Jeffrey Rosen: Judaism, Health and Wholeness

…. one of the most interesting developments within the Jewish approach over the past thirty years has been the emergence of Healing Services, predominantly in the non-Orthodox Judaism. These services are a mixture of liturgy and stories, the liturgy being heavily, but not exclusively, drawn from the Psalms.

Some services that have been created are of a more general nature, but others have been offered to those experiencing particular diseases such as breast cancer, mental illness as well as those experiencing bereavement. Such services are offered anywhere from once a month to once a year, and they may be either part of an established liturgy – such as the Sabbath and Holydays – or less likely offered as a stand-alone event, say on a Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening.

Such services reflect the distinctive Jewish understanding of spirituality, and suggest a fruitful reworking of the relationship between healing and wholeness.

The National Center for Jewish Healing defines Jewish spirituality as “a way of exploring the meaning and purpose of one’s own life story in the context of the story of the Jewish people. Embedded in Judaism is a tradition of spirituality; a vision of well-being that is grounded in a fierce engagement with life; the importance of community, and a belief that sacred texts and rituals can be relevant to our modern dilemmas. It is both an intensely private experience and inextricably bound to the collective.”

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