Posted in Rabbinical School

Death & Dying Week Reflections: Day 3

Pastoral Care & Theodicy

I think that after yesterday’s presentation about chaplaincy, I am both excited but more confused as to what this summer is going to look like. I am unsure about what halacha I need to know and be holding in. Am I going to be helping people make halachic decisions? Or am I going to be there to support them? What actually is the role of the chaplain in a hospital? And more so, what is the role of the intern?

I feel like I am so unprepared. That for the past three years all I have been doing is studying, and now I am going to be thrown out into the world to deal with life and death situations (literally). I know that some of this fear is a bit unfounded, as I have been working in a nursing home for the past four years. So obviously I know how to talk to people in difficult situations, and I already know what it means to realize the ideas of death and dying, and all the rules of how to enter into a space, etc. But for some reason this feels scarier. Maybe it is the hospital. Maybe because my role is actually that, to give spiritual care- not to run activities and do that on the side.

I’m not the most spiritual person- what if I can’t provide that to other people? I don’t have songs in my back pocket to sing with people while their souls are departing. I am not always sure where God is. I want people to feel comfortable with what they are deciding, based on their views of the world. I wonder if I made the right choice- maybe I am not meant to be in a hospital- I should have gone with the nursing home; staying in a world that I know and understand. (Although, I do think that I need to try new things and get out of my comfort zone).  As May slowly gets closer, I am getting both more nervous and excited about this.

As for theodicy (at least with regards to the Rabbis in the Talmud)- what is the role of suffering in Judaism. A large part of me wants to say that especially in those times (and many times after) the Jews suffered quite a bit, and we had to make some reason of why that was. Saying that it is God and that it is good makes it an answer that is hard to argue with (until you stop believing in God.) But it makes sense, you see suffering all around, you know that your children will suffer, so you psychologically made a horrible thing into something desired- that way most people will actually achieve it. Almost everyone has some form of suffering in their lives- so here we can see that it will be good for you.

With all that, I don’t think I would ever say that to someone who actually is suffering, that would be awful. But then the greater question comes into play of what does it mean that God is making me suffer out of love? Is it an abusive relationship- I only feel the love when I am hurt? Is it a parent/child relationship that at times the parent needs to punish so the child in the long run won’t get hurt? (and if that is true, then what did the Gemara mean when it said there is suffering that is done to make someone look inside themselves and change their ways). Is it that a very common way of dealing with suffering is introspection, and that is what it is for? (Although I think that is usually when you come out of it, not in the midst).

In short I don’t know- but it is something to think about.

Oh what the world looks like not only in the world of Halacha….

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Author:

I am prone to overthinking and not to sharing. I decided to start writing and see what happens. So here are some stories and life situations (sometimes words of Torah) of a 30 something single woman, who happens to be a rabbi (received ordination in 2017- so there are posts of what that experience was like), will be working as a chaplain (and worked for years with older adults), is regularly asked what city she is located in (started the blog while living in Israel, found herself working in Australia, and will be in New York for at least a year), and is just trying to figure out her place in the world.

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