Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
The man woke from his sleep at the sounds of movement around him. I’ll call him Louis. In a moment, he realized he was in a hospital bed and he remembered his wife’s unexpected call for an ambulance the night before. A nurse’s assistant introduced himself and then took Louis’s blood pressure.
Louis asked when his doctor would be coming in to see him. The man replied, “That will cost you $50 for me to answer.” He smiled and the both of them shared a laugh. He was joking with him and it worked – the tension for Louis of being in a strange bed and being prodded and poked was considerably lifted with this note of levity. Later, when Louis asked for a pitcher of water, the nurse’s assistant got it for him. ”Isn’t that going to cost me $50?” Louis asked. ”No,” he replied. ”For basic needs it’s free.”
The power of humor and joy can go a long way in helping an ill person feel better and making a real contribution to the cure. Literature for an upcoming conference in Manhattan called “The Joyful Heart – Bikur Cholim Tools to Uplift the Spirit” states that “Jewish wisdom teaches us that there are many pathways to healing that can have a profound impact on those we visit. Among these pathways is joy.”
The conference, sponsored by the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services (JBFCS), will explore the role of humor and joy in coping with adversity, along with how-to applications and information on how these tools offer healing for both the visitor and the one being visited.
Two powerful advocates for this approach are Maimonides and Rabbi Nachman of Breslev.
“One should strengthen the patient’s physical vitality with nourishing food,” wrote Maimonides, “and spiritual powers with fragrant scents, music, by telling happy stories that expand the heart, and by distracting the mind with things that cause them and their friends to laugh.”
Rabbi Nachman said, “The mitzvah of visiting the sick is to show the patient a (smiling) face of radiant kindness. Rather than staying buried in our own homes and hiding our faces, we must visit, attend to their needs and speak to their heart.”
One way of speaking to the heart of ill individuals is to make a connection with them where they are willing to put aside thinking of their illness and instead focus on the happy and interesting stories and conversation you are providing, along with well-placed humor. I will be giving a talk at the conference on “Filling in the Gaps – Visiting with Seniors,” in which I will discuss meaningful interactions with people suffering from dementia and age-related memory loss.
I use anecdotes, role-playing and readings from my plays to help people identify better strategies in working and connecting with people who seem hard to reach. I will attempt – when reading and discussing excerpts from my play “Where Am I?” – to show how a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s and a young caregiver end up, through empathetic listening, helping each other.
Other workshops at the conference include ”Constructing an Effective Synagogue Visiting Program,” “Basics of Mitzvah Clowning,” “Shame and Illness – How does the Visitor Respond?” and “Using the Telephone for Visiting.” Morning and afternoon speakers are Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, a leader in the Jewish healing movement, and Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up, Up and Oy Vey.
Two humor resources people can use in making bikur cholim visits or phone calls are the books Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor – From Biblical Times to the Modern Age by Henry D. Spalding.
For more information on JBFCS’s 23rd Annual Conference on Visiting the Sick, which will be held Sunday, November 14 from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at UJA-Federation of New York, 130 E. 59th St., New York, contact Rechel Schoenfeld at 212-632-4730 or email@example.com. The cost is $36 with some reductions offered. Breakfast and lunch (OU certification) will be served. My workshop is from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bikur Cholim of Boro Park offers an ongoing free leisure program that deals with the specific needs of men who are Holocaust survivors. “The Afternoon Chevra” is for retired men and meets on Monday afternoons at 1:30 at Sara Schenirer Hall, 4622 14th Avenue. It is wheelchair accessible. One of the goals of the program is to get to know the people of the community and offer assistance in other aspects of their lives. For more information, contact Rabbi Baruch Krupnik at 718-249-3415.
A Daf Yomi shiur open to the community is given by Rabbi Chaskel Scharf at Scharf’s Ateret Avot Senior Residence, 1410 E. 10th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn. It meets at 2:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11:15 a.m. on Friday. Call 718-998-5400 for more information.
There is a Mah-jongg class that meets at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, 78-02 Bay Parkway, on Thursdays from noon to 2:45 p.m. For more information on this free group for people 60 or over, call Diane or Lisa at 718-943-6311. A Tai-Chi, stress releasing stretching class, is also offered on Wednesdays from 2-3 p.m. (Free; call before coming.)
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Nearly half a million of them fought in Red Army uniforms, under communist slogans but with a personal vengeance that was solely the result of Jewish experience. More than the “Greatest Generation,” they were the living superheroes hidden in plain sight.
It’s all over.
The orchestra is still, the lights are dimmed. Your simcha outfits hang in your closet, silent witnesses to a time you will treasure in your mind and heart forever.
After noticing that you can’t log into your computer, your pulse quickens as you are called into your supervisor’s office. S/he has some bad news. You are being laid off. You have 15 minutes to clean out your desk and surrender your cell phone before security escorts you out of the building. Job termination, especially in the corporate world, can be heartless.
I have always had a problem with the Omer. Doing the mitzvah of counting the Omer was of course pretty easy. Remembering to start the second evening of Passover and remembering to stop the day before Shavous took a little concentration but somehow I always managed. No, for me the nagging problem was always why was I doing this in the first place, other than the fact it was a biblical (according to the Rambam) commandment.
With the semi-mourning period of Sefira behind us, and the festival of Shavuot as well (as evidenced by the tightness of our clothing due to over-indulging in irresistible versions of cheesecake that is an integral component of celebrating our receipt of the Torah), our community can look forward to participating in joyous engagement parties and weddings.
Dear Dr. Yael:
Do you really believe that the Internet is the reason why the divorce rate is so high among young couples? This may be so in some cases, but what about the fact that many singles are pressured to get married at a young age despite not having any idea what they are looking for in a mate? And add to that the fact that many are pressured to make a decision about marriage after dating for a very short period of time.
From the moment they stand under the chuppah, newlyweds have two years to enjoy the special bliss that new love brings. This new finding, reported by the New York Times, is based on a study undertaken by American and European researchers. 1,761 people who got married and stayed married over 15 years were followed. The research shows that after two years the couples moved into a more companionable state in their relationships.
Shel Silverstein’s 1974 poem “Where The Sidewalk Ends” is intended to paint a magical picture of a world of peace and serenity far away from the “black and dark streets.” At the time, perhaps the end of the sidewalk was a place that was “measured and slow.” Today, however, for many parents, where the sidewalk ends can feel like a scary place.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Florida is famous for sparkling water. We have the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico surrounding our coast. We have bays, lakes, canals and, of course, an incredible abundance of swimming pools in homes, resorts, apartment complexes and city parks.
The buzz is back as Camp Gan Israel Florida Overnight gears up for another fantastic summer, CGI Florida style. What makes CGI Florida so different from all the other overnight camps? It’s all in the details.
Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
The first and only time I said I was a rabbi was also the first and only time I had a gun pointed at me. What led me to that moment was my need to stay on the Upper West Side for a Shabbos and a hospitality committee that arranged for me to stay with a man who lived in the former janitor’s apartment on the fifth floor of a synagogue.
The five-year-old boy was in a church in Puerto Rico with his parents. As they and his grandparents were Catholics, that made him Catholic – as far as his young mind could figure.
I was preparing a shiur to honor the memory of my father, Paul Magill, a”h, on the 20th anniversary of his passing, and I was looking at that week’s sedrah, Parshas Re’eh. I was struck by the words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know.”
Feeling more alone than at any time since arriving in New York, I looked inside myself for anything that could anchor me to bring me back to who I was, to move away from illusions of romance to my central sticking point. Suddenly and unexpectedly, being a Jew meant more to me than anything else in the world.
You don’t become a ba’al teshuvah overnight. There were many events in my life that contributed to the deepening of my religious commitment, including a party I attended with young, beautiful church members who tried to make me one of them, and how I met their “Jewish priest.” (I’ll discuss both experiences during the course of this continuing column.)
I do not dress like the average Orthodox man in my Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s not that I’m trying to make a statement by often going hatless and wearing blue and brown suits, it’s just that in becoming religious I have changed so much – there are certain things I don’t want to give up, especially since my religion doesn’t truly ask me to do so.
It’s my first moment of wakefulness, and I’m chilled to the bone. Pull the covers over myself, I’m thinking, while I decide to roll over to look at the clock. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m exhausted. But attending morning minyan – even once – is the least I can do.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/the-power-of-joy-in-bikur-cholim/2010/11/03/
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