Emotional Wellness – Just a Thought 


Rabbi David Sutton and Dr. David Katzenstein, LCSW-R 


Before Adam HaRishon sinned, evil existed outside of him. The Etz HaDaat, the Tree of Knowledge, from which he was forbidden to partake, was a tree of good and bad. According to the Rambam, before Adam ate the forbidden fruit, while he had freedom of choice, his choice was between true and false, not good and evil. This is because evil was not inside of him.   


When we look at a sizzling steak, our mouths begin to water, our desires are aroused, and we want that steak. Before he sinned, when Adam HaRishon saw a sizzling steak, no craving was awakened.  


As the Nefesh HaChaim posits, there was no passion or concept of desire. It was like reading the nutrition information listed on the outside side of a food package. For example, if he was looking at a package of chocolate chip cookies, Adam would not even see a picture of the luscious chocolate chip cookie on the front of the box.  He would merely view a nondescript white box with dry nutrition facts: how many calories, how many carbs, how much sugar, and so on. When viewed in this manner, it’s just a question of true and false. If there is too much sugar in there, then it is not good for us and we will not eat it. It is a purely analytical way of looking at the box and making a decision. So, too, the mouthwatering steak did not make Adam’s mouth water. His decisions were not based on desire.  


It was only after Adam ate from the forbidden fruit that evil entered inside of him. And after this, sin, which is evil, entered inside of us.  


To illustrate: You are in your cozy bed, enjoying a blissful dream, when suddenly you hear the loud, incessant beeping of your alarm. One voice moans, “Oy, I want more sleep.” But then another voice interrupts, “You have to get out of bed NOW, or you’re going to be late.”   


Rav Gedaliah Schorr makes an interesting point. The voice that says, “I want more sleep,” is speaking in first person, whereas the voice that says, “You have to get out of bed,” is talking in second person. That means that we identify with our laziness.   


Another example: You are at a simha and you just finished a satisfying meal. As you head to the dance floor, you pass the sweets table and you tell yourself, “I really want that tiramisu.” But there is another voice inside you that counters, “Oh, no, you don’t. Sorry, Charlie. Don’t you remember you are on a diet?”  The voice of desire speaks in first person, while the voice of reason speaks in second person.  


What is happening is that we are identifying ourselves with our detrimental traits, with the evil. There are many voices inside of us, and we have to figure out who the real us is.  It is confusing. But it is our task to sift through  the many thoughts in our heart, and to make sure  that the counsel of Hashem will prevail. It is up to us to eliminate the static.  


One who experiences obsessive thoughts can find them so intrusive and convincing that it can become extremely difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. Experts on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) often help their clients by guiding them to separate their intrusive thoughts from reality.  


The refrain, “It’s not me, it’s my OCD,” aims to increase awareness into one’s psyche, while giving the client the capacity to identify when his brain is attempting to trick him into believing something that is highly unlikely to be true. Those keenly aware of this struggle can attest that there is no quick fix, but that they engage in an ongoing task of training the mind to observe itself. Essentially, to think about thinking.   




  When we pass an ice cream parlor, and the voice inside us screams, “I want that triple-scoop sundae!” we can remind ourselves that it is not us, it is our desire stealing our voice, grabbing the microphone.  Then we can tell ourselves that no, we do not want to eat that ice cream, no matter how tempting it may appear.