My accountant recommended I start taking one 40 milligram Atorvastatin tablet before bedtime. I now pour a quart of synthetic fuel additive into my car’s fuel tank every filling because the plumber who fixed our kitchen sink advised it. My auto mechanic said that everyone should expense carpet cleaning on their federal income tax. You may well laugh but many people vote the way their favorite Hollywood celebrity recommends. Many people raise their children according to the dictates of the latest issue of psychology magazines and many people choose what car to buy on the basis of the mindless ramblings of a hysterical Nordic teenager.
Wouldn’t you be really relieved to know that you had access to fully reliable information? (…and no, that wouldn’t be the Internet.) Well, think of your rabbi as the ultimate antacid. I am about to bring you relief. That’s right; I am about to show you how and where you can seek dependable data about whatever troubles you.
The first step is to determine into which of two categories your question falls. Does your question have something to do with the natural sciences? Is it about how things are and not about how things should be? Is it about things or animals more than about people? Example: What is the highest mountain visible from a city with a population of more than five million inhabitants? Most questions of this type have one unarguable answer. Let’s call this basket of questions, category A.
If your question is about how things should be or about what is considered ‘right’ or ‘moral’ then we’ll call those questions category B. Anything that could be seen as philosophical or speculative falls into this group. If it has anything to do with people interacting with one another or people making judgments, it probably belongs here. Example: How many years is the best spacing between successive children? Definitely a type B question.
For all type A questions, merely go and study the available facts. You won’t find an answer to your question beginning with the words, “97% of scientists/experts/professors/doctors agree… There won’t be many different opinions of the answer assuming that everyone you ask is committed to the truth rather than to an agenda. That’s one way to know you’re dealing with category A.
For all type B questions, start off your search for the answer with the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom. That’s right. Every imaginable type B question is covered. And anything not covered is a type A matter which everyone can solve for themselves because the answer is relatively simple and readily available. Unlike group A questions which are always only physical in nature, category B questions also involve the spiritual. Seeking an answer to a spiritual question from a scientist is like asking a celebrity how to vote or an accountant what medication to take.
An important Biblical topic is mental health, sanity, and their opposites. Clearly this is seen as a type B concern. There are two kinds of reference to madness in Scripture. One is when King David is faking it as an escape strategy from his pursuing enemies.
[David] became very much afraid of King Achish of Gath. So he concealed his good sense from them; he feigned madness for their benefit. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate and let his saliva run down his beard. And Achish said to his courtiers, “You see the man is raving; why bring him to me?”
(I Samuel 21:13-15)
Since David’s behavior was viewed as insanity, clearly people must have been familiar with that tragic condition.
The second kind of Biblical reference to losing one’s mind is in the context of God punishing Israel for abandoning Him and His rules.
The Lord will strike you with madness, blindness, and dismay.
On that day, declares the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness.
The Bible is not telling us that on an individual level every mental problem is the consequence of a lack of faith or any other failing. However, on a society-wide basis, the growing abandonment of God does make that society and its citizens much more susceptible to this problem.
In spite of the overwhelming majority of mental health professionals leaning towards atheism if not outright anti-religious bias, a large body of research indicates that higher levels of religious belief and practice (known in social science as “religiosity”) are associated with better mental health. In particular, much research suggests that higher levels of religiosity are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and suicidal behavior. Religiosity is also associated with better physical health and subjective well-being. Likewise, there is research indicating that religiosity can enhance recovery from mental illness, aiding in the healing process.
Not surprisingly, as societies secularize, we tend to see rising rates of mental instability. After all, so many of life’s questions need an understanding of God in order to resolve. In fact, most category B questions require Godly awareness.
The beginning of wisdom is fear of God…
When even Google is unable to help people answer the deep and demanding questions of life, it is enough to drive anyone mad.