Apr 26, 2010

True Healing

Rachel Naomi Remen is a medical doctor who opened a practice where she speaks to seriously ill and suffering people and through her wisdom and caring guides them towards emotional healing.  In "Kitchen Table Wisdom" she describes a woman who was intensely grieving the loss of the love of her life.  Her grief was so acute, way beyond the norm, that a psychiatrist diagnosed her as having "reactive depression" and he treated her with progressively more powerful antidepressants which did not work.

She had several sessions with Dr. Remen in which she opened up about her pain which enabled her to move forward.

That's the chapter in a nutshell.  I won't repeat what the woman's thought process was and how Dr. Remen's suggestions broke through her numbness.  What outraged me about this episode is how the medical community, psychiatrists in particular, seek to label symptoms and drug us rather than heal us.  What the grief-stricken woman needed was not drugs to mask her symptoms (and give her numerous side effects to suffer from) but someone to truly listen to her and show her that she had the choice to move on.

We have numerous statements in Torah sources about the mind-body connection and yet we too, in the frum world, have fallen prey to drugging symptoms in children and adults.  We need wise people amongst us whom we can turn to; people who don't view coping mechanisms as medical illnesses; people who can listen and provide wise guidance within a Torah framework to those who are suffering; people who will talk about emuna and bitachon and simcha rather than diagnose syndromes and disorders.

Apr 25, 2010

Combining Different Pathways

Yeshiva X is a synthesis of the Litvish and Chassidish approach.

At Rabbi Y's shul they integrate different derachim (pathways) in avodas Hashem.

That sefer combines the fervor of ... the intellectualism of ... and the warmth of ...

Whether it's a biography about a Torah great, a description of a shul with a rabbi who has a great appeal to different kinds of people, or an advertisment to raise money for a yeshiva, you often see words like "synthesis" and "integrate" in praise of someone or some place that "combines the best of all worlds."

Sounds good.
"The best of ..."
If you can take the best of what each approach has to offer, presumably you will end up with a superior product.

But is there not a touch of condescension there?

The one with the fire lacked analytical acuity, and the one with the rationalistic approach lacked simcha, did they not? For if their approach wasn't lacking, why combine them and describe it as gleaning the best from each?

Apr 13, 2010

Dear Father ...

Every morning, after saying Modeh Ani and washing her hands, she would go out on the porch.  She placed her hands behind her back and addressed Hashem: My Master, my Father, I cannot do anything without You!

That is how a Moroccan Jewish woman addressed Hashem every morning.  She was an isha peshuta (simple woman) who was illiterate, since they did not teach girls to read and write and yet she had a personal relationship with the Ribono shel olam, one which, sophisticated we, with our ability to read, write and surf and search the Internet, often lack. 

We read stories from yesteryear, of the simple folk whom the Baal Shem Tov extolled.  There are still some living amongst us.  They are precious Jews.

We have a hard task.  We cannot feign simplicity.  We are enjoined to learn and know, to the best of our abilities.  But even as we broaden our minds and knowledge, we need to retain the emuna peshuta (simple faith) of a child, of unlearned people.

Apr 12, 2010

ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder - When Parents' Attention is Deficient

Lazer Brody, a Breslover Chassid and the translator of the immensely popular "The Garden of Emuna" has an opinion about ADD/ADHD which is refreshing.  In his experience of counseling parents about children's issues, he has seen a high correlation between those diagnoses with these pseudo-illnesses and lack of attention at home.  In other words, the attention which is lacking is primarily that of the parents, and not the child!

He "prescribes" one-on-one attention for the child with no siblings around and the transformation is amazing.  He says that at least three dozen children of his readers have rendered the use of Ritalin superfluous in this way. 

Is it not tragic, make that criminal, that children are made to be the victims of their parents' poor parenting to the extent that they are labeled as sick with a disease that requires medication? There would be more of an outcry if parents weren't only too happy to give their kid a pill rather than give their child what he really needs.  It's much easier to medicate than to give of oneself.

Apr 11, 2010

Reason enough!

Many people are sharing their opinions with the world these days by adding their comments to blogs and websites (and you, dear reader, are invited to add your comments to this blog!).  A comment that I have seen on a number of occasions is one which disdains the rabbis for focusing their attention on - what the person writing the comment thinks is - trivial in the "greater scheme of things."  They often use the topic of infestation of fruits and vegetables such a strawberries as an example of what irks them.  They wonder why the rabbis "obsess" about "invisible" bugs as though somehow the rabbis have only x amount of time and if they use it on bugs in our food, they won't give the proper attention to predators in our midst.

Rashi tells us in parshas Shemini 11: 45 that if Hashem took us out of Egypt only so that we don't defile ourselves with swarming things like the other nations do, that would have been reason enough!

Yes, there are important issues in Jewish society that needs the attention of our leaders, but lavin d'oraisa (Biblical prohibitions) rank way up there in G-d's scheme of things and this particular prohibition of not to consume insects was reason enough for G-d to take us out of Egypt! Let's get our priorities straight.