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    Depressed & in the wilderness – B’midbar

    The title of the Book we begin this Shabbat – “In the Wilderness” – may be understood on a figurative as well as a literal level.

    We all know what it is to be in a wilderness. There are times in everyone’s life when they feel bereft, lost, alienated, depressed.

    Chaim Bermant once wrote that in old-time places where it really was hard to be a Jew and life was a daily struggle, one didn’t hear of people suffering from depression. They had worries, certainly: worries about making a living, about safety and security, about the children. But deep depression, no. Bermant said there wasn’t even a word for it in Yiddish – though one has possibly been found in the meantime, because depression is an undeniable fact of life today.

    Bermant added, however, that whatever problem one suffers from, a Jew seems more likely than others to seek a remedy, and more confident that they will find it.

    Whether this is objectively true I don’t know, but it certainly is the case that Judaism tends to insist that life has no wilderness without a means of exit.

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