Editor’s Note: This contribution from Rabbi Mark Levin was previously published on his Facebook page in 2014.
I learned recently how disorienting it can be to have the life of the person on whom I depend be threatened by illness. I went through illness with both parents and my sister, obviously all close relationships; as well as many people I have cared about deeply for one reason on another. But no one on whom I depend for my day to day emotional existence. It’s different. The rush of feelings seriously conflicted with the need and desire to immediately make correct decisions regarding medical investigation and then treatment. The sudden news of my wife’s potentially life threatening illness overwhelmed my emotional equilibrium, making it difficult to process the next steps. It inhibited my ability to prioritize steps to reach the best possible outcome.
Therefore: I have found it’s important to have a more or less impartial friend/advisor to listen and help determine the priority and appropriateness of subsequent steps. It’s also important to have someone who can listen until the emotions are processed and a path is clear and functioning becomes easier.
In a world where men have few close friends if any, and medical information is considered private and not readily shared, it may be difficult for men to process and find comfort. Therefore, it’s even more important, I realize, to acquire the impartial listening skills to help someone work through such emotional, life threatening situations. This is the function of religious community. We need to be available to listen to one another in the depths of our concern and pain.
Thank God, our outcome was the best anyone could hope for. Kacy is completely cured with no follow up treatment necessary. The cyst was removed and as soon as the incisional pain is gone we’ll return to our prior life. But that is not the case for everyone. Therefore true friends should be prepared to hang in and listen, enabling the person whose loved one is sick to continue to process each step of the way.
Rabbi Mark H. Levin is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Graduated in 1971 from Boston University, magna cum laude with distinction in religion, Rabbi Levin received his Master of Arts in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1974, his Certificate in Jewish Communal Studies in 1974(L.A.), and was ordained in 1976 (Cincinnati).
Most recently, Rabbi Levin completed his Doctorate of Hebrew Letters through HUC-JIR in New York in May, 2001, and his honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001 in Cincinnati. He has been the congregational Pulpit Rabbi for Congregation Beth Torah since its inception in 1988 up until his retirement from this position in June 2014. In July 2014 he accepted the position of Beth Torah’s Founding Rabbi.
Rabbi Levin is the father of three children and grandfather of one child. He is married to the former Kacy Childs-Winston, the mother of Kyle and Seth Winston. Rabbi Levin serves on several local boards and writes religion columns for the Kansas City Star, and answers questions for the “Ask the Rabbi” service of the Union of Reform Judaism. To email Rabbi Levin, email@example.com.