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From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 11:55:02 -0500 Subject: Obsessive Compulsive Behavior Tszvi Klugerman (V25n44) asks for defenses against >>..the Freudian claim that halacha leads to obsessive compulsive behavior.>> I cite two such sources: 1) The Rav, Rabbi Soloveitchick, once said in Shiur that a psychiatrist asked him, "Why do you Jews continually encourage fear of God. Surely the encouragement of fear of any type is unhealthy." The Rav responded: On the contrary: Without the fear of God people would be continuously afraid of the consequences of their passions and sins and this fear would be focused towards a large variety of people and institutions. Halacha," he continued, "Tried to substitute ONE fear---fear of God---for these MANY fears." To continue the Rav's thoughts: No one really thinks "fear" (in contrast to e.g. "love") is a high spiritual state. However if this one fear of Someone Spiritual replaces many other fears it has redemptive merit. In a similar vein even if halachah leads (with certain people) to compulsive behavior an evaluation of this compulsiveness must be made against a background of "the alternatives". After all, if this person is compulsive even with God imagine what they would be like otherwise. 2) However, the most powerful defense against Judaism encouraging compulsive behavior occurs in The Rambams great introduction to the Tractate Avoth---"The Eight Chapters"--where he discusses the foundations of Jewish psychology. Similar thoughts are echoed in the Laws of Personality in the Mishneh Torah. Briefly, the Rambam explicitly distinguishes between "compulsion" and habit For example, consider Shabboth vs Weekdays: "Compulsion" would be a tendency ONLY to work or ONLY to rest while "habit" acquisition signifies a balanced personality that feels equally comfortable doing either of the two extremes or anything inbetween. The Rambam explicitly states that the goal of halachah is to enable people to acquire balance in all areas: e.g. ownership vs charity, learning vs mitzvoth, marital intimacy vs family purity laws, working the land vs the shmitah resting of the land. Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d, ASA, rhendel @ mcs drexel edu