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 with Merit, 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 people suffer trauma, we must be extra careful not to add to their anguish. Therefore, those who have responded to the disaster at Meron with hateful words show no compassion for fellow human beings. This is a total anathema to Judaism which teaches us to consider every individual as a human being made in the image of God. Israel continues to uphold this principle by being one of the first countries to offer support when peoples of other nations experience disasters.
The Torah commands us to especially have compassion when individuals fall on hard times. A case in point is when someone becomes so destitute that he sells himself into slavery. In such a scenario the one who takes on a destitute person should uphold his self-respect by not giving him demeaning work or abuse him, as the Torah says: “If your brother becomes impoverished with you and is sold to you, you shall not work him with slave labour.” (Leviticus 25.39) Rashi indicates that such a person should be provided for in a dignified way. Rabbi Raphael Shimshon Hirsch adds that an impoverished person should still be treated as a man and a brother.
Treating people with dignity not only upholds their self-esteem. It enables them to better encounter the difficulties or challenges they are facing.