Fighting for Your Soul (Jer. 45:5) Counselling through Post-Traumatic Stress

Q. I have a very close friend who is Jewish (Conservative). He is deeply religious and his faith is the foundation of his entire life; it provides the context for his close relationship with his family and motivates his work. The Torah is very important to him.

As part of his duty he served and played a key role in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and was on the ground there for several months. Since his return he has suffered from PTSD. He took the lives of innocent people by mistake, and he says he did other things during his work there which he won’t talk about, all for which he is sorry. He says he violated the Torah. He no longer believes he is a good person.

He has not been to synagogue since he returned. I know he does not believe he deserves to go and he is punishing himself. I have told him that God cannot be so unforgiving, and that it is not up to him to decide whether or not he should be forgiven, it is up to God. Everybody makes mistakes, surely that is to be expected. I’ve asked him to go to synagogue, even if his heart is not in it at first, in the hopes that it will open his heart back up to God.

But I am not Jewish; I do not have any religion. I need you to tell me what to tell him. I want his pain to ease and I want him to know he is still a good person, and he deserves to enjoy synagogue, even if he did violate the Torah. Please provide some wisdom for him. Thank you.

Answer:  I think your friend is lucky to have you in his life.

It seems to me that you should have your friend visit a good psychologist, or a good pastoral therapist who is skilled in dealing with these issues. There are a variety of  well‑established relaxation techniques exist which are likely to be effective in reducing the autonomic arousal associated with the experience of anxiety. Many techniques have been utilized to help individuals elicit relaxation including yoga, meditation, progressive relaxation, hypnosis, and bio‑feedback. Continue reading “Fighting for Your Soul (Jer. 45:5) Counselling through Post-Traumatic Stress”

Why do Lubavitchers spit whenever saying the Alenu Prayer?

Why do Lubavitchers spit whenever saying the Alenu Prayer?

This is a great question, but to put it in perspective, we must first analyze the  Alenu Prayer and its historical development. Without a doubt, the Alenu is one of the most moving prayers of the Jewish liturgy; it calls upon all the members of humankind to accept the One and only King of Kings, as Lord and Master of all the earth. Its universal message envisions a time when all the pagan gods will cease to be as humanity unites together in soulful worship. Without going into too much detail of the prayer, we will look only at the section that is relevant to our current discussion.

Let us praise Him, Lord over all the world;

Let us acclaim Him, Author of all creation.

He made our lot unlike that of other peoples;

He assigned to us a unique destiny.

We bend the knee, worship, and acknowledge

The King of kings, the Holy One, praised is He.

He unrolled the heavens and established the earth;

The origin of the prayer dates back to the time of the third century and is attributed to the sage Rav, who was a famous Babylonian scholar. The Jerusalem Talmud also makes an occasional reference to it.[1]Assuming that Rav is the writer of the Alenu prayer, then it is reasonable to assume he was referring to the conversion of the pagan—and not the Christian, since Christianity had not really spread into Babylon in Rav’s day. The prayer also stresses the importance of Israel, God’s chosen messenger, who introduced ethical monotheism to the world.

With this introduction, the background of the Alenu has been fairly well-established. During the 12th-13th centuries, Jewish communities in Europe often suffered because of the blood libels that were issued against them. At one famous accusation in the French town of Blois, thirty-four Jews were burned at the stake for having “participated” in the blood ritual. As they died, they recited the Alenu prayer.

Oppressed peoples who lived under the powerful hand of the Christian world often fought an ideological battle with the more powerful Christian or Muslim enemy, who oppressed them on a daily basis.  Obviously, they could not openly criticize their tormentors, so they resorted to a more subtle method of expressing their anger. Like the psalmist who wrote Psalm 137, ordinary people of that persecuted generation demanded that God dispense justice for the wrongs committed against their communities. The language of this psalm is disturbing but understandable when seen through the eyes of the powerless victim.

Some rabbis ingeniously used numerology to express contempt toward the Christian and Muslim world as a form of silent protest. So, a number of scholars decided to rewrite the Alenu Prayer with a couple of lines calling on God to eradicate the oppressive religions whose devoted followers  threatened Israel.[2]

Continue reading “Why do Lubavitchers spit whenever saying the Alenu Prayer?”