Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Torah Lishma and the Living Human Document

Studying Torah for no other purpose than the study itself -- תורה לשמה/torah lishma in Hebrew -- is one of Judaism's most central spiritual practices, approaching a level that prayer has for many Christians. This practice is not one I expect Christians to be familiar with, or to be easily able to understand.

So I found it highly suprising -- and also deeply rewarding -- when our (Lutheran) senior supervisor turned to me during a lecture he was giving to our summer chaplain students and said that what he was telling them was really the same as the concept of Torah Lishma that was at the core of how Alan (=me) is organizing their program of education.

He then went on to beautifully and succinctly describe how I apply the concept of Torah Lishma to the task of educating people about pastoral care: Torah Lishma, he said, is developing a lifelong love of learning (or curiosity) about the human predicament/experience for the sake of nothing but the relationship itself (whether that be a relationship through the study of the "living human document" that is a hospital patient in spritual distress or whether it be a relationship with God through the study of the Holy words/text God has given us).

Actually, what he said was a lot more succinct and articulate than that, but that's the basic idea.

What he was lecturing about at the moment he said that, by the way, was about a pastoral attitude that creates the possibility of forming relationship with the person you are ministering to. There are four attributes that contribute to that pastoral attitude (and they are the same four that formed the basis for the lecture I wrote about here is more detail in a post about meeting certification committees):
  • Authority and assurance in your role (offering authority with an open attitude and hand)
  • Understanding (of the human predicament)
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Empathy (conveying it accurately)

I, by the way, used the term Torah Lishma a little differently in the syllabus I gave my students -- instead of describing it as an overarching theory about pastoral care and education, I made it the name for a single seminar where the students would teach one another. Here's how I described it

No comments: