A Focus on Mental Health – Shmirat HaGuf

May 7, 2020 in Rabbi Greg Harris

Since 1949, May has been National Mental Health Awareness month. I have never felt the need to focus on mental health as intensely as now.  From children to senior citizens, we are all feeling the difficult emotional, physical, social and spiritual effects of Covid-19.  Focusing on our mental health is critical.

Throughout this year, Beth El’s congregational theme has been Shmirat HaGuf: Caring for Your Body, Mind and Soul.  There have been a wide variety of programs but these past months have brought the topic front and center for most.  The Hazzan’s Zoom meditations sessions are now occurring three times a week because of increased interest.  On-line attendance at services is far higher than normal even as all the b’nai mitzvah during the Spring have been rescheduled.

Even as we are isolated, we are not alone.

The incredible Beth El staff have organized ‘phone trees’ to call hundreds of Beth El members to check in, help with shopping or other small errands, and remind people that they are not experiencing this alone.  The recipients of these simple acts of kindness are appreciative and the conversations have tended to be lengthy because people want to connect.

With the help of Drs. Laura Primakoff and Erica Edelman, our Shmirat HaGuf Conversation Series continues.  Each Thursday, an important topic is explored with the guidance of experts within the Beth El community.  Last week, Drs. Erica Edelman and Faith Schwartz led a timely discussion about the challenges and strategies for parenting children during Covid.  This Thursday (May 7 at 7:30pm), Laura Primakoff will address the many triggers of stress, anxiety and uncertainty as she helps identify healthy behaviors during coronavirus.  She will also discuss the unique challenges for those living alone.  To see the full schedule and register to receive a Zoom link, click here.

Additionally, this Friday evening’s musical Shabbat service will have a special focus on mental health and well-being.  To join the service on Friday at 6:30pm, click here.

While Beth El is responding creatively and proactively, I am still concerned about the individuals who are feeling too alone and isolated to participate or reach out for help.  Centuries ago, the Psalmist felt similarly as he wrote (25:16):

:פְּנֵה-אֵלַי וְחָנֵּנִי כִּי-יָחִיד וְעָנִי אָנִי

Turn to me and be gracious to me for I am alone and wretched. 

Was he calling to God? To his community?  To both?

We are all more fragile during these uncertain times of pandemic.  Let us be the answers to the Psalmist’s plea and turn towards each other.  Let’s notice each other more deeply.

If you are the one crying out, you are not alone. Please reach out to me or my clergy partners.  You can call (301) 652-2606 or email us.

Rabbi Harris – ext. 105 / gharris@bethelmc.org

Rabbi Werbin – ext. 129 / fwerbin@bethelmc.org

Hazzan Fradkin – ext. 117 / afradkin@bethelmc.org

In an emergency, call 911 or the Maryland Crisis Hotline at (800) 422-0009.

During this difficult time, let’s also remember the encouragement of the Psalmist (27:14):

חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ

Be strong and have a courageous heart

Together, we will get through this.