Depression is serious. But if there is anything that the news of Robin Williams’s death has taught us is that as long as there’s hope, hope for a brighter tomorrow, then God willing we will merit to see many light-filled days to come.
Each generation has its own lyrics that typify it. In the early 70s it was John Lennon’s Imagine. In the early 90s it was Nirvana’s Nevermind. And in this generation it is Matisyahu’s One Day.
We were classmates so I’m partial. But I don’t care. I don’t care because the thought that I had for this article is a thought that may help someone out there.
Before I quote some of the lyrics, I should first explain the progression that is being made. In my previous article, I called the generation of the 60s and early 70s the generation of dreamers or imagination, which I related to the World of Creation in Kabbalah, the World of Thought. The “nevermind” generation
of the 90s relates to the World of Formation, the World of Emotion and to the feeling of not being heard.
But now we find ourselves in the World of Action. On the one hand this means that we are living in a very special time. A time when actions are paramount as in the saying of the sages, “action is the most essential.” There is also another saying, “the end of action is first in thought.” This is the generation to take all the good thoughts and dreams of the 60s and 70s (and all of human history) and finishes the job.
How do we finish the job? By moving mountains and shouting from the hilltops? Maybe that worked in the 60s for The Sound of Music, but this again was just another fiction, a dream. And as with any dream, there was some good mixed in with a whole lot of nonsense.
So what now? What is our job now? This may surprise you, but the biggest thing that most of us can do in this generation consists of the smallest acts. To smile and greet people on the street. To give tzedakah (charity) each and every day (except for Shabbat and holidays). And for those who struggle with life itself, to get out of bed each morning to live another day. In this generation it’s the small but repeated acts of goodness and kindness that count the most.
One more thing before I quote from the One Day lyrics. This time about the title of Matisyahu’s song itself. Why was the wording “one day” chosen?
The inner reason is that it reminds us about a seven week period each year called the Counting of the Omer, and the spiritual growth process during that period. To quote from Inner.org:
“Though the Counting of the Omer lasts for 49 days (from the end of the first day of Passover to the day before Shavu’ot) the way that we count explicitly states that we are adding days. We do not say “Today is the first day of the Omer,” “Today is the second day of the Omer,” etc... but rather on the first day we say, “Today is one day to the Omer”; on the second day we say, “Today are two days to the Omer” etc., and we do not “today is the second day of the Omer” and so on.”
The article then goes on to explain the significance of 49 (the sum of all numbers from 1 to 49).
What does all this mean?
First don’t think that you need to move mountains. Second don’t think that your “baby steps” forward are part of a sequential rather than an additive process. Don’t think that your quarter given to tzedakah yesterday and today add up to 50 spiritual cents somewhere. What the “one day” concept teaches us is that there is no telling what the effects of your small but repeated actions are. As Maimonides says it could be your one mitzvah that tips the scales and brings redemption to the entire world and all of creation.
Now some of the One Day lyrics:
Sometimes I lay
Under the moon
And thank God I'm breathing
Then I pray
Don't take me soon
'Cause I am here for a reason
Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around because...
There is a hassidic adage that a little light dispels much darkness. This is why I cut off the lyrics here at the word because… because any glimmer of light that gives hope to someone suffering depression is enough. When it comes to someone that feels surrounded by negativity … that finds themselves crying … what do we tell them? That it will be okay… we attempt to shine some light on their situation.
What does it mean to live a “one day” life? First to take baby steps and not get overwhelmed. Second to know that the results of our actions yield abundant results. And third that there is something to hope for. A better future both for ourselves and the world.
What does this generation need more than anything else? A sense of purpose and hope for the future. And from these glimmers of hope we can light up the room with the sunshine of a new day. A new day filled with the air of the redemption.
Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 14 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website Community of Readers.