(For an earlier post on depression and hopelessness, see “Raba Got Up and Slaughtered Rav Zeira” about a famous gemara about Purim. This thought comes mostly from R’ Menachem Zupnik, said a number of years ago, with some embellishments of my own. (Some conscious, some due to memory drift.)


We say in the weekday Shemoneh Esrei: “Velamalshinim, al tehi siqvah — And for the informants, let there be no hope…” An earlier nusach, pre-censorship and still used in some German communities, opened with “Velameshumadim“, referring to people who convert out. Sepharadim open with “Laminim velamalshinim — the heretics and the informants.”

Generally, this is understood to mean “let them have nothing to be hopeful about”, i.e. let them — or better, their sinful behavior — die and be destroyed. Which is the theme of the rest of the berakhah.

But rather than making this line yet another iteration of the same concept, we could take the words at face value. What could be a worse fate for fifth columnists among us who assist our enemies, for anyone, than hopelessness? With hope, one can bear pain. Without hope, even the calmest life is painful. A person with cancer could still grasp at moments of happiness. A person with severe depression cannot.

Perhaps this is why the Jewish response to losing someone close to us is Qaddish. “Yisgadel veyisqadeish Shemei rabba…” May you make Your Great Name [i.e. His reputation among His creation] be enlarged and sanctified…” When life knocks one down, we use bitachon (trust in the Almighty) to find hope for the future.

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