Archive March 31, 2019

Burnout or Moral Injury

One of the most unsettling passages in the Torah describes the sudden deaths of Nadav and Avihu, two of the sons of Aaron, in front of the altar. I was blessed this past weekend with the opportunity to lead the Open Book discussion at Romemu on the Upper West Side of New Your. Together we explored the connection between this episode and the struggles of healers, both those in training and well into their careers, to draw near to those they care about without running afoul of the rules and getting burned out or burned up in the process. You can watch the whole discussion here:

My deepest thanks to Romemu, especially to my hosts Rabbi David Ingber and Ariel Rosen Ingber, to Rabbis Mira Rivera and Dianne Cohler-Esses, and to Jeffrey Cahn. More importantly, thank you to old and new friends who came to learn; the living Torah we studied that day was far greater than any lecture I could have given on my own.

A Sacred Space for Healing

                Science fiction author Douglas Adams once described something he called a “Somebody Else’s Problem Field,” a kind of force field that could be dropped over an unpleasant object so that we could all safely ignore what was clearly “somebody else’s problem.”

                I’d be lying if I told you I don’t sometimes wish I had one of these.  Lou needs a new knee, so badly that he cannot get in and out of his house because he lives in one of those impossible Pittsburgh residences with 164 steps leading to the front door and he can neither walk down them nor be wheeled out in a wheelchair.  If I send him to the orthopedist for an appointment he will not go.  Yet if he arrives in the hospital due to inability to walk and inability to care for himself at home, he will be admitted briefly, orthopedics will see him and say, “yep, looks pretty bad.  Follow up in the office in two weeks so we can schedule the surgery,” and clear him for discharge.

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Sinai and Synapses and … Strep Throat?

Sinai and Synapses is an organization devoted to the synergy between the sciences and the spirit. After months of schedule conflicts, postponement due to tragedy, and technical difficulties, Rabbi Geoff Mitelman and I finally sat down via Zoom last month to compare notes about how the practice of medicine fits into this picture. I’m really proud of the results and thrilled to share it with you all today!

My Stethoscope is Praying

They crossed the bridge again today.

Fifty-four years ago this week, March 7, 1965, the marchers in Selma, Alabama crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge to demand equal voting rights.  Today, March 3, 2019, some of the original marchers, led by Congressman John Lewis, joined a new generation in crossing that bridge once again, in celebration of a victory and in recognition of work yet to be done.

Among those original marchers was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a friend to Dr. King, who remarked afterward to his daughter, “Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

The year before the march in Selma, Rabbi Heschel spoke before a meeting of the American Medical Association, as part of a discussion entitled, “The Patient as Person.”  Heschel spoke as reverently of medicine at that conference as he did of the work being done in Selma the following year.

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