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, in person as well as via ZOOM.
When doing my final teaching practice one of my classes was observed by an external examiner, the lesson was a disaster. I was certain he was going to give me a fail. To my great relief he passed me and gave me a good piece of advice. He said: ‘do not try and be what you are not, be who you are!’
Pharaoh also tried to be what he was not. He tried to portray himself as a god. To hide the fact that he was a human being with basic human needs, by getting up before anybody else and go and relive himself on the banks of the River Nile. It was precisely at this moment that Moses confronted Pharaoh, as commanded by God, and to remove from him any allusions that he was a divine being.
Pharaoh is a good example that we cannot really hide from our real identity and essence. Alas, many people assume false identities, mannerisms, and dress codes, all designed to hide their real identity. Throughout history there have also been Jews who have tried to hide their Jewish identity, and in Egypt there were also Israelites who tried to become Egyptians and hide their Israelite identity. They fell between two stools because they were never allowed to be entirely assimilated by the Egyptians, and they were also not redeemed from bondage. Unlike the Israelites who never lost their identity and so were consequently redeemed. Our sages say they were redeemed because they did not change their names, their language, or their form dress, and they kept their Israelite identity and heritage.
We can also apply this lesson to the way we can realise our potential and strengths. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein cites Rabbi Yehoshua who says – in the World to Come one’s ranking is based not on one’s accomplishments, but upon the realisation of one’s true potential.