Rabbi Dr Martin van den Bergh
I am an Orthodox Rabbi who has special expertise in pastoral and spiritual care. Four years ago I completed a PhD at Leeds Beckett University, on patient-centred spiritual care. My academic journey also includes a B.Ed and an MA in healthcare chaplaincy from Leeds University.
I have been a congregational rabbi having served four communities over 36 years., having been the first to receive Semicha from the Shehebar Sephardic Center in the Old City of Jerusalem. My last posting was over the last three years in Liverpool at Childwall Synagogue, I also have a very keen interest in Jewish continuity coming from a family that were very fortunate to have survived the Holocaust. Although I did not grow up in a religious home, I knew at an early age that I wanted to go into the Rabbinate. I fully subscribe to Judaism that is firmly based on Halacha, Jewish Law and the traditions of our forefathers, and which shows the beauty and meaningfulness of a fully Jewish way of life, without being dogmatic or judgmental.
I recently received a message from a former congregant whom I encouraged to attend morning services once a week. He wrote that he now attends every morning and it forms a very important part of his routine. I also know of many people who first came to synagogue on Shabbat just to fulfil their security duties, to ending up being a part of the services inside the synagogue.
The following areas are of special interest to me:
Pastoral care issues
Individuals developing their own interest in their Jewish heritage
Initiating and building new projects
Community and personal conflict resolution.
I am happy to be a scholar-in-residence; be a speaker in your community; provide and advise of pastoral-spiritual care training; or provide confidential counselling.
Jews will normally be preparing for Pesach. One of the key activities is making our homes Chametz free by removing all types of leaven. One of the symbolisms of Chametz is the Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination, which can take on many forms. Two aspects of the evil inclination - negative attitudes, thinking and speaking badly about others, can be especially damaging when facing great challenges. Therefore, when clearing out physical Chametz, we should also remove these two aspects of evil inclination, and any other forms of negative spiritual Chametz, and replace them with positive attitudes and actions. Having positive attitudes makes enforced social isolation more palatable and enables us to confront and overcome the challenges we are all facing. By thinking and speaking well of others helps our own well-being.
Our Rabbis teach us that if we are meticulous in clearing away Chametz for Pesach. We have a greater chance of not sinning. When cleaning our homes of physical Chametz we should also think of strategies of removing negative thoughts, words and actions against one another.
Alas this is not the first time Jews have celebrated Pesach in difficult circumstances. There are examples of Jews showing tremendous tenacity to overcome obstacles to keep Pesach and celebrate our redemption from Egyptian bondage. At the same time, we pray that we will be redeemed from future hardships. As we all experience the consequences of the present pandemic, we pray that we will merit to celebrate Pesach free from the current restrictions.
May our celebrating Pesach in the best way we can in the current circumstances instil us to bring out the best of humanity, free from Chametz, free from negative attitudes, and free from damaging thoughts, words and actions.