When Words Fail

When Words Fail : A Religious Response to Undeserved Hurt

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When Words Fail: A Religious Response to Undeserved Hurt is written for the pastoral counselor as well as for all those who accept the teachings of their respective religious traditions and the insights of the behavioral sciences as being indispensable tools in the healing process. As the author, Rabbi Sholom Stern, writes, "Anyone who brings with him or her the spiritual or sacramental teachings of his or her faith, combined with an orientation employed by counselors, psychologists, or psychotherapists, is functioning as a pastoral counselor."
In this profound and uplifting volume, Rabbi Stern demonstrates that the Jewish tradition and the classical teachings of Judaism as reflected in biblical and rabbinic literature, as well as in the legal codes and hasidic literature, contain insights into human nature anticipating those popularized by today's behavioral scientists. Themes such as loneliness, companionship, comfort, listening, silence, nonverbal communications, responding to tragedy, and reconciling ourselves with a God who appears at times to be deaf to our cries are discussed, with an emphasis on how traditional Jewish sources have treated these important issues.
Rabbi Sholom Stern has spent over thirty years in the rabbinate helping those who have been ill or have experienced the loss of a loved one. Rabbi Stern states, "I never cease to be amazed at how a kind and sensitive remark to the emotionally distressed has the capacity of touching one's soul and provides a measure of healing. There have been times when a gentle touch of another person's hand or a hug has been more efficacious in raising one's spirits than the most eloquent words that one has the capacity to articulate. Ultimately, the glory of God is revealed in the majesty of human kindness, which is the thesis of this book."
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Product details

  • Hardback | 237 pages
  • 159 x 233.4 x 26.9mm | 557.93g
  • Northvale NJ, United States
  • English
  • 0765760932
  • 9780765760937

Table of contents


1. The Pastor in Judaism
Speaking Authoritatively, but with a Compassionate Voice
Chief Actor in the Healing Drama

2. Give Me Friendship or Death
Health and Human Companionship
Guilt and Mourning
Case Study of a Self-Indulgent Life
Excommunication and Mourning
Alone with God
Sitting Shivah without Any Visitors
Beyond the Destroyed Temple
Life and Dialogue

3. Enter the Comforter
The Non-Professional in the Healing Process
The Therapist as a Friend
Silence, A Prelude to Venting Anger
Does job Express a Death Wish?
Shattering of Eternal Verities
Bittush--A Hasidic Approach to Recovery
Never Letting Go of Guilt Feelings
The Victim Interceding for Friends

4. Listening
Greatest Comfort, "Be Quiet, Let Me Speak"
Jacob's and Elkanah's Failures
Everyman's Question--Is God Listening?
The Lead Role without a Word
The Handmaid Acting as Sarah's Mother
Listening with the Third Ear

5. When Silence is Golden
The Bible's Most Famous Silence
Silence Speaking Louder Than Words
When Knowing Too Much Induces Silence
Highest Praise to God
A Teacher's Silence
The Loudest Noise in the World

6. Give Me Your Hand: Reflections on Nonverbal Communication
The Healing Touch
Rabbi Johanan's Therapy
Eyes and Nose--The Silent Messengers
Clothing and Nonverbal Communication
Cain's Body Language
Semichah--Ordaining through Touch

7. Responding to Tragedy
Every Man Has His Breaking Point
Asserting Power in a Powerless Setting
God Favoring the Pursued
The Weakness of Phyysical Power
Feeling Superior through Laughter
The Present Doesn't Determine the Future
Parallel between Job and Zion
The Most Perfect Thing--A Broken Heart
Job, The Man with No History
Life--A Pledge Returned to God
Can Evil Be Good?
Creative Illness
The Holocaust--Acquiring Special Credit

8. Making Your Peace with God
Where is My Father?
Metaneeds More Than Basic Needs
I Know My Redeemer Lives
Revealing Our Darker Side
Depression and Distancing Ourselves from God
Fighting Death, Asserting Life
Our Humiliation and God's Tears
Job's Healing without God's Answer
Liberated from Prison of Self-Centeredness

Concluding Thoughts


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About Sholom Stern

Rabbi Sholom Stern, spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Cedarhurst, NY, was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in June 1966. A graduate of Yeshiva University, he is a trained pastoral counselor, having received a doctorate in pastoral counseling from the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill., in 1985. Currently he serves as honorary president of the Rabbi Isaac Trainin Coordinating Council of Bikur Cholim of Greater New York after having served as president for four years. The council promotes compassionate care for the sick, frail, and homebound, and serves as a national clearing house and resource center for the American Jewish Community in the area of bikur cholim (visiting the sick). Rabbi Stern is married to the former Batya Rabinowitz and they have two children, Eliyahu Etan and Danya Ronit.
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