zobin at Panim Meirot 17, Jerusalem, or email him at Please enclose any questions you would like to have discussed in writing, as well, in this series of PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE.


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