Emor II - SPLIT PERSONALITIES
SOME TIME AGO the Readers Digest had an interesting article on the problem of mental illness in America. It makes the startling revelation that there are more people hospitalized by mental illness than by all other diseases combined. Half of these sick people are afflicted with a mental disorder known as schizophrenia. The schizophrenic has a split personality. He is given to daydreams, hallucinations and delusions. It is such a complex and serious illness that no real and complete cure has been found for it yet. Shock treatments are helpful in some cases and useless in others. Brain surgery and drugs have also been used with a limited measure of success. Authorities in the field, however, are of the opinion that the best method is prevention. This involves giving a child an abundance of love and care, and providing him with a healthy and happy environment both at home and in school.
There is yet another type of split personality which afflicts many individuals. It is simpler than the first, but is aggravating nevertheless. I am referring to the individual whose character, temperament and behavior are persistently changing and unpredictable. Such a person confuses and has one guessing all the time. He is difficult to get along with because one simply doesn't know what to expect of him next.
In literature this type was immortalized by Robert Louis Stevenson in his famous novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde It is the story of a brilliant young doctor who at times acts the congenial healer of men, and at others the licentious and cruel fiend.
Another legendary example is the Roman Emperor Nero who was supposed to have had an artistic soul. We are told that he loved the fine arts, especially music. But it was he who set fire to the city of Rome with its teeming population. And while thousands of men, women and children were roasting to death, Nero played a moving tune on his fiddle.
In our time we have been baffled by the puzzling case of Willie Sutton, otherwise known as Willie the Actor. On the one hand, Willie used his gun to kill in cold blood anyone who stood in his way, and on the other he was always ready to help the poor and the sick. On the one hand he was a turbulent creature who thrived on danger and adventure, and on the other he was a man who knew how to relax by reading the books of Freud and Rabbi Liebman's Peace of Mind. On the one side he was a man of modest wants and desires, content to live in a cheap flat in a shabby neighborhood in Brooklyn, and on the other he had an insatiable hunger for money and power.
We have all had some experience with people who are gentle and kind in the morning, and grouchy and mean in the evening; who are courteous and friendly one moment, and brazen and cruel the next. Such men and women confuse and annoy us to distraction and sometimes make us lose faith in the human race.
One also finds the split personality in the field of religious life. In fact the concluding part of the sidrah of this week deals with such a case. Let me read to you briefly the incident which is recorded in the Torah. "And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was Egyptian . . . and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the son of the Israelitish woman cursed the name of God. And they brought him unto Moses" (Levit. 24:10-11). Here was a young man, raised among the Jewish people, schooled in Jewish teachings and precepts, cursing God and blaspheming his people and his Faith. In this instance the reason for his split religious personality is obvious-he was the product of a mixed marriage, raised in a home where the partners were incompatible insofar as matters of religion and morality were concerned. His father, the Egyptian, came from an idolatrous environment. His habits and memories were pagan. The mother was Jewish, and must have tried to teach her son the Jewish way of life. The philosophies clashed in the home and did irreparable damage to the mind and the soul of the boy. It created a split religious personality which brought tragedy to the young man and sorrow to his parents.
About a year ago I was told about a similar case. This one had nothing to do with ancient Egypt but with present day Brooklyn. A Jewish girl married a Catholic young man. In time they had a son. When the child is taken to his Jewish grandmother, his bobbie, they put a mezuzah, on his neck, and when he visits his Catholic grandmother he wears a cross. Such a boy is bound to be confused. It will be a miracle if he doesn't grow up to be a split personality.
Some time ago, a parent of one of the boys in our Hebrew School spoke to me about his son's unwillingness to attend services on Saturday morning. "Rabbi," he said to me, "I'm the kind of a father who agrees with you wholeheartedly that children should attend religious services. Would you please talk to my boy about it." I told him how glad I was to hear him say that, and promised to speak to the boy. But then I said to the man, "Say, Joe, how about yourself? You are off on Shabbos, why don't you come to Shule with your son? I am sure that he would be glad to go along with you!" And the father replied, "Rabbi, that's beside the point!"
Little does he know that this is precisely the point. If the father stays away from the synagogue services, why should the child go? And if he is forced to go, there is the danger of creating a split religious personality.