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.
Rabbi Lord Sacks ztl would on many occasions teach that it is in all our power to do good, and that goodness can come about in our attitudes to others, and we are even able to turn enemies into friends. We can learn this from Jacob’s encounter with Esau on his return from Haran.
Jacob prepared himself in several ways. One tactic was to move his family out of possible harm’s way: “And he rose that night, and took his two wives, and his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.” (Genesis 32.23) Rashi asks: Where was his daughter Dina?. The Midrash answers that Jacob put her in a chest saying: ‘This wicked man has an aspiring eye; let him not take her away from me.’ For this act, Rashi continues, Jacob was punished because he stopped her from marrying his brother, lest she influence him for good, therefore she fell into the hands of Shechem.
The Torah Temimah is very perplexed by this Rashi – why should Jacob be punished for not wanting his daughter to marry Esau. Surely any father would have done the same. Jacob was punished because he did not want to give his brother Esau a chance to change his ways and become a Baal Teshuvah – a true repentant. He did not want to find any ounce of goodness in his brother Esau. He forgot the lesson of his grandfather Abraham, who against all the odds, still tried to search out any mitigating circumstances to stop the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was like Jonah who did not see any chance for the citizens of Nineveh to repent.
Evil does exist, but so does goodness. We can indeed continue discontent and strife and feel justified to do so. But we can also search out kindness. We may not be able to resolve world conflicts and discord, but we are able to bring peace between one another, for as the Mishna tells us, the bringing of peace between people has very great rewards. All it takes is a kind word, a kind gesture, a smile, or a helping hand. Especially at this time, all these seemingly small gestures can go a long way in bringing relief and support to one another.