No time/energy for a proper post today, so I thought I would share a passage from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik that is relevant to how I feel at the moment, and how this blog usually goes. It’s from one of the end notes in his book Halakhic Man; the end note (this is just part of it) is practically a mini essay in its own right on the subject of the idea of equanimity, or the lack of it, in Judaism.
“Religion is not, at the outset, a refuge of grace and mercy for the despondent and desperate, an enchanted stream for crushed spirits, but a raging, clamorous torrent of man’s consciousness with all its crises, pangs, and torments. Yes, it is true that during the third Sabbath meal at dusk, as the day of rest declines and man’s soul yearns for its Creator and is afraid to depart from that realm of holiness whose name is Sabbath, into the dark and frightening, secular workaday week, we sing the psalm “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Ps. 23), etc., etc., and we believe with our entire hearts in the words of the psalmist. However, this psalm only describes the ultimate destination of homo religiosus, not the path leading to that destination. For the path that eventually will lead to the “green pastures” and to the “still waters” is not the royal road, but a narrow, twisting footway that threads its course along the steep mountain slope, as the terrible abyss yawns at the traveler’s [sic] feet. Many see “the Lord passing by; and a great and strong wind rending mountains and shattering rocks… and after the wind an earthquake… and after the earthquake a fire” but only a few prove worthy of hearing “the still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12). “Out of the straights have I called, O Lord” (Ps. 118:5). “Out of the depths I have called unto Thee, O Lord” (Ps. 130:1). Out of the straits of inner oppositions and incongruities, spiritual doubts and uncertainties, out of the depths of a psyche rent with antinomies and contradictions, out of the bottomless pit of a soul that struggles with its own torments I have called, I have called unto Thee, O Lord.
And when the Torah testifies that Israel, in the end, would repent out of anguish and agony… “In your distress when all these things are come upon you… and you will return unto the Lord your God” (Deut. 4:30), it had in mind not only physical pain, but also spiritual suffering. The pangs of searching and groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul purify and sanctify man, cleanse his thoughts, and purge them of the husks of superficiality and the dross of vulgarity. Out of these torments there emerges a new understanding of the world, a powerful spiritual enthusiasm that shakes the very foundations of man’s existence. He arises from the agonies, purged and refined, possessed of a pure heart and a new spirit. “It is a time of agony unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved” (Jer. 30:7) – i.e., from out of the very midst of the agony itself he will attain eternal salvation and redemption. The spiritual stature and countenance of the man of God are chiseled [sic] and formed by the pangs of redemption themselves.”
From Halakhic Man by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, translated by Lawrence Kaplan pp. 142-143