Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig seeks to destigmatize mental health, ruling by ruling

At first, Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig was simply on the lookout for some solutions to some questions he was being requested about Jewish legislation and psychological well being. That quickly changed into a e-book after which into a middle to assist him handle and he has already educated dozens of rabbis.

“This subject form of picked me up. I fell into it and knew there was one thing to do. And earlier than I knew it, I noticed there was such a fantastic response from the group. So I assumed to myself, if that is so vital to individuals, perhaps I ought to do that,” Rosensweig mentioned. For The Occasions of Israel on Sunday.

Though he primarily focuses on this relationship between psychological well being and Jewish legislation, Rosenzweig wears a number of hats. He was commissioned by the Orthodox Yeshivat Berkat Moshe within the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, leads the Netzah Menashe group in Beit Shemesh, teaches on the Progressive Orthodox Midrecht Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, has authored quite a few books, and maintains an vital following from his work as Busk, a rabbi making sensible judgments on Jewish legislation, or halacha. For instance, the “Ask Me Something” periods earlier than Easter are to not be missed. (Full disclosure: He additionally officiated at this reporter’s wedding ceremony in 2019.)

Rosensweig’s journey within the subject of psychological well being started about 5 years in the past when he acquired some questions from his group. In an effort to raised perceive the subject, Rosenzweig spoke to Dr. Shmuel Harris, a psychiatrist and head of the Behavioral Well being Clinic in Jerusalem, Macon Dvir.

“My purpose was simply to reply just a few questions. However after I received into it and realized there was quite a lot of work to be finished right here, we determined to write down a e-book about it,” Rosensweg mentioned.

The e-book the 2 wrote collectively, “Nafshi B’Sheelati,” will probably be launched in Hebrew by Koren Publishers in 2022. An English translation is barely anticipated to be printed later this yr, however his work has already made waves within the English-speaking communities in Israel and world wide.

“There are such a lot of matters in halacha that I may have chosen to take a look at. However this impacts a whole lot or 1000’s of individuals day-after-day. It is unimaginable to me {that a} e-book like this hasn’t been written earlier than. It is one thing that is so vital to individuals, and offers so properly.” Direct with their high quality of life and typically with their lives.

The 512-page Nefshi Peshilati is geared towards rabbis and different professionals, with detailed explanations of technical phrases—each psychological and rabbinic—and footnotes which can be usually longer than the primary textual content. However even for common individuals, it is nonetheless a fantastic learn that addresses matters like schizophrenia, despair, consuming problems, phobias, autism, and dementia.

With the e-book’s launch, Rosenzweig additionally based Ma’aglei Nefesh: The Psychological Well being, Neighborhood, and Halacha, which helps join individuals with psychological well being points to healers and rabbis, produces literature on psychological well being and halacha, and leads 50-courses for rabbis in Psychological well being matters.

We all know the way to speak about most cancers, not despair

Though not the one rabbi pondering the connection between psychological well being and Halakha, Rosensweg has emerged as a outstanding voice on the topic, talking about it for no less than every week inside spiritual communities—in synagogues or yeshivas—or within the medical or medical subject. Psychological well being professionals, in hospitals, or for teams of social staff.

Rosenzweig held such an occasion Sunday night time, talking about his work on the Neve HaBaron Synagogue within the northern city of Zikhron Ya’aqov, the place he was joined onstage by a spiritual girl who shared her experiences coping with anxiousness, despair and suicidal ideas.

The discuss addressed each the necessity for communities to broaden their eager about psychological well being and what issues go into its rulings on halacha.

Rosensweig mentioned he hopes that by way of occasions like these, communities will be taught the vocabulary wanted for open discussions about psychological well being, as is already the case for bodily well being.

Or she discusses her struggles with psychological well being on the Neve HaPron Synagogue within the northern city of Zikhron Ya’aqov on January 22, 2023. (Judah Ari Gross/Occasions of Israel)

“Even when you do not have specialised medical coaching, you possibly can have a small speak about bodily well being. When you discover out that somebody — God forbid — has most cancers, somebody will say, ‘Have you ever seen an oncologist? Have you ever began chemotherapy?’ I do not know what chemotherapy is.” “Not likely, however I can nonetheless speak about it and seem delicate and knowledgeable in order that the particular person feels they’ll discuss to me about it. If I run into them on the road, I can ask them how they’re doing, how they really feel,” Rosensweg mentioned.

“However when there’s despair, we do not know what to say. That is the issue. I do know that 5 years in the past, I did not know the way to make that form of small speak about psychological well being. When you discover out somebody is depressed, you usually do not know what What occurs subsequent. Do you see a psychiatrist? A psychiatrist? A social employee? How lengthy does it take? What’s the course of? And if you happen to see that particular person, what would you ask, “How is your despair?” What’s the proper and delicate factor to say?” He mentioned.

Fragility and psychological well being

For spiritual Jews, halacha governs most points of their lives, comparable to how and what they eat, how they work together with household, and the way they spend the Sabbath. These spiritual legal guidelines will be troublesome and even harmful in some instances for individuals with sure psychological well being points. Fasting on Yom Kippur can result in a doubtlessly critical setback for somebody who has handled an consuming dysfunction, for instance.

A duplicate of the Nefshi Peshilati e-book by Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig and Dr. Shmuel Harris. (Judah Ari Gross / The Occasions of Israel)

“Nafshi B’She’elati” and far of Rosensweig’s work deal with delving deeply into the supply materials to seek out points of malleable halacha, the place exceptions will be made, and that are unmistakable divine prohibitions that can’t be crossed. A few of this depends upon the character of the commandment – does it come immediately from the Bible or was it developed later by the rabbis – and a few depends upon its impact on the particular person – is it life saving or only a sedative?

Nevertheless, whereas a lot of “Nafshi B’Sheelati” offers with issuing halakhic indulgences to individuals with numerous psychological well being circumstances, Rosenzweig harassed that rabbis shouldn’t be blindly lenient both with a view to make sure that an individual feels they’re nonetheless observing with it. Jewish legislation and are nonetheless a part of a spiritual group.

He famous that nobody is obligated to comply with Jewish legislation. The individuals who come to him aren’t seeking to deviate from spiritual observances. They need to comply with them.

“Individuals need to quick on Yom Kippur. When you inform them they cannot, they really feel rejected by the group, by the group. They need to be a part of this holy and great day. When somebody is instructed they cannot quick, it isn’t excellent news for them – It is powerful information,” Rosenzweig instructed the 36 or so individuals gathered on the Zikhron Yaakov synagogue.

Rosensweig gave an instance, comparatively commonplace, of somebody with despair or anxiousness who’s helped by listening to music. What may somebody like that do on a Saturday when using electrical energy is restricted?

In concept, Rosensweg mentioned, a rabbi may merely let such an individual use their cellphone or pc to hearken to music on Shabbat. Nevertheless, doing so is not going to make the particular person essentially really feel that they’re observing the Sabbath legal guidelines.

We are attempting to battle stigma. We would like individuals coping with psychological well being points to really feel seen and understood, to not really feel minimize off from the group, rejected, and second-class. Each exception made to somebody for psychological well being causes feels to them like a failure, like they do not actually maintain the Sabbath, that they don’t seem to be as robust as everybody else.

As a substitute, he recommends placing the particular person on a playlist on a loop earlier than Saturday in order that if they should hearken to music, they only must put their headphones on with out really enjoying something.

“You have to steadiness the way you decide halacha,” he mentioned.

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