We are blessed to have family and friends whom we rely upon, just as they rely upon us. As rabbis, we also are blessed to serve others in the context of a community that widens and deepens our relationships. Nevertheless, despite all the relationships that we have and nurture, unfortunately there are times in the course of our rabbinate when we and those we love find ourselves in a free fall. That could be due to sudden illness or trauma, employment setbacks, familial problems, congregational or personal crises. There are a host of ways and a variety of people within the CCAR which can help. On the CCAR website under “Rabbis and Communities” there is a tab that reads “Personal Resources & Chevruta.” Here CCAR members can find contact information for the Rapid Response Hotline for contacting me or our colleague, Rabbi Ruth Alpers.
Our colleague, Rabbi Richard Levy, paraphrased the “Ahavat Rabbah/Ahavat Olam” prayer found in Mishkan T’filah, “As You Taught Torah”. The prayer states a plea that we all feel at times in the course of our lives and rabbinate, “Don’t let me struggle alone.” When the rug is pulled out from under us, we have the choice to struggle alone or to call upon assistance. As one of the CCAR’s Rapid Response members, we are available whenever you or your family is in need.
What are some of the reasons why colleagues place the call to the Rapid Response Line in the first place? It could be trouble with an employer or congregation, a family crisis, the beginning of an alleged ethical violation, marital or family conflict, job placement, and health issues, just to name a few reasons. For example, colleagues have shared:
“Everything has been going downhill since my divorce. I was just told I will never see my kids again.”
“I can’t find a job, even after all of these months and years of trying.”
“I’m a dead man. When does this stop?”
“I know my marriage is tenuous and my spouse needs stability, but I am in a dying community, and I don’t see as if we have any choice, or there is any way out of here.”
“My spouse (the rabbi) was asked to give a large sum of money back to the congregation if he wants to keep his job. We’re being blackmailed.”
“I live in Shmini Atzeret, seventy-five miles, from a city. Can you refer me to a good psychiatrist whose office is close by?”
“Do I inform my congregation about this psychiatric issue in my life? And if so, how do I go about it?”
“I should have called you a while ago. Where do I begin?”
Ruth and I are just two colleagues here to assist CCAR members as you will see on the website under “Rabbis Caring for Rabbis.” The prayer, As You Taught Torah continues, “Don’t let me struggle alone; help me to understand, to be wise, to listen, to know. Lead me into the mystery, Baruch atah, Adonai, ohev amo Yisrael.”
Rabbi Seth Bernstein serves Congregation Bet Aviv in Columbia, MD