The Scope of Jewish Healing
Judaisms holistic approach to healing is illuminated in the traditional centuries old MiSheberach prayer for healing which is said when someone is ill. We pray and give voice to our hope for a "complete healing" (r'fuah shleimah). Our tradition tells us that this includes a "healing of body" (r'fuat ha-guf) and a "healing of spirit" (r'fuat ha-nefesh).
However, Jewish healing does not promise a physical cure. Healing is not the same as a physical cure, although in some cases spiritual care can indeed facilitate physical improvements. Jewish healing accompanies normative medical, social, psychological and complimentary care. Whether or not there is a physical cure, tending to one's spirit can create pathways to experience wholeness (shleimut) and peace (shalom).
What We Mean by Jewish Spirituality
Jewish spirituality is 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.
In modern life the word "spirituality" is sometimes associated with "New Age," but Judaism has always recognized the importance of care of the soul and its interactions with the care of the body. Jewish healing draws on a deeply rooted wisdom that has evolved for over 3500 years with much to say about the effects of stress, isolation, loss and hard times on the body, mind and spirit.
The heritage that is being rediscovered is grounded in traditional Judaism, but it is also undergoing a new elasticity, stretched by movements like the search for a personal spirituality, demographic shifts, and feminism. The history and practice of authentic Judaism is an ever-evolving one; and today, the Jewish healing movement integrates modern psychology, medical science, complementary medicine and pertinent insights of other religious traditions.
Types of Jewish Spiritual Resources
Jewish tradition and the Jewish community offer a broad and diverse range of texts, practices and approaches that help cultivate and sustain people's spirits, fortify coping and nurture hope. Jewish spiritual resources are embedded in the four pillars of Jewish life: study, prayer, service to others, and celebration. These resources include prayers, psalms, stories, Torah commentaries, wise sayings, holidays and other life-cycle rituals, poetry, music, meditations, ways of bringing comfort to the sick, repairing the world and much more (see some examples). Some stem from the classic corpus of Jewish religion, others from Jewish folkways, and still others are being developed at the present time in Jewish communities worldwide.
Learning More about Judaism and Finding a Jewish Community
When a door opens and one discovers the treasure chest of Jewish spiritual resources, an eagerness to find good teachers and adult education courses invariably follows. These resources are often available locally and on-line. Jewish conference and retreat centers are developing around the country to offer an array of learning opportunities for the public and professionals. (Most resources are available in English for those who do not have Hebrew language skills.)
Finding and joining a Jewish community which is consistent with your values, spiritual orientation and style will be more or less challenging, depending on the options available in your area (synagogues, Jewish community centers, etc). Your local Jewish healing center can help you identify resources. However, it is up to you to walk through the door. (You can start with our listing of Web Sites and Learning Opportunities.)