Book Review: Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body

Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body: Spiritual Leaders Unfold the Strength & Solace in Psalms

Author: Edited By Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, CSW A Project of the Jewish Healing Center

Publisher: Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing

115 pages, ISBN 1-879045-31-1, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

In the “How To Use This Book” section, the purpose of this little volume is stated: “This book is intended to help you—struggling with illness or helping someone who is—derive spiritual healing from Psalms” (p. 11). Accordingly, the focus then is on what the late 18th century, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov referred to as the ten “healing psalms,” they are: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150. Readers will find helpful, practical suggestions on how to use these psalms.

In the “Introduction” chapter, Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub provides an overview of who Rabbi Nachman was, and the ten different kinds of songs found in these ten “healing psalms.” Each song has a corresponding Sefirot… “of the Kabbalah, the mystical attributes through which the Creator brought the universe into being. These Ten Sefirot are called “Direct Light,” shining from the Creator to the world” (p. 19). For example, one type of song is called a Niggun, “Melody,” and its corresponding Sefir is Hessed, “Lovingkindness.” In “Notes To Introduction,” there is a list of all ten Songs and corresponding Sefir.

Ten rabbis from four denominations—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstruction—each write one of the chapters; providing a wide range of insights and approaches to these psalms.

The structure of each chapter is as follows: A Hebrew and English translation of the psalm, along with a commentary on it.

For this reader, the most helpful chapter was by Rabbi Maurice Lamm, commenting on Psalm 105. Rabbi Lamm offers several insights regarding the importance of songs and singing to facilitate communion with God and healing if not of the body, then of the mind and soul. For example: “The word shir, meaning song, also derives from shur, meaning insight. When we sing we raise our souls to God, and we gain insight into Him” (p. 83). I think this emphasis on singing songs regardless of our situation is most timely in our day and age, since very few people seem to sing anymore—one wonders if they are the poorer in health as a consequence.

In addition to this volume’s chapters, there is information about each of the contributors, suggested resources for further reading, helpful organizations, information about the Jewish Healing Center, and Jewish Light Publishing and several of their publications.

 

 

Rabbi Sacks’s commentary on Leonard Cohen’s song

One of my favourite contemporary Jewish scholars and rabbis is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In this brilliant commentary on Leonard Cohen’s recent song, shortly before he died, “You Want It Darker,” Rabbi Sacks points out several references in the song to the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish tradition. The moment I heard Leonard Cohen’s song, I was astounded by it’s sobering tragedy and beauty. Although Cohen dabbled in other faiths, I think he died a faithful Jew. He was a contemporary Job, having lots of unanswered  questions of God, and facing suffering, and moved by the suffering and evil in the world to continue writing songs and singing them, and in the darkness and hatred of the world, letting light shine and love reaching out to make a difference in the lives of others. In his lover’s quarrel with God, he could still die singing Hallelujah.

2017 Nordlys Film & Arts Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

We attended, for the first time ever, the 8th annual Nordlys Film & Arts Festival here in Camrose at the historic Bailey Theatre downtown. The word Nordlys is Norwegian for northern lights-aurora borealis.

Although we didn’t purchase the all-inclusive pass, since we were unable to attend Sunday’s offerings, we opted for a Friday pass, which included the opening ceremonies and two films, as well as music from local musicians Stephen Olson, and Tigs & Whisky.

The first film, entitled “Pawn Sacrifice,” originated from the USA in 2016. It’s executive producer was former Camrosian, Dale Armin Johnson, who was present for the film and a Q & A afterwards. The film is described as a “Biographical Drama,” telling the story of American chess prodigy, Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire. “Pawn Sacrifice” is a thoughtful study of the narrow line between genius and madness. The film intersperses clips dating back to the Cold War 1970s of Fischer and others, as well as borrowing music from that time from musicians such as Credence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane. The film is both a reasonably accurate portrayal of superpower rivalry in the Cold War period as well as a statement about the tragic destiny of a chess genius.

The second film was “Ida,” originated from Poland, and described as a “Drama.” Ida is a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland. The film follows her life journey as she meets up with an aunt who travels with her to discover that she is Jewish and her parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Poland. A rather sad, sober, and tragic film in every respect.

On Saturday we purchased tickets for the afternoon Alberta Short Docs. They were absolutely marvellous! I was thoroughly impressed with three of the seven short docs.

My favourite short doc was the first one, “We regret to Inform You…,” directed by Eva Colmers and Heidi Janz. The film highlighted how narrow and exclusive government bureaucrats can define and apply their criteria regarding who is or is not eligible for disability funding. The film features a day in the life of Ph.D. scholar Heidi Janz, and is a legitimate critique of government policies regarding the differently-abled.

The second short doc was entitled “The Grasslands Project: Life Out Here.” It focussed on four ranching and farming women in southern Alberta, portraying their life and times. The film addresses themes such as the role of farm and ranch women,  isolation and the need to improvise and be independent as well as neighbourly in order to survive, the freedom, beauty and joy of the open prairie rangeland, and more.

My third favourite short doc was “Classic Camera.” The title is actually the name of a camera store in Edmonton. The store is run by an 85-year-old gentleman, Wally Franiel. The store is full of non digital cameras and equipment from bygone days, although some still choose to use these old cameras. Wally is a wonderful eccentric, who enjoys telling many a tale.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Nordlys festival, and hope to go next year as well.

Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph’s address at Augustana Campus, U of A

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a talk by Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph, titled, “Dancing on our Enemy’s Grave?: Coming to Terms With Victory and Peace,” in the chapel of Augustana Campus, the University of Alberta. The talk was organized by the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life.

Rabbi Y. Lindsey bat Joseph is director of the Sol Mark Centre for Jewish Excellence, in Vancouver, B.C. She has been teaching for over 25 years, primarily in adult and post-secondary settings, and is currently a faculty member at Alexander College in downtown Vancouver. She has also acted as a moderator for Simon Fraser University’s Philosophers’ Café. She was ordained as a Reform Rabbi under the auspices of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi bat Joseph served as Rabbi-Educator at Temple Beth Ora of Edmonton for 11 years. She is committed to a Judaism that is inclusive, egalitarian, and creative in its approach to meeting the needs of contemporary Jews. Since moving to the West Coast, she has been involved with small Jewish communities on the B.C. Mainland and on Vancouver Island as well as teaching and studying in the Greater Vancouver Region. She holds a Bachelors Degrees in Education and in Religious Studies and Applied Ethics, a Masters Degree in Jewish Letters from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform seminary), and a Masters degree with a major in Moral Philosophy. In 2005, she was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal for community service. She was a contributing writer to the Jewish Lights Press Women’s Haftarah Commentary and had an article published in the Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal in August 2013.

The following are my notes from Rabbi bat Joseph’s talk, with apologies for any and all errors, omissions, etc.

Rabbi bat Joseph began by saying that one of the main impetuses for this talk was the death and aftermath of Osama bin Laden.

When terrorists are successful in killing their victims, they are portrayed by the media as rejoicing over their enemies. However, when terrorists are defeated, reactions are mixed and more ambiguous. According Rabbi bat Joseph, the reaction of governments were muted, they were not triumphant when the enemy, bin Laden was killed.

In our world today, civilians are increasingly on the front lines, as they are kidnapped by terrorists. Rabbi bat Joseph said that Israel has dealt with this since 1948.

Countries and governments don’t want to negotiate with terrorists, but what about a government’s responsibility to its citizens?

According to Rabbi bat Joseph, there are two seemingly contradictory passages concerning ethical-moral approaches to the enemy in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 24:17, and 11:10. Proverbs 24:17 states: “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” Whereas Proverbs 11:10 states: “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.” (Note: I am quoting from the NRSV Bible).

Rabbi bat Joseph pointed out that there is a Midrash on Jewish festivals which places limits on rejoicing in light of the suffering of one’s enemy. One example she cited was pouring wine cups only partially full in the Passover Seder, reminding the Jewish participants that the enemy Egyptians suffered from the deaths of their loved ones from the plagues and in pursuit of the Hebrew slaves during the exodus from Egypt.

In Jewish exegesis of the Proverbs eleven passage, the text is in the context of judgment and justice. Rabbi bat Joseph employed the phrase “carefully restrained joy” when justice prevails.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. military in 2011, many in cities across the U.S.A. celebrated his death, even with fireworks. However, governments around the world, including the U.S. government had a more muted response.

In 2004, Sheik Ahmed Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile. Even though he was a well-known terrorist, his death was not celebrated with rejoicing in Israel. Jewish tradition values human life.

The Jewish principle of redeeming the captive is more difficult in today’s world. For example, today we know—and Israel has experienced this—if terrorists are released they go home to plan more attacks.

Rabbi bat Joseph, making reference to the value of a captive, cited Mishnah Gittin 4:6: “Captives may not be ransomed for more than their value, for the sake of social order.”

When a person is taken captive, it is prominent in the media. Sometimes prisoners have been exchanged in Israel for dead bodies. Israel as a country is divided on these exchanges—do they or do they not encourage more kidnapping? What is the price for doing something and for doing nothing? What is a reasonable price to pay for ransom? There are no easy answers according to Rabbi bat Joseph.

When ISIL is defeated, Jewish tradition says that we will not dance on the enemy’s grave.

Following Rabbi bat Joseph’s talk, there were several questions.

On the matter of a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians, Rabbi bat Joseph said she thinks the two-state solution is the right one and will eventually bring peace. She also stated that Israel is most likely going to end up abandoning some of the settlements, since they will be part of the Palestinian state.

When peace finally comes, Rabbi bat Joseph believes that economically both Israel and Palestine will rely on each other in a similar way that Canada and the United States do now. She also noted that a similar thing happened between Germany and Israel. Today both countries are on reasonably good terms with one another economically and politically.

Together in Christ: Lutherans & Catholics Commemorate the Reformation

As both Lutherans and Roman Catholics, and perhaps some of the other denominations of Christendom celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, there are several events and projects that have been undertaken, and/or will come into fruition. Below is the first introductory video by Lutheran pastor and professor, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson. The series of videos are titled: “Together in Christ: Lutherans and Catholics Commemorate the Reformation, 2017.

Christmas 2016 & New Year Greeting

slide01

The season of Advent has arrived

The season of Advent has arrived, marking the beginning of a new church year. A season of hope and expectation; a season of waiting, watching and preparing; a season of repenting by returning to the ways of our Messiah Jesus over and over again, in each day. A season of peace, transforming peace with justice, bringing wholeness, health, reconciliation and unity. A season of joy living in communion and communication with Jesus and members of the family of God. A season of love, re-creating, re-newing, re-membering love; upholding the dignity and worth of each human being created in God’s image. I invite you to take approximately three minutes now to view this lovely video by Christine Sine, with Christ Child Lullaby, played by Jeff Johnson.