Dear Rabbi Twerski,
Sensual pleasures fill a void. But Torah, which is spiritual in nature, cannot possibly fill a missing emotional hole. How do we use Torah to fill in a hole that was caused by something emotional? In my case, my parents really did a lot of damage to me emotionally. If you can help me fill the void, maybe it will help me with overeating also. You see, I (sometimes) eat till I’m sick and can’t do anything productive — all I want to do is sleep. I could have been a big talmid chacham if I weren’t sleepy all the time from overeating. You see, my parents did a “wonderful” job with me.
Rabbi Twerski Responds
In order to have both physical and emotional health, we require proper nutrition. If we lack certain essential vitamins and/or minerals, we develop “deficiency syndromes.” Lack of iron and vitamin B may cause depression.
If a child was raised by abusive parents, who, in addition to being unkind to the child, deprived him of proper nutrition, he may be very depressed as an adult. A physician who examines the person may diagnose the nutritional deficiencies and prescribe the missing vitamins and minerals. The person may say, “How are those going to remove the pain of the abuse?” The answer is that the vitamins and minerals will remedy the deficiencies, and he will have to get therapy to deal with the consequences of the abuse.
Human beings are more than just intelligent animals. Indeed, we come into the world essentially as animals, and we are obligated to develop ourselves into the spiritual beings we were meant to be. If we lack spirituality, that creates a void. If we lack spirituality and also had abusive parents, we must fulfill ourselves spiritually and get therapy for the consequences of abuse. A lack of either will not solve our emotional problems. Of course, if a person numbs oneself with chemicals, one will not be aware of any void, because one will have no feeling at all.
Yes, we come into the world as animals, and we are to rise above the animal level. Animals are motivated only by their de- sires. They have no sense of duty, no sense of responsibility, no sense trying to improve oneself. Many people never rise above an animal level and are nothing more that intelligent animals who use their intellect to gain gratification.
It is terribly unfortunate that some people descend to below animal levels. Animals have a reproductive drive and they grati- fy it, but they do not make an industry out of it. They do not have perversions. They do not ruin children with pedophilic molesta- tion. They do not exploit others’ drives for their own profit.
If we fail to become that which we were meant to be, i.e., spiritual beings, we will feel a void. We would feel that void even if we had the most loving and caring parents in the world. If we fill that spiritual void, we may nevertheless suffer from emotional trauma or deprivation in childhood. The two are separate and should not be confused.
Think seriously about who you are and what you can make of yourself. Instant gratification may give you momentary pleasure, but does nothing to make you into a better person.
If we are unhappy, we may blame our parents, but blaming someone for our misery is just an excuse so that we don’t feel we must do anything to make changes in ourselves. It is true that we may be what our parents made of us, but if we stay that way, it is our own decision to do so.