THE TESHUVAH PILL
Humans and animals both have bodies, but only humans have a soul. It is our soul that elevates us from the other species of mammals. Each of our actions requires input from both our guf (body) and our neshamah (soul).
Humans and animals both have bodies, but only humans have a soul. It is our soul that elevates us from the other species of mammals. Each of our actions requires input from both our guf (body) and our neshamah (soul). The body is the machine that we use to physically do work in this world and the soul directs the body and controls our actions.
For animals that have no soul it is normal to kill, steal, or act upon any and all of their desires. Humans have desires as well, but so long as the soul is calling the shots, we control our appetites and use our bodies to bring about good rather than evil. It is when the body stops responding to input from the soul that we start to behave in a misguided fashion. Our drive for particular physical indulgence grows wild and then we lose discipline. People become driven to eat irrational amounts of unhealthy foods, abuse harmful substances, spread damaging rumors, surrender to lustful desires, thieve, and slay.
The prescription to remedy such desires is illustrated for us in this week's double Torah portion. The Torah discusses a condition called tzaraat. Tzaraat is the physical manifestation of a spiritual disease; it is a punishment for the person who spreads gossip, which in Hebrew is called lashon hara. Directed by the soul, the human mouth and vocal system are capable of fulfilling beautiful acts such as praising G-d, teaching Torah, and speaking kind to others. However, when the soul loses command, our mouths may run amok, spewing "negativisms" such as the spread of gossip. Gossip is addictive; the more gossip we speak, the more we want to speak and the less control our soul has to prevent it. When a person develops tzaraat, the cure is not a topical cream, a pill, or a surgical procedure. Acupuncture, herbs, massage therapy, and chiropractic care will not help either. Rather, the Torah tells us that the only cure for a problem of this kind is a significant lifestyle change. The individual is removed from society so that he can learn to appreciate the company of other people in this world and have time to re-train his guf (and specifically his mouth) to respond to his neshamah. Only once his neshamah regains control will this individual be able to control his desire to speak lashon hara and return to using his mouth for good.
For many, our bodies tend to control our souls more than our souls control our bodies. Here too, the answer will not be a miracle drug, surgical procedure, or holistic wonder. Symptoms are frequently indicative of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Masking the symptoms will not fix the problem anymore than removing the battery from a smoke detector will put out a fire.
A similar occurrence takes place with our souls. When our bodies stop responding to our souls, we may begin to experience early symptoms. Perhaps we find ourselves speaking lashon hara or having impure thoughts. These symptoms are screaming for us to make major changes, but all we do is try to make the symptoms go away. For example, a major failure of weight control pills is that people take the pills and then increase their food consumption. They want to rely on the pill to do the work, and as a result they lose even more control. How rich would I be if I came out with a single 'repentance pill' that repented for murder, stealing, committing adultery, idol worship, and blasphemy. People would depend on the pill to do their teshuvah (repentance) and the incidence of murder, stealing, adultery etc. would multiply. There is no teshuvah pill just like there was no tzaraat pill. The only answer is self-improvement through diligent and hard work.
We need to become in tune with our bodies and recognize what is normal and what is a symptom. We need to listen to our symptoms and realize what they are telling us rather than attempting to vanish them overnight. We all have to work to improve the control of our neshamah over our guf so that we may use them in harmony to fulfill the will of G-d and make this world a better place.
Elly Berlin is studying the art, science, and philosophy of chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.
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