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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Parishioners go to their clergyman to confess sins and talk out problems. But who do the clergy go to?

Where does the helper who needs help go for help? Who is the psychologist's psychologist?

This is a question that I have been asked on many occasions. And the multi-faceted answer I share with you is sure to make you somewhat skeptical, but it is the answer for myself.

No one is an island unto himself, or herself. We all need others, for different reasons and at different times. For issues that affect others, such as my wife or my children, I would normally consult with them. It could hardly be otherwise. But these are not confessionals in any sense.

In reality, confession is, at once, not a major component of Jewish affirmation, and on the other hand, it is a regular component of Jewish affirmation. We do not go to ecclesiastics to confess sins, but we confess daily to God. We never know if we have been forgiven, and we never take it upon ourselves to pronounce someone as having been forgiven. That is purely God's business, not ours.

It helps our equilibrium to know we are not perfect, that because we are human we have erred, that we need to live with our imperfections, and try our best to overcome and to improve.

As to help with problems, my help comes from the many problems that come my way. Over the course of time, I have dealt with almost every human problem imaginable, including child abuse, rape, cheating, betrayal, poverty, cancer, depression, etc. There are serious problems out there, some of them intractable, beyond the possibility for resolution.

All this has taught me perspective, that there are problems and there are problems. My awareness of the serious problems stares me in the face every time I think I have a problem. The best therapy for anyone who thinks the problem being confronted is a serious one, is to go visiting people in a hospital. That is where you see real problems. The other problems usually pale in comparison.

Thank you for bringing up this question in this form. It affords me the opportunity to share this piece of advice with the readers of this column. That advice is -- barring a life-threatening issue, or something close to it, if you think you have a problem, step out of yourself and try to help others in the really deep throes of agony -- those who are jobless and have no income, those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, those who are wrestling with life-threatening illness.

This will not solve your problem, but it will place the problem into a different and better perspective. That better perspective will increase the likelihood the problem will disappear or be resolved.


Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  May 19, 2007

Fri, September 20 2019 20 Elul 5779