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 have always been known as “the people of the book”, because we have always been engaged in learning as well as because we have the Book – The Torah and uphold it. Learning is a lifetime activity which does not end when we leave school, and enables us to seek greater understanding, and ultimately brings us nearer to God.
Learning also gives us a sense of humility when we realise we do not know everything. Indeed, there is no shame in saying; “I do not know”. Our sages actually say that a bashful person does not learn, because being ashamed can lead us to hiding our lack of knowledge and comprehension, and consequently stop us from learning. We should also not reject things only because they are beyond our understanding. By learning we can become more enlightened.
Judaism has many laws which are defined as statutes, about which we may not understand their rationale. The supreme example of a statute is the law of the Red Heifer, the ashes of which when mixed with living water are sprinkled on a person or an object that has had contact with a dead body. This law is not observed today as it is practically impossible to find a pure Red Heifer. Yet, other statutes are still valid today, e.g. the laws of Kashrut, because they are Divine laws. Even if do not understand them, we should still observe them if only because they are Divine laws. Additionally, by learning them and keeping them, our understanding of them will be strengthened and will enrich our lives.