A Jewish Take On Anxiety

In the Book of Leviticus, God describes the punishments that the Jewish people will face if they don’t follow God’s rules. One of the first punishments listed is beh-hala, feeling unsettled, disturbed or panicked. Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra who lived in Spain during the 11th century expands upon this, teaching that beh-hala involves being frightened and having no clue as to how to resolve your fear. Given this, I understand beh-hala as overwhelming anxiety. In this week’s Torah portion we read about the last three plagues and see how Moses’ efforts pay off as Pharaoh finally breaks, liberating the Israelites. At this tremendous moment of victory for Moses, it’s easy to forget that just two weeks ago we were reading that Moses himself struggled with what we might define as beh-hala. The man responsible for freeing our ancestors, the great Moses, suffered from anxiety. When God approached him and told him he would be the leader of Israelites, teaching them about…