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.
When Jacob rested his head on the stone, according to the late Dayan Swift, he recited the beginning of Psalm 121: “אשא עיני אל ההרים – I lifted up my eyes to the mountains.” The Midrash tells us we should not read the word as meaning mountains, but as ההורים, meaning “the parents.” We can further understand this to mean that a child should not look at his or her parents. Rather he or she should look up to them, as a strong example for his or her future.
Jacob was able to meet the many challenges he encountered during his 22-year long journey because of his steadfast faith, and because he learnt from his parents Isaac and Rebecca how to confront those challenges. He would ask – “how did my father act in this dilemma? What did my mother do when faced with such a problem?”
Our parents can provide signposts for our lives and how we can address the inevitable obstacles that we face. Even though I left home at the age of 16, my parents have always been an influence on me, and consequently they have always been a part of my life to this day.