When I asked Rabbi Heidi Cohen if she would write a “Wish for Recovery” letter for this blog, I received much more than I expected. My hope was to gain a slightly better understanding of how Reform Jews view the recovery of mind, body, and spirit. Rabbi Cohen responded by offering her recent sermon that provides a look at the connection between recovery and relationships.
Words used in the sermon that might be unfamiliar to some readers are defined below. Text under the heading “Sermon by Rabbi Heidi Cohen” is a transcript of the first few minutes of the full 20-minute sermon. The embedded video is the full sermon.
- Bima – pulpit, platform, or raised area from which a person speaks.
- Ima – Hebrew word for “mom”
- Rabbi – A Jewish scholar, teacher, and spiritual leader.
- Reform Judaism — According to Wikipedia, the belief by some Jews that “Jewish traditions should be modernized and compatible with participation in the surrounding culture [and] Jewish law should undergo a process of critical evaluation and renewal.”
- Shabbat – A day of rest and spiritual enrichment. Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown.
- Shabbatot — Multiple Shabbat services.
- Synagogue — The term for a Jewish house of worship.
- Mi Shebeirach — English transliteration for the name of a prayer to bless those in need of healing.
- Mitzvah — Any of the 613 commandments Jews are obligated to observe. It generally refers to any good deed.
- Mitzvot — Plural of Mitzvah. Commandments to either do something (such as honor your parents) or to not do something (such as commit murder).
Written Excerpt of 9/4/2013 Sermon by Rabbi Heidi Cohen
Over the past year and a half, you might have heard a name recited on the Mi Sheberach list, Sam Sommer. This is the seven year old son of colleagues and friends, Rabbis Michael and Phyllis Sommer. Sammy has leukemia. For the past year, he has been through many rounds of chemotherapy in order to help rid this disease from his body. This has been the fight for his life and he has become a super hero for many of us, hence why his Mom started calling him, Superman Sam!
Phyllis is an avid blogger, ImaBima, and social media maven. With so many from their congregations, family, friends and community who wanted to stay in touch with the family and hear about Sammy’s fight, Phyllis and Michael began a blog called Superman Sam. It is here that we’ve read about Sam’s treatments, milestones of his three siblings, his remission then return of the leukemia, and now, how Sam is just one week post bone marrow transplant. Over 200,000 people read Sammy’s blog, follow the family on Facebook, and hope to ensure the family knows they are not alone. The outpouring of love has been tremendous.
But why would anyone want to put all of this out there for over 200,000 people to follow and comment on during what can be a very stressful and intimate time in a family’s life?
Let’s first start with the fact that Phyllis and Michael are both rabbis and as we all know, rabbis live in a fish bowl. We can either, pile up the rocks in the bowl and hope others can’t see in, or just let everyone in to our lives. As rabbis, we are human: We like to play, enjoy time with family and friends, are honored to care for our communities, know that we make mistakes but that we can learn from them too, celebrate at life’s joys and cry at life’s challenges. And just like everyone else, rabbis like to embrace life! As rabbis, we are in a multitude of relationships. We are woven into the fabric of our congregation and community. This is the beauty of our lives and one that we as rabbis embrace – I don’t think I would be as successful if I wanted to shut myself up in a house and not let anyone in – and it would be very lonely!
By being so public about their journey and building these relationships, the Sommer’s have shared the tremendous amounts to gifts sent to Sammy with other children in the hospital, created wish lists for the Ronald McDonald house where they are all living, to provide cleaning supplies, toys, books and videos for everyone who lives there, and the greatest of all, taught thousands about the importance of and mitzvah of getting swabbed to see if individuals might be a match for a child or adult in need of a bone marrow transplant. Sammy will have a relationship with a person who he may never meet but know that he or she gave him a great gift that will, God willing, save his life.
These are precious relationships that connect one person to another. They are priceless and a blessing.
Video of 9/4/2013 Full Sermon by Rabbi Heidi Cohen
- What does “recovery” mean to you?
- How are “recovery” and “healing” similar, identical, and different?
- Are the degrees of recovery (partial and total) best described by medical personnel, the survivor, or a close family member?
- What is most helpful in the recovery of mind, body, and spirit?
Thank you to Rabbi Heidi Cohen of Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Ana, California who agreed to share her sermon on this blog so all people could better understand the connection between healing, recovery, and relationships from the perspective of a Reform Jewish rabbi; Matt Cohen who patiently helped me download an excerpt of Rabbi Cohen’s sermon; Phyllis, Michael, and Sam Sommer who define healing from the perspectives of caregiver/patient and parent/child; YouTube for hosting the video; and all the other people who made it possible for me to include the picture, video, and text I used in this post.