Inquire, Inquire 9 – 5779
nihilism and beyond
If nihilism can be oversimplified as having an attitude of “I don’t care,” then acedia can be summed as meaning, “I don’t care that I don’t care.” Acedia is one of the infamous seven deadly sins. In Judaism, it is akin to the Chassidic concept of one’s own “inner Amalek.”
Amalek is the enemy of Israel in every age. Amalek, as recorded in Torah, attacked the stragglers, who were to the rear of the procession of the Israelites, as they marched in formation from place to place, encampment to encampment in the Sinai Desert.
The concept of Amalek, on an internalized level, may manifest as doubt about one’s belief, and the subsequent “coolness,” and lack of enthusiasm one feel towards his religious path. Thus, Amalek is the unperceived internal challenge to faith and practice.
Many disadvantageous conditions of the soul have the ability to “fly under the radar,” so to speak, going unnoticed by an individual, unless time is spent examining the inner dimensions of life. In modernity, we are too focused on image, keeping busy, and entertaining ourselves. Yet, by maintaining our focus on the external, we neglect the internal dimension of the soul.
“Above all that thou guardest keep thy heart; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23, JPS 1917 Tanach). By neglecting the nurture of the soul, we disconnect ourselves from the most essential element of our being. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently” (Deuteronomy 4:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).
Cognitive psychology has turned towards re-esatablishing an awareness of the thoughts, feelings and actions of a person, in terms of how the three are connected. This leads to a better understanding of the psyche on an individual basis. By monitering these three aspects of self, a person may gain insight into his soul. The resultant self-knowledge may serve to better a person’s character, leading to greater self control and peace of mind.