Unless one has gone through the horrors of war and its aftermath, it is impossible to understand the emotions and feelings of the victims of these horrible situations. In recent years, we have been exposed to the phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers returning from combat, and the media provides accounts of those returning from the front lines having experienced the loss of fellow soldiers and not knowing what will be the effects on the survivors.
Almost surreptitiously, the media tires of covering Operation Protective Edge and shifts focus to the suicide of a well-known comedian, bringing out information concerning depression and its connection to Parkinson’s disease. Just as quickly, it shifts to bring viewers more misery related to Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri. Why does the media expose its viewers to this constant flow of misery?
The cynic says that good news does not attract money. Indeed, the media plays on the emotions of its captive audience to empathize with the plight of those who are suffering, although it is all play acting, as the audience goes back to its mundane activities as soon as the media is turned off.
Unlike media, whose goals are to titillate and, conversely, to depress, the Torah addresses the real issues of misery and provides an antidote to all that surrounds us. While it is too facile to attribute to Torah study the capability of healing all ills, emotional and otherwise, it is a source of comfort for those seeking a healthy respite from the travails of daily life, whether they be individualized or supplied by a ravenous media that seeks to enwrap its followers.
The Torah promises that, if the people of Israel were to follow the word of God, He would remove all illness from the community. There is no question these statements could be challenged by well-meaning individuals who have not seen that benefit come to pass for them or their loved ones.
But these messages are ones of hope and encouragement. A community must place its faith in God and Torah in order for it to survive emotionally and perhaps physically. It must look to our sources with trust and confidence that indeed the picture painted by media and the harsh reality of the outside world can be modified and altered.
One message that stands out as a source of comfort for all appears in the Talmud Yerushalmi Shabbat 14:3 and is based on a sentence from Deuteronomy 7:15. The Torah indicates God will remove all illness, with the Talmud commenting that said illness refers to anxiety. Interestingly, the Talmud, in describing anxiety, uses a word that, in modern Hebrew, alludes to an idea, or raayon. The Torah Temimah comments that the relationship between raayon and anxiety is that one who worries too much becomes absorbed by those troublesome thoughts or ideas, which become an unshakable heavy burden to bear. These worries overcome the individual to the point that he cannot function.
There is no question that anxiety is paralyzing, but perhaps our Torah can be a source of comfort to one who is troubled. The study of Torah can indeed be satisfying and self-fulfilling. Especially in this crazy world, the message of Torah as a sam chayim (medicine of life) becomes that much more important and appreciated.