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.
The prohibition of mixing meat and milk is possibly one of the most difficult laws to understand. Yet it has a huge impact on our cooking and eating habits. It requires us to have separate pots and pans, plates and dishes, forks and knives. And if we have eaten meat we have to wait a certain time depending upon which tradition we follow before we can have milk again. On this there are different traditions – six hours, three hours or one hour. The latter tradition is followed especially by those whose families come from Holland. The separation of meat and milk is a law, which is termed as a statute – which we keep even though we may not understand the rationale behind it, but because God has commanded us to do so.
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch however offers us an intriguing reason for keeping this law. He says it is like the other laws that are designed to uphold the Divine mission of man to protect the environment, maintain the ecological balance of nature and not corrupt it: Sha’atnez (not mixing wool and flax); not planting two different seeds together; not interbreeding two totally different species; or not ploughing a field with two totally different animals [this law also has an element of not causing undue stress to animals].
Keeping boundaries between different species is also designed to protect the balance of nature and creation.
These laws are also like the civil laws that the Torah also commands us to keep. They are not optional extras, but are an essential part of that Divine mission. For just us we have a duty to sustain the world we live in, we also have a duty to uphold the dignity of man. Both sets of laws, ritual and civil, are not dependent upon the whim of man or on his understanding of them. Stealing today is as destructive to society as in all generations. Damaging other people and their property is unacceptable today as it always has been. And similarly by ignoring those laws of not mixing different and often conflicting elements can have disastrous effects upon man’s ability to sustain himself.