How to be Emotional in 5781: The Legacy of a Hasidic Educational Master

November 12, 2020

By Rabbi Dr. Jon Kelsen for eJewish Philanthropy

A quick look at the papers, glance out the window, or moment of introspection reveal one the emotional turmoil being activated on all levels of social and political life during these extraordinarily trying days. The US just concluded a tumultuous presidential election, revealing a country with still profound political division. Anti-racism protests and efforts continue to rock the nation, bringing old fissures in the national fabric to the fore. And, not least, as the days get shorter and winter approaches, the nation experiences record-breaking rises in new Covid cases. It has been and, it appears, will be, a year of uncertainty.

These stimuli and circumstances arouse tremendously taxing emotions, which themselves have enormous impact on who and how we are in this world. Our emotions are being constantly triggered – emotions like anger, fear, disgust, hate, as well as love, joy, compassion. This reality challenges us, as citizens and humans, to learn how to work with those feelings. Especially during these days, we all must learn how best to deal with our emotional life.

The question is not, therefore, whether or not we are emotional; it is, rather, how we are emotional. How might we learn to gracefully encounter and challenge all of our emotions? What does it mean to “do well” with our feelings? What does the learning and practice of wise emotionality look like?


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