Remarks of the Novominsker Rebbe (Rabbi Yaakov Perlow) at the recent MHP Agudah conference, November 2017.
Words of introduction from Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel
ברשות the Rebbe שליט"א and ברשות the wonderful people who have gathered today. You are dedicated professionals who continue on a daily basis to make such a tremendous difference on our communities and on the world around us. When I was growing up, this idea of Mental Health Professionals playing such a central role in the development and well-being of the community was unheard of. However, anyone who observes and understand what is happening in the world around us appreciates the vital and central role that “Torahdige” Mental Health Professionals play in the world today. And it is a special זכות for us at אגודת ישראל to host, now for the second year, this special track for professionals who are in the field of Mental Health, who are involved in providing רפואה for some of our most precious and challenging situations that we need to face in today’s world.
When referring to a group of Orthodox mental health professionals, I often wonder what this means. Does this mean Mental Health Professionals who are also observant, who are שומר שבת, eat kosher, and daven 3 times a day. Or do we mean Mental Health Professionals who are imbued with the values of the תורה הקדושה, meaning that the fact that they are Torah Jews provides them with a certain approach in how they handle mental health challenges that are facing the community. Today, I do not have this question. It is clear that you have once again gathered here today to interact with רבנים and גדולי ישראל, to hear דברי חיזוק and דברי ברכה, as well as לטכס עצה—to discuss amongst yourselves some of the challenges that you face in your professional lives and how to deal with them. יישר כחכם to you! I cannot tell you what a tremendous זכות it is for us at אגודת ישראל to host such a gathering. I know that you all came to hear the words of חיזוק and ברכה from the Novominsker Rebbe Shlita so I ask the Rebbe to address you.
דברי חיזוק מאת אדמו"ר מנובומינסק
It is really a pleasure and a זכות for me to be here and say a few words to this group of Mental Health Professionals who are vital and necessary in the upbringing of the younger generation. We are all aware of the challenges and the problems of life today and the reality that people need a helping hand. They need someone to give them חיזוק, direction, and guidance. Thus, the fact that we have in our midst a group of בני תורה who are skilled in their ability to be מחזק the נפשות of others is very important. It is an important and a vital need!
Years back, I read in the biography of the חזון איש a story regarding a man who approached him with problems. After he left, the חזון איש remarked to others that this man is an אדם גדול. Those present expressed surprise at this title because although he was a pure and good man, the description of אדם גדול seemed far-fetched. The חזון איש explained that I didn’t refer to him as a למדן גדול or a צדיק גדול, but an אדם גדול. What he meant was that aside from greatness in רוחניות, there is the אדם, the human being, whom we need to nurture and secure his health and well-being. The חזון איש apparently held that this person was in touch with himself in a very strong manner. Thus, it is a very positive thing that there are people like yourselves who are accomplishing this work.
In general, psychotherapy requires two elements: חיזוק and direction. One without the other is insufficient. I don’t think that I am saying any חידושים to you as you see this daily with those whom you deal with. If people don’t feel a sense of חיזוק (validation) that comes across from the professional then they are not ready to establish a relationship: they will feel misunderstood or somehow missed. But חיזוק alone will not suffice. People also need direction and guidance with regard to how to approach life. I found a ראיה for this important therapy lesson in Chumash. The first lesson in therapy is in פרשת בראשית where both קין and הבל were מקריב קרבנותe. הקב"ה accepted הבל’s קרבן. But ואל קין ואל מנחתו לא שעה, Hashem didn’t accept קין’s. ויחר לקין מאד ויפלו פניו. Kayin became angry (presumably at himself) and ויפלו פניו –he became depressed. ?ויאמר ד' אל קין למה חרה לך ולמה נפלו פניך Why are you so angry and depressed? הלא אם תיטיב שאת—do something right. ואם לא תיטיב לפתח חטאת רובץ. Whatever is wrong with you, it is at your doorstep. There are many פשטים in the מפרשים, but the theme is that if you don’t self-correct, you will remain immersed in the “mud.” If we analyze the פסוק, we can notice these two components. Bothלמה חרה לך and ולמה נפלו פניך accomplish חיזוק (validation). הלא אם תיטיב שאת addresses the guidance and direction aspect. Do something that is right and good! Notice the good within yourself! Do not dwell too much on your חסרונות, but focus instead on your כוחות, which will help you rise above the particular challenge that you are facing. This פסוק is thus a lesson in a therapy approach.
תחזקנה ידיכים! ויהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם. The אייבישטער should help all you. And maybe it would even be a good ברכה to say that you should all go out of business!