Here’s a thought:
Call him for help.
When you visit him, put aside the illness as if it didn’t exist for a moment, and ask him for some advice. Think of his region of expertise and talent and tell him you need his assistance.
He is an actor and you are a drama teacher. Ask him how he would approach a difficult scene or how to present a particular character. This will be more than just telling him “you matter and you are needed”, it will be actually making him needed.
Now obviously we are involved here with some serious health issues. They will not go away with a few minutes of conversation. It might not work at all. He may not even be receptive to being asked, or perhaps he is incapable of responding. But if you have even a slight chance of getting through to him, it is well worth the effort. It might give him a short while where he is not being absorbed in his own issues. If he can put his thoughts on someone else for even a short time, that may serve as a little gasp of air, and he may be lifted, if even momentarily, above his darkness.
There are times when the trap of depression or illness is the self-absorption it brings. The best antidote for that is serving others. Help him with a chance to do that. If nothing else, you will have expressed to him that whatever he is going through, he can still contribute to the world, and he is valued enough to be asked. That may be just what he needs to hear.
May he/she get well soon!
Rabbi Mendel Bluming, Maryland and Rabbi Moss, Australia
Rabbi Mendel Bluming serves the community as the Rabbis of the Chabad Shul of Potomac and is often challenged with this question.
Here’s a thought created on Jewish philosophy:
Good is only good for G-d chose it to be. G-d is not chained by anything, and could have chosen otherwise. He could have written “Thou shalt steal,” and “Do not help the poor and needy.” Helping our elders across the street would be the wrong thing to do, but mugging them would be desired.
Now you may say, anyone with a healthy conscience knows that to steal is morally repugnant and helping the needy is a righteous and upright deed. But our conscience is created by G-d also. If morality would be inverted, we would be wired in that direction. Luckily for all those old ladies trying to cross the street in the world, G-d chose the other way around.
Does this mean good isn’t truly good? Is morality nothing more than a whimsical imagination? Not at all. Only humans are impulsive and arbitrary. G-d is absolute. Good is absolutely as reality not because it feels good to me but because the Absolute One made it so. Morality is defined by the infinite model of G-d, not the finite nature of human feelings.
The real quandary is this: without G-d, how can anything be good or evil? Who becomes the decision maker? That’s a really good question
Rabbi Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss
There is a known theory that we can gather all we need to know about a person in the first few seconds of greeting them. It is a great theory. There is only one problem with it. It is just a theory 🙂
A person is bigger than meets the eye. We are complicated. We have thoughts and feelings, memories and desires, quirks and foibles. We all have a story and we all have a soul. You can’t notice all this at first glance.
How many times have you been impressed by someone’s at first, only to be disappointed later? And vice versa, how many people have you been pleasantly surprised by after getting to know them better? Even looks are deceiving. A person who you don’t find attractive at first can grow on you as their full picture unravels.
I am sure you would support me in saying that no one can know what you are all about by meeting you once. So give the same treatment to others. Don’t always trust your instincts. They can certainly lead you astray.
Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss