Thought Of The Week: 16 June 2016

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 16 June 2016

The Book of Psalms is full of poetic prayers which can be said at times of distress – “Out of the depths I call to you” (Psalm 130), “God is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23) and “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help” (Psalm 121) to name just a popular three.  Their words are beautiful and consoling but none has the sharp and immediate impact of Moses’s five word prayer for healing in this week’s Torah portion: “El na r’fa na lah O God, please heal her.”  (B’ha’a’lotcha – Numbers 12:13).  Moses says this prayer because his sister Miriam is suffering from a skin disease, which according the Torah came over her soon after she had verbally abused Moses’ own wife!   Simple words, and in the Torah narrative Miriam is cured right away.

This, of course, it not how life usually works.  We join in prayer for healing as part of our community support for those who are ill physically or mentally, and in doing so we spiritually  join those who care for them and express our own hopes for a return to health for those whom we love.  Yet we know that healing is a long road to travel most of the time, unless we are very fortunate.

This is especially so where mental wellbeing is concerned.   As a community Rabbi I am very aware that challenges to mental wellbeing are just a part of life for at least one person in pretty much every family in our community.  Sometimes the challenge is very short term, around stress perhaps, so that once the cause has gone the challenge has gone,  More commonly challenges to mental wellbeing are bound up with the life journey of people who may often cope brilliantly but at other times are unable to function and need the support and care of a community.

Alyth is a community which is open to people and families dealing with the challenge of mental illness, whether these challenges be small and temporary or enormous and life changing, or in between.   This openness and support is expressed in many ways, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.   We host people who are living with severe challenges lifelong at our Shalom Suppers every few Friday nights but this is not a “them and us.”   The challenges to mental wellbeing among our teenagers are common and well known and we need as a community to recognise them and support them.   Many people as they go through life have episodes when they need support and that is what a community is for.

A few months ago Alyth began a mental health listening project.   Trained members of the community listened to the experiences of other members who were willing to speak with them so that we could get a feeling for the needs and ideas of our members in this area.   On Wednesday night this coming week (22nd June) we will hear the results of these conversations in terms of what we might do as a community to strengthen our response to mental wellbeing both here at the Synagogue and in the wider area beyond our gates.   This will of course include discussing how we can join Moses in not only praying for healing but also acting for healing.  Come and join me and the Alyth Action Group for the evening and add your voice.