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Joy and Grief Intertwined

Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder (IEED) is one of the distressing symptoms experienced by sufferers of stroke, multiple sclerosis, amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurological conditions. Patients with this condition have involuntary outbursts of laughing or crying, often at socially inappropriate times, such as laughing at a funeral. A new drug, developed by Avanir pharmaceuticals, offers some relief from this disorder, known clinically as a pseudobulbar affect.

A recently concluded international clinical trial, as reported in the journal Annals of Neurology, confirmed that one Neurodex pill a day can significantly improve quality of life of IEED sufferers. It is expected that the FDA will soon give approval to prescribe Neurodex for this use.

Bouts of uncontrollable laughing or crying can be a symptom of a devastating disease. However, they can also be expressed in a state of optimal neurological and psychological health. Our prophets use these terms to describe the first moments of Redemption – moments in which the world will be completely transformed in an instant. The overwhelming emotions we will experience in those turbulent moments will run the gamut from bitter tears to euphoria and ecstasy.

As King David writes in Psalms, "When G-d will return the captives of Zion we will have been like dreamers; then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with song." On the other hand, the prophet Jeremiah says, “With tears I will bring them and with lamentations I will lead them.” Commentaries explain that the tears will be of prayer and repentance.

It is quite a common phenomenon in Judaism to experience two extremes of emotion at the same time. For example, every wedding ceremony concludes with breaking a glass (amid shouts of “mazel tov!”) to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. At the same time, no misfortune or calamity is so dire that there is no room for faith, hope and joy.

This week, we will mark the 9th of Av, the annual Jewish day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. It has historically been a day of tears and mourning, but it will soon be transformed into something else – for when Moshiach comes, our prophets say, all the fast days will become holidays. In fact, the joy of the fast days will be in direct proportion to the mourning that preceded them, for G-d will finally reveal to us the meaning behind all the tragedy and suffering. Then, G-d promises, “I will transform your mourning to joy,” and we will banish our tears forever.

 

 


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