Gathering strength and information: why is contacting the rabbi so scary?

Posted on August 1, 2007

I saw my regular counselor today and I told her of my dream and what my PA said yesterday. I also told her what I posted yesterday and what readers had commented and specifically Rabbi WAC‘s suggestions. She really liked the team approach.

The team approach is basically this. The biggest responsibility is mine. I have to speak up about what is going on in my head, my heart, my soul. I have to tell appropriate people about when things are good, when I’m concerned, side effects, thought patterns that don’t seem right. I have to ask for reality checks and be as accurate as possible in my descriptions of how I’m doing. To not downplay what’s going on. I have to be diligent about taking my meds, exercising daily, getting enough sleep, pursuing stress reduction as needed.

The next one in line is my husband. He sees me every day and might notice something I’m missing. He might catch inconsistencies between my words and behavior, or sense that something is just off. He will ask me about it, and using his discretion, may or may not make sure someone else on the team knows about it, too.

My psychiatrist’s assistant (PA)/counselor will handle the medication aspect. Do we need to adjust meds, add something, scale it back, try something different, all this is her area of expertise.

My regular counselor will handle most of my other issues: ongoing relationship with my mom, parenting my children, anxieties, negative self-talk, coping with depression, social anxiety, high self-expectations, and so on.

The last ring is the one I’m uncertain of. That’s my rabbi. I would like very much for him to be part of the team. I want very much not to be afraid of that, too. I want him to be available to handle my religious and spiritual concerns, issues around and in shul. He sees me most every Shabbat. We have a history together, for over a dozen years. He has played a very important role in my life. I’d like that to continue. I’d like to have someone to take my religious and spiritual concerns to, because right now no one is there to offer Jewish answers.

Many years ago, a psychiatrist told me I needed to focus on both aspects of my life in order to get better: physical and emotional.

Not two, I told him. Not both aspects. There are five: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual. All five need attention. I was under his care when I began my formal conversion studies. Shortly after my conversion and just before he left the clinic, he began researching and then publishing articles in psychiatric journals on the importance of spirituality to psychiatric healing. It would be nice to think maybe I helped a bit with that, though I’m not sure.

At any rate, only four of the five are getting attention now. I need to follow my own advice and see to that fifth.

One concern my counselor raised was that my rabbi might not be the right person for this. She suggested that I ask him outright, after explaining what I need from him, is this something you can provide? If not, that’s okay, just please refer me to someone–perhaps another rabbi–who can.

She is concerned that he might be stretched too thin, too distracted, focused on too many other areas. She was certain that my falling through the cracks is not intentional on his part (I am certain of this, too), but that there is the possibility I am looking for support in the wrong place.

I’m not ready to say that, yet. I haven’t ever before asked him for regular, ongoing support. I want to give him that chance.

She said I should have a full year of regular support from him before I bring up past issues. My relationship with my rabbi is not broken but it is wounded. It needs time to heal, she said. I can do that.

She also said that she is concerned that the sometimes lack of follow-through issue is sort of like intermittent positive reinforcement. That is, sometimes I get the reward of a meeting with him. It is the type of reinforcement of slot machines and it is dangerous for me because it keeps me hanging onto a relationship that may or may not be healthy for me.

But she is optimistic that it might work. I did, at any rate, promise her I would contact my rabbi and ask to schedule a meeting with him. I would do my part to see this happen. Then it is up to him.


  1. Rivka

    Jack: I hope so. I hope this is a plan that will work, though I don’t even know how to define working versus not working. I guess if I am maintaining or better, it’s working.

  2. Jack Steiner

    It sounds like you have a plan and that is half the battle.

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