My last bout of that was around Succot time 2016, and I was so finished afterwards - because NOTHING of all the many things that were bothering me changed by as much as a hairsbreadth - that I think I made a subconscious decision to give up on active desperation, and to just kind of sink into quiet despair now.
Not on purpose, you understand, and not because that's how I've really WANTED to be feeling, but I got to a place where despite so much effort, prayers, trying, moving, changing, fixing, I still felt so stuck in so many key areas of my life, there was nothing else to do, really, except give up with as good a grace as possible.
I haven't been moping around, or spending depressed days in bed, which is what used to happen when I was actively despairing about things. But on some fundamental level, I kind of just stopped hoping that stuff is going to change for the positive, and I've been trying to make the best of things, and to pretend that the other stuff doesn't bother me anymore.
But last week, when I had another difficult couple of days, and I started to realise that 'giving up' is actually a huge ploy by the yetzer hara to suck all the hope, joy and energy out of my life. I got that insight from Rav Ofer Erez's new book in Hebrew, called 'Al Parshat Drachim', which is full of some amazing teachings about the book of Bereishit (Genesis).
There, Rav Ofer started talking about the 'klipa' or dark forces attached to Esav, Yaacov's twin brother, and the source of all the evil in the world. Rav Ofer explained that Esav is the spiritual root of the Western world, and of xtianity, and that xtianity's BIG THING is trying to get the Jews to despair of being remembered and redeemed by God.
In case you're not familiar with xtian doctrine (lucky you....) the main plank of it is that God decided to give the Jewish people the heave-ho and replace them with a 'new' chosen people, i.e. yoshki and his merry band of men. Rav Ofer makes it clear that that feeling of complete yeoush, or despair, is the prime spiritual weapon of Esav, and the main way that Esav's descendants have tried to weaken the Jews, and tear them away from God.
'Look how pathetic you are! Look how none of your prayers are being answered! Look how your Temple is still in ruins, and you're still the most despised people in the world!" - This is how the klipa of Esav works in the world, and man, we Jews are feeling it so strongly at both the national and the personal levels at the moment.
Things are not looking so rosy for the Jewish nation right now, on just about every front. Anti-semitism is shooting through the roof in the diaspora; Israel's government and institutions - including the IDF - are corrupt and rotten to the core. Every where you look, there's more couples getting divorced, more kids getting diagnosed with emotional disorders, more people on meds, more misery, more heartache.
But Rav Ofer reminded me that THIS IS REALLY ALL AN ILLUSION!!!! It's just the klipa of Esav, painting a very dark picture of things and filling the Jewish world with despair three seconds before it gets permanently blasted out of the world.
I SO needed to read that this week.
In the meantime, nothing has changed, and everything has changed. I've picked myself up off the floor, and I've started talking to God much more seriously again. I am NOT backing down from the fight .I am NOT giving up. I am going to keep holding on, and to keep trying, and to keep praying, even if nothing ever changes or works, because that's what a Jew does.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that there is no despair in the world. After reading Rav Ofer's book in shabbat, I'm starting to think he's probably right....