Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Like a block of wood.”

It happens to people – both young and old – that they take upon themselves the fear of God, whether in a dramatic change or in a gradual process of spiritual growth.

Such a person experiences a spiritual awakening and becomes like a new being.

But this same person who was so inspired can sometimes begin to feel that he is partially dead.

There is a respiratory disease called pulmonary fibrosis in which the lungs stiffen, becoming hard like wood.

Even people who do not suffer from physical ailments can sometimes feel like a block of wood.

A person who used to smile stops smiling; a person who used to be sensitive in so many ways suddenly turns cold.

Why does this happen?

Justifications can always be found.

A person may choose to be wary, thinking that to act otherwise would lead to sin or frivolity.

One who continues along this path finds that each day another part within him dies.

A person who was creative, or who was always joyful, bringing joy to others, now has become a sort of crushed creature, sulking in a corner.

He dwells in isolation, outside the camp; it is a sign that something has gone wrong.

In the past, he had experienced beauty, and it filled him with feeling; now, he feels nothing.

Such a person, who is dying little by little, continually reinforces this downward spiral by telling himself that the more dead he becomes, the more he deserves such a fate.

He thinks that his dark, morose attitude to life is a form of devoutness, as we read in Malachi, “We have walked mournfully because of God” (3:14).

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz