November 13, 2013 4:22 am at 4:22 am #611276
Breslov chassidim have always been an inspiration for me. Recently, Rabbi Lazer Brody stated that one can daven to Hashem and have the emmunah to rise past the yetzer hara of depression and never have to take a single drug such as an anti-depressant.
Rabbi Avraham Twerski M.D. states some have no choice and must rely on medications to get them thru this world, even if their emmunah is strong.
I would like some of your opinions on these conflicting ideas. Both Rabbis are very influential in our generation.November 13, 2013 4:36 pm at 4:36 pm #987109
Very interesting thread.November 13, 2013 4:42 pm at 4:42 pm #987110
☕ DaasYochid ☕Participant
In theory, R’ Brody is probably right. We wouldn’t have to take medications for physical ailments either, is we were on that madreiga. Are we, though? I think I’ll agree with R’ Twerski that we’re not.November 13, 2013 4:54 pm at 4:54 pm #987111
Depression isn’t a yetzer hara. It is a serious medical, psychological, and emotional condition, and like other mental illnesses, there is a very strong spiritual dimension, as well.
R’ Twerski is a medical doctor, and for him to not recommend psychotropic drugs would constitute malpractice on his part, when individual patients require such medication.
If anything, there may be a strong yetzer hara for individuals not to seek out the proper medical assistance. The yetzer hara convinces us there’s nothing seriously wrong, when in fact, we do have serious problems that require professional attention and treatment.November 13, 2013 4:55 pm at 4:55 pm #987112
The little I knowParticipant
I wonder whether this is a situation in which the ideal and the actual are different, considering the deterioration of the generations (??????? ??????). One should be able to overcome the constraints and limitations of the physical world through the connection to Hashem. However, in today’s times, it is hardly possible to achieve that. Even the greatest gedolim of our recent generations who have sometimes accomplished the “impossible” have been clear that this is not something on which we can rely.
It might be worthwhile to review the writings about the statement by Chazal – ???? ???? ???? ????? ??????. We repeat the recognition that all healing is directly from Hashem. We say it in ??? ??? and in ?????. Yet, the obligation to utilize doctors is in no way a shortcoming in ?????. The ?????? discuss this, and there is also ample discussion about it in the works of ???????. So Rav Brody’s statement is academically accurate, but is not the halacha we must follow. References available.November 13, 2013 5:17 pm at 5:17 pm #987113
If Rabbi Brody is referring to the medical condition of Depression, his advice is not only wrong, it is irresponsible and dangerous.
If he is referring to the colloquial ‘depression’, i.e. feeling depressed/down, then he could be right.November 13, 2013 5:47 pm at 5:47 pm #987114
Would Rabbi Brody say the same thing about Cancer? I douby many people fight cancer with Emunah
Well Mental Illness in many cases is a serious medical condition, If he says such a thing its clear he knows nothing about the topicNovember 13, 2013 5:55 pm at 5:55 pm #987115
You can’t compare the 2 Rabbis. Rabbi Twerski is great in both Torah and Medicine. He comes from a great Rabbinic family and is quite a scholar in his own right. He is a very wise person. I would take his Medical and Rabbinic opinion over Rabbi Brody’s (who is only frum about 20 some-odd years) in a heartbeat. Thats not to say that Rabbi Brody doesn’t know a lot of Torah as well. But personally Id go with Rabbi Dr. Twerski.November 13, 2013 9:37 pm at 9:37 pm #987117
I don’t understand Rabbi Brody’s words exactly as you do. I think he is saying that positive energy and tfillah plus emunah can work things you cannot imagine. You would never believe how effective they are. To emphasize his point he said that people taking medication could do without it. OK.
But he is not saying that there aren’t people who need medicine. He is talking in general, heroic terms.November 13, 2013 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm #987118
l y: I think it’s irresponsible to say things you don’t exactly mean for emphasis. If he was only trying to strengthen his point, then unless he really thinks that emuna is instead of medication, he should probably not say it.
I’ve seen so many cases where people say outrageous things to back up their points and then say, “oh, it was just an example, and only to a certain extent!” Hyperbole is not honest.November 14, 2013 8:04 pm at 8:04 pm #987119
There are a few individuals who followed his “advice” (he does state it more explicitly in subsequent printings) and went off their mess. For a couple the results were tragic. For another, he thinks he is shabtai tzvi.November 14, 2013 9:58 pm at 9:58 pm #987120
Syag: Who thinks they’re Shabtai Tzvi?
I hear both sides. People should try to deal with their problems and not just pop a pill every time they realize they’re not perfect. OTOH, medication make life easier for many people who would have a much harder time functioning without it.
I think the cutoff is: Are you working on your problem, or are you using the medication to cover up a problem? If the former, pills are good. The latter is dangerous and unhealthy.November 14, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm #987121
Torah- one of the people who went off his medicines.
Regarding your cut off – it sounds like you’re talking about people feeling depressed who can either pop pills or work on their problems. Some people have severe chemical imbalances and there aren’t really problems to work on per se, they just need to take their meds. And some of these people who followed this “advice” have more serious struggles like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. You can’t really work on it instead of taking medicine. And if your doctor believes you can, it wouldn’t be without some other intensive intervention.November 15, 2013 1:23 pm at 1:23 pm #987122
Perhaps what Brody said may be true for a small number of tzaddikim. However, I think that the strict conservative view of the world is look to the talmud, and ignorantly declare that science, medicine, and engineering are not needed.
A man with a bad leg should still use a cane.November 15, 2013 1:51 pm at 1:51 pm #987123
There is a cure for every disease. Taxol, a treatment for cancer, was found in the bark of a tree in the rainforest. Should we not use it.
I had depression. I had been diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. Couldn’t get out of bed. Had no energy. I was faced with a year of weekly treatments and a month of radiation. BH, my oncologist is also a psychiatrist and was able to diagnose me.
I stayed on Efexor for a few years. I don’t know what I would have done had I not been given that option.November 15, 2013 1:56 pm at 1:56 pm #987124
If anyone wants to study properly, the question of medicine and Breslov Chassidus, there is an excellent book on the subject –
The Wings of the Sun by Avraham Greenbaum.
The book provides a clear and imformative study of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings on healing and deals with healing generally in Yiddishkeit from the Gemarah, Rambam and Kabalistic sources.November 15, 2013 2:14 pm at 2:14 pm #987125
I have a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer(lo oleinu) and has been told by the doctors it is not treatable, what then does he have to rely on other than faith?
True Rabbi Twerski is a great Talmud Chochom and Doctor but he was never been sent on a suicide mission for Israel in Beirut, nor was he a special combat soldier like Rabbi Brody. Surely Rabbi Brody has something unique to tell us about Emunah (faith) as he had nothing else to rely on in very difficult situations.
Whilst I would agree it would be dangerous for anyone prescribed with clinical depression to come off medication, there is always a place for emunah and Tefillah. Whether I can recognise that my medication is from Hashem and who should be thanked accordingly, to praying to Hashem to take the illness away, there is always a place for faith.
What is clear is there is a side to American Society which is total dependant on pseudo medication such as vitamin supplements.
” Have you had your vitamins today” is a question posed by mothers at breakfast tables across America. If those supplements have been prescribed by a doctor, then fine take them. But if it just I think this vitamin, additive, booster etc. will help me in someway then I might be guilty of a false belief. It similar to the quack medicine that existed in Rebbe Nachman’s time which he railed against and advised his followers to keep away from!November 15, 2013 3:23 pm at 3:23 pm #987126
I don’t see how Rabbi Brody’s combat experience has any bearing on how depression should be treated. As a former combat soldier myself, I can attest that faith is key, and not only faith in the Divine. One needs faith in one’s comrades and in one’s own skills. I guess I was a pretty good soldier but neither I nor anyone else should have any faith in my ability to treat clinical disease.November 15, 2013 3:35 pm at 3:35 pm #987127
Depressed people have a physical illness. I don’t remember the exact details of the study but a while back, I saw a study in which they compared brains of depressed people to brains of emotionally healthy people and the way their brain worked was different. It’s a physical disorder.November 15, 2013 5:43 pm at 5:43 pm #987128
First of all, Rabbi Brody has never said that psychiatric medications should never be used. In extreme cases and as a last resort, it’s likely he’d approve of it.
Second, it’s important to understand that there is a lot of controversy within the medical community on the effectiveness of anti-depressants. A recent meta-analysis claimed to show that most anti-depressants don’t really work at all (I think this was in Time or Newsweek). There is a significant amount of corruption within the pharmeceutical industry — they do something like commission 10 studies on the effectiveness of their drugs, and hide the results of the 8 studies that show no effect. Several books and films have appeared on this topic. In addition, many of these pills have serious side effects, including even such things as an increased risk of suicide attempts.
Third, there is a large amount of research showing that certain behaviors or dietary changes — exercise, praying, volunteering, being thankful, writing in a journal, dark chocolate, even cold showers — can improve mood and decrease depression just as well as, or even better than, anti-depressants.
Fourth, Rabbi Brody has counseled many people whose children were on medications like adderal or whatever, and through parenting and lifestyle changes helped them stop using the drugs. So some of what he’s saying comes from his counseling experience (as opposed to just his beliefs or whatever).
For these reasons, in all but the most extreme cases (for example, with lots of suicide ideation), I think it makes sense to pursue other avenues — such as hisbodedus, increasing one’s emuna, getting more sleep and exercise, eating healthier food including dark chocolate, increasing social contact, etc. — before resorting to medications.November 15, 2013 7:29 pm at 7:29 pm #987129
yytz: All I know is what the OP said (I admit that that’s obviously incomplete), but there’s a big jump from “hisbodedus, increasing one’s emuna, getting more sleep and exercise, eating healthier food including dark chocolate, [and] increasing social contact” to “one can daven to Hashem and have the emmunah to rise past the yetzer hara of depression and never have to take a single drug such as an anti-depressant.”
Even if that’s not the way he said it (and for all I know it may not be) if the details of the first post are correct, then one major difference is in the way you treat depression. Your post, which makes a lot of sense, still treats depression as an illness or biological fact for which there are many non-chemical, non-psychiatric cures- the OP treats depression as a yetzer hara. Even if depression were solely psychological, treating it as a yetzer hara is probably not the way to go. A yetzer hara usually connotes a feeling or inclination that you are not supposed to have and that you must sublimate- a potential mental illness needs to be treated with support, not just “oh, I shouldn’t have this feeling, I must not be having enough emuna.” Calling it a yetzer hara makes it seem like it’s the fault of the sufferer, which your post does not indicate.November 15, 2013 9:04 pm at 9:04 pm #987130
Thank you to the mod who added the title Rabbi to the above post (most certainly a female). It was really bothering me.
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