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Mishlei 18-14 (Attitude – Depression)

Mishlei 18-14

Attitude – Depression

Key Concepts

The relationship between mind and body is shrouded in mystery. Each depends on the other to some extent, but the mechanics are hidden from us. However, experience has shown that a positive mental attitude is critical in helping a person maintain physical health.

How does a person develop a positive attitude? He needs to believe that no matter what is going on in his life, good things are coming. A person needs to have a rational basis for believing that hope in the future is justified. Such a basis exists when he believes he has been created for a purpose, and that his Creator wants to see the purpose fulfilled. Also, whatever that purpose may be in each individual case, the underlying framework is a world of kindness.

A person who believes the Creator acts out of kindness will not be resentful when things don’t seem to be working out as he expected. The person trusts that he is in good hands and if he has patience his Creator will ensure a good outcome. With this attitude, a person’s mind is a force that can infuse his body with spiritual sustenance that nourishes the body like food and gives him the strength to survive in the face a physical ailment.

Man has been created with this positive spiritual force, but he must nurture it by maintaining a positive outlook through positive thoughts. The opposite of such a positive attitude is experienced as a state of depression. If the spirit is depressed for whatever reason, it will be very difficult for the person to turn his life around. He cannot rely on mere physical health to do it for him.

Exploring Mishlei

יד = רוּחַ אִישׁ יְכַלְכֵּל מַחֲלֵהוּ וְרוּחַ נְכֵאָה מִי יִשָּׂאֶנָּה

(14) A man’s spirit sustains him in his sickness;
but who can lift a depressed spirit?

This proverb describes a positive mental attitude using the word spirit (רוּחַ). This is because the human mind itself is part of the soul and depends on the spiritual force of the soul to maintain life and health. The action of sustaining an ill person is
described with the word יְכַלְכֵּל, which corresponds to the nourishment provided to the body by physical food.

On the other hand, Mishlei is suggesting here that what people think of as psychological depression is closely connected to an unfulfilled spiritual need.

The bottom line is that although a person needs to avail himself of appropriate medical help in treating health conditions, he should live his life within the framework of a positive mental and spiritual attitude.

Learning Mishlei

(14) A man’s spirit רוּחַ אִישׁ
sustains him in his sickness — יְכַלְכֵּל מַחֲלֵהוּ.
But as for a depressed spiritוְרוּחַ נְכֵאָה
who can lift it? — מִי יִשָּׂאֶנָּה

Additional Insights

[1] A person who neglects his positive middos (character traits) may end up suffering from the failure of his spirit to bring health to his body. For example, a person who allows envy of some else’s good fortune to embitter his life should not be surprised if he “eats himself up”. (אבן עזרא)

[2] A person who takes a positive attitude towards life finds joy in all his blessings instead of the depressing bitterrness that comes from dwelling on what he doesn’t have. (הגר”א)

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