Several of the many blessings in Judaism give thanks to God for sanctifying us by giving us commandments. What does this mean? We are made sacred when we follow the commands that God has given us.
While reading this week’s Torah portion (Bechukotai), I was struck by how this relates to depression and addiction. When we stray from the path of order, we get sick. The word “Sanitary” refers to being clean. Insane literally means “not-clean”. When we act in a good way, we stay clean and sane.
In Leviticus Chapter 26, God is telling us what will happen if we don’t follow the commands that we have been given.
14 “But if you do not obey Me and observe all these commands— 15 if you reject My statutes and despise My ordinances, and do not observe all My commands—and break My covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring terror on you—wasting disease and fever that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. You will sow your seed in vain because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will turn against you, so that you will be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even though no one is pursuing you.
“Terror, and your life will ebb away”? Sounds a lot like anxiety and depression. And we will run even though nobody is pursuing us? That sounds like anxiety too, always in a panic.
Note that this is not some random punishment. It is the natural result of dis-order – of not following the order, the commandments, of God. It is more that we are punished by our bad choices, rather than God is punishing us.
19 I will break down your strong pride. I will make your sky like iron and your land like bronze, 20 and your strength will be used up for nothing. Your land will not yield its produce, and the trees of the land will not bear their fruit.
“Your strength will be used up for nothing” sounds very familiar. Depression feels like nothing you do is meaningful or worthwhile. What little energy you have amounts to nothing.
26 When I cut off your supply of bread, 10 women will bake your bread in a single oven and ration out your bread by weight, so that you will eat but not be satisfied.
Depression and addiction both feel like you are never satisfied. Nothing ever makes you happy. You never feel fulfilled.
36 “I will put anxiety in the hearts of those of you who survive in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a wind-driven leaf will put them to flight, and they will flee as one flees from a sword, and fall though no one is pursuing them.
More anxiety and terror, even though there is no discernable reason for it. Once again, this is part of depression and anxiety.
43 For the land abandoned by them will make up for its Sabbaths by lying desolate without the people, while they pay the penalty for their sin, because they rejected My ordinances and abhorred My statutes.
And this is all for when we choose to disobey God.
Yet, even though we abandon God, God does not abandon us.
44 Yet in spite of this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject or abhor them so as to destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am Yahweh their God. 45 For their sake I will remember the covenant with their fathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I am Yahweh.”
We can turn around right now, and start acting correctly. We can be like the prodigal son, and return, right now, to obeying God.
Jesus boils down all of the commandments to two – Love God, and love your neighbor. Treat your neighbor how you like to be treated.
(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)