Mental Health Minute - Minyan as Therapeutic

There are numerous activities we do in our daily Jewish life that have tremendous therapeutic effects that both heal and are protective of our mental health. What is one of these? The daily prayer service that requires males to join in a minyan every morning. For those who have been to these services, they are not passive affairs. There is sitting, there is standing, and there is the characteristically Jewish move called the ‘schuckle’. This is the frenetic back and forth movement that Jews often do. Several reasons are given for this move- it shows that we are like a flame, flickering from the vitality of the prayer. Or, it is about involving your entire self to the service of G-d. Regardless, there is a crowd of people somewhat syncing in with each other in a rhythmic scene.

That says Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in his groundbreaking work “The Body Keep the Score” confers a tremendous amount of healing energy. He specifically mentions how Jewish prayers (though not exclusively Jewish prayer) help create a ‘larger context for our lives, a meaning beyond our individual fate’. However, where did this form of Jewish prayer take shape?

As the notion that the second temple would not last forever became ingrained in Jewish fate, Ezra the Scribe, along with the men of the great assembly understood what a loss it would be to our sense of community. They instituted the concept of a synagogue and the necessity for there to be a quorum of ten at the services. This would ensure that our sense of community would last. They wanted us to feel part of something bigger on a daily basis. Life is complicated and challenging. The best way to take it on is by knowing that you are not alone and that what you are doing on a daily basis is part of something meaningful. We Jews don’t just pay lip service to that fact, but live that way each morning as we gather with others in our community.